Google Glasses and dozens of other brands of Augmented Reality goggles hit the road running for Christmas 2013 and over the next couple of years AR applications went from Wow to business as usual. Today people look at you sideways in many cities if you aren't wearing glasses. But there has been a downside. People can't bear to be without them.
I’ve been engaged in a conversation in a mobile marketing group LinkedIn discussion where people involved in solutions such as mobile coupons are complaining that retailers are intellectually lazy and not looking to embrace new technology.
I argued that most retailers focus on BAU (Business As Usual), working in their business employing strategies and technologies they have used for years, which they understand and can deal with. They do not spend anywhere near enough time working on their business, including strategies to embrace new technologies.
Many retailers have been hurt by one-day deal companies, where they gave up 50% and more in GP in the hope that if they gave great service, they would win new loyal customers. Of course we now know that didn’t work and the only ones that made big money out of it were one-day deal companies. They didn’t have to invest in inventory or carry any risk to speak of.
I’ve presented at a number of conferences on the topic of mobile and location based marketing. What I found really sad was that of all the delegates, the number of retailers at these events could generally be counted on the fingers of one hand.
I’ve been looking at how I could help retailers, particularly in New Zealand and Australia with solutions available today in a cost effective way. I think I have come up with a solution, but its going to take me a fair amount of time and money to deliver.
I will start in the area of Travel and Tourism, largely because they are more focussed on customers who are actively looking for services and new experiences and the industry is used to investing to win new business. Their market is also tough and the traditional business services continue to largely support those who own the systems, ie reservation engines, directories, commissions to tour operators, rather than retailers themselves. These businesses are easier for me to access and easier to quantify direct ROI. Also the individual transactions often have a higher dollar value, so if I can demonstrably increase their cashflow and profit and share in the gain, I can recover my costs more quickly.
I was thinking about how hard it is to get retailers out of the shop to talk to them and from years of calling on owner operator retailers in the past, trying to talk to them in their own environment with customers in store, that’s all but impossible.
So I’m thinking retail readers, if there are any here, and would welcome your feedback on the best way to get in front of you and your peers. The problem is that most of them will never read this. The majority do not attend retail conferences, they don’t even participate in their own main-street organisations. They don’t even do something as simple as co-promote their neighbours. I remember years ago hearing Mark Blumsky (past retailer and Wellington Mayor) talk at the New Zealand Retailers Association conference about how he collaborated with his neighbours by giving away free coffee coupons at the next door cafe to people who bought shoes from him and the cafe gave discount coupons for shoes to their patrons. Leading retailers (because they were at the conference) all talked about it during the lunch and coffee breaks, but I don’t know if a single one of them ever emulated the exercise.
We have amazing free services such as Foursquare and people have probably used one of these apps to check into your store. They may even be your Foursquare Mayor, but you probably don’t even know what Foursquare is.
You need to embrace mobile technology and I want to help. But you’re probably not reading this, so you will have to wait until I have helped some other people first. If you are reading this, leave a comment, connect with me and others who want to see Australasian retailers thrive and grow in this exciting new world. Learn at your own pace, but please step outside of BAU and do something. One little step a day is 365 steps a year and that’s quite a lot.
I’ve just read an article by Hugo Garcia of Futures Lab in Portugal in the latest issue of The Futurist. He was outlining how younger people today are more mobile, more focussed on consuming goods, services and experiences, rather than being attached to things and places. One area that he was strong on was the fact that people are now so mobile and keen to explore the world and their environments.
Location becomes far more important because you are continuing moving around as opposed to tied to a fixed location in the world. He said that one example is the trend towards not owning a home, perhaps ever. I always hear talk about how hard it is to get into property, I don’t think it has ever been easy. When we bought our first home (to give ourselves and our children some long term security) we bought in a cheap neighbourhood and at one stage were paying in excess on 20% interest. For a couple of years in the beginning, we went without pretty much anything, just to pay the interest. Today many don’t want to restrict their lifestyle, making it a choice, their choice is to live for today.
The ‘office’ is for many people today, especially knowledge workers, not somewhere we need to be a lot of the time and the cost of maintaining an office, commuting, car parking (you could almost rent a room for the cost of my Auckland City car park). We go to the office when we need to, for meetings, teamwork etc, but otherwise I can be much more productive from my home office.
Hugo talks about shared mobility. This is not a new concept, but certainly one that is coming back with a vengeance. Back in the 1960′s the Provos introduced white bikes that anyone could use. The idea was that you grabbed a bike, rode it to where you wanted to go and left it there for the next person to use. Their concept, same as today was to reduce pollution and traffic congestion and promote community engagement. They were certainly engaged as very quickly the bikes were stolen and repainted, but the idea was very good.
Today carpooling continues to grow, Zipcars, recently purchased by Avis, which is currently being debated as to whether it was an anticompetitive manoeuvre, is an example of car sharing, which in principle makes a lot of sense. People share ownership in boats, holiday homes and other items and many people are travelling around the world using the services of portals like Airbnb. There are loads of companies sprouting up like Whipcar, which lets you rent out your own vehicle when you don’t need it.
Globalisation is also an area that is changing rapidly. I remember reading history books about the great depression and how people moved from town to town looking for work. Mobility today is something far more international and international borders are being crossed continually by people in search of work, whether it is because they can’t find it at home, want a better life, or simply enjoy the itinerant lifestyle. Over a million Kiwis are working and living overseas, while British and other nationalities are moving to New Zealand to work on projects such as the reconstruction of Christchurch.
Hugo points out there are pro’s and cons. “Unfortunately, some areas may become abandoned because they lack competitive advantages. The war for talent between countries will increase, but regions that offer good living conditions may gain an advantage.
I note again that knowledge workers, one of the biggest industry segments today can often work from anywhere and travel when required. I know many journalists and developers that live in small towns for the lifestyle, but can still perform on a global stage.
This mobile society opens up huge scope for innovation and disruption, particularly with location based services, applications for mobile use, which can support the new mobile lifestyle. Kiwi developers can and are developing applications used globally, despite those that say you can’t be successful unless you are in Silicon Valley, things are changing. The money may be there, but they don’t have a monopoly of good ideas.
If anyone knows about a mobile lifestyle its Kiwis, anywhere is a long way from New Zealand. We know how to travel, we absorb and learn and we love new technology. Where we need help is harnessing our smarts, to help our innovators and entrepreneurs to learn how to scale and think big. That’s a tough ask and I don’t think our Government is doing anywhere near enough to ensure that smart people are able to grow from small concepts to large global enterprises.
I was just asking myself how I suddenly got on my soap box, but then I’m not sure I ever get off it:)
Hey folks and valued readers. It has been a few days since I posted and I just wanted to let you know that there have been some changes in my career, but that I am still around and will continue to share my thoughts and interests in this blog.
After 8 years it was time for a move from Geosmart and I have now joined a relatively new company called Imersia as CCO. Imersia was founded in 2009 by entrepreneurs Dr Roy Davies and Jon Lowther, a couple of very clever guys with ideas about the world we live in and the world we want to live in, similar to mine.
In a nutshell we are working in location based services, mobile, Augmented Reality, proximity based marketing, GPS and more across a wide variety of industries with a local flavour, i.e. the business is based in New Zealand and we would like it to stay that way if possible, but a global focus. Effectively I am walking the talk, I have spent many years consulting and evangelising, I’m still doing that, but also much more on the creating side, at least from a company perspective, I’m not a developer myself.
So stick around, don’t delete your RSS feed because I still have lots of exciting ideas, if I say so myself, about leading the way into the future we want, from a technology perspective, but also about the kind of world we want for our families and future generations, cool toys and business tools as well as a safe and sustainable environment. I am ever the idealist.
New Zealand is full of clever people and I am hoping we can enable more of them to take part in the global stage. I’m keen to see some new names appear in the lists of Kiwi innovators contributing to our GDP and being supported by our Government. I love names like Tait Electronics (I spent 7 happy years working for them), Gallagher Electronics and Fisher & Paykel, but isn’t it time for some new kids on the block?
Watch this space:)
Nestle in the UK has come up with a very cool imho marketing campaign. They are putting GPS chips in the wrapping of 6 food bars such as Kit Kats and when they are opened / activated, within 24 hours they vow to track down the chips, send in the commandos to find, and possibly scare the hell out of the people who bought them and give them 10,000 pounds.
This is a very cool use of location based technology that will fire up marketing people and those into location based marketing like me big time. CNET says that this campaign will appeal to men and perhaps they are not usually the target market for chocolate. In this case I suspect sales will go through the roof and while this campaign hasn’t yet gone seriously viral, I’m sure it will. It is also likely to be winning awards as TV cameras from around the world follow the commandos to the lucky people receiving the prizes.
Just as well they are using TVC’s and billboards with NFC and QR Codes to promote this campaign or people will be thinking that a new war has broken out.
Location based marketing is going to play a major role in our lives going forward and those who are in early will reap rewards by standing out from the crowd. This certainly puts a new spin on guerrilla marketing.
If I had a dollar for each time I get asked this question I would be able to retire. I have blogged about this before, but it is certainly time for an update, particularly with some of the stories I’ve seen in the media recently, which have either been advertorial or blaming GPS for sending people off the road.
Some people see car navigation as a cool toy, or think that they are all pretty much the same. Instead think about what you need it for. Going skiing? Picking up the kids from somewhere you haven’t been before on a wet, dark winters evening? Trying to get to an important business meeting on time, finding your hotel or the nearest ATM? Are you a geek, or do you need something that is basic and easy to use?
Car navigation today offers a myriad of options from mobile smartphone applications through PND (Portable Navigation Devices) to in-car devices that are factory installed. The most important things to look at are the currency and accuracy of the map data and points of interest information. It doesn’t matter how cool it is if the information is inaccurate or out of date.
NZ Automobile Association subsidiary GeoSmart has a NZ based team driving and updating maps full-time with 4 major updates every year for a number of car navigation brands, and maps roads to sub .5 meter accuracy. Have you ever been told to go to the nearest road when you are on it? This includes important things like having accurate speed zones to warn you when you are over the speed limit, school zones, current Points of Interest and safety cameras.
Traffic congestion is here to stay and it’s not just in the cities. Real time traffic is a powerful navigation tool to find alternate routes when available and with brands such as TomTom offering HD Traffic in connected devices (PND, iPhone and iPad, and in-car systems), real-time traffic is available throughout all of New Zealand where you can receive a mobile phone signal.
Whilst traffic is a major urban problem, this winter has already seen hundreds of road closures due to slips, accidents, flooding and more, most of them outside the major cities. Many people don’t think outside of the city until they get stuck.
When there is a weather bomb the AA Roadwatch website can have up to 100,000 page views in a day and that’s before people even get in their cars. Some brands and devices only offer traffic information via RDS-TMC broadcast radio in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, which has limited capacity for the amount of information it can send due to bandwidth restrictions and of course if you are driving outside of those cities, it can’t help you.
This technology was launched in NZ by GeoSmart back in 2006, but now they can stream live traffic and congestion data every two minutes across all of NZ via a mobile network, this means that you are fully informed of the road conditions for some 97% of the road network of NZ.
When people ask what is the best GPS, there is no correct answer. There are many great products and it comes down to when and where you want to use them and what information matters to you.
They start with ‘free’ products on Smartphones. These may provide routing, but are unlikely to have information such as speed zones, lane guidance, turn restrictions or have the latest map data. They generally don’t have the maps loaded into the phone which means that every single map image and set of instructions has to be downloaded as you go and this can add up to a significant cost on your mobile data account. Recent research in Europe has shown that often adding the data costs result in ‘free’ being much more expensive than buying an app or a device where the maps are stored locally.
There are paid apps for Smartphones and tablets including products such as Metroview NZ City Maps which gives you one NZ city or region for $9.95 with full car navigation and the maps on your device, to TomTom which offers effectively the same experience as you would get on a TomTom device, even with real-time traffic, funny voices and even social media location-based apps. Obviously a benefit of a mobile app is that your mobile is always with you and you don’t need to have multiple devices.
There has been a price war in recent times with portable devices and you can purchase devices from as little as $100. Keep in mind that generally you get what you pay for. To put a device out at really cheap prices, something has to be sacrificed. Some products state that they will give you “up to” 4 map updates a year (which could mean just one) where others will “guarantee” 4 map updates per year. Are they up to date with changes such as speed zones, new roads, State Highway realignment, the Auckland SH1 tunnel and viaduct switch, new suburbs and subdivisions?
On the matter of updates, how do you get them? How easy are they to install?
Try the device in-store with roads you know have changed. Entry level doesn’t have to mean inferior but it pays to understand what you need from it. We are also starting to see larger screens on portable devices up to 6 inches, which is great for trucks or people with poor eyesight.
The future of car navigation is a connected device, whether it is a mobile smartphone, a PND that contains a SIM card and is always connected, with the ability to do location-based search, social media and location-based check-ins and look for live car park availability, entertainment and events, or a device that comes factory fitted in your car, also has a SIM card and has the ability to tell emergency services that you have had an air bag deployment and can provide your location.
This market is evolving all the time. Next time you look at buying a nav unit or application, think about the last time you needed help. Were you in a hurry? Did you get stuck in traffic? Do you travel outside of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch? Think about an area that you know has changed recently, for example the Victoria Park Viaduct over-bridges southbound or the tunnel going north. When the Wellington Street on-ramp is open again onto the Northern Motorway, would you like to know about it? Have you arrived at a motorway on-ramp only to find it is closed for maintenance? How did you feel? Did it matter? Did you know how to get to another ramp that was open?
GPS units aren’t all equal. Try a unit before you buy. Don’t just read what it says on the packaging (or at least read the fine print carefully), ask someone who has one if they would buy the same product again. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the freedom to go wherever you want via the best route at that specific point in time, to be able to relax and enjoy a stress free journey.
Do you have a car nav story? Did it help you on a trip? Are you happy with your purchase?
I’ve been writing a series of blogs about my recent road trip in the USA and the applications that helped and didn’t help me along the way. The last couple of blogs were about TripAdvisor which was a big help when it came to accommodation, but not great for much else.
I’ve been a big fan of Foursquare for a long time. You’ll find it mentioned in many of my blogs. One of the common threads is that people all over the world are ‘checking-in’ using the GPS on their mobile phones to all sorts of businesses, leaving tips and comments. There are recommendations of favourite food, or great service through to comments about lack of hygiene in the bathrooms.
The really frustrating thing is that the vast majority of businesses that get a mention on Foursquare have no idea what it is, or that they are involved. Foursquare is of course well-known by people in marketing roles, especially those involved in social media. Most of my friends in the information and communication technology industries use it. I’ve written a number of blogs trying to promote it to businesses in the hospitality and tourism industries because it is free and because tourists and travelers are using it. I suspect it mostly falls on deaf ears.
Many of the hotels I stayed at on my trip were on the outskirts of towns and somehow we managed to pretty much always arrive around 5-6PM tired and hungry. Where to find somewhere good to eat? Initially we went for walks or drives, but we really just wanted to relax. I quickly found that Foursquare was the best way to not only find out what was nearby, but also to find what places people recommend, or don’t.
You can search from a range of items based on proximity including Specials, Food, Coffee, Sights, Arts, Trending and more. You don’t just have the option of searching in proximity to where you are, but effectively you can pan the map for the bigger picture, or search by place-name for your next destination.
Using this we found some great restaurants and bars and also managed to confirm the location of an alligator hatchery in Louisiana that the navigation unit placed about a mile wrong in the middle of nowhere, which was pretty disconcerting when we were driving on the wrong side of the road (for us) of some very narrow country roads.
I do have to say that I only found a few specials using Foursquare, which reinforced my experience that hundreds of thousands of businesses are missing out on opportunities to pro-actively win more business.
I also kicked myself after spending 45 minutes waiting for a quesadilla at The Iron Kettle restaurant in Lynchburg, because if I had used Foursquare I would have read a comment left by a previous visitor saying: “Avoid. Slow service. You could walk to New York and get a three course meal in the time it takes for a simple burger here.” They were right too. To her credit, the waitress refused to charge us for our lunch, much to the disgust of the manageress.
That brings me to another very cool feature of Foursquare and that is the ‘History’ function. If you log on to your Foursquare account and select history, you will find a chronological record of every location you checked into including the time, date and any photos or comments you made at the time. I had originally planned to start a travel diary using My Vacation on my iPad. I have to say that lasted about 3 days. We were just so busy doing and planning that we just didn’t feel like keeping a diary. Turns out we didn’t need to. That alone is a great reason to use Foursquare next time you are going on a trip. Check in, take photos, make comments and you have your travel diary.
Pay it forward and leave tips, good and bad about the locations you check in to so that others can benefit from your experience and learn from mine as well, that even if it is right there in front of you and looks OK, check for tips and comments other people have left. As I’ve said in previous blogs about TripAdvisor, if one person leaves a bad comment, take it with a big grain of salt, but when there are several, where there’s smoke, there could well be fire.
I love Foursquare and feel it is perhaps seen by many, such as those who still mock twitter, saying “I don’t care if you had a coffee!” as a waste of time. I say that it is a wonderful marketing tool, a great site and app for exploring new places that you may not otherwise have found and definitely ranks as my favourite global Points of Interest database.
Give it a go, whether you are travelling on holiday or just looking to try a new place to eat, have a coffee or be entertained. If you find it useful, share your own tips and comments, pay it forward.
I also welcome comments on my blog. What do you like or not like about Foursquare. What have I missed? There is of course much more including game mechanics, leaving comments on other people’s check-ins, mayorships, badges, friends and lists and the ability to add new locations on the fly and share them with the rest of the world. There are also many 3rd party apps usng the Foursquare API’s. What are your favourite features?
I recently wrote a blog about TripAdvisor and how to make the most of it on your FIT (Free Independent Traveler) trip.
What can you learn as a developer or someone who wants to own their own app to win loyalty and business in the hospitality and tourist industry?
The first thing is content. Most applications are city focused. That’s understandable, but based on my experience in the Southern States was that there were loads of tourists looking for cool things to do and see, but they were so hard to find. If I hadn’t found the Blues Trail Guide at the Natchez Trace Information Centre, I would not have visited Crystal Springs because according to TripAdvisor there was nothing there but a single restaurant. In fact I had the most wonderful day there, meeting the Mayor at City Hall and spending a couple of hours with Theresa, the Granddaughter of legendary blues giant of Crossroads fame Robert Johnson at his museum.
Now you may not have heard of Robert Johnson, or watched the movie Crossroads, inspired by his legendary story, but if you are a blues fan, then this is a must do pilgrimage and to actually meet and talk with his granddaughter is something you won’t likely do at music museums or historic places of interest anywhere in the world. My point is that outside of the cities is where the real people live and the world is full of exciting and interesting places outside of Disney, Alcatraz or the Empire State Building.
While I make that criticism, I do have to say that TripAdvisor was by far the best for the apps I used on my trip. I was able to find the properties I wanted to stay in, I was able to filter things to do, types of accommodation and more, I guess the key thing was lack of information outside of cities.
As a future step, I’d like it to have the ability to learn about me, profile me based on my interests and make suggestions to me. Given the wealth of information they do have, this would not be too difficult.
When it comes to accomodation, maybe they could also help me with search functionality that would allow me to eliminate properties with keywords, for example ‘show me all properties in Xville excluding keywords ‘bed bugs’ and ‘bad internet’. I understand the problem for properties who may be unfairly targeted by competitors trying to put people off their properties, but that is a security issue and there are always opportunities for redress. The fact is, wherever I saw comments about bedbugs etc, I avoided those properties like the plague. So all it did was make it take longer for me to find those comments, but I still didn’t stay at those properties. What frustrated me the most was that I spent up to 2 hours some nights, instead of relaxing, trying to work out where we would go next and where we would stay, which took a bit of the gloss off an awesome trip.
I’d like an app, and I know people are building them, which allow you to list your interests and then it will generate a tour or recommendations to meet your interests. Issue for me is most of them are based around specific advertisers who are often self rated, or very generic interests. That doesn’t work for me, I want apps that have all places, business and non business.
Probably the biggest one for me is I want live events. This was the hardest thing of all and TripAdvisor didn’t support this. If you ask a tourist what some of the best things they did were, it was about real life events, fairs, the bath-tub river race, Civil War reenactments (there were plenty but other than driving past one by accident we wouldn’t have had a clue where to find them), concerts, shows, the rodeo in Hattiesburg MS which we only found out about because we were in a hotel restaurant having breakfast and met a family who were competing in it.
Tourism is hurting around the world. Lots of people are traveling their own countries rather than going overseas. Lots of treasures are being missed in towns that have a lot to offer and many of those businesses need our tourism dollars more than the big cities.
A footnote to state and regional tourism organisations, particularly USA, Australia and New Zealand. It is frustrating and short sighted in my humble opinion to stop your tourism efforts at the border. I loved the Tennessee tourism book, but it was too hard to use and it stopped at the border. I also understand that your tax dollars stop at the border, but tourists don’t. Same to Louisiana who obviously had their book made by the same publisher. If you are using the same company, then that company could perhaps look at making quality location based applications that make it easy and attractive for people to enjoy holidays and spend their money.
Perhaps the key is to ask the tourists what they want rather than just continue to focus on traditional print business as usual.
There was a story in NBR today called Tough Winter for Restaurants. I left a comment, but it appears to have been moderated, perhaps someone thought it was self serving, just a guess.
I’m actually in the middle of a series of blogs, as you may be aware about location based services, but am going to take a quick break from this to share a few simple reminders about the basics of running a business in the hospitality sector.
What gives me the credentials to make comments on this, you may ask? Here’s a few:
- I completed a Hotel Motel Management course many years ago and assisted and lived in a busy Auckland motel for 18 months.
- I have attended hospitality conferences and exhibitions around the world.
- I started playing guitar and assisting in cafes and restaurants from the age of 14.
- I ran the Casio distributorship for cash registers in New Zealand and assisted with Australia and held around 70% market share in the industry segment for around 7 years and during that time keynoted for conferences including HANZ, Retail Merchants Association and others.
- I was technology editor for a retail magazine.
- I was involved in the development of the first electronic waiter pad systems in NZ, which were subsequently sold through Casio dealers in other parts of the world.
I could go on but I think that will do. So here are a few elements of Restaurants 101 for 2012.
There is an oversupply of restaurants and fast food outlets for the population of the country in most parts of New Zealand. Very few of the people running the restaurants have business training, many do it because they love food and they love people and entertaining and have passion for their business. Once that was probably enough. Having said that, even 30 years ago, a large percentage of these businesses changed hands every 18 months and having gone broke, trained the people who took over from them.
Table turn. The more times your tables are occupied within a dining session, the more profitable, subject within reason to what they are buying. Entrees and desserts are more profitable than mains. Make the mains too big and people won’t buy dessert. Dessert’s tend to generate around 80% gross profit margin.
If people are in for a night, keep coming to see them, ask if they are happy, offer them drinks. Alcohol offers large profit margins. Develop a relationship with them. A restaurant with a maitre d’ or person who remains in the dining area all the time, separate from the people who bring food in from the kitchen and take away the plates and cutlery, will make more profitable sales.
Ask guests what their expectations are, do they need to be served quickly because they are going to a movie or a show, or would they prefer to relax with drinks before and between courses. Show them that you care about their business and experience. People don’t mind paying if they are enjoying themselves. Be sincere, don’t give fake smiles and say enjoy and have people see your smile turn into something else before you have even turned away.
When a restaurant is empty or quiet, people walk past and wonder what everyone else knows that you don’t. If it is busy, more people will want to come in, but that doesn’t mean keep people hanging, waiting for service, because it will empty pretty quickly.
Have a business plan and understand what your model is, understand who your target market is and what they are looking for. There are lots of smart things you can do using social media and location based technologies and you will find plenty of them if you search through my blog, BUT if you don’t have the basics right, they won’t help you.
Many people still haven’t figured out that daily deal sites won’t bring you good business. Very few people who come to you through those sites will be back. They will cherry pick your profits and then do the same to the next business.
If you have the basics right and you know what your KPI’s are then I recommend you start with something like a combination of Foursquare and other social media. Have a really good look through Foursquare and the types of deals you can do with them for free.
Location based services and proximity based marketing are really good tools for distressed inventory. Fill empty tables when you need to fill them, not by discounting before you even know if you will. Get creative, remember Death by Chocolate? If you have desserts left, its getting late, look for people who might come in for coffee, Irish coffee and dessert, you’ll make as much profit from them as some of the people who stayed for an hour or more and just had a main and wine.
If you have any questions, please leave them here or if you disagree, I’m open to that too.