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October 5, 2009

Mobile Search Apps & Opportunities

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I see no fewer than three other livebloggers covering this panel. You’ll find some alternate coverage around the Internet marketing blogs, to say the least! Our awesome panel line-up:

Moderator: Greg Sterling, Founding Principal, Sterling Market Intelligence

Speakers:
Scott Dunlap, CEO, NearbyNow
Michael Martin, SEO Director, Internet Marketing Inc.
Rachel Pasqua, Director of Mobile Strategy, iCrossing
Matt Siltala, President, Dream Systems Media

Rachel Pasqua - Mobile Search Apps

Rachel Pasqua starts us off and says that for many brands, apps are becoming indispensible in their strategy. Even for digital marketers, apps are the new Web. A findable, sticky app can create considerable traffic. There’s a great opportunity for visibility, and in some cases, for revenue.

Yet, the average shelf life of a free app is 75 days. The average cost to build an iPhone app is roughly $50K to $150K. So, let’s look at one user’s behavior to find out how users use their iPhone apps. User in question: herself.

She’s found that her iPhone is a great place to start but most branded apps she’s tried out are kind of disappointing. There are 10 apps she uses constantly. There are a lot that she’s deleted, as well.

The Target Gift Finder she used 2 to 3 times and then deleted because it lacked essential functionality that she needs in the mobile context. It doesn’t have a way to search by keyword. There was no way to check for local availability, save to wish list or get any discounts or savings.

The Taco Bell app she used once and then deleted. It has no option to place orders, no special offers, and no link to the GPS store locator app that they already have in the app store.

LL Bean’s Moosentration suffered from no actionable connection to the brand. She used it 3 or 4 times and then deleted it because there was no strong connection to the brand and no links or awareness of merchandise.

Now for the sticky apps she uses all the time. The Amazon app she uses several times a week. It has an intuitive design, there’s easy access to search and wish lists.

The Zyrtec app she uses daily utilizes geo-location to give you pollen count for that location. It’s quick and easy access and includes discounts for users. The Whole Foods app she uses weekly for many of the same reasons.

Non-branded apps that brands should take a closer look at:

iDomain: enables users to check domain names for availability, get whois info and alternate suggestions.

Colorado Parks: geo-enabled app mapping hiking trails, walks ad climbing routes over 1000 Colorado Parks. Users are able to record, save, replay and share apps.

Car Care: allows drivers to track mileage and receive maintenance reminders for multiple vehicles.

3 simple tips for creating successful apps:

  1. Don’t assume you need an app just because your competitor has one. Make sure you have a smart phone audience — carefully examine your demographics and site analytics.
  2. If you’re thinking “how can I use the GPS and the accelerometer?” — stop! Put user experience and strategy first and technology last. Use functionality where it makes sense.
  3. Put the user first.

Next up is Michael Martin and he’ll be talking about the growing Android Market. Android is a software stack for mobile devices that includes an operating system, middleware and key applications. Android is open and freely distributed — no licensing fees. It can be programmed in Java and C/C++ components. It can be coded on Windows, Mac and Linux OSs.

Android can run multiple applications and have onscreen widgets. It can run Flash videos on updated versions. It had MMS and digital compass about a year before the iPhone. There is forthcoming text to speech recognition with translations. There will be 40+ different Android phones available in the next 6 months globally.

Some quick facts about the Android Market:

New Android apps are accelerating by more than 50 percent month over month vs. iPhone’s 30 percent.

Approximately 15,000 apps in the Android Market plus other free “markets” — 64 percent are free.

By 2010, Android phones will be available through every U.S. carrier and on most globally.

Benefits of the Android Market:

  • One time $25 registration fee to submit unlimited apps.
  • No submission process. Reviewed only by user complaints (approximately 1 percent).
  • 24-hour buy and try return policy.
  • The Donut update puts the Android Market interface on par with the App Store.
  • Paid apps put on the forefront and sectionalized.
  • Soon to add PayPal, credit cards and direct carrier billing with Checkout.
  • Listed in order of user ratings.
  • User regulate apps.
  • Google Voice — “There’s an app for that… on other phones.” (– Jeff Sharkey, Google Android engineer)

Android applications that he thinks are important include: Facebook, Pandora, Foursquare, Skype, Shopsavvy, Layar, MTA, Loopt, Ustream, Spotify.

Google marketing tie-in to Android:

  • Obligation-free option: free version of Android to be included with any applications except those from Google.
  • Distribution option: manufacturer signs a distribution agreement to include Google applications such as YouTube, Gmail, GTalk, etc.
  • Google Experience option: allowed to use the Google logo but the carrier can not censor any application in the Android Market.

Scott Dunlap steps up and asks the audience who has an iPhone, who has an Android phone and who has a BlackBerry. Most in the audience raise their hand for iPhone, a couple raise their hand for Android, and a handful raise their hand for BlackBerry. In their research, they have a survey of who downloads apps, and iPhone users mostly do, while only 7 or 8 percent of BlackBerry users do.

His developer team begs him to let them develop for Android because it’s more flexible and easier, but the market speaks for itself. He thinks that will change in a year.

His apps record about a 6.5 percent conversion rate on their magazine apps. The Find It Near Me feature is converting at about 5.5 percent. The Share With A Friend is converting at about .25 percent, but it’s gotten the app to spread.

An app developed for Runner’s World has proven that users love their videos. They’ve found there’s no such thing as too many videos. The app developed for Lucky Magazine includes a sponsored channel, i.e. an ad, and it’s the way many businesses are monetizing their apps.

Next we’ve got Matt Siltala, who will help us understand what the user sees in their app experience. Yelp’s iPhone app will stand as the example. In the words of Lisa Barone: “z0mg Traffic.” It’s good for more than food reviews. And it’s got a lot of applications for new or local businesses.

Traffic: How Do I Know?

  • Growing around 80 percent a year
  • 25 million visitors in August
  • Analytics
  • Old school analytics (asking people)
  • Talking with business owner

Yelp is much more than food reviews! He posed this question to fellow Yelpers: How often do you use Yelp for things that aren’t food related? Responses were overwhelmingly that Yelp isn’t good just for food reviews. Some users feel like they can’t go anywhere without consulting Yelp first.

New business: Let’s explore a trip to Ventura beach

Search for whatever you want on Yelp.
Put in the location you want to use.
The example we’ll go into further is called Just BBQ.
He reviewed the restaurant, adding photos, reviews, tips and more.
The iPhone makes it super easy to add pictures and help share the real experience you had.
More people need to be taking advantage of pictures because they help sell the place.
Business owners have the option to add business photos on Yelp.

Reputation and branding:

  • Businesses can pick their favorite review to show up-top under a sponsored section. Many times he’s seen the search engines rank the first review in the SERPs.
  • Businesses can now post responses to negative reviews on Yelp.
  • If worried about negative reviews, you need to learn to take the good with the bad.
    Take negative reviews as learning tools.
  • Monitor to offer second chances. Once when Matt posted a negative review of a restaurant, the business owner contacted him, gave him a gift certificate, and invited him to come back to try the place out again. After a much better experience, Matt updated his Yelp review.
  • Engage with your customers and let them know you are listening.
  • It’s not going away. Act, don’t react.

To become active on Yelp, unlock your account from Yelp.com. Unlocking your page ensures that it shows up in the results when people use their iPhone’s browser.

To optimize your page/listing:

  • Add your own business photos.
  • Include detailed business info.
  • Include your URL.
  • Include a phone number.
  • Access analytics and other tools.




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