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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mobile: Where should you focus - site vs apps

It seems that everyone is racing to be #1 in mobile, with smartphones and tablets taking off everyone is prediciting that the mobile space is the next great battleground and that if you are already not investing heavily in this space you may have already lost.

But the question is what should be the focus?  Should you ensure that you have a website that is a seamless experience no matter what device (mobile, tablet, computer or TV) the consumer accesses it with or should you be building customized experiences that are device dependent, the app.

Most of the excitment has been around apps - the comparision of how many each platform has, how many downloads etc and who is winning the race for share.

I guess the point I have is before you go head first into building apps souldn't you first make sure your core site is mobile friendly?  If I had to break down a mobile strategy it would be three easy steps:

1. Make sure your site can support mobile platforms and consumers can easily access the information and transact on your site.  It was interesting this US Thanksgiving weekend to see everyone using their iPads but the shopping and heavy lifting was being done in the browser while the apps were more used for entertainment.  So step 1 - make sure your site can support mobile and tablet based interactions (you might as well add TV (big screen) to this as well).

2. Build out content on your site that targeted to your mobile/tablet users.  The last thing you want to do is start to have seperate platforms that require mulitple groups to maintain and execute on the strategy.  Use you core platform as the hub for the content and infromation that consumers will want to access and build out expereinces that can be leverage accross muliple platforms. Step 2 - expand the content on your site into area that are of more interest to the mobile user

3. Take the content from you hub and build out specific expereinces that leverage the advantages of the devices but maintain the link to the hub.  Once your core site is supporting multiple platforms and you have built the hub of information and content you can then start to extent this into the device through customized expereinces but the key is that it is leveraging common information and it is the expereince is different (drag and drop based actions for example).

I may be looking at this the wrong way and many have told me that customized apps is the first step into understanding the mobile customer and your brand but if you are serious about long term success I truly believe you start from the base up which will not only allow for the best expereince and an operational model into the future but will bode well for the businsess as new platforms emerge.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Flyers, Flyers Everywhere - But Does Anyone Care? (Or Why Canadian Retailers are Missing a Major Opportunity this Christmas)

The first week of Nov, I was at my in-laws just outside of Ottawa, and was shocked to see the number of flyers neatly stuffed into the Flyer Force delivery bag.

Over 32 different flyers, including multiple for the same stores (Sears, Walmart, Loblaws and ToyRUs all had more than one).  It was easily over five hundred pages of unremarkable content that had no possible relevance to each and every household.  I wonder how often someone actually goes through the bag or does it just make a nice carrier to take it all to the recycling bin?

The saddest part of this - we all know that more and more consumers are using online to search for their what and where to buy this Christmas, and everyone wants to make sure that they are getting their loved ones the best gifts in 2010. Yet Walmart, ToyRUs, Sears, all which had multiple flyers and catalogues in the flyer force bag as well as big players like Home Depot, Canadian Tire, Loblaws and Zellers, who where also trying to pitch as "the" place for Holiday shopping, didn't think of buying the key gifting terms (Best/Top/Hot - Gifts/Toys/ - For Him / Her in any combination) on Google. In fact as of Nov 21st, no retailers are purchasing these terms in makes you wonder how a retailer can easily spend upwards of a million dollars getting a holiday flyer out yet, they can't justify (or even worse - don't yet know) the impact of being the number 1 term in Google could have on their sales this season.  Here are some examples below but you can pretty well try any combo and nothing comes up.  It is a great opportunity for a retailer to jump in and get involved in a very relevant conversation with consumers looking to make this holiday season a perfect one.

Best Toys search - no sponsored results

Hot toys for Christmas 2010  - no sponsored results

Top Gifts for Him - No Sponsored Results from Retailers in Canada

And just in case you needed some extra incentive (this is for you retailers out there) here is the Google Trends graph for "hot toys" and "best gifts"

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Newspapers Are Old News -- Take-51,067

I’d like to start this post with a quick thank-you to Simon for sharing this platform with me. I’ve been following his blog ever since I first interviewed with him and have found some of the topics covered here to be very enlightening – so joining him is quite an honour for me. To be perfectly honest, I’m still not sure what direction / topic I plan to focus on but will try and share simple observations and describe what I'm missing in an experience... and ideally connect with some like-minded individuals to start conversations. That’s what blogging is all about after all, isn’t it?

And while I’m already not leading with the ‘hook’ anyhow, may as well spend another 30 seconds giving you the low-down on who I am so you know where I’m coming from. Just a few quick facts; I’m 29 years old, married, have a 2-year old baby girl named Emilia (who is amazing, and that’s a fact), live in a small condo in downtown Toronto, have worked in ecommerce retail for some time, grew in Montreal, and a generally agreeable person.

And so finally we arrive at the observation that pushed me to write my first post for Evolving Shift – something that made me really stop and think this evening. Newspapers! I haven’t read a newspaper in years, at least not the paper kind. This in itself isn’t news – there have been many many discussions about the struggles of print publications over the past decade – but maybe I can offer my own reaction, and suggest a tool I would love to see created. So my first reaction going through the paper is how little it has changed in 20yrs – seriously, reading through this was an entirely nostalgic experience for me. The cover stories completed pages later, the mish-mash of ads vaguely related to the topic, the disorganized jumble of paper slowly building at my feet, and the ‘funnies’ failing to get a single chuckle (sorry Sherman’s Lagoon, it must have been an off week?) My biggest complaint though, and the piece that felt the most archaic to me, was that I had no mechanism to easily find things that I was interested in. I was forced to flip each page dutifully on the off-chance that something I cared about was contained within. It was total anarchy!

Anyhow, my big point is that online newspapers aren’t that much better – though I do frequent them as my primary news source. I get the added benefit of search, and ‘most read’ / ‘most emailed’ popularity rankers… tools to catch up with trending topics and the like, but in all reality the newspaper is a lot more like Twitter than a lot of people realize. Sure they allow their articles to exceed 140 characters, but it’s still an endless stream of information ready at a moments notice if you want to shove your nose in the way but more than happy to stream off endlessly into the ether without caring if anybody is out there reading.

And so here’s where I normally make an impassioned speech for RSS (Google Reader has been the single piece of technology that has most changed my life in the past 5 years) – but I’ll spare you all. I know that this audience is aware that RSS has been around for a long time but still only sees penetration rates barely in the double digit percentage range for online users… not exactly an evolving shift… but let’s be honest, I’ve never seen a digital publisher really give it a go until recently, and I’ve yet to see a newspaper get into it seriously. The few times I have attempted to follow a newspapers RSS feed (even a specific section’s RSS) it left me buried in content without a good way to sift through it or a reason to stay subscribed.

The piece that I really think is missing, is taking that same simple syndication concept and paring it back to meet the needs of a more traditional audience and generate real return visits to a newspapers space – while building a social networking opportunity beyond just really awful comments or hot/not features. I don’t need it to live in my Google Reader, I just need it to work. So here’s what I want:

  • As a reader I would like to have a profile that allows me to follow topics / stories at a granular level so that I can stay informed on a topic when new details are released (eg. The Toronto mayoral election, Toronto Maple Leaf post game summaries, TTC subway expansion, Toronto school news as I plan for my daughter, weather forecasts for the coming week, etc. – more detailed than just ‘business’ or ‘sports’!)
  • As a reader I would like to have a profile that allows me to follow specific authors that write for a paper so that I can focus on voices / opinions that I enjoy
  • As a reader I would like to have a profile that will capture the things I have expressed interest in and save them until I have read them so I do not need to worry about missing anything
  • As a reader I would like to be able to save / clip stories into my profile so I don’t have to go searching for them again later
  • As a reader I would like the search tool to work and not be like trying to find a periodical at a library so that I can better find the articles that answer my questions
  • As a reader I would like the ability to write my own stories or story requests or contribute real information that gets added to the dialogue versus two-cent comments that get buried in a sea of flames
  • As a reader I would like the ability to suggest tags for stories that can then be followed so that I can help group topics together and add value

And as I write this my wife is happily downloading episodes of the Vampire Diaries on demand on her iPad – so I’m going to call that a case-in-point and call it a day. Toronto Star, I’m looking at you!

What do you want out of your news reading experience?