This week a friend of mine finally got herself a smartphone. Even using the term ‘smartphone’ feels out-of-date, let alone getting your very first one ever. She remembered me obnoxiously praising this app or that so asked me this morning for my top picks. Thought I’d share with you too. Hopefully you can do the same in the comments.
- Posterity – never forget an adorable phrase or expression your kid says again. Posterity saves it, dates it, and allows you to add a photo from the moment.
- MyFitnessPal – exercise and calorie tracker extraordinaire
- Starbucks app – (if you go to Starbucks) this app allows you to use your phone to pay for drinks; handy!
- UrbanSpoon – identifies good restaurants in your area and shows you what other people have tried and liked/hated
- Uber – (you have to subscribe to this service but it’s essentially a personal driver that will pick you wherever you are + take you where you need to go. You don’t have to pay at the time of the ride, rather you pay online) Use the app to tell the Uber driver where you are and find out how far away your ride is. UPDATE: Thanks to @kcclaveria for letting me know Uber has been shut down in Vancouver – but is still alive and well in other cities. Read more here.
- Songza – incredible selection of music playlists at your fingertips. Every type of music is represented. This app is my personal favourite!
- TuneIn Radio – allows you to listen to any radio station in the world
- Smule – cheesy, fun karaoke with a twist: you can choose to sing with other users or solo; people find you and follow you if they like your singing. This one is a guilty pleasure of mine.
- KidArt – no longer do you have to feel guilty about throwing out that wonderful painting your son did. Snap a photo of it, date it and start creating a file of your kid’s art.
- Instagram – if you’re into that sort of thing.. which I am. Makes your photos look amazing but keep in mind, every photo is public. (And Instagram is now owned by Facebook.. which likely means nefarious changes are on the horizon)
- Percolator – a fun, mess-around-with-your-photos app
- Mosaic – make a quick and snappy mini photo album with select photos on your phone. Easy. Cheap.
- DuckDuckGo – a search engine I highly recommend you use. Unlike Google and Bing, DuckDuckGo won’t track your activities or serve you up filtered search results.
- Foodie – grocery list app; as you shop you can check off what you’ve purchased, then shake your phone. All still-to-get items will rise to the top.
- Google Maps – even though your phone comes with a pre-installed map – it’s <ahem> less than good. You want Google Maps.
- Last but not least: “Reminders”. You don’t have to download this one from the app store, it’s already on your phone. I can’t praise this feature enough. It’s literally the sole reason my life doesn’t fall to pieces. Any and every little detail goes into my reminders. When I input something new, I also set a time & date to be reminded. This app is a blessing for school-related forget-me-nots, and anything else you can’t afford to forget.
I would love to hear what apps you use and why. I need some new goodies!
I used to believe having a mobile version of a website was forward-thinking, advantageous and just all around smart. A year+ later, I’m changing my mind. And I should. Things change. Habits change. Smartphones are pretty smart. I’m now prepared to argue that many websites, can serve audiences well without the aid of a mobile version. In other words, it’s not a “given” that every website needs a mobile version.
What is a mobile website? Not a silly question. You’ve likely encountered mobile sites and not realized it. Mobile sites are pared down versions of a full website. The content on a mobile site represents a small percentage of the content you can find on a full site. The advantages of such a version are listed below, but the main advantage is it is designed specifically for a small screen and on-the-go viewing. Take WestJet’s website and mobile site as an example:
You can see how the mobile version of the site (on the right) simplifies and directs the experience for those on a handheld device. This is an example where a mobile site makes a lot of sense. “Big” websites that are photo-heavy, flash-based, and/or content-jammed may better serve its audiences with a mobile version for mobile visitors. Websites for festivals and outdoor events would also benefit from a mobile site as the audience is more likely to need to access the website while at the event.
However, in many cases mobile visitors (on tablets, iPads, Androids and iPhones, etc.) can comfortably and easily navigate around a website, expanding on hard-to-read menus and other features without the need for a mobile-designed site. Indeed, some visitors can become annoyed with how limiting mobile sites can be. Take this local bike shop as an example: (Sorry Obsession: Bikes. You’re a terrific shop.)
As you can partially see here on the top image, Obsession: Bikes has a well-branded, fun mobile version of the main website. However, the mobile version only offers ways for visitors to get in touch with, or physically find the shop. Sure, mobile sites should focus the experience, but in this case visitors don’t have the option of clicking through to the main website. That means mobile visitors will not be able to browse through “Stuff We Sell” or “Services”, like they can on the full site (shown on bottom image).
To recap then, there are solid arguments for having a mobile version of your website. Some of those points include:
- It can create a better user experience.
- A mobile site loads faster than a full size website.
- Visitors on a mobile device may spend more time on the site if it’s optimized for the way they’re viewing.
- A mobile version of a website may contribute to positive brand perception, as in: going the extra mile.
Then again, the downfalls include:
- Mobile versions of websites are (most often) stripped down and simplified, limiting what visitors can see and do.
- Because of point #1, mobile sites can look less polished, and sometimes less on-brand.
- Having a mobile site in addition to a regular website means managing two sites.
- Cost. Some mobile websites incur additional costs, although some programming platforms have plugins available.
The bottom line can be found in web data. If your web analytics point to a surge of mobile visitors, who are bouncing en mass because you don’t have a mobile site – or are sticking around and converting, because you do – then you have your answer.
What do you think? What have your experiences been like on mobile sites or on websites you felt should have had a mobile version?
Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but it is often overlooked or underutilized. At the surface level, for example, Google Analytics can show you how many people are visiting your website (visits); how long they are staying there (average visit duration); and how they are discovering your site (traffic source). On their own these statistics, can serve as good benchmarks for month over month, or year over year comparisons, but Google Analytics can provide much more useful information.
Google Analytics’ greatest power is its ability to pull all the individual pieces of data together to deliver important analysis and interpretation. Features such as segmentation and filtering allow you to manipulate the data and gather useful information for answering questions and making decisions.
The following are some examples of how Google Analytics data can be used to help make business decisions.
Should we create a mobile version of our corporate website?
Using Google Analytics, you can find out how many users in the past have viewed the site using a mobile device. Log in to your Google Analytics account and select the last 6 months (or 1 year if available) as the date range. Navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview. Here, you will see a table showing the number of visits coming from a mobile device (“Yes”, in the Mobile column), and the number of visits not coming from a mobile device (“No”, in the Mobile column).
In the example above, 6.67% (or 8,712 visits) of all website visits in the selected time period, are coming from mobile devices, and visits from mobile devices have a 32.43% bounce rate. If you compare the data between mobile and non-mobile visits, you see that the data from mobile visits is actually slightly better than the non-mobile visits. These stats suggest that creating a mobile version of the corporate website may not be necessary at this time because it is not hindering mobile visitors from viewing the site.
However if you saw that 30% of website visits were coming from mobile devices and these mobile visits had a 60% bounce rate, it would suggest that mobile visitors are finding it difficult to navigate the corporate website on a mobile device. With such a high percentage of visits coming from mobile visitors, it could be beneficial for the company to create a mobile version of the corporate website.
Should we continue our newspaper ad campaign in Calgary?
Pretend you have an online company, based in Vancouver, BC and you decided to run a newspaper ad in the Calgary Herald. The campaign started on June 1 to target potential customers in Calgary. It is now the August 15 and you need to decide if you want to continue the advertisement in September.
As the newspaper ad is offline, it is impossible for Google Analytics to track visitors who decided to visit your website as a result of seeing the ad. However, there is an indirect way of measuring the potential influence of the advertisement. Using Google Analytics, you can compare visits originating from Calgary during the ad campaign period to the period prior to the campaign.
Log in to Google Analytics and select the date range corresponding to the duration of the ad campaign (June 1 to August 14). In the date range box, select “Compare to Past” and this will automatically select an equivalent number of days prior to June 1.
Navigate to Audience > Demographics > Location. You will see a map and a list of countries below it. Directly below the map is a row labeled, “Primary Dimensions”, click the “City” link.
The list below should now display website data broken down by city. Browse the list for Calgary. Under the Calgary item, there should be two rows indicating June 1 – August 14 and the comparison time period (January 17 – March 31). Assuming there are no seasonal business sales cycles or other major promotions in Calgary during the period, the change in the number of visits can be attributed to the newspaper ad. If there is a large increase in visits coming from Calgary, it suggests the ad is helping increase awareness of the company in Calgary. If there is no change or a decrease in visits, it suggests the ad is having little influence in generating awareness in Calgary.
If your business website is e-commerce enabled and Google Analytics is configured to track online sales, you can click on the Ecommerce link located directly above the map. If you scroll back down to the Calgary data, you’ll see a Revenue column, which is an even better indicator of whether the newspaper ad is providing an increase or positive return.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help you make business decisions. The examples above are only a sample of possible questions you could address.
When faced with a new decision about your digital strategy:
- The first step is to understand the data that is available in Google Analytics.
- The second step is to ask a question.
- The third step is to determine what data is required to answer the question.
- The fourth step is to segment and manipulate the data to find an answer.
Shove over QR codes. There’s something faster and slicker moving in on your turf.
Yesterday I picked up a drip coffee from Starbucks. It came in a Valentine-themed cup. The fine print underneath the cup’s giant love heart was a message instructing me to download the free “Magic Cup” app. I did so of course and when I held my phone up to the cup – suddenly I could interact with that giant heart on my cup, peeling it away and having it fly toward me. This was followed up by a bunch of smaller, fluttering hearts flocking wherever my finger moved on the screen. (See the video demo below) Pretty cool foray into augmented reality for Starbucks, but I would argue this may also represent a significant shift away from the need for QR codes. The steps involved to connect audience to content with augmented reality (AR) are similar to those involved with QR codes. However, I would suggest the impact of that connection is more interactive and potentially more powerful. Do you agree? Have you tried both a QR code and an AR experience?
One caveat, the prices involved in creating a QR code vs. an augmented reality offering, are vastly different: virtually free vs. virtually prohibitive.
Remember the days when you’re on vacation driving down the highway with billboards flashing in your face? Or ads interrupting your musical paradise as you drive away in your convertible? Some made you laugh, others you didn’t even notice.
For the most part those days are gone. The future of advertising has changed forever. It was only ten years ago when advertising was driven by media placements and campaigns. Then the dotcom era started along with YouTube, and it slowly became about creating a complimentary online campaign to a brand’s TV campaign. Now, it’s about experimenting with an abundance of apps and networks that a customer pulls out of their pocket.
The acceleration of innovative change since the smartphone has led to onslaught of new apps. Combine that with powerful social communication tools and our society has forever changed the way we communicate. Today, advertising is not just about creative; it’s become a creative tool for business operations. We believe advertising has become a technology driven creative service that provides brands the opportunity to increase the effectiveness and impact of creativity.
Technology is the vehicle that drives the creative and key message, but in most cases it doesn’t determine what app or network the brand should be on. Nor does it determine what the creative and key message is. For example, we focus on the client’s objectives to develop the big idea based on the insights produced in our research. The big idea always has to drive your creative, not the technology.
One company particularly, is demonstrating how the combination of social and mobile can be a very effective combination to enhance the delivery of a big idea.
American Express has been one of the most active businesses in 2011 partnering with both Foursquare and Facebook to offer integrated seamless deals. Realizing that Groupon could be a major threat to their business, American Express started with a big idea: “American Express takes what you ‘Like’ and gives what you love.”
With this idea in mind, American Express launched two integrated social and mobile initiatives. The most recent one is a new Facebook “Link, Like, Love” app that allows Amex cardholders to sync their card to their social graph. This provides customers with personalized deals based on brands they’ve liked on Facebook. What’s the best thing? The customer does not have to purchase the deal. It’s automatically synched to the cardholders account.
On Foursquare, American Express is doing something similar. Instead of personalized social deals, the customer receives mobile check-in credits applied to their accounts within a few days after they tap “load to card”. The point is, every channel and every medium offers different benefits, but successful campaigns are always designed with one thing in mind, a big idea.
Even the food trucks are finding success by focusing on key messages. For instance, several food trucks in this recent Mashable article have been successful in either:
- Celebrating major milestones
- Crowdsourcing recipes on Facebook
- Building awareness and excitement during dead times
- Offering deals
- Promoting relevant holidays with timely advertising via mobile
Mobile is here now. It’s the future. But it’s only a tool; it’s not an idea. Let us help you establish that big idea.