How would you feel tomorrow if you lost access to your mobile, the Internet, TV and other technologies that you take for granted. How would you feel?
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.
Not that long ago people had separation anxiety when they didn’t have their mobile with them, then their smartphone. Now its their AR glasses. Hospitals and A&R clinics are reporting many people are presenting with a feeling of vertigo with some patients reporting in an almost psychotic state, saying they feel they have been detached from the real world.
Others are describing the real world without AR glasses as flat, 2 dimensional, when they don’t have access to features they take for granted such as information about locations, deals, games and access to their friends…
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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.
When I got my first in a series of Palm’s (I still have most of them including the Handspring Flossmaster) people looked at my as if I was a geek. OK maybe I was, but I was only doing what many or most of you are doing now, mobile computing. OK, the dental floss dispenser was a bit of a gimmick, but a very cool one and it was actually done as a promotion, not as a serious concept.
So back in the 90’s I was reading eBooks from Fictionwise and other sites which are amazingly still there even though Palm and Handspring are long gone. Fictionwise was already there before Amazon was launched and several years before the Kindle existed. I used to use my PDA during dead moments in-between appointments, while exercising etc. I had apps for Africa, work outs, diaries, games, even mobile email at 9.6kbps on my Ericsson mobile with its expensive Bluetooth dongle.
I helped introduce the first Symbol Palms in New Zealand with bar code readers and whilst they are now running a different OS they are fundamentally being used for the things I suggested such as warehouse inventory management, field sales automation, ticket management at events and so on.
Then my devices got audio and became phones, so I could listen to music, podcasts and started publishing my own podcasts and getting my songs on other people’s shows through to the last few years when my Smartphones got GPS. During that time we went from PDA’s that could also function as phones through to now where our mobiles are powerful computers that are as ubiquitous as I said they would become.
So here are a few thoughts on what is coming next, things that you dear reader are likely to take for granted within the next few years.
As a consequence of your use of check in functionality on your mobile using Facebook, Foursquare, Google+ or whatever software you chose, details about your interests, your friends and family and your activities will be profiled along with most of the people you know. You will get notifications based on where you are and your interests, on your mobile offering you relevant deals as well as a load of spam that will have you wondering whether you should disconnect alltogether, but you won’t.
Your mobile will be your multi-modal navigation device, not just while driving or keeping the cabbie honest, but walking, running, hiking, boating, shopping, providing navigation on the road and even inside buildings such as shopping malls, hospitals and university campuses. You will be able to see where your friends and family are and you will be offered deals based on mutual interests and be able to buy them and pay for them on your mobile.
You won’t have to carry loyalty cards any more. They will be maintained on your mobile which will give you the option of looking for deals, comparing prices and getting directions to the nearest retailer with whom you are a loyalty member. You will also have the option of having your mobile notify you of deals based on its prediction of your needs. For example on a Saturday morning when it sees you are buying garden tools at the DIY, it may offer you a promotion at the nearby garden centre which is uniquely created for you.
You will have a personalized newspaper on your mobile which carries both stories and advertising offers of specific interest to you. You will be surprised at first at how relevant they are. You won’t have to search for stories any more and you won’t be pushed information you are not interested in. You will only buy newspapers on rare occassions and within a few years printed newspapers won’t be available any more.
Music is an interesting one and the way you enjoy it will change dramatically in the near future. Within 24 months music CD’s will be out of production and you will either subscribe to a music service with a monthly subscription or possibly it will be offered as part of a mobile offer from your telecommunications provider. The question at the moment is whether the major music provider will be Apple, Nokia, Vodafone or a service such as Spotify.
For those who want to really get into their artists, you will be able to download apps. Several years ago I wrote a piece for NetGuide, which they declined to publish. I said that CD’s would die because the record companies were not providing any added value. I suggested that they add music videos, interviews, digital photos, background stories, lyrics etc to the media. It wouldn’t have cost them anything because it was all material that they already had access to. Anyway, long story short, guess what is already available to an iPhone, Android or other device near you? All of those things. Bands and their management are using off the shelf tools to put all of these things onto mobile devices including gig calendars, social media and the ability to purchase event tickets and merchandise from within the applications. They will also allow you to communicate with other fans from within the applications and future functionality will include the ability to remix tracks and record your own cover versions to share with other fans. Competitions and special offers will also be included.
In future when you go to a concert you will be able to hold your mobile up towards the stage using facial recognition to identify the performers using augmented reality and take tagged photos showing the names of the artists and of course the location the photos or videos were taken. Of course the facial recognition will also identify your friends and associates for posting and sharing on your favorite social media pages.
I could write a book on this stuff, but I thought it was time I shared a few things with you before they start happening and you take them for granted. I like being able to say “I told you so”.
In finishing I note that Apple have just filed a patent on mobile facial recognition. They also mentioned biometrics, funny, I still have a HP iPaq with a finger scanner. Want to know more about facial recognition? Here’s a quick 2 minute primer.
Have you ever noticed that whatever application people come up with, you are always hungry for the next big thing? Well I am, especially when it comes to mobility and location based applications. I and several of my friends and associates tend to look 5 years into the future on a regular basis and are always looking to innovate with features or technology that either doesn’t exist yet, is still too expensive, or the target market still doesn’t get it. That’s probably where we will always live.
The good thing about that is that as a consequence of our focus, the building blocks for the things we dream about become much more apparent to us when they arrive and we want to share those things with you.
There were 2 standouts for me this week. The first is that Foursquare is launching push at their hackathon which starts tomorrow. You can read more about this on my GeoSmart blog. Basically it means that developers from tomorrow will be able to use an API that sends a push notification for users of their apps. For example a bar could send a notification to you telling you that there are friends of yours in the bar and offer you a deal to come and join them.
The other is in combining Location Based Technology with Game Mechanics, or Gamification. There is a very good 101 presentation about this on Slideshare by Aaron Strout of WCG.
I’ve met with a number of people developing location based games and the game element is a factor that I believe will really pull people in. I have just downloaded TapCity onto my iPhone and iPad after watching a podcast video interview on Untether.tv (one of my favourite location based podcasts) with Dave Bisceglia co founder and CEO of The Tap Lab. I strongly recommend that you watch this video or listen to the audio version if you are interested in location based games or proximity based marketing. These guys have big plans and dreams and I believe they are going to be a huge success. I have to also mention how impressed I was with their response to a couple of questions I had from them.
If you join the game, you will find I have 2 personae, Luigi C and Claes C, mainly because I first set it up on my iPad and then found that it was more suited to my iPhone. Anyway try out the app which you can download in the iTunes Appstore for free, friend me and tell me what you think. I was pretty impressed that for a relative start up, they already have players all over the world, in fact someone already owns my office! I won’t settle for that, but was impressed that it was even there.
The concepts are all very well, but if you want to look at proximity based marketing, location based games etc as part of your marketing plan, the best way is to experience what someone else is doing. As you will learn in the interview or on their website, this is just the beginning for them. They have some very exciting plans. What I don’t know as yet is whether they plan to release API’s or whether all their development is going to be inhouse.
Either way we can learn a lot from these people. I hope they are hugely successful in monetizing their games both for their innovatio and foresight and to show everyone else that this can work. If they can sell virtual items in the same way as Zynga has on Farmville, then imagine what Burgerfuel, Borders, your regional tourism operator, world cup events like rugby organisors could do with real items!