By Steve Guengerich, Emily Savage, and Duy Tran
Since the first Appconomist review of app trends in 2012, the use of mobile apps and technology in the hotel and lodging industry has continued to expand at a rapid pace, undergoing major change in the past few years. As Four Seasons CEO Kathleen Taylor puts it, “Technology is one of the leading edge issues for consumers in all segments. It’s less an amenity and more like hot water, in the sense that everyone is expected to have it.”
It has become expected for hotels to integrate technology into their business plan, however many hotel brands are just now starting to consider social media and apps to be an integral part of their corporate strategy. According to the 2014 Hotels.com Hotel Price Index, in the U.S. alone mobile demand went up 80% from 2013 to 2014.
In addition, according to the 2013 global survey by TripAdvisor, 87% of travelers use a smartphoneand 44% use a tablet while traveling. These facts mean a steadily increasing consumer demand for smartphones to be utilized by the hospitality industry.
Now, as HITEC 2015, the industry’s annual technology show, kicks off in Austin, Texas, Appconomist presents our updated coverage of the macro travel trends that we believe have shaped the mobile strategy and apps of the major hotel brands.
While these trends represent a broad cross-section of brands, we specifically focused on reviewing the mobile apps from Four Seasons, IHG, HPG.
Trend #1: Catering to International Travelers is a Priority
In an increasingly globalized world, international travel is becoming the norm rather than the exception and it continues to increase as countries are slowly climbing out of the 2008 global recession. In fact, according to the 2015 Hotels.com Hotels Price Index report, global economic upturn has led to increased international traveling to 1.1 billion total travelers, up 5% from 2014.
For the United States, the U.S. Department of Commerce projects an annual growth rate of approximately four percent in international travel, or more than 80 million incoming visitors. The increased tourism to the United States will be largely fueled by the Chinese market due to the recent visa agreement between President Obama and President Xi Jinping in 2014 – tourism and business visas are now extended from 1 year to 10 years. This could mean lucrative gains for the US hospitality and tourism industry because Chinese travelers spend an average of $1,000/day according to the Chinese International Travel Monitor 2014 report, published by Hotels.com.
However, the US hospitality and tourism industries must learn to meet the shifting demands of these international travelers by offering much better mobile experiences for their clients, especially the Chinese, since 80% of Chinese internet users access the web via mobile devices.
Hotels are taking the first steps towards accommodating this trend, as all apps are now customizable to different languages and loyalty programs offer deals on hotels across the globe to incentivize international traveling.
Some companies are taking it a step further: Hyatt has specialized apps for its five star brands around the globe to further cater to international travelers, while the IHG app has an internal translator for its clients that allows customizable formal, informal, slang, and unconventional translations for any language.
Of course, the ability to transition to different languages within apps is still in the early stages; translation can be often imperfect or entire swaths of information are eliminated that would be normally present in the English offerings. Still, hotels are slowly recognizing that the language barrier is a crucial problem to resolve before they can hope to offer more in-depth services to their international clients.
Trend #2: Mobile is an Expected, Baseline Service
It doesn’t matter whether hotels executives want to increase their mobile presence or not, because consumers are making that decision for them. In a survey done by Software Advice, 60% of respondents said they’re more likely to choose a hotel that allows guests to check in and out via a mobile device and there has been an 80 percent increase in mobile demand in the United States from 2013 to 2014. This shift had led to tangible benefits for hotels as revenues from online booking have grown 73% since 2009 according to a study done by etrak.
Hotels have responded to the sharp increase in demand for mobile services in a multitude of ways:
- online booking is available through all major hotel chains’ apps
- information regarding the hotel amenities and the local area is visible in-app
- customers are able to review and provide feedback to the hotels through their mobile apps.
First, the online booking experience has become extremely streamlined and is quite pleasant for the most part. All relevant information and input boxes are easy to find and online booking is a sleek and intuitive process. Most apps allow you to save preferences or discount codes, which cuts down even more on the time and difficulties of mobile booking for repeat customers.
Past and current reservations are similarly easy to find and navigate, and most apps – if not all – allow customers with reservations to check-in directly from their mobile app. These features allow the app to consolidate the process of booking at home (or wherever!) to arriving at the hotel into one easy experience, reducing the hassles associated with traveling.
Additionally, these apps are providing more and more data in every step of the process to allow the customers to make a much more informed decision when booking via their smartphone. Every app from the major brands we reviewed lists the amenities offered by their hotels which is further broken down into specific room offerings. The more information given, the more the customer is inclined to book with that hotel because it is able to market to the customers’ specific needs.
All of the apps – except for the Hilton app – lists local options for dining, recreation, and business related activities. Using locations-based technology in their mobile apps, the hotels are able to give the customer a preview of potential services in the surrounding area and – once the customer has arrived at the hotel – guide them to their desired destination.
Some hotels are pushing the envelope and trying even more radical mobile services. The SPG app doubles as a wireless room key at select SPG brands by using the phone’s Bluetooth and SPG is also partnering with Apple to provide an app on the Apple Watch to further increase convenience. Marriott is testing a pilot program similar to SPG where the app is able to request a digital key to enter a room.
To round out and improve their mobile experience, hotels are now offering the option to leave reviews and feedback in their apps. In an increasingly data driven world, reviews are becoming more and more necessary to distinguish hotel brands from competitors and they also serve to isolate problems and improve services.
If implemented correctly, hotels can use the reviews as a PR tool: positive reviews provide free, authentic advertising, while negative reviews allow the hotel to showcase its superb customer service. Some apps even include a survey of the mobile app experience in order for the customer to provide feedback to the hotel on how to improve their mobile experience.
Trend #3: Reservation competition remains fierce with Online Travel Agencies
As hotel revenues have increased, so has competition within the market from Online Travel Agencies (OTA). PhoCusWright estimates that the share of online channels in travel bookings will rise from 41% in 2012 to 43% by 2015. Not only are OTAs attempting to take a larger chunk of the market share, but they’re also trying to establish dominance in emerging trends within the hospitality and tourism industry. BookingNow and HotelTonight are examples of OTA apps trying to capitalize on the increase in last minute bookings while Airbnb represents a unique competitor to hotel industries as the sharing economy rises in prominence.
However, HotelTonight has a relatively small selection and has none of the 4 star hotels of the apps reviewed while the BookingNow app is only available for iOs. Additionally, hotels have been working with OTAs ever since the likes of Booking.com, Kayak, and Priceline rose to power so there is no reason that future cooperation is impossible.
Airbnb itself is quite unique; does it pose a threat to high-end and boutique hotels or are the two targeting different demographics? It would behoove hotel executives to quickly determine how to best cooperate or co-exist with Airbnb because it won’t be the last of its kind.
Of course, hotels have some tricks of their own to combat competition from OTAs. The hotel’s loyalty program – their most powerful tool – is featured prominently in each app and often there is a list of benefits convincing users to join the loyalty program. Every single app has special offers available only through their app or website and also includes exclusive deals for rooms that yield double reward points while Marriott goes so far as to prioritize booking for members via its app. This emphasis on loyalty and rewards draws away from generic OTA because these exclusive features can only be accessed via the specific apps and loyalty points can be redeemed in these very same apps.
Trend 4: Travel and Leisure Pivot to Millennials
Millennials (born between 1982 and 2000) are quite a hot topic these days, and the hotel and lodging industry is paying attention. According to MMGY, by 2025 millennials will represent over 50% of travelers. As millennials reach their peak spending age, hotels have started to research and tailor both advertising and apps to this demographic group.
Millennials are different from their predecessors in many ways. Millennials are the largest group of smartphone owners and thus expect the integration of technology with their everyday lives, a shift that hotels have had to embrace as well. Apps have been streamlined for easy two-way communication between hotel and consumer.
Intelity’s ICE (interactive customer experience) program runs the hotel brands apps such as Hilton, Marriott, and Four Seasons. Launched in 2007, it aims to achieve this streamline of information by allowing guests to use self-service features of the hotel, engage them with two way communication, and manage requests on the backend of the hotel. These easy-to-use lines of communication are preferred methods for millennials; it’s plugged in and all at their fingertips.
In conjunction with trend #2 of increased mobile service, millennials are more likely than their elders to make last-minute bookings or last-minute changes to travel plans. This has shaped the ease of using mobile apps for making hotel reservations as well as checking in/out of hotels.
Not only have millennials influenced smartphone apps, they have also influenced the use of tablet apps in the hotel industry. Luxury brands such as Four Seasons have begun to experiment selectively with in-room Ipad technology. This allows the customer to have hotel amenities and services available right in their room on a large, interactive screen, while simultaneously allowing the hotel to advertise electronically. In-room tablet technology has the potential to become standard in luxury hotels in coming years.
As the primary demographic for the hotel industry has shifted toward the millennial generation, the app technology has as well, and will continue to develop. Michael Dail, the global brand marketing lead for Marriott has said they aim to be “high tech and high touch” while integrating technology into their hotels, but also creating a unique and fulfilling experience for the emerging millennial customer.
Trend 5: The Age of Hyper-Local Experience is Here
Closely related to the previous trend, according to MGMY, 59% of millennials prefer to stay with independent hotels as opposed to the chains. To combat this, hotels are branding themselves as local in a couple of different ways. They commonly describe their hotel location as being designed by local artists/architects in their mobile apps.
They might also buy a local hotel and keep the name but integrate the property into the chain. For example The Driskill hotel is a historic Austin icon, but few realize it is run by Hyatt. Many locations of chain hotels have their own app, with special features of that location such as “Hampton Inn & Suites SouthPark” and “Four Seasons Hong Kong.”
Whether a specialized location app or not, every app we reviewed had a section about local attractions, dining, social scene, entertainment, etc. Hotel apps have begun to embrace and promote the local culture as part of the customer experience. In fact, IHG has a concierge app that connects the user to the local IHG concierge and an extensive guide to whatever city the user is in.
Similarly, the new Marriott Guest Services App gives the user access to local perks and offers in the area of the hotel. Hyatt uses a third party app maker “Go Find It” to give customers personalized mobile concierge service, city maps, and local dining/entertainment options. Over the past few years “local” has been a big buzzword for the hospitality and service industries, driving apps to provide local information and benefits as well.
Steve Guengerich is editor-in-chief of Appconomist and a Principal with Powershift Group, the publication’s principal investor.
Excerpted from Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch
“Mary Kay was big in the U.S. in the 60s, 70s, 80s,” says Steve Papermaster, chairman and CEO of Appconomy, Inc, and the CEO of venture development firm Powershift Group.
Indeed, the company, which first entered the Chinese market in 1995, has seen sales in China rise 64-fold in the last 15 years, according to its website; meanwhile, many of its cosmetics rivals are pulling some of their brands out of the market .
Its popularity is so great in China now that it is considering an office building in Shanghai.
A spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that “because of the growth we’ve experienced in China and in many of our other markets around the world, we constantly evaluate our facilities and offices to make sure we have the right resources to sustain our growth.”
Excerpts cross-posted from Benzinga
Steve Papermaster, CEO of the venture development group Powershift, thinks wearable technology will eventually be more prevalent than smartphones.
“This type of smart technology will have a huge impact on content providers, publishers and advertisers as live content, location data, photos/video and surround computing become pervasive,” said Papermaster.
There are a few specific ways that wearable technology like Google Glass could change journalism for the reporters and the audience:
- first-person perspective
- news consumption
With respect to news consumption, geo-tagged augmented reality is one new way.
Readers could look at a building and Glass will pull up relevant information like recent news stories about that company or what the stock is currently trading at, Papermaster said.
News organizations could also engage their readers more, he said, if people were able to look at an article and Glass brings up the comments, or allows them to highlight a section to share on social media.
By Matthew Gray & Mike Lu
In this series of posts, we’ve seen that the indoor positioning system (IPS) realm is home to a wide array of interesting players. Each company is trying to solve the problems of delivering ever-improving customer value at reduced costs that retailers face in today’s tech-conscious market.
Though these companies all fall under the IPS umbrella, they can be placed into more specific categories, each with their own set of characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Some, as you will notice, fall under multiple categories.
Parameter Monitors are those that detect whether consumers carrying smartphones have entered into, are in front of, or are in specific, large areas of stores. They mostly use existing Wifi infrastructure to perform passive detection (with the exception being Shopkick, which installs infrastructure and requires users to actively get themselves detected).
The main advantage here is that they offer a low-cost method of gaining basic consumer store-visit information. The disadvantage is that they can’t really retrieve deeper in-store behavior data.
The advantages are that they offer low-cost deployment and quickly build up broad location databases. The disadvantage is that the location accuracy seems to vary greatly. There is no guarantee of consistent indoor location quality.
These large location databases can be useful when seen in large geographic scales (e.g. cities) but not necessarily for specific indoor locations.
The advantage is that they have built up an expertise in indoor mapping & surveying.The disadvantage is that they do not provide any monitoring of or response to consumer behavior.
Web Traffic Monitors
These companies monitor, analyze and react to customers’ in-store web browsing behavior while using store Wifi (some also have the ability to follow consumers when outside of the store).
The main advantage is their ability to fight against “showrooming” and reach out via online channels. The obvious disadvantage is that they cannot monitor other areas of indoor consumer behavior.
Context Aware Engines
These companies seem to take away certain aspects from all of the other categories.
Their advantages lie with their ability to combine indoor mapping, “microlocation”, detailed in-store behavior data, and omni-channel marketing to create a one-stop solution. The disadvantage is that the setup and implementation is more expensive and time-consuming.
In this four-part series, we’ve tried to cover the business drivers, leading vendors, top start-ups, and technical/functional differentiators between competing solutions.
One thing is clear: the IPS market is a dynamic, rapidly-changing landscape that has attracted attention of the world’s largest retail and technology companies. No less than Google made mapping – indoor and outdoor – the centerpiece of its 2013 I/O conference for developers.
New companies and technologies are coming onto the scene every day. The race is on to see which technologies and vendors will emerge as leaders over the coming year.
by Steve Guengerich and Samuel Hui
As we said at the beginning of Part 2 of this series, the IPS segment is heating up rapidly, given the large opportunity it represents.
Thus, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a number of new entrants, in addition to those we’ve covered in Parts 2 and 3, come on the scene soon – some perhaps even launching products during while we were researching this article.
If you know of one that you think belongs on this list, please let us know. And check back for updates to the IPS phenomenon from time-to-time.
Nearbuy Systems provides wifi location solutions to retailers enabling location-based services that the company claims increase revenue, enhance the brand experience, and reduce operating expenses. Its innovative, patent-pending technology delivers real-time location information within three feet of accuracy for people carrying any mobile device, according to the company, using data from infrastructure that retailers already have in place.
Nearbuy’s core products include:
- Guest wifi – to create customized welcome pages and deploy an opt-in process that makes sense for the retail environment
- Wifi Analytics – to analyze sites and products being browsed, search terms being used, & social media activity
- In-Store Analytics – to analyze overall foot traffic, window conversion, location of people within a store, repeat vs. first-time visits to a store, dwell times
- NearBuy API – an open interface that providing real-time access to Nearbuy physical and online shopping behavior data and key commerce events
To date, Nearbuy has received $1.8 million in venture funding from Motorola Solutions Venture Capital, Innovation Endeavors, and Metamorphic Ventures. Among the more prominent customers, they list baby products merchant KiddiCare, as well as refer anonymously to “Other Major Retailers.”
Nomi claims to help offline retailers leverage their existing infrastructure to gather real-world, in-store customer analytics, and they integrate with existing CRM, loyalty, point of sale (POS), business intelligence (BI), and e-commerce systems to provide better service for both online and offline customers.
To date, Nomi has received $3 million in venture funding from First Round Capital, Greycroft Partners, SV Angel, Forerunner Ventures, and individuals Ralph Mack, Andy Dunn, Sam Decker, & David Tisch. Among the more prominent customers, they list “Baked by Melissa,” furniture merchant BoConcept, SweetGreen, and anonymous “Other National Retailers.”
Nomi’s core products include: Nomi Listen, which the company claims provides real-time offline analytics such as window conversion, visit duration, visit frequency and device type, plus software layered on top of a retailer’s in-store wifi; and, Nomi Measure, for creating personalized and targeted marketing campaigns, improving display advertising, testing scenarios, and measuring impact of events on in-store visits and revenue.
Swarm claims to enable brick-and-mortar retailers to increase revenue through real-time shopper interaction and analytics. The company claims its customer experience is proven to drive retailer revenue through increased conversion, cross-sell/up-sell, loyalty and ability to defend against in-store price comparison.
Swarm works with Fortune 1000 and Fortune 500 retailers across all categories. If a customer logs into the free in-store wifi, their browser opens up in a special mobile website, allowing them to browse different products in the store, find coupons and deals, and also earn loyalty points for multiple visits.
To date, the company has received $1 million in venture funding from Brian Lee, Gavin McInnes, and rapper Nas. Among the more prominent customers, they list the shoe store chain Fight Club, as well as anonymously “Other Major Retailers.”
The Swarm platform encompasses two core components: Shopper Intelligence, enabling merchants to view historical, current and anticipated shopper traffic patterns, and set goals, benchmarks and alerts to easily track ROI on their marketing and strategies; and, Shopper Marketing, which the company says provides personalized offers based on shopper attributes and intent, guarding against “showrooming” through features like automatically offering a coupon for a better deal when customer scans product on Amazon.
Lastly, Shopkick claims to be the first mobile application that hands consumers rewards and exclusive deals at its national retail partners, in return for consumers’ simply walking into thousands of stores and malls.
Although it’s a stretch to call Shopkick an IPS company, because of its coarse-level of location tracking, it’s worthy of including in a scan of the players because of its market momentum and resources.
Shopkick’s core solution is a simple hardware/software offering. For software, it provides the Shopkick Mobile App and In-store Analytics. For hardware, Shopkick requires an inaudible audio signal to be broadcast at a high-pitch frequency that can be picked up by a smartphone’s microphone, either through the store’s existing music system or through a small transmitter.
According to company principals, Shopkick has driven $300 million in retail revenue, tracked 16 million verified walk-ins, and recorded 20 million in-store interactions. The company also says its app is the 4th most widely used shopping app after eBay, Amazon and Groupon.
To date, the company has received $20 million in venture funding from Greylock Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, SV Angel, Reid Hoffman, and Citi Growth Ventures. Among the more prominent customers, they list Target, Macy’s, Best Buy, Old Navy, Crate & Barrel, American Eagle, Toy’s R Us, Simon Halls, Exxon, and Sports Authority.
by Steve Guengerich and Matthew Gray
As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, Indoor Positioning Systems – or “in-store GPS” – are certain to be one of the more vibrant segments of mobile investment and product development in 2013 and beyond.
If this certainty was subject to question at the beginning of 2013, all doubt was removed when Apple paid an undisclosed amount for the IPS startup WiFiSLAM before the “AngeList”ed startup had even brought a commercial product to market.
In Parts 2 and 3, we’ll provide a market scan of some of the more noteworthy companies and their products that are claiming a stake in the IPS market.
Skyhook claims to be a leading provider of location positioning, context and intelligence worldwide. Skyhook developed the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS). Taking advantage of the hundreds of millions of Wi-Fi access points throughout populated areas, WPS consistently provides accurate location information indoors and in urban areas.
Skyhook Wireless obtained tremendous overnight growth in January 2008 at the Macworld Conference & Expo, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that the iPhone and iPod touch would use their Wi-Fi Positioning System as the location engine for Google Maps and other applications.
To date, Skyhook has received $16.8 million in venture finding from Bain Capital Ventures, Common Angels, Intel, Nokia, and RRE Ventures. Among the more prominent customers, they list Apple, Dell, HP, Intel, Lenovo, Samsung, SoftBank, Sony, and Symantec.
Skyhook’s core product offerings include the SkyHook Location SDK (aka, software development kit) and SpotRank, which is a location intelligence service that predicts crowd densities
BloomReach claims that its cloud marketing platform maximizes its customers’ revenues – attracting unmet demand and creating better user experiences by making the most relevant products and services easier to find.
The WRE dynamically adapts websites to capture existing consumer demand across search, social and advertising channels, driving an average 80% increase in non-branded natural search traffic, according to the company, as well as significant incremental revenues across their large customer base from the retail, travel and listings industries.
To date, BloomReach has received $41 million in venture funding from New Enterprise Associates, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Bain Capital Ventures. Among the more prominent customers, they list Guess, Nieman Marcus, Drugstore.com, All Modern, Ampush Media, and BellaCor.
BloomReach’s core product offerings include: BloomSearch, which enables relevant content to get discovered via natural search driving traffic and revenue, helps build a better web site for search users and search engines, and accelerates the effectiveness of existing SEO efforts; and, BloomLift, which improves revenue and profitability of online advertising by dynamically routing to (and optimizing) landing pages for greater relevance.
Euclid claims to deliver actionable shopper insights to brick and mortar retailers…think “Google Analytics for offline retail.” Providing real-world metrics like Engagement Rate, Visit Duration and Visit Frequency, Euclid helps retailers optimize the performance of their marketing, merchandising, and operations.
With simple setup and an easy-to-use web dashboard, according to the company, national chains and local boutiques alike can boost traffic, engagement, loyalty and revenue. Built on a commitment to protecting individual privacy, Euclid’s technology provides only aggregated, anonymous insights. Euclid’s aspiration is to redefine retail decision-making, as it says, “from the stockroom to the boardroom.”
To date, Euclid has received $23.6 million in venture funding from Benchmark Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Harrison Metal Capital, and Novel TMT Ventures, as well as individuals Elad Gil, Michael Calbert, & Jason Spero. Among the more prominent customers, they list Philz Coffee, as well as refer anonymously to other “Top 100″ retailers in various categories, including specialty apparel, department stores, auto parts and home improvement.
Euclid’s core products include: Euclid Analytics, which through plug-and-play wifi sensors, enables merchants to learn how many people visit a store, when they enter, how long they stay, when and if they return; and, Euclid Zero, which measures in-store behavior using existing wireless infrastructure from wifi providers Aerohive Networks, Aruba Networks, Fortinet, and Xirrus.
In the final installment of this series, Part 3, we’ll cover a handful of smaller companies, plus one notable retail “first mover” in mobile that could quickly become an IPS leader.
by Steve Guengerich, Editor
Often, it is the simplest ideas that are the most powerful – and, frequently overlooked. Take indoor GPS. For several years, outdoor-oriented, Location-Based Systems (LBSs) have been the center of attention for mobile apps.
Yet, the reality is that 90% of our daily activity occurs indoors – in offices, shopping malls, apartment buildings, department stores, and more. Now, a new generation of hardware/software solutions – referred to as Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) – will soon come to market, changing the way we shop and live.
Said Don Dodge, a Google Ventures advisor, late last year in Venturebeat: “Indoor location will be bigger than GPS, which only works outdoors. In 2013, you’ll use your smartphone to find the exact store aisle location for every item on your shopping list. With indoor location, you can find people, products, or services plotted exactly on a floor plan with walking directions to get there.”
Dodge continued: “You could receive coupons, advertisements, or free offers for products based on where you are in a store. Imagine playing indoor location games like capture the flag, tower defense, or other games based on real-life indoor locations. There are thousands of applications in many different market segments that will be built using accurate indoor positioning technology.”
“This is a space that’s heating up a lot right now…there’s an instinct that [LBS] is going to be a really big deal for smartphones in the same way that GPS was a really big deal for [navigation],” said Dan Ryan, founder and CTO of indoor positioning company ByteLight, as reported in a recent article.
Ryan continued: “In the future, you can imagine a situation where you walk into a retail store and your phone leads you to a particular product. Or maybe you pull out your phone in front of an exhibit you like at a museum and it pushes you some content about that exhibit. The whole idea of geospatial-aware computing has everything to do with making computing more relevant and more useful.”
As Simon Thompson, ESRI’s director of global business solutions, said: “It doesn’t matter if it’s a Walmart, a Target, a bank, or a car dealership; everyone’s changing their business model to…[match] the right people to the right product in the right place.” LBS [both indoor and outdoor] also allows businesses to create new revenue streams by selling in-app advertising and identifying more business opportunities.”
In China, IPS-centric solutions are starting to come to market, with offerings like Appconomy’s (艾普科美) IPS-based Retail Marketing Suite, as well as Widtu (点道室内地图), Palmap (图渊室内地图), and Jimi (积米地图). Outside of China, there are a number of companies claiming IPS roots, although most of them are at best IPS-lite, if not outright mislabeled.
In Part 2 of this series, we will cover some of the more noteworthy of these non-China domestic providers.
by Steve Guengerich
Global. Mobile. Internet. That about says it all, doesn’t it?
When we first attended the Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) in Beijing this past May 10-11, we were eager to see how “global” the event was.
We’ll have to say, for a relatively young event, we were impressed – and we attend *a lot* of events! Selfishly, among the few things that we wish we’d seen was more participation from US companies and English-speaking entrepreneurs. You can read the trip report of firsthand observations, key learnings, etc. from our sister company, Appconomy, Inc.
However, we were sufficiently impressed with the event that when we learned the producers – the Great Wall Club – planned to hold their inaugural event in the US a full year earlier than we had been expecting, we wanted to help support it.
And, thus, we’re pleased to say that Appconomist has joined a number of other media, association, and promotional partners to create awareness of the event and encourage you to strongly consider putting the GMIC-Silicon Valley (#GMIC-SV) on your calendar for this October 19-20.
GMIC-Silicon Valley is themed “Connecting Global Innovators” and features a terrific line-up of speakers and panels on the shifts, challenges and opportunities for mobile innovation in growing markets.
In addition to the main program, the producers are featuring a couple of parallel tracks of mobile programming and competitions, to provide more hands-on appeal to mobile developers and entrepreneurs: the AppSpace/appAttack and the G-Startup SV.
Speaking of mobile designers and developers, Appconomist is giving away 20 free Developer (Expo) passes worth $50 each. Although they are probably more valuable to those readers who are within a daily commute of the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, where GMIC-Silicon Valley is being held, all are welcome to claim one. To get one now, click this registration link – hope to see you there, in a month!
In the standard political narrative that has solidified over the past decade, new media politics began with the Howard Dean campaign, “meetups” and MoveOn.org, then flowered with “Netroots” solidarity in 2008 with the presidential victory of Barack Obama and his campaign’s groundbreaking Obama ‘08 app.
With the 2012 election cycle approaching, that story looks likely to take complex new turns as mobile marketing, locational apps, and established 2.0 platforms are adopted and mastered across the political spectrum, left and right.
Keya Dannenbaum is one of the techno-idealists caught up in the current third wave of digital politics. A campaign veteran now in the MBA program at Penn Wharton, Dannenbaum and a partner have launched ElectNext, a forthcoming political “matching platform” for both browser and mobile platforms. ElectNext (@ElectNext) will connect individual voters in state, local and primary elections with candidates based on their issue preferences.
As an application that targets local voters and highlights local issues, the start-up is a case study in how agile mobile computing will play a major role in voter preference as more voters and media consumers adopt social media and smartphones.
The portablity, utility and growing ubiquity of smartphones guarantees a mobile extension for ElectNext’s beta phase browser application, slated to launch for the 2012 cycle.
As Dannenbaum states,“ElectNext shows you the candidates who most align with you and allows you to pre-select your ballot. So of course you should be able to take those selections into the voting booth with you, most sensibly on a mobile platform.”
Dannenbaum, 29, began her involvement with politics as Associate Finance Director in Los Angeles for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 nomination bid. She followed that stint with 18 local-level races in two years.
“We were all over existing – and I emphasize existing – social media in 2008,” remembers Dannenbaum. “The translation to politics is pretty obvious. A friend-to-friend contact will lead to much stronger conversion than calls from a phone bank or a blast email. This social power was most prominently demonstrated in fundraising, in which small amounts solicited through social media were game-changing. And whether it’s correlation or causation, the campaign that did this best won.”
Like the obvious utility of social media for politics in 2008, the apparent “game-changing” power of smartphones is more of a demographic force than a techno-utopian future forecasting. According to media monitor comScore, 65.8 million Americans own smartphones this year, which is up from 42.7 million the year before. And that’s a little over half the number of Americans who voted in the 2008 presidential election.
Let the Sunlight In
Washington, D.C.’s Sunlight Foundation (@SunFoundation) and its technology project, Sunlight Labs(@sunlightlabs), have gained notable attention for producing apps aimed at arming both citizens and road warrior political professionals with an ongoing data stream from Congress. Their suite of Congress-streaming apps, Real Time Congress for iPhone and Congress for Windows and Android devices, have seen wide adoption.
Sunlight was also the architect of the fascinating, if gimmicky, mashup app designed to allow smartphone-wielding citizens to view the impact of stimulus package dollars through an augmented reality interface powered by Dutch-made augmented reality platform Layar (@Layar).
Sunlight’s Congress applications are designed as part of a dozen or so offerings intended to stoke public engagement and government transparency. But their utility for information-hungry political junkies and operatives is readily apparent: the apps provide updated e-mail addresses for congressional staffers.
Sunlight Labs also sponsors Apps for America, a contest allowing entrants to make use of Sunlight’s APIs and datasets to create apps focused on congressional accountability.
As in so many other markets, locational smartphone applications will provide the disruptive force in politics. Dannenbaum cited the personal, local and word-of-mouth nature of political engagement as a catalyst for the coming adoption of GPS- and check-in-based mobile applications in campaigns
“As you drop your kids off at your neighborhood public school and notice that the building is literally falling apart,” said Dannenbaum, “or as you meet your friends for after-work cocktails and get into a heated discussion over our intervention in Libya — these are everyday moments that inform your views on the issues you care about. So the platform on which to express those views and get the information you need to act, or really vote, should always be accessible.”
And what does an app that lets you weigh in, on-site, about a crumbling school sound like? It sounds like geo-location, of course.
According to CNET, ComScore reported last month that 16.7 million mobile phone users, i.e, 7.1% of all U.S. mobile phone users, used a check-in service over the first three months of this year. Seventy-six percent of the mobile phone users who “checked in” did so from smartphones, and 58.5% of check-in users were between the ages of 18 and 34, versus only 30.1% of mobile phone users at large. This broad, engaged swath of check-in users is likely to be as enticing to campaigns as it is to marketers.
Dannenbaum’s insights reflect these developments in the world of geo-location mobile. “While I think the biggest next wave of innovation in politics will be social, there is a lot still to be done with location,” she continues. “We’ve seen hints of what is possible, most prominently in Get Out The Vote. I was really taken in 2010 with the Voting Information Project and FourSquare mashup, whereby people could look up their polling place, check in when they arrived and get a limited-edition ‘I Voted’ badge.”
The Atlantic reported last year on that FourSquare project, which brought its flagship “check-in” service to voting booths with the “I Voted” project. This endeavor piggybacked on the civic-minded Voting Information Project (@votinginfo), a partnership between the Pew Center on the States and Google to map every polling place in America. Google and FourSquare have made strides in providing services to campaigns in recent years, a move that has won them goodwill from the government and, in Google’s case, dibs on a slice of the billions in media dollars spent every election cycle.
Two canvassing programs, one on the right and one on the left, give us a peek into the kind of power locational technology can bring to a campaign. First, was a canvassing app from the Democrats’ political wing, Organizing for America, according to a 2010 report from Politico.
Second was Walking Edge, according to another Atlantic report, a similar canvassing app used for Republican Scott Brown’s successful campaign to take Senator Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts. The app allows campaign workers to track, in real-time, the address and political proclivity of voters in a given precinct. This feature allows for far more organization during massive door-to-door canvassing and “Get Out The Vote” operations.
The adoption of geo-location apps by campaigns for internal use, combined with the extension of location-based services for voters, points to voter-focused locational apps as the next frontier for political apps in the 2012 cycle and beyond.
Lastly, no discussion of digital politics would be complete without at least a passing mention of find-raising, especially as the US presidential primary season begins gearing up for later this year. The fund-raising topic actually commands a more complete, separate overview of its own, given the variety of mobile options on the horizon and the President’s own campaign leadership goal of raising $1 billion for the 2012 race.
For now, one team worth keeping an eye on is the group from Rally.org, This team developed a highly publicized social fund-raising platform for campaigns with its initial venture Piryx. With Rally.org, many of the same principals have reconstituted the Priyx team, promising technology that is even more mobile-ready, with an all-star cast of investors – including, Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and Mark McKinnon, the founder of Maverick Media and a political advisor who has served both Democratic and, more recently, Republican officials.
Are you involved in local or national politics, either as a volunteer or staffperson with a political campaign? What mobile apps have you found to be most valuable?
by Steve Guengerich
More than three years ago, Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously said “people don’t read anymore” in a New York Times article about why he believed the Amazon Kindle reader was a flawed device.
While he may have gotten the context wrong (since it appears recreational reading and Amazon’s Kindle have turned out to be pretty popular), perhaps Jobs’ observation ended up ringing true in reference to our distaste for reading on mobile devices.
In place of reading text, viewing video has surged in demand. And with this surge, a number of companies have emerged to position themselves for significant roles in this booming medium. Here are some of the trends we foresee:
Most people are familiar with the major video networks for entertainment programming, like Netflix and Hulu, which have emerged and made strong mobile footprints. But there are also significant alternative networks, largely relying on user-generated content and niche programming. These networks include Justin.tv, Blip.tv, and video “big kahuna” Youtube.
There is clearly an advertiser interest in these new mobile video alternatives, partly in search for new, hot viewer segments and partly due to a freeing up of corporate cash to invest in more promotion. Nielsen confirmed, for example, that global ad spend was up nearly 9% in Q1 2011, with television (across all media) ad spend up the strongest, at a nearly 12% increase over the same quarter in 2010.
Ultimately, though, media consolidation is expected at some level for a couple of reasons. First, they have the advantage of vertical and horizontal integration of media to make advertising attractive. For example, even though the players have changed since it was first broadcast 10 years ago, it’s fascinating and instructive to view the advantage of scale dynamics behind media consolidation, as portrayed in the PBS Frontline series on “The Merchants of Cool.”
Second, the major networks are getting savvy about mobile. For example Viacom’s BET Mobile has had a successful run experimenting in deep, immersive experiences for program viewers, like the mobile app they produced in support of 106 and Park. While conventional TV is still several multiples beyond mobile device viewership – reaching 100 million households in the US per day, versus just under 25 million total mobile devices viewing video during 2010 – the gap is expected to close rapidly with the coming onslaught of larger screen tablets.
2. The market for Do-It-Yourself mobile video is hot
There is an insatiable demand for new, mobile-ready video content. Part of this phenomenon comes from a “Youtube generation” of prosumers (producers & consumers) that has far more choice for viewing unique, new content that fulfills their personal interests. Symbolizing this user-driven desire for novel content, the browser add-on and app Stumbleupon was recently documented to have generated more web traffic