Archive for the ‘Rick Burgess’ Category.

Should we build a mobile app, or a mobile website?

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mobile app vs mobile web differencesAs we all know the web is constantly changing, new platforms seem to launch every day, and new development techniques are being touted as the future of live as we know it most weeks.

One piece of advice that has remained consistent over the last few years is that brands need to evaluate how customers use their services when on the move.

A common question we are asked when speaking about mobile strategy is:

Should we build a mobile app or a mobile version of our site/product?

Well, first we need to define exactly what we are talking about when speaking about a mobile app and mobile web.

When we speak about mobile apps are talking specifically about “native” apps which are developed for particular smartphones and appear in their respective app stores.

Mobile web means developing a site or product online which is designed to emulate the feel of a native app, but is accessed by a web browser on the smartphone.

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages:

Mobile App Advantages

  • Available in the app stores -  much easier for new users to find
  • Greater access to the phone’s hardware - faster graphics, seamless file system usage
  • Push Notifications - only apps installed on a phone can send true push notification, although SMS messages can be used as a less friendly but more accessible alternative.
  • True fullscreen experience -  mobile web sites are restricted by the phone’s web browser has which means you lose valuable screen space.

Mobile Web Features

  • Cross platform - when properly developed mobile web sites work across most modern phones and even feature phones in some cases (see twitter)
  • Flexible Versioning -  without an app store there is no barrier to releasing new versions of your site whenever you want, which makes it easier to A/B test a new feature.
  • Lower Development costs

There is a hybrid approach that can be used which is something like Appcelerator’s Titanium framework which allows developers to build using HTML/CSS/Javascript and then wrap it up into a native app. The primary advantage of system like this is you develop once like Mobile Web and then deploy with most of the advantages of a native app.

Using the Lean Start-up’s concept of a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) one approach I have been recommending is to look at developing a mobile web site first, work with your users to decide if a full blown mobile app would be useful and if so migrate your existing code over to a framework like Titanium. If it turns out the a mobile app isn’t required you still have a beautiful, future-proof website that you can continually evaluate to guide your next mobile steps.

App icons on smartphone image via Bigstock

Social media analysis: what data can teach us

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At SXSW 2012 Gilad Lotan from SocialFlow spoke about the “math that matters”.

Gilad’s R&D team spend a huge amount of time looking at data provided by the Twitter firehose and the bit.ly stream, using this information they are able to gain valuable insight into how Twitter users interact, and so predict the potential virality of certain content.

The team at SocialFlow applied this analysis to their own tweets. The results were interesting, as some tweets generated a large number of clicks but a low number of retweets, and vice versa. Using this information and by determining the characteristics of each “type” of tweet, SocialFlow were then in the position where they could target amplification (retweets) or engagement (clicks).

If you take this approach to your own tweets, you can work out when your users are paying attention and when they are likely to respond to your communications. You can also understand what topics are most interesting to your users. Once you have these two pieces of information you can start to ensure your brand is writing content, across your platforms, that will engage with your audience.

The focus of Gilad’s talk was on understanding audiences. One example below shows what topics the audiences of four major news networks are talking about:

News networks clicks from social flow

When looking at this information Gilad noticed that users clustered together into groups, further analysis showed that these clusters in some cases were geographic but in others they were groups around a single topic or even a single core influencer.

Geographic Socialflow social media data

They key take away from talk was that data can help you know your audience, understand what’s important to them, and when they are paying attention. Analysing this data into insight allows you to make every tweet count.

While this information is definitely useful, and a great starting point, the way that we would apply such insight is to go one step further and link it into existing business KPIs, such as measuring conversions from engagement into sales opportunities.

SXSW learnings: Dynamic Pricing

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Why we have price tags

The concept of a price tag on every product is actually a relatively recent idea. Up until about a hundred years ago, the expected method of purchasing something from a store was to select what you wanted and then barter for the price you wanted to pay.

The problem with this process was that customers felt  disadvantaged to the shop keeper, who was a much more experienced trader, and so the price tag was born. This ensured that every customer got the same deal.

And today?

Skip forward to today and we are starting to see a change in how products and services are priced. In several industries, such a travel, companies are changing prices frequently based on environmental variables like supply and demand. Take hotels at SXSW as an example, hotel rooms cost much more around the time of the festival due to the huge increase in demand.

This trend of dynamic pricing hasn’t spread to far into the retail sector yet, but with the increase in mobile usage retailers are starting to look for ways to tap into the vast amount of personal data you are carrying around with you.

We already have some services trying to work in this space. Tools like foursquare and Groupon are allowing retailers to offer savings to certain groups of people, but that’s just a scratching the surface of dynamic pricing,

With the increased adoption of NFC in the next 12 months we could see increasing numbers of retailers offering personalised pricing, that is just for you, based on anything from the amount of friends you have on Facebook, to the last time you tweeted.

There are some risks associated with this model. A few years ago Amazon experimented with a system which offered users a unique price based on location, time on the site and even what browser they were using. There was huge backlash because Amazon didn’t inform customers about the system and so users felt that they were being discriminated against.

The key to a successful dynamic pricing model is to be transparent about why you are offering each price otherwise your customers could feel alienated and cheated.

Photo credit: NeilT on Flickr

SXSW: Google+ is not (just) a social network

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The beauty of South by Southwest is having the opportunity to attend events such as a fireside chat about the Google+ project with Vic Gundotra, Senior Vice President of Engineering for Google+. Hosted by Guy Kawasaki, there were some interesting points to take away about how Google sees its offering with Plus.

The main points were that Google+ is much more than a social network (something that we have discussed before here at FreshNetworks) - and really is destined to apply a social layer across all of Google’s existing services.  An example of this is with video: it seems like a glaring omission from Google+,  but Google is already geared up to provide video functionality through YouTube.

The purpose of Google+?

What it’s really about is allowing Google to understand more about you and who and what you find important. This is clearly important for social search results, but also has benefits in helping you with your email. Obviously this won’t just apply to helping serve you with relevant content, but also targeted advertising.

Google’s primary revenue stream comes from advertising, so as you might expect Google has some clear ideas about where, or more importantly, when adverts should be shown.

For Google the key concept is “Commercial intent” , Google only wants to show you an ad when you have shown a clear signal that you are looking to purchase something.

Vic said that Google don’t want to get to a situation like Facebook where they are injecting ads into every aspect of your life. For example, he vowed that you will never see a ad when browsing photos you have uploaded onto Google+, but they will use the information you add about those photos when targeting you with ads on a search result.

A different approach from Facebook

This desire to learn lessons from Facebook came up again later in the same discussion, when asked about why a G+ API had not been released. Vic stated that he wanted to be sure that if an API was released it would stay forever and be stable, unlike Facebooks API which fequently changes, Vic said “We hold ourselves to a higher standard”

One final point is that Google now counts any user who logs in with a Google account to be a Google+ user, even if they haven’t posted anything onto Plus itself - so it might be prudent to be careful when analysing the network’s user numbers and demographics.