Yesterday on the conference call discussing the $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also told the audience that it now had one billion mobile users -- quite a milestone. The company previously reported in its Q4 2013 earnings that it had 945 million "monthly active" mobile users, as of December 31, 2013.
Daily mobile users are now probably around 600 million on a global basis.
Ad revenue from mobile devices in Q4 was "approximately 53% of advertising revenue ... up from approximately 23% of advertising revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012." That means the mobile ad-revenue number will likely be 65% or greater by the end of the year. Twitter gets roughly 70% of its ad revenue from mobile, based on its most recent earnings report.
Even though mobile experiences, advertising and marketing are still relatively young (since 2007), Facebook is looking beyond mobile to the "next computing platform." For Zuckerberg that's virtual reality.
He's potentially right.
However much depends on whether and how virtual reality can be translated into a mainstream experience. It's not unlike taking original IMAX and turning it into a smaller but more "accessible" cinematic IMAX for popular film releases.
Beyond gaming, which is Oculus' current pursuit, Zuckerberg articulated the idea of bringing people (virtually) into places, events and experiences in a more immersive and direct way. There are both commercial and non-commercial scenarios. Many of them, however, are straight out of science fiction or dystopian novels and movies (see, e.g., Matrix, Demolition Man, Strange Days).
Paradoxically, the Oculus acquisition brings Facebook more into the "real world" (away from 2D internet) but also offers new potential opportunities to create internet-like experiences for users, into which they can enter. One such example might be strolling down a virtual shopping street, like a character in a 3D game, where people can "touch" and examine products in a holistic 3D experience.
It's fascinating to contemplate an internet of the future that might be radically different than what we know today.
There have already been several surveys that show consumers are interested in the benefits of indoor location and will share their personal data or opt-in when they're clear on what those benefits are. See, for example:
A new survey (n=1,024 US adults) from OpinionLab shows that consumers are skeptical about indoor "tracking" and only want to participate in indoor location and marketing programs if they're opt-in. In an article about the survey Fortune sensationalizes the findings "Consumers hate in-store tracking (but retailers, startups and investors love it)."
That headline overstates the degree to which consumers are hostile to being located in stores. It's very fair to say they're ambivalent and cautious about indoor location, though most haven't had any experience of indoor location at this point and are speaking only in the abstract.
The use of the word "track" is very charged and that's the framing here -- "In your opinion, is it acceptable for retailers to track shoppers’ in-store behavior via smartphone?":
An alternative question such as "would you be willing to share your location with retailers for benefits X, Y, Z" would have produced a different result. Indeed, how surveys present these issues to consumers really matters (see, e.g., Majority Of Shoppers Want Cross-Channel Personalization.) Accordingly survey results can be manipulated to serve agendas in favor of or against indoor location.
Another question in the OpinionLab survey similarly predisposes the outcome -- "If one of your favorite retailers were to implement a tracking program in their stores, would you participate?":
This survey found that consumers are open to indoor location if the programs are entirely opt-in (even with the "tracking" framing) -- "In your opinion, what is the best way for retailers to approach in-store tracking?"
Consistent with earlier surveys, consumers say they would opt-in for discounts and other incentives -- "What incentives would motivate you to participate in a retail tracking program?":
What this survey, like others before it, shows is that consumers have real privacy concerns about indoor location and tracking. However, the word "tracking" is one that triggers an immediate, negative response and associations (i.e., "surveillance," "spying"). By contrast, discussing the benefits of indoor location produces a very different set of findings (see other surveys).
Yet the OpinionLab survey also shows that uncer the right circumstances consumers will share their location where retailers ask for permission (opt-in) and the benefits are sufficiently enticing and clear.
Despite my criticisms of the framing of the OpinionLab survey I think it does illustrate that there are clear risks for retailers around indoor location if they don't respect consumer privacy and don't get the messaging to consumers right.
At the upcoming Place Conference Jules Polonetsky, Executive Director and Co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, will moderate a session on consumer privacy: "Indoor Location & Privacy: Steering Clear of the ‘Creepy Line.'"
Last week Google announced Android Wear, its smartwatch platform. Later in the week Nielsen released consumer research asserting that 70% of US consumers are aware of “wearables" and roughly 15% currently own some type of wearable technology today.
Among the 15%, Nielsen found the following breakdown:
The Nielsen survey probably overstates the number of Americans that actually own/use wearables currently; 15% of adults would translate into roughly 36 million people. Nielsen also found (I tend to believe this): "Nearly half of Americans surveyed expressed their interest in purchasing wearable tech in the near future." We found in our own research that roughly 40% of smartphone owners were interested in smartwatches.
An article in Mashable speculates about the role that advertising might play on wearable devices. The article correctly notes that consumers will be far less accepting of "interruptive" ads on wearables. As much as smartphones are perceived to be "personal," this goes 2X for something like a smartwatch.
So-called "native" advertising may have a role to play in the context of a stream of news or other content, delivered on a smartwatch. But most if not all "advertising" on smartwatches will need to be opt-in marketing. These could take the form of location or time-based alerts or notifications (this could extend into indoor location and marketing as well). These types of marketing could prove to be very effective -- emphasis on the word "could."
The bottom line is that all marketing on wearables (mostly smartwatches) will need to be highly sensitive to user privacy and almost entirely permission based.
AdGooroo, a division of Kantar Media, last week released data on the top mobile search advertisers in the US, UK and Australian markets. The data represent the month of January 2014 and are based on impressions triggered by the top 50,000 search keywords.
These data are drawn exclusively from Google and Google AdWords. The chart below reflects the top 20 mobile AdWords advertisers.
The list can be seen as a mix of telcos, financial institutions and retailers essentially. Compare the impression gap between Amazon and BestBuy and the rest of the group for that matter.
As part of its analysis AdGooroo compared mobile search rankings on the PC and smartphones. Amazon turns out to be the top paid-search advertiser on both platforms. But there were a number of gaps between PC and mobile rankings/performance. For example, WellsFargo "ranked #9 in Mobile Search, with 11.5 million impressions, but 137 in Desktop/Tablet Search, with 12 million impressions."
There were a few advertisers that saw more mobile than PC search impressions. But equally there were advertisers, such as Wal-Mart and JCPenney, that ranked well on the PC but not as well in mobile search results.
As of last year Google began compelling marketers to buy both PC and mobile search campaigns and set the PC bid as the floor, as a practical matter, for the campaign. Mobile bids can be adjusted up or down, depending on a number of variables including location. In other words marketers can specifiy a premium they're will to pay to get in front of smartphone users within a certain radius from a business location.
Informally this week a Google employee at a conference dropped a bomb, saying that mobile search was projected to exceed PC search traffic by the end of the year. This was a casual remark as I understand it and not necessarily an official Google statement. In addition, I heard it second hand so I don't have more context to share. It's not clear what's included in "mobile search" query volume here (i.e., Maps, mobile web, apps)? It's also unclear whether this is US only or global projection.
At 1pm Eastern/10 Pacific today we'll be hosting a new webinar: Indoor Location - Early Adopter Case Studies and Lessons Learned. It will feature Aisle411 co-founder Matthew Kulig and iInside EVP Jon Rosen. The emphasis is not on theoretical information but on what's actually occurring in the market -- today.
Rosen will be talking about B2B case studies from current in-market deployments. He's going to cover:
Kulig will be discussing B2C cases, including the following:
I'll be offering a general overview of the state of the market and offering attendees a free copy of our recent "Mapping the Indoor Marketing Opportunity" report (only available to real-time attendees).
The webinar will be eye-opening and instructive to indoor neophytes and those with even considerable knowledge of this emerging market. Register now and show up later today.
WhatsApp may cross the threshold of a billion users later this year. The first year is free, thereafter it costs $0.99 per year per user.
If we assume that every one of those hypothetical billion users starts paying $1 per year. The company would bring in an additional billion dollars in revenue to Facebook, which just purchased (subject to regulatory approvals) the company for $19 billion in cash and stock.
While many are arguing that WhatsApp was not expensive by some standards (cost per user), Facebook will over time be compelled to justify the acquisition by making money off of it. And that doesn't just mean fee-based revenue.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum have very different views about privacy and advertising. The Wall Street Journal sums those up nicely in an article today:
The men are divided by more than differing approaches to making money. A legacy of his childhood in Ukraine is Mr. Koum's emphasis on privacy: WhatsApp doesn't collect any personal information other than a mobile-phone number and address book, and it wipes out messages shortly after they are sent . . . Mr. Zuckerberg, by contrast, has riled users by changing Facebook's privacy settings in ways that some thought exposed more of their personal information more widely.
Koum doesn't trust or like advertising; Facebook lives and dies now by the growth of its ad revenue. Something's got to give then.
Either Koum and WhatsApp will bend on privacy, data mining and ads or there will need to be some accommodation to Koum's positions. That compromise could come in the form of opt-in SMS-style marketing.
Companies such as Placecast and other SMS-based mobile marketing firms use double and triple-opt-in systems to ensure that users consent to receive marketing messages from brands and retailers. This kind of permission-based (including loyalty) marketing could be a way around the conundrum for Facebook and WhatsApp.
The market will expect Facebook to monetize WhatsApp usage at some point in the future. Subscription revenue will probably not satisfy investors because of the perceived, larger marketing opportunity. Less intrusive, permission-based SMS-style opt-in marketing could be a way forward for the two companies.
Location technology provider TruePosition has acquired Skyhook Wireless for an undisclosed sum. Skyhook Wireless provides location positioning and gathers contextual data on consumer mobile behavior. The company has also been involved in multiple lawsuits accusing Google of patent infringement and unfair competitive practices.
Skyhook was founded in 2003 by Ted Morgan and Mike Shean to map wireless access points but has since expanded solution offerings focusing on mobile consumer behavior and associated analytics. Recently, Jeff Glass, formerly with mQube and Bain Capital Ventures, was named CEO.
Cellular location company TruePosition, a subsidiary of Liberty Media, is mainly focused on public safety applications for indoor location technologies including locating emergency callers and protecting borders and infrastructure. The acquisition bolsters the product portfolio of both companies by leveraging their complementary technologies, according to the press release about the acquisition.
“Skyhook's commercial focus balances TruePosition's safety and security strengths, and their location technology further strengthens TruePosition's ability to accurately locate mobile phones indoors,” said Steve Stuut, CEO of TruePosition, in the statement.
Skyhook's lawsuits against Google, the first of which was filed in 2010, claims Google interfered with its relationships with two hardware manufacturers, Motorola and “Company X” (Samsung). Google has consistently insisted it has done nothing improper; the legal battle is expected to go to trial sometime this year.
There are two themes running through most of the coverage of indoor location: gee-whiz technology and NSA-style "surveillance." While both approaches have generally been good for the sector, which has gained visibility accordingly, the "surveillance meme" is both unfair and largely inaccurate.
In the general debate over consumer behavior tracking and data-centric targeting the "offline world" has largely been ignored. The practices and data-mining in use there are longer-established, more aggressive and much more shadowy than the online/digital media world. Yet the media devote almost zero attention to that arena because we have lived with it for so long.
By the same token video cameras have been watching people in retail (and other) environments in the US something like 40 years. That fact is rarely if ever "remembered" or raised in the public discussion of indoor positioning and location. Why, because we're all "used to it"?
A recent Bloomberg article about location-analytics provider Placed is a case-in-point. The headline emphasizes the more sensational aspects of what the company does (for impact) and the lede ties the project to the NSA scandal: "Tracking Every Move You Make—for a $5 Gift Card . . . Here’s something the National Security Agency might try to ease resistance to surveillance: gift cards."
I certainly understand the journalistic "logic" behind these choices but they're misleading. Placed has what amounts to a triple opt-in process. Its users, who are offered incentives to share their location, are very clear on what they're doing. It's totally voluntary. But the article only mentions that in passing, "Placed asks users for permission and scrubs personally identifying information before companies see the data." It's more concerned with the data and inferences Placed can discern and deliver.
That's all fine. But in neglecting to fully describe the opt-in enrollment process, the article fails to adequately represent what's going on with consumers.
The implication still is that people don't fully understand what's happening or what information is being compiled about their behavior. The article suggests, with its lead, that Placed users, despite their voluntary participation, are still being somehow duped: they're giving up their sensitive behavioral and location information for "a five dollar gift card."
Why it matters is because people will voluntarily participate in these systems and services when they understand the benefits and how their data are being used. It goes to questions of transparency and consent. Many articles operate under the deeply held assumption that if people understood truly what was happening with their information they would never share it with companies. (That's certainly true in many of the "offline" cases.)
But when it comes to location and indoor location specifically people will trade their information for tangible benefits or a better experience. This has been shown repeatedly and Placed's panel is just one more example.
Writing about the mechanics of disclosure and opting-in gets tedius and boring. So does the idea that people will willingly share location for improved in-store experiences or incentives. That's why we're likely to continue to see these "us vs. them" articles for the foresseable future.
Make no mistake consumer privacy is a critical issue. Indoor location providers, retailers and others need to be highly respectful of that. And there are some who want to make the default consumer experience of indoor location opt-out. But most of the entrepreneurs and companies I've spoken to are very sensitive to and respectful of privacy.
The questions going forward should concern what sorts of experiences and disclosures must be presented to consumers to engage and educate them and gain their informed consent. Indeed, we'll be having this very discussion in much more nuanced and concrete detail at the next Place conference in New York in a panel lead by Jules Polonetsky.
Bluetooth iBeacons are definitely the indoor positioning technology with the buzz and momentum (though it's only part of the indoor location story). Today jewelry and accessories retailer Alex and Ani announced that it's deploying iBeacons in all its 40 US retail locations in partnership with Swirl.
Previously American Eagle announced it would also introduce iBeacons into its stores with ShopKick. However the Alex and Ani rollout is already complete.
Swirl offers a consumer-facing app that adapts or changes depending on the store the customer visits. Swirl is also working with Timberland and Kenneth Cole. Alex and Ani doesn't yet have its own app but later plans to develop one using the Swirl SDK. Swirl installed the hardware in all the Alex and Ani stores.
I was able to speak yesterday with Ryan Bonifacino, vice president of digital strategy for Alex and Ani. He comes from a venture capital background and is very focused on innovation and data usage. While most retailers and venue owners are still sniffing around the edges of indoor location Bonifacino said that Alex and Ani began testing iBeacons with Swirl in Q1 of last year in its New York and Boston stores.
That's well before most people had heard of iBeacon.
The data and insights the company gained during its two-store trial convinced Bonifacino that a full rollout was justified. Bonifacino said he was pleased with Swirl's ability to drive new customers into the company's stores, especially at times when regular foot traffic was generally lower.
He explained that the new Swirl-driven customers actually spent more time in the store but purchased at levels that were comparable to Alex and Ani's regular customers. Indoor location was also able to provide greater visibility into who these new customers were.
One of the things that Bonifacino is looking forward to most is the ability to collect data about in-store behavior and to test and optimize merchandising and displays. Beyond this, Bonifacino wants to provide a better in-store customer experience and believes that indoor location can help accomplish this.
We spoke at some length about Alex and Ani's use of data in its marketing efforts and how data captured in stores would contribute to improving or refining those efforts. Bonifacino, however, was quick to say that the company is highly respectful of privacy and looking only at aggregate customer behavior.
Alex and Ani also sells its jewelry and accessories through major retailers such as Bloomingdales and Nordstrom. Even though those retailers are separately examining indoor location Alex and Ani is helping educate them, says Bonifacino. The company hopes to use indoor location to promote its products and attract customers to its displays in those larger retail partner stores later this year.
Yesterday Twitter, Yelp, AOL and Pandora released quarterly earnings. AOL said that mobile was one of several drivers of 50% ad revenue growth. Yet it didn't break out any mobile numbers. The other three did, illustrating the degree to which each is or has become a mobile-centric company.
Below are the mobile highlights . . .
Twitter beat financial analysts’ expectations with $243 million in Q4 2013 revenue ($220 million in ad revenue). However that strong revenue growth was undermined by weak user growth. The company said it had 241 million monthly active users and nearly as many (184 million) mobile users.
Amazingly, 75% of the company's ad revenue for Q4 came from mobile. In real dollar terms that represented $165 million for the quarter.
Yelp reported just under $71 million in Q4 revenue. There were 53 million mobile users (120 million total users). Yelp also reported that 30% of new reviews were coming from mobile devices, since it started allowing reviews to be written via mobile.
Yelp added during the earnings call that 59% of search queries were from mobile: 46% from its app vs. 13% from the mobile web. In addition, 47% of ad impressions were served on mobile devices in Q4.
Revenues for the full year were roughly $638 million. Pandora brought in just over $200 million in Q4. Of that, $162 million was ad revenue. Mobile was responsible for 72% of that ad revenue or just under $117 million. The company also said that 80% of Pandora listening happens via mobile devices.
All three companies started on the PC and have evolved into mobile-centric entities in response to user behavior. Indeed, Pandora's iPhone app is largely responsible for the company surviving and going public. Overall for these companies most of the ad growth, revenue and usage is now in mobile.
Both the NFL and Major League Baseball (MLB) will beat most US retailers to the punch when it comes to implementing "indoor location." Many major retailers are testing, piloting and experimenting with indoor location today (or planning to) but have not done any system-wide rollouts. Apple and American Eagle are exceptions in the US.
However these two major sports leagues are already deploying additional WiFi and new BLE beacons in an effort to enhance the fan experience in stadiums and to create new loyalty marketing opportunities.
In a broad article this week discussing iBeacon and some of the privacy concerns about the new location technology, the New York Times explains how the NFL has installed beacons in Times Square and at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, where the Super Bowl is happening. Smartphone owners with the NFL Mobile app will receive game related alerts and messages tied to location:
A mobile app called N.F.L. Mobile will enable football fans who visit the New York area for the Super Bowl to get pop-up messages on their cellphones, tailored to their exact location. The system uses a series of transmitter beacons scattered through Midtown Manhattan to deliver various messages depending on the cellphone user’s location. The system will also be in use at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
MLB has been even more aggressive with its rollout of iBeacon/BLE technology. There will be enhanced WiFi and iBeacon technology at all 30 major US baseball stadiums this year. To participate in the new services, smartphone owners will need MLB's "At the Ballpark" app:
MLB.com At The Ballpark is your favorite mobile companion when visiting your favorite Major League Baseball ballparks. This official MLB ballpark application perfectly complements and personalizes your trip with mobile check-in, social media, offers, rewards and exclusive content. Select MLB ballparks also offer mobile food ordering and seat and experience upgrade components.
In both cases, an improved in-stadium fan experience is the stated, primary motivation for deployment of the technology. In the coming year, we'll get a great deal of information about how consumers respond to the capabilities in these sports contexts and whether they raise significant privacy concerns. Yet both leagues appear very mindful of privacy issues and are taking care (at least initially) to tread lightly.
Yesterday Facebook reported Q4 and full-year earnings figures. The company strongly beat earnings estimates and reported revenues of $7.87 billion for the full year. Facebook said that Q4 2013 revenues were $2.34 billion, which was a nearly 80% increase from the previous year.
Mobile was 53% of total ad revenue for the fourth quarter of 2013, or $1.24 billion. That's roughly what the company earned in total ad revenue in Q4 of 2012. Facebook's revenue growth is accelerating as it emerges as a clear number two alternative advertising platform to Google.
Facebook also reported:
What's striking is that the mobile and PC numbers are getting very close. Facebook has effectively transformed itself into a mobile (marketing) company, where most of its users are largely if not primarily interacting through the site's apps.
Recently Facebook took steps to launch its long-awaited mobile ad network for apps. Assuming that Facebook goes "all in" it would become the second largest or potentially the largest mobile display network in the world. Four years ago we anticipated this.
It also introduced Custom Audiences retargeting for mobile.
In addition, Facebook is pursuing a new strategy: starting to launch a number of stand-alone mobile apps outside of its flagship Facebook app. Those include Instagram (which it acquired), Messenger and now mobile "news" app Paper. This approach will enable Facebook to potentially appeal to different market segments and use cases, as well as create new mobile ad inventory for the company.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said on the Facebook earnings call yesterday that Graph Search would be coming to mobile "pretty soon." That promises to be very interesting and could have significant implications for local-mobile search. Indeed one could imagine a stand-alone local search app from Facebook (to rival Yelp, etc.). To date, its "Nearby" functionality has been buried and not really lived up to its promise.
A new study from Cars.com and location analytics provider Placed offers some very interesting insights into how car buyers are using smartphones both before and during visits to dealer lots as part of their research process. I wrote generally about the study this past weekend.
At the highest level the report shows that a large majority of new car buyers are activly using smartphones. Indeed many more smartphones than PCs are being used in the process now.
Among the many interesting findings in the report, which is based partly on survey data and partly on behavioral observation, is the fact that smartphone owners are doing almost exactly the same things on dealer lots that they're doing in retail stores: price comparisons, looking up reviews and so on.
Below is the hierarchy of research activities happening on dealer lots, according to the study:
For purposes of this post, I want to focus in on a particular aspect of the study: the role of mobile advertising in influencing these shoppers.
The Cars-Placed report found that 52% of what I'm calling auto-showroomers left the lot they were on to visit another dealer (within 24 hours) based on information discovered on the smartphone. That's a very high percentage; and for 33% of these people mobile ads were a key factor.
Below is the hierarchy of sites and mobile apps used by these auto-showroomers on dealers lots. Vertical sites and apps such as Cars.com and AutoTrader lead the way with 56% of users consluting one or more of these sites. That's followed by carmaker sites, dealer sites, search engines and consumer review websites. Although it's close the mobile web was preferred by a small margin over apps.
It's striking though not surprising that search engines were used by only a minority of these car buyers. Vertical and specialized sites offer more immediate access to information and a better overall experience than Google on a mobile device.
The sites list above is a potential guide for mobile advertising by dealers and automakers. And very likely that's one of the objectives of the report: to suggest where marketers in the automotive space should be spending their mobile ad dollars. However if the data are sound then the implied advertising recommendations are reasonable. Selected mobile ad networks (specializing in location) should probably also be included.
In all smartphone-enabled car buyers are doing more research than others, including on the dealer lot. I would expect sophsiticated auto dealers and even OEMs to start incorporating geofencing and conquesting into their mobile ad strategies and tactics -- if they aren't already.
The buzz around iBeacons continues this week with a couple new hardware and software technology vendors entering the market for indoor location.
Hardware startup Sensorberg, based in Berlin, Germany, has secured $1 million in funding from Technologie Holding GmbH and undisclosed angel investors. Sensorberg offers various packages to retailers that combine setting up Beacon sensors in stores to deliver mobile marketing campaigns and location features via software developer kits and management dashboards. The prices range from as low as $120 (€89) that includes 3 mini-beacons and an SDK to connect apps to an unlimited package that offers developer resources and enterprise support.
Founded in 2013, Sensorberg began as a startup in the Microsft Ventures Accelerator in Berlin and plans to use the new funding to further develop its platform and build an extensive iBeacon network.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, CA, Datzing is positioning itself as a new competitor to Apple's iBeacon with an Android platform for indoor location technology. Profiled this week at The Verge, Datzing is a software-based startup with patent-pending technology to turn a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi device into a beacon. Datzing doesn’t require purchasing any special hardware to set up an access point. The company plans to launch an Android beta app in March and doesn't rule out the possibility of an iOS option down the line.
While iBeacon is getting more than its fair share of press -- notably, a partnership between ShopKick and American Eagle (AE) Outfitters to outfit 100 U.S. stores with iBeacons and Apple's chain-wide deployment of iBeacons last year -- the push for in-store marketing and indoor location is still in its infancy. This year should present a good opportunity to see how the market plays out.
In partnership with ShopKick, American Eagle (AE) Outfitters is outfitting 100 US stores with iBeacons to power deal notifications when shoppers enter stores. ShopKick also has a similar but much more limited partnership with Macys.
Right at-the-door notifications are the full extent of the ShopKick-AE indoor marketing functionality. But later it will become more precise by area or zone within the store.
Outside of Apple's own chain-wide deployment of iBeacons this is the largerst and most visible iBeacon launch to date. Clearly Apple's credibility and support of BLE and iBeacons is propelling the technology. However it's important to point out that iBeacons don't work with older iPhones and it only work with a few Android phones currently.
Over time that will change. But iBeacon is not a stand-alone or complete solution.
The rise of iBeacon argues that it will potentially be one of several "winning" indoor location technologies. But there won't be a single technology standard that emerges. Retailers and others will need to employ a layared or hybrid approach to provide store coverage and accuracy.
WiFi and closed circuit TV are the foundational in-store analytics and location technologies -- but WiFi in particular. Acousitc, LED lighting and magnetic may also make gains as retailers and venue owners come to see they need multiple approaches for success. For example, Rouse Properties has adopted acoustic technology from Sonic Notify to power indoor location awareness and marketing within its network of 34 malls in the US.
While indoor analytics are driving the market, companies are quickly stepping up with consumer-facing solutions -- such as ShopKick-AE. And while consumers widely use their smartphones in stores and are generally interested in things such as deals and personalization, retailers will need to be careful about annoying or spamming consumers with too many messages.
For example, research from ISACA suggests that an education process and gradual roll out of indoor marketing are in order. Too much, too soon may have the opposite of the desired effect:
The Wall Street Journal published an interesting overview piece on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's evolution and maturation as a CEO. One of the most amazing aspects of Facebook's post-IPO growth and "turn around" has been mobile. In a little over a year the company has gone from less than $100 million to more than $800 million in mobile ad revenues.
"Taking Facebook public and reshaping it around mobile phones forced him [Zuckerberg] to grow up," assert unnamed sources in the article. The WSJ credits Zuckerberg individually with driving the transformation of Facebook's mobile business though an increasing focus on the bottom line.
In Q2 2012 Facebook reported mobile ad revenue of roughly $69 million against overall ad revenue of more than $990 million. In Q3 2013 (the most recent quarter available), Facebook advertising revenue was $1.8 billion. Mobile delivered 49% of that amount or approximately $882 million.
Facebook said in Q3 it had 728 million daily active users and 1.19 billion monthly active users, up 18 percent. Monthly active mobile users totaled 874 million on a global basis and mobile daily active users came in at 507 million.
When Facebook reports Q4 2013 revenue it's certain that mobile will account for more than 50% of total ad revenue. Overall, in 2013, it's likely that Facebook will have made about $2 billion in mobile ad revenue globally.
Research and data aggregator eMarketer is projecting that US mobile ad spending will be roughly $9.6 billion this year and reach a surprisingly high 22% of digital ad revenues. It's possible, given the surge in mobile in the second half, that we'll see something between $7 and $8 billion in US mobile ad spending this year. However the nearly $10 billion eMarketer prediction is too aggressive for 2013.
More interesting than whether mobile ad spending is $7.5 billion or $9.6 billion is the fact that eMarketer anoints Facebook as the second largest digital ad platform globally (behind Google) because of the rapid growth of the company's mobile revenues. And those mobile revenues will be further accelerated by Facebook's recent video-ads announcement.
Back in very early 2010 we speculated about Facebook's impending entry into mobile advertising:
Let's talk about what may be coming sooner rather than later: Facebook as a mobile ad network and one that offers location (and potentially demographics) as part of that proposition. There are currently no ads on Facebook's apps, mobile websites or SMS. I would almost bet my life that's going to change in the near-to-medium term.
Facebook will be clever and careful about integrating advertising into mobile, mindful of the potential to alienate mobile users. However the mobile ad opportunity may be at least as big for Facebook as it is on the PC.
Emarketer speculates that Facebook will make just over $3 billion in net US ad revenue this year (against global gross ad revenue of nearly $7 billion). By comparision, Google will make $17 billion in net US ad revenue. Google's worldwide gross ad revenue this year is likely to be roughly $50 billion.
Emarketer places local search and directory publisher YP in the third position regarding mobile ad revenue in the US. But because YP basically doesn't sell mobile ads (except at the margins) this once again raises the question: what is a "mobile" ad?
Most of YP's ads are simply distributed in mobile rather than being intended by the small business advertiser for specific mobile exposure. Yet this is equally true of ads that appear on both Twitter and Facebook; and Google now also "bundles" PC and mobile ads as a practical matter -- as a way to boost its mobile ad revenue.
If we define "mobile advertising" as any ad that appears on a mobile device and where simple exposure (e.g., CPM) and/or a subsequent user action (e.g., CTR) triggers a billable event then we're going to see mobile ad revenues grow extremely quickly and put up some pretty big numbers. That's because in this context mobile ad revenue becomes largely function of mobile adoption/usage and how much of that usage is "monetized" through existing ad inventory.
Facebook's new video ad product or YouTube pre-roll ads for that matter are a case in point: these ads can appear on the PC or mobile without being specifically modified or even intended for the medium. Thus simple mobile distribution will grow Facebook revenues attributable to mobile. The most engaged Facebook users are on the smartphone app daily; that's going to boost ad revenues attributed to mobile very quickly.
In essence, mobile ad revenue becomes an accounting issue rather than a technology or ad-creative question. Of course the ad platform itself has to be capable of distributing and rendering those ads appropriately on the device before you can be "platform agnostic."
Earlier this week ZenithOptimedia released a new global ad forecast that argued "Advertising is set to see the strongest sustained period of growth in ten years." The firm identified mobile as the "principle [sic] engine of this growth."
According to the agency mobile is expanding overall media consumption, "without cannibalising any of the other media platforms." That's not exactly true. Mobile and mobile video are fragmenting audiences, which makes it more complex for marketers to reach them as well as to track the efficacy of different channels and media.
Cross-platform and multi-device shopping is an example of this phenomenon.
ZenithOptimedia explained that notwithstanding its mobile ad growth figures, it only contributed 2.7% of global adspend in 2013. By 2016 that number will reach nearly 8% (7.7%) according to the forecast. If that indeed comes to pass mobile would become, according to Zenith, the "world’s fourth-largest [advertising] medium." It would then exceed traditional radio, magazines and outdoor advertising.
For purposes of the forecast "mobile advertising" is considered to be any ad shown on a mobile device whether or not the ad was specifically purchased for mobile distribution. Accordingly the sheer number and usage of smartphones and tablets -- and their anticipated growth -- is driving up ad revenue attributed to mobile.
Earlier this year Opus Research held the first conference dedicated to indoor location and its marketing implications: The Place Conference. The theme of that event was how indoor location technology and mapping would change online and mobile marketing across the board, bringing the digital and offline worlds closer together.
At the event we explored the technology, marketing scenarios, privacy considerations, analytics and customer experience improvements that flowed from use of indoor location technology. Three months later we're starting to see increasing momentum in the segment, with new deployments, announcements and some acquisitions (which will increase next year).
Indoor analytics provider RetailNext, one of the speakers at the Place Conference, recently announced the acquisition of Nearbuy Systems. And earlier today AP reported that Apple was now rolling out Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons to all of its 254 retail stores. That will pressure and/or embolden other retailers to follow Apple's lead.
Under the radar, most US retailers (and others) have to varying degrees been experimenting with indoor analytics and location. However they've been hush-hush about it, for fear of being criticized as Nordstrom was when it disclosed it was using indoor analytics. But greater public discussion and education around indoor location will change the tone of coverage from "spying" to focus on consumer and B2B benefits.
Apple's March 2013 acquisition of WiFiSlam helped raise the profile of indoor location. The company's new rollout of iBeacons across its retail network will further legitimize the segment.
Indoor location is one element of a larger "ecosystem" of proximity marketing that includes geotargeted mobile advertising, notifications, analytics and online to offline ROI tracking. Mobile payments are also in this mix (see PayPal Beacon). Next year will be an eventful and exciting one for indoor location and place-based marketing.
Place 2014 is coming soon.
Last week ShopKick introduced "shopBeacon," which uses Bluetooth low energy (BLE) indoor positioning technology. The company is testing it with Macy's, which has also independently been using indoor location for some time (mainly leveraging WiFi) to enhance its in-store app experience for customers. (See ShopKick demo video.)
ShopKick's adoption of iBeacon is an important move to insert the company back into the in-store shopping conversation. It had been an early pioneer in mobile loyalty, seeking to help retailers drive consumers into stores. But as indoor location has gained momentum ShopKick has largely been on the sidelines -- until now.
ShopKick has a wide range of brands and national retail partners, including Target, BestBuy, Sports Authority and JCPenneys. The company seeks to serve retailers but also "own the customer relationship." Accordingly there's some tension between working with ShopKick and providing a direct indoor-location experience, as Macy's does through its app.
A less-well-known company seeking to do something very similar for retailers is Swirl. Swirl has both a consumer-facing multi-retailer app but also powers the indoor experience for retailer apps through an SDK. Timberland is the company's best-known partner. ShopKick is now also an indoor-location enabler with its shopBeacon BLE beacons.
Apple itself is going to implement iBeacon in its own stores. There are a range of obvious and secondary use cases, including providing enhanced product information and notifications about Genius Bar appointments. Beyond an improved in-store experience, Apple hopes to boost sales through iBeacon. The product can also be used to support in-store mobile payments (see, PayPal Beacon).
It's well established that a majority of consumers have used smartphones in store for research purposes and many are interested in indoor/in-store information. However recent research from ISACA suggests that retailers will need to be judicious about how they use in-store notifications and personalization and not become too "pushy" in trying to upsell and cross-sell consumers.
Another challenge of sorts for retailers with indoor location is the fact that majorities of smartphone shoppers use retailer mobile websites. Indoor-location features are much harder to deliver via websites. Smaller numbers of consumers use retailer apps. This makes sense because apps are typically downloaded and used by a store's most loyal customers, which represent a minority of overall store shoppers.
According to NPD survey data, 71% of smartphone owners access retail websites but only 57% use apps. Many of those apps fall into disuse shortly after they're downloaded. In addition, the survey found that a majority of smartphone shopping-related research was done at home and not on the go, suggesting "that engagement on their smartphone is more of an alternative for online shopping rather than a showrooming tool."
Accordingly in-store information directed at enhancing the customer experience is a way to make apps more relevant and engaging. But as the ISACA study indicates retailers (or mall and venue owners) will need to develop information, content and indoor experiences for customers that are informational and not merely about trying to sell things.
This is a complicated arena for retailers and would-be providers of indoor location and marketing. Experimentation and testing are necessary to determine what's going to "work" for consumers, vendors and venue owners. Macy's is very smart and to be applauded for "getting out in front" of the issue and trying things, notwithstanding the potential exposure to "indoor surveillance" criticisms.