Friday, 24 June 2011

Selfridges charity network clears up a cloudy issue

News that Oxygen8 is helping to build a bespoke network in Selfridges so that consumers in the store can text charity donations to the store’s Project Ocean campaign is great news for the world’s fishes, plankton, sea cucumbers and whales. It is also good news for everyone smart enough to look at how to monetize in store mobile action.
While much attention has been focused on how mobile is a tool for retailers to sell stuff via transactional mobile sites and apps, the real benefit mobile technology brings to retailers is in what it can do in store. And what retailers manage to cook up around in store mobile services is also something that other organisations that have groups of people all in one place at the same time – shopping malls, sports arenas, airports, clubs, music festivals and even schools and colleges – can also look to turn to their commercial advantage.
Mobile’s real strength lies in the ability to bring the internet to where the mobile user is. It makes the web personal, rather than just mobile and that personal touch extends to where a person is and what they are doing.
The simple examples so far have been things such as bar code scanning in stores to get more information about products and services, see videos and read reviews. There are also examples of how, at sports events, users can find out more information about players, stats about the team, purchase merchandise and so on. At music festivals, there is a growing move to sell content over the air while bands are playing – rather smashing the ‘sticking it to the man’ ethos of Glasto, but there you go, that’s progress.
The more forward thinking out there see mobile as bringing all of this and much more to the bricks and mortar commercial world (and the muddy fields of the music festival circuit). Adding the idea of augmented reality and the like to all this – so that you can add the web to the real world to enhance one’s experience of it – means that many things are possible.
Each of these things adds huge potential commercial opportunities. Directly selling things using all this tech is just the tip of the iceberg. The potential to revolutionise marketing and the whole ‘consumer journey’ is huge. And it all hinges on the idea not of the mobile web, the web or any other hyperbole doing the rounds but on the personal web.
And that is all brilliant, but…. There is always a but and here it is a big one. Networks. Mobile networks – both those run by operators and public wifi – are, to be blunt, shot to shit. They are stuffed with traffic, poorly powered and frustratingly slow if you do manage to connect. Oh and they drop out half way through doing things. In short, they aren’t fit for purpose.
This is why the Oxygen8-Selfridges network is significant: while it is all being done for “charadee, mate” it is a proving ground for building in store networks and seeing how consumers use them. Taking this technology – and the inherent investment – forward will yield a much richer in store experience that will, in short, let retailers sell more. Rolling it out at other events will increase this personal web engagement and sell more stuff – which is good for us all.
Oh, and while we wait for iCloud and marvel at the new range of Google Chrome netbooks, only this sort of investment will make this cloud idea for consumers take flight. If any of you have tried cloud computing recently you will know what I mean.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Care to take a punt on the mobile future?

This week saw the inaugural mobile gambling summit, organised by your intrepid Telemedia360 team and the lovely people at iGaming Business and what a triumph. A whole day of thought provoking presentations, intense questioning and a palpable air of learning at the Kings Fund in Mayfair.
As opening keynote speaker Dr Windsor Holden, principle analyst at Juniper Research suggested, there have been a number of false dawns with mobile and gambling, but the iPhone and subsequent smartphone penetration that we see today makes it highly likely that mgambling is going to boom this year.
“The JRA in Japan and the huge boom in mobile gambling in China are set to make mobile gambling commonplace in 2011,” Dr Holden told delegates. “And UK gamblers are already voting with their thumbs and playing gambling games. Brands have to sit up and take note of this.”
Backing this up, Darren Mark Noyce, founder and MD of mobile tracking company SKOPOS, told the conference that consumers are already expressing a hunger for mobile gambling products, with 24% of those surveyed by SKOPOS saying that they were ‘accepting of’ m-gambling. While this means that three quarters aren’t, it indicates that a very sizeable chunk of the market – around 15million mobile phone users in the UK alone – are keen.
“And this number is growing,” says Noyce. “We are already starting to see that more people are interested in mobile gambling in the first six months of 2011 than they were at the end of 2010. We expect our next set of data for the end of 2011 to show that this percentage of acceptors of mobile gambling will have risen.”
Dr Holden also suggested that in many people’s minds ‘mobile gambling’ means casino games, slots and sports bets, while a huge number of people – more than half the population – would be happy to play the lottery on mobile and not consider it gambling.
SKOPOS went on to point out the demographics of the consumers that do gamble on mobile as being 70%, 50% 16 to 30 years old, and 71% fully employed. “These are typical smartphone users and comfortably off,” Noyce said. “They are also the same demographic that uses social media extensively and are not typically people who use betting shops.”
Talk at the show’s after party, however, centred very much on how to use mobile more adaptably to try and cover as many people who want to gamble as possible, looking at how to use apps and mobile web for high end casual gamers, simple text  based services to cater to the other end of the gambling community. “After all,” as one anonymous source said, “poor people who don’t have iPhones gamble to get rich so they can afford iPhones”, showing that the gambling and telemedia industries have to work together to look at how to fully exploit all facets of mobile technology to deliver mobile gambling products and to mobilise existing online and bricks and mortar gambling offerings.
The interesting thing is that, as with many other sectors – such as retail, travel, banking, payments to name just a few – the gambling industry (both online and bricks and mortar based) knows it needs to use mobile. The issue is how. The general perception of people walking through the doors at the summit was that “we probably need to learn how to build an app or m-website”, but I hope that by the end of the day they were all thinking much more holistically than that.
Mobile in gambling, retail, travel, payments or any other vertical market isn’t an end in itself, but rather part of the whole. Gambling companies should just think about how they can directly mobilise what they do, rather look at how they can use mobile in its many forms to make what they already do better.
It makes perfect sense for an online slots company to build a lovely looking iPad app that delivers the beans on screen for slots players. It is also great that sports betting companies are looking at how to use mobile to take live bets. But that is just a very small part of what mobile offers the world.
For instance, a betting shop on the high street of Rotherham is not going to be full of people with iPhones and iPads. Its typical clientel don’t fit into that demographic at all, and nor do they want to (even if they win big, they probably won’t become Apple Heads). But that doesn’t mean that there is nothing mobile can bring to that group of people. They will all have mobile phones and so you need to look at how you can use what those phones can do to get those gamers more engaged with you and spending more money.
And the key, as with all things mobile I believe, is text. While those of us in the industry look to all the advanced stuff we can do with our phones, most people out there in the real world know how to use text and, more importantly, can afford to use text. So suddenly the mobile becomes not the gambling tool (or retail tool or payment tool), but a piece of marketing and communications collateral.
This serves to get mobile established as a something non-mobile savvy gamblers and consumers will trust and with this ground work done, you can then develop more mobile-based versions of what you do.
But again, this needn’t be anything more sophisticated than text services if you don’t need or want it to be. Look at The International Sports Betting Company, who spoke at the event in London. Its business is centred around Latin America and Africa and it uses just text to get people betting on sports matches. It is simple, effective and easy to use. It also has the added advantage that it gets black market cash into the official money system, but that’s another story.
What I am trying to say is that simple may be the way forward with all this. Let’s revisit text and see how we can reapply it to services to engage consumers in all channels and give brands in whatever market they operate in a simple and easy way to start on the mobile telemedia journey and then build on that.