My friends over at WeWork Labs (our old office) asked me to contribute to FullStart.com, their new start-up and entrepreneuer blog. I finally found a window between 3am and 4am to put something together. Check it out!
It’s been a long journey to Consumr 2.0 and there’s a lot to be thankful for. I severely sprained my ankle while running to grab some documents, but I’m thankful it wasn’t worse. I’m thankful for tearing myself away from the office long enough to teach my niece to shoot a bow and arrow (she inspired Consumr!). I’m thankful for understanding loved ones, some of whom are chasing their dreams too. I’m thankful for a great team including my best friend, that helped me go from my drawing on the left to the amazing app on the right. I’m thankful for supportive Consmr users who helped guide the way. And I’m thankful on a strenuous day I was pointed towards dozens of reviewers asking for the return of my old Zagat app.
The work is over. And now the work begins. But it’s okay to stop for a minute and reflect on what to be thankful for…
I remember eating lunch in the Time Warner Center when a pre-Contently Shane Snow said something like “you should connect with Foodspotting.” I kept a straight face because little did he know things were underway. It seemed like it was more about the impression the team had made on him, not just the obvious fit.
Personally, I think it’s great that a team of good people who love food get to help a big food company better connect people with food. I’ve got some ideas on what they’ll do next, but cheers to the team that made it okay to snap your food!
The FDA has vastly expanded this week’s earlier recall of Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter to include dozens of other peanut butter brands including Sunland’s, Sprouts, Natural Value and more. The recall affects peanut butter suspected of sickening people in 19 states!
What should you do to be safe?Scan your peanut butter at home with the Consmr Grocery app. We’ll immediately tell you if you’ve got one of the recalled products. Scan before you make that PB&J!
An era comes to end today. Post Google acquisition, Zagat is discontinuing their iPhone and iPad apps. This makes me feel nostalgic.
In 2008 I inherited a 2 star iPhone app. It was Zagat for iPhone.
I didn’t have the luxury of scrapping the app so I listened to customers, tried novel approaches and redid the app piece by piece. The app became the #1 selling travel app (most days) and a 4.5 star app for the next 2 and a half years. It was the first to integrate Foursquare and Foodspotting. It drove reviews written right as someone was dining. The iPad app was a launch app with a map-centric design later cloned by everyone else in the space (Yelp, OpenTable, etc).
After I left, not much happened with the suite of apps. I’m sure it had a lot to do with the complexities of an acquisition; a lot of talented people were at Zagat and their development partners. I would get messages from users asking what was going on but I had no clue. There was one update that reversed a key part of the UX and negative reviews started coming in. And then no updates. I couldn’t even open the iPad app for months without it crashing. Zagat went free and the iOS apps curiously stayed in market at full price.
This morning Zagat sent a push notification indicating the discontinuation of the apps. This is a meaningful event. The very thing that showed Google that Zagat was viable in a modern Post-PC world is no more. Did you really think Google bought them because they wanted to print restaurant books?
Google hints at new apps, which is a strange thing considering they opted to not transition a large audience of paid Zagat mobile loyalists. It’s also curious because they 1. have the Google+ Local app directly integrated with Zagat and 2. have direct integration of Zagat into Google Maps on Android and likely in the new iOS Google Maps. Do they need a third Zagat mobile source, competing with Google+ Local?
Things have changed, that’s for sure. A different 4.5 star app fuels my days and I’m lucky and thrilled it has the attention of the likes of Pepsi and Wall Street. It’ll be nice to not get “what the heck happened to your old app” questions. I will miss picking “My friends have a trust fund” when getting recommendations on where to eat out when my buddies are buying.
So it’s ”Check, please" for apps that brought the earliest forms of actually mobile reviews, augmented reality, and tablet app design. Today, the app will give me a great place to get dinner… perhaps for the last time.
I’m a couple days late on this thanks to Consmr’s 100,000 new friends, but I was surprised that a big story on Zagat was missed this week despite all the coverage of the Google+ Local launch. On Wednesday, Google’s announcement of Google+ Local integration officially marked Zagat.com becoming a free website and all of Zagat (seemingly) going free.
An era ended, but not many people noticed. While everyone was caught up in the Google+ aspect of Local, no one noticed that Zagat.com became a free site. After years as a subscription product, Zagat is now allowing free access to its venerable ratings and reviews. That leaves the Wall Street Journal, Consumer Reports, and The New York Times as the top subscription content platforms.
Let’s step back 33 years and realize that Zagat very quickly went from a handout to a paid publication. With the exception of a brief period in the early 2000s, Zagat’s digital content has always been behind the subscription barrier. Even mobile, where Zagat became a perennial top seller on the iPhone and iPad, apps were priced between $10-$25 annually depending on the platform.
It’s not clear that Zagat went 100% free to most people. My first clue came when I was asked tonight to meet someone at Gramercy Tavern. I did a quick Google search for the address of the restaurant so I could plan ahead. Right under the first natural search result (the website of the restaurant), was a Zagat 27 / 30. On the right hand side, there’s the ZAGAT Food 27 score and the famous quotation filled Zagat review. If you’re not signed in, you’ll see “Sign in for full scores and summary” right on the SERP.
Placing Zagat reviews behind the Google+ wall drew away from the fact that a $24.95 subscription just went to $0. In fact, you really have to dig in to Zagat.com to realize that a free Google+ account will grant you access to ratings and reviews that would have cost you $24.95 the day before. Here’s what the process looks like:
What used to be an upsell to pay $25/year is now an upsell to register.
Currently, the iPhone app I took much pride in (although the performance is unrecognizable now and it has dropped from years of a 4.5 stars/Top 3 ranking to 2.5 stars/Top 25) is still being sold at full price. I really wish Google had not allowed it to fall into disrepair, and I don’t know how much longer it will stay in the store. On Android the app went “freemium” several months ago, leaving a ton of confused buyers who, according to the user reviews, did not understand how to transition their accounts. My guess is this too will go away completely. And what’s the future of the print guides if a Google search will give you the contents of the guides for free?
While this looks like the end of the “paid” empire of Zagat, it also looks like the beginning of a larger digital opportunity. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen with the embrace of the Zagat brand in Google search results proper and within Google Maps on Android. Saving the 30 point scores and the 0-3 rating system is also a bold step that I would not have predicted. There could be potential here for “Zagat” as a brand to grow larger than it ever was before. Can you imagine an international print media company growing larger than ever by joining up with a large technology company? Suddenly, we’re looking at a genius move…
6 weeks ago Google introduced Project Glass with an amazing video demonstrating the product. Of course, it was a concept video and Google stated this is what it “might be” capable of doing. Many people overlooked that fact and took this to be a demonstration of the actual product, and so did more than a few publications.
Having worked on two early smartphone augmented reality apps, and having spent a significant amount of time recently working on image recognition and processing for Consmr’s barcode scanning iPhone app, I took to Quora to question the feasibility of a product like the video launching this year. In summary, I said there’s no way this product is launching this year with most of this functionality. I went feature by feature through the product and the interaction in the video and referenced why it wasn’t happening in 2012.
Today, we all found out just how close to the truth I was… Project Glass in its current form can do little more than take and share a photograph. Engadget’s headline summed it up like this:
Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely an advocate of this type of technology. I’ve always said that hardware is holding back the next evolution of augmented reality… the point where it positions itself for early growth in the mainstream. If I could clone myself, this is an area where I have tons of ideas/sketches/concepts that only a Project Glass type of hardware could execute. But I’m not sure what was gained by producing a video of something that was far from the reality of the actual product.
It reminds me of a nerd debate I had with a classmate at Brown over the video Nintendo produced in 2000 as a teaser for the Gamecube Zelda. I said there was no way the Gamecube could produce a game looking like that. 12 years and several Zelda games later, Nintendo has still not launched a Zelda game near those visuals.
Why Cisco Thinks CPG Reviews Are The Next Big Thing
If you pick up the March 2012 issue of Fortune magazine, you’ll see a full page advertisement from Cisco. Their ads tend to be well thought out, tied to research they’ve completed, and discuss the technology they ultimately intend to power.
It caught my attention that Cisco was touting user reviews as the emerging influencer in the consumer packaged good purchase funnel…
To break down the premise — Cisco believes CPG packaging will no longer be the most significant factor in the “First Moment of Truth” decision process. Google’s Zero Moment of Truth backs this up already. In the Cisco ad, you used to buy chutney because of the jar. But moving forward, you’ll make this type of purchase because of the 5-star user reviews for chutney. And yes, that is a doctored Yelp review in the person’s hand. Instead of a local restaurant, the review is for mango chutney.
How did they come to this conclusion? Cisco’s IBSG group has spent the last two years studying shopper habits. They commissioned a study and produced a whitepaper analyzing shopper habits, their interests, and broke this down into segments like grocery, apparel, and electronics. They also researched the role the retailer plays in all of this. For retailers, reviews in general are beneficial because they keep the consumer shopping in their store. A highly reviewed product increases shopper confidence and it also reduces price sensitivity. That means higher profits for the retailer. If you look at how groceries fit in, the study found that respondents felt grocery shopping benefited the most from these types of digital enhancements in 4 out of the 5 segments!
It turns out shoppers prefer digital sources instead of real people when making purchase decisions. And it’s happening already in a fragmented form. 45 percent of respondents reported current activity or interest in using a smartphone for in-store research. Again, grocery was cited as one of the top segments.
Ultimately, Cisco produced this ad based on an study of all retail segments, but highlighted the area (grocery) that showed the most promise in this space. Of course, there is one fundamental gap the ad highlights. Cisco shows an amalgam of reviews floating in the air. Why? Because there is no magic app for grocery product peer reviews. Thanks to the power of Photoshop and analysis from Cisco, we get a glimpse of what’s emerging in the retail shopping experience.
I’ve made a habit of successfully predicting where things are going in the mobile world over the last few years.
6 months ago when Siri launched, I talked about the largely ignored Yelp integration with Siri. I predicted Yelp and Apple’s relationship would improve and they would further integrate into Siri and create tons of value for Yelp. Well, I was the only person not surprised at the lone new feature of Siri in iOS 5.1; deeper Yelp integration.
Here’s the official post from Yelp confirming the integration. And there’s tons of other coverage everywhere else because Yelp is publicly traded.
Add this to my list of predictions in mobile that have paid off. Here are the others:
Android - I started working on an Android app at the end of 2008. I told everyone it was the next big OS, carriers would all eventually get on board as an alternative to iPhone, and BB would still matter but slowly die off. I even did an interview with Google at Google I/O in May of ‘09 (there was only 1 Android phone at that time) stating exactly why I thought Android was the next big platform. Now it IS the biggest platform.
Foursquare - One month after they launched I called Naveen (while he was still working out of a coffee shop) to say “let’s partner.” Pretty sure my next call with Dennis was in a coffee shop too. Fast forward to today… 20 million users, a $600 million valuation. On the other side - millions of dollars worth of partnership press, and 300,000 young/urban/social fans for a traditional brand (Zagat).
Augmented Reality - 6 months before Yelp’s “monocle”, I launched NRU — an augmented reality restaurant finder on Android. At PaidContent Mobile 2010 I called this a cool but gimmicky step 1 of AR, with step 2 being when we can bring AR to a lightweight wearable device with visual processing to compensate for GPS accuracy (Google AR Goggles anyone?). I still say even the Google AR glasses will be a little “too soon”. Maybe by version 3 or version 4 they’ll be in the right spot.
Foodspotting - I reached out to them at launch and built their first brand partnership. I could see Alexa and Ted were doing this right. 2 million users later, 1 million food photos later, and a ton of floundering copycats… I expect these guys to be a serious acquisition target of a larger player in the local space within the next year. No large company could realistically generate and collect these photos themselves… you need a very unique type of userbase to do this. Their photos are a valuable asset for anyone serious about taking on local food.
Flipboard - While some content providers panicked at launch, I helped curate and ensure content was feed smoothly when the app went public. 2010 App of the Year, 5 million users. And a traditional print brand gets front and center in the Food section of what would become the essential content consumption experience on tablets.
Ad Supported Android (Angry Birds!) - A few years ago at Harvard Business School I said the launch of an ad supported Angry Birds was the future of Android. Meanwhile many people were shocked a top selling iPhone app was being given away for free. The CEO of Angry Birds (Rovio) was in the audience and thanked me. Are these guys the next Zynga?
iPad - Fine, this was a no brainer to some. But you had to “believe” if you were crazy enough to decide on your own to produce an app in the period between Steve Job’s announcement speech and launch app submission day (less than 60 days). That app went on to be #33 on the all-time top selling iPad apps list.
Android Tablets would be DOA - I said these were not going to work any time soon because the reasons why Android would (and did) work does not apply to Android tablets. There was a lot of hype as they were in development and I remember Eric Schmidt holding one at some event to try to hype it up. I refused to spend any time developing for Android tablets. Turns out it was the right call.
Windows Phone Merger - At an Augmented Reality event in 2010, I said Microsoft will wait until after the holiday season, continue to see soft WP7 sales and either buy Nokia or RIM as their only way to force themselves into the market even though it still won’t work. I didn’t think it would happen 4 months later… I thought they might give it a second soft holiday season. Ultimately they all but purchased Nokia and killed what was the most widespread mobile OS in the world (Symbian, which I mourned since I owned a Psion PDA in middle school. The amazing multitasking OS that Psion ran would later be rebranded as Symbian). For the record, I said Nokia should just move to Android…
Two More Mobile Bets - I’m not saying what they are, but you should probably talk to me about Consmr if you are interested…
Whenever I go to a Manhattan Whole Foods on a whim there’s a 50% chance I pivot, turn around and leave. It’s the lines. They make IKEA lines on a Sunday look tame. Apparently everyone thinks to shop at the Union Square and Columbus Circle locations at the exact same time. We’ve all wondered if it’s worth it just for that one item you can’t easily get elsewhere. Of course, it’s a testament to the products they sell and the service they provide that we endure it (they apologized after I complained in a foursquare check-in).
Sometimes I turn it into a game. The gamble of whether the express or the large basket line will be faster. You’re thrilled when you’re right and you’re frustrated with every passing minute when you’re wrong.
Without giving it much thought I’ve said the solution was self checkout, especially during the lunchtime rush. No-brainer right? Everyone takes their soup and sandwich and pays for it themselves. Except, I’ve used two self checkouts recently with no success whatsoever. The problem? Poor user interface design. In an effort to prevent shrinkage and possibly to confuse zombies from buying food during the Zombieapocalypse, it seems that the modern efforts at self checkout are overly complicated. There are even a few markets removing self-checkout machines altogether. I wonder why?
I understand wanting to prevent theft, but chances are if someone is going to steal something they aren’t going to swipe their own credit card only to covertly not scan a candy bar. They’ll simply put the candy bar in their pocket and walk out in the first place.
One problem is the system of weights and measurements used to ensure what you’ve scanned is placed in the bag. It makes no sense to me. If I’ve scanned it, why should it matter where I put it? In the case of a 12 pack of soda, I’m going to carry it by hand or place it on a cart which is guaranteed to screw up that system. As I write this, I’m wondering the actual purpose of this requirement.
In the first of my recent experiences I tried self checkout with a single box of candy to avoid a long line. I don’t know what went wrong. One box, that’s it. I got some kind of error that required assistance. It said for me to wait for someone. I did. No one came. I really wanted that candy so I got back on the line. I wasn’t thrilled.
The second time was during the recent snowstorm. I’m cold, my feet are soaked from the slush, and I’m just trying to grab some essentials to wait out the storm. Magically, there’s some kind of weight issue that requires someone to come over. My patience is pretty limited at that point. You’re talking about someone who is in such a hurry they’d rather just scan it and bag it themselves to get the heck out of there. What happened after is for another blog post…
I guess Whole Foods is right. For now, we can’t even build a self-checkout that is easy to use. Their color coded line system will have to do. Looks like I need to buy more comfortable shoes and wait for the Siri-like voice to say Register, 17.
My dad just got an iPhone 4S as a gift from my family. He’s never been the most tech savvy person in the world. I for one was apprehensive about getting him a touchscreen smartphone given his Kindle is sitting in a drawer and his reliance on print newspapers. He insisted on showing me this thing called “Siri,” unaware that I’m fully familiar with the platform from their pre-Apple days.
He was primarily using Siri to conduct restaurant searches. For him it was easier and much more natural to just speak rather than go to the app store, find a restaurant app, download it, then manually search for a restaurant.
What might amount to the most important (but not the largest) deal in the digital food space happened behind closed doors without fanfare or a press release. That deal is the one between Apple (Siri) and Yelp.
If you used the old standalone Siri app, you would have seen restaurant and other small business results returned from Citysearch, Yelp, Gayot, OpenTable and others all mixed in. It was basically the equivalent of what you might get in a Google search result. Now with Siri in the iPhone 4S, your restaurant results are curated by one reviewer only; Yelp. Plenty of people will download apps, but for people like my father, they have an answer machine that tells them the weather, where to eat, and apparently has an answer to the meaning of life (ask it). Seeing it in action, I could easily see myself using it for simple searches and I used to design restaurant apps for a living! I suspect that local search and weather are the top two search uses for Siri.
What happened to those other restaurant review sources? Who knows. What I do know is that Yelp has taken a huge step in the mobile space. They’ve essentially cut off their competitors before they even had an opportunity to compete in voice search on iPhone. If Siri continues to catch on the way it has, I fully expect Voice Search to be a new competitive search platform. Everyone will want to rank, except this is a party few partners will be invited to in order to make it a better experience. People want answers, not a dozen sources that have answers.
If the restaurant listings start to go deeper than just the Yelp ratings, which is possible in the future, this essentially provides them with a vertical monopoly in voice search on the most ubiquitous device out there. It also ties Apple closely to Yelp in terms of their content strategy. A big player in mobile tying their strategy to a restaurant review platform… why does this sound familiar? Ultimately it was Apple that managed to make the first bold move.
Yesterday Robert Scoble shared that Google was launching a “Flipboard killer.” Kara Swisher then followed up with more details about the app, named Propeller – not to be confused with the AOL social news site. Considering that Google recently closed a similar web-based project in FastFlip, it’s interesting to see them getting right back on the saddle. Ultimately, if Google News has proven to be a popular destination for them then I can see why they want to get news right on a platform that shines for content consumption. It remains to be seen if this is just a fancy Google Reader (not necessarily a bad thing) or a curated experience.
Flipboard recently released stats showing just how dominant they are in the nascent tablet news aggregation space. I’m a fan of Flipboard, and I got Zagat on board as a launch partner, so I’m somewhat biased. But I see two very different style of tablet apps in this space; the curated experience and the organized RSS reader. I’m not sure which Google will pick to emulate. I hope they pick one and don’t go for a hybrid that does neither well.
I use Flipboard as a serendipitous news app. It’s a leisure app for me that I can use while sitting on the couch. In many ways it’s similar to a magazine because it is curated. Unless you’re managing one of Flipboard’s “channels,” you don’t realize it’s actually powered by a curated Twitter list. You’ll read some comparisons that News.me is curated and Flipboard is not. That’s not the case. With Flipboard you get a better content mix than just a pretty RSS feed.
On the other hand, there’s Pulse. Pulse is the other news aggregator tablet app that I use regularly. The difference here is that Pulse is all about RSS feeds. You populate it with your individual RSS feeds and swipe through to read all of the stories from that one particular site or source. When I’m looking to catch up on specific data and read every headline, particularly in social media and technology, I use Pulse. It doesn’t have the animated style of Flipboard, but it provides just a little more than your average reader to make feeds look organized but appealing.
So what will Propeller be? Will it be a Flipboard style curated magazine app? Or will it be a Pulse style organized version of Google reader? If it’s like Pulse, then I don’t think it’s a Flipboard killer at all. If people use Flipboard the way I use Flipboard, then I don’t see it taking significant share away from them. If it is ultimately a curated experience, then maybe there’s a real challenger to Flipboard after all.
Wondering why Livingsocial’s website is slow today? That’s because they’re running a Whole Foods special for $10 for $20 in groceries. It’s a shame it’s only 1 voucher per customer because otherwise we would be stocking up!
Today’s big news was about Google’s acquisition of Zagat. A ton of people have asked me to comment because of my former affiliation. A few nice folks think my efforts directly contributed to the acquisition (Wired’s article has some highlights under 21st-century). I appreciate the sentiment. Everything I say here is based on my own personal analysis. It’s really about Google and the restaurant space. I have no knowledge of the deal.
If you want back-story, take a look at Gary Vaynerchuk’s “Thank You Economy” (note: Gary became a partner of my company Consmr well after this was published). In the first chapter he details the evolution of Zagat. He even talks about how Zagat was able to “punch back” against the Yelps of the world thanks largely to the partnerships (Foursquare, Foodspotting) and products (iPhone, iPad, augmented reality) I spearheaded. It’s a good read and I encourage everyone interested in this story to look at his analysis to better understand how we got to today’s acquisition.
It turns out that the Google/Yelp deal falling through allowed two things happen; a brand Yelp was challenging in the restaurant space got a payday, and their rival just added the type of credibility that takes decades to acquire. Don’t cry for Yelp though; their impending IPO is sure to make a lot of folks in San Francisco very happy.
This was all about credibility. I can’t see Google going into the print guide business or the sale of corporate guides. Their efforts with print advertising did not yield the results they wanted. I don’t have to share any stats about the print world. Just look at the closing of Borders. Imagine if The Daily started a print version?
It’s also not about acquiring content either. Google Hotpot yielded 3 million ratings in a matter of months (1/5 of Yelp’s total at the time). If anything, it’s more about how to filter that content moving forward. Why would you choose one review provider over another? Credibility. Imagine if you could have Zagat poring over Google reviews from every city in the US? If you pair the Zagat brand with the strides being made by Google in local, then you add a layer of credibility that Google couldn’t hope to produce on their own. The Google Places window decal instantly acquires meaning. And when Google needs to pitch small businesses on signing up for their products or selling some product in, they’ll have new-found credibility on that front too.
I believe that through Google Maps and Places, eventually Google’s local content would become the standard on Android devices. With Motorola they could ship devices with their Places solution embedded everywhere. Their mobile web enhancements were just the toe in the water. And with Zagat they’ve shown how serious they are about local.
I went to the homepage of americanexpress.com and this is what I saw. I’m absolutely amazed by this. I think it was pretty cool to have worked on one of Foursquare’s earliest partnerships — but seeing Foursquare’s development since then come so far is astounding.
"Shoppers will go through the online research process for gum. It’s a process they’ve learned from researching the $40,000 SUV." – Jim Lecinski, Google’s Managing Director of US Sales & Service
The online habits of consumers have changed in the last few years. The same methodologies that consumers are using to research a TV or even a car are the same methods that users are employing at an increasing rate for everyday products like grocery items. You can see how conscious people are with review research over small decisions like a 99 cent iPhone app or even a free app (!!!). I saw the power of reviews when I managed a 10 dollar app I used to run.
Those are astounding numbers. It’s safe to say from this that the majority of consumers are now researching grocery, health, beauty and personal care products online, whether before going to the store or once in the store. I’m impressed because those consumers have dealt with what I’ve dealt with; fragmented sources of information.
One of the prototypical Zero Moments referenced is not surprisingly a “minivan mom” (their words not mine). Her son is sick, so she uses her smartphone to research a decongestant. She’s about to make the decision to buy it and where to buy it. What influences her? Seeing it has positive ratings and that her local store has a discount. It’s a slam dunk that the sale is going be made.
The Average Household spends $312 a month on groceries in 2010
That’s according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Simply put, the average family can’t afford to make the wrong decisions with groceries. Every so often someone will say something based on perception rather than fact like “Social is for high engagement products/services, not a $3.99 cereal,” I think two things. One, they haven’t bought a box of cereal in 10 years because I wish cereal was still $3.99. Two, they aren’t in the real world with the majority of the population who does have to consider that replacing a product means you have to spend over your budget. Here’s a pertinent example from ZMOT:
"I’ve got four boys and I’m at the grocery store five days a week and it’s just killing us. We’ve got college coming in a few years. I’ve got to start looking at how I’m spending my money."
Digital word of mouth
I often talk about the “new word of mouth” opportunity in the age of Twitter and Facebook. I now think this opportunity is better referred to as digital word of mouth. I love this quote from Wharton Professor Dave Reibstein:
"Digital word of mouth is one-to-millions. If you have a good experience, it’s shared and re-shared with millions. You post it and suddenly, it’s flying."
I talk to agencies and brands regularly and the savviest ones actually embrace the good and the bad reviews. That’s for a good reason. Bad reviews can actually legitimize and add authenticity to a conversation (just like nobody is perfect, no product is perfect). And if your product is good, it’s going to stand on its own.
"Negative reviews increase conversion rates… because people know they’re shopping in a truthful environment."
-Brett Hurt, CEO Baazarvoice
How this affects women
In my experience I get two types of reactions that split down gender lines when I explain what our long term goal is for Consmr. Men say “I could definitely use that” and women says “that’s GREAT! I REALLY need that!” Why the discrepancy? I have theories around the different types of fast moving consumer goods we buy, but ZMOT points to the idea that the way in which women share online is very different than men.
"Women have deep, deep sharing habits: product reviews, articles they’re forwarding, conversations, discussion boards…"
Along those lines, the Chief Marketing Officer for General Mills (Mark Addicks) spoke about the research his team has done in grocery stores. They’ve watched moms go into the grocery store and “pull out their phone and start looking online.” What are they doing? Things like looking for recipes and comparison shopping for cheaper brands.
The choice of a new generation
Ultimately, the recurring theme and central emphasis in ZMOT is that research habits around consumer packaged goods are now significant. No one is saying that people are searching more for cars. That’s pretty much at the saturation point. It’s that a new category has emerged. And if there is anyone who knows people’s evolving search intents, it’s Google.
Try the gray stuff. It’s delicious! Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!
If you’re following this blog, you probably know my background. I spent the last few years pushing forward in the review and mobile worlds. Whether it was building partnerships with Foursquare and Foodspotting, or trying to bridge the gap between the print and mobile world with the iPhone and iPad, I always believed in solving problems through technology and social media. Mobile and social helps me all the time from what restaurant to which movie (thanks RottenTomatoes & Flixster!).
Despite the recession, in New York we saw the growth of stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods with thousands of new brands and organic products I’ve never seen before. On a related note, The Wall Street Journal and Google showed dramatic growth statistics in digital research for Consumer Packaged Goods post 2008.
So why did I start Consmr? One weekend I visited my sister so I could spend time with my infant niece. During the course of the day, we realized her diapers were leaking (insert “EWWWW”). Turns out it was a new diaper she had purchased at a warehouse club. There was nothing to help her with that purchase decision, and now we’re paying for it in the worst of ways. I couldn’t laugh because I’m the same guy who bought vanilla flavored mouthwash. On that day I learned that vanilla doesn’t belong in anything other than ice cream and *maybe* a really good recipe for sweet potatoes. Ultimately you’re talking about money wasted, bad experiences, and having to spend money again to buy replacements.
I recently watched someone buy a $14 bottle of lotion at a local Manhattan drugstore. I asked the woman about it because we were developing Consmr. It turns out, that’s how much you pay for the “nice” brand lotion. There were alternatives… some cheaper… but after previously buying a subpar one she’s opting for the expensive one. Trial and error are still a big part of purchasing products. How can we help her find that cheaper but still effective lotion that won’t make her skin oily?
When my sister wanted to research a baby product in-store, there wasn’t an obvious option. There’s fragmented info out there on blogs or a top product lists you could bring up on your phone, but it’s not in a searchable, sortable, comparable form. And I like to hear the voice of the people. I would want to know the majority of people who tried this product liked it or found it effective.
I set out to build a resource that would help with all of this; to help people rate, share, and discover products. There are millions of products out there, and I want the world’s opinion on all of them.
I’m crawling out of my cave temporarily for Internet Week… here’s the fun stuff I’m participating in.
Tuesday, 1:30PM - Social Food Apps At the Internet Week HQ you’ll see a discussion about new apps that help you make decisions about what to do when your wallet is out; whether you’re at the grocery store or sitting down for a gourmet meal. Anyone with an HQ pass can attend and it will also be livestreamed. This isn’t about apps that help you find the places to eat or stores to buy from, it’s about the apps that tell you what you should or shouldn’t get once you’re there! Participants: Foodspotting, Eat This Not That, Grubster, and Snooth. I’ll kick things off and then leave it to these guys.
Wednesday, 12PM - The Future of Food Reviewing I was asked to moderate the panel The Future of Food Reviewing for the Food 2.0 Track because I no longer have any horses in that race. The panel and event is curated by the good folks at Food And Tech Connect. I just ask the questions, but it should be fun. Participants - Yelp, Bizzy, Flavorize, Tasting Table, and Foodspotting
I was hoping to figure out how to disable Gmail’s new “feature” called Also Include. Why? Because it just doesn’t work and it’s a distraction to me. If Google’s Instant Search was all about saving a few precious seconds, then this feature nullifies that time saving.
Why the ire for Also Include? First, it’s a distraction. Every time I type someone’s name it pops up out of no where. Humans are hardwired to notice when little things appear out of no where (I believe it’s related to how we perceive movement at a distance). So I’m slowed down every time the also include shows up. It’s always useless. I know who I’m emailing. I didn’t forget anyone.
My second problem? There are major logic flaws. For one, it derives a portion of the logic from the BCC field. Here’s the scenario. I’ll give everyone fake names.
I email Jack and Eric, and BCC Jill. Jack and Eric have no idea that Jill was on the email.
That’s the whole point of BCC.
When I email Jill, Gmail’s Also Include is telling me to add Jack and Eric.
Um, no. They’ve never knowingly been on a thread.
Here’s another flaw. Let’s say your best friend “Susie” dated “Mike” up until a year ago, when they broke up. Now whenever I email Susie, it wants to email Mike. I haven’t emailed Mike in a year. Even deleting every single email that contained Susie AND Mike together doesn’t stop Mike from showing up as a suggestion on every email to Susie.
Gmail has some great features, including the “undo” and the forgot attachment reminder (which I’ve never seen, but have heard about). Also include, unfortunately, needs some major fine-tuning.
Ultimately, Google will want to handle the mobile payments themselves. How do they do that? Do they use Google Checkout? Stores would need to accept that as a payment method through an NFC station… and even then it’s just routing back through the same big credit card companies. That doesn’t help them. Do they partner and lose the full value? Do the partners even want Google in the mix? What is Apple doing? What are the banks doing? This is a much more complex issue than it might seem at face value.
I suggested that Google would not use Google Checkout or their own payment system since they don’t have the infrastructure of the existing big credit card companies and that their only option is to evaluate a partnership and lose full value. Today, the Wall Street Journal announced Google is doing exactly that.
“Google is teaming up with MasterCard and Citigroup to… allow consumers to make purchases by waving their smartphones.” “Google isn’t expected to get a cut of the transaction fees.” -WSJ
By Google not getting a cut of the transaction fees, that’s the loss of “full value” that I mentioned. Google is forgoing a lucrative cut of transactions in exchange for utilizing the existing credit card and banking infrastructure. This is consistent with Google being true to their advertising roots. Just like Android, they waived fees on the platform so that they could reap the mobile advertising benefits. The claim in the article is that Google will have your purchase information and can sell advertising and supply promotional discounts based on that data. I will get into the privacy issues associated with that another day. The key point is that they opted for the path of least resistance and one that is very much in tune with the company.
I believe Apple will take the opposite approach. With iTunes, they already have a tremendous financial network and industry clout. I believe that Apple will in fact take a cut of the transaction fees as they essentially have the largest hub of credit cards (200 million) online and run transactions into the billions of dollars. Google doesn’t have this kind of leverage with the banks and issuers.
When Apple announces their NFC payment system, I see one of two things happening. Either they go strictly for the cut and forgo the advertising component (which is not their forte anyway), or they double dip. I strongly think it’s the former and they just take a cut.
Why just the cut and not build the advertising component? Just like Google’s modus operandi is advertising, this approach is in line with Apple. It’s the App Store model and their new subscriptions model where they take a 30% cut. So far the jury is still out on iAds, so why jump head first into a nascent advertising space that is likely to have privacy concerns and require a sales force or sales infrastructure that they would need to build?
Let’s examine the double dip scenario. I’m not sure Apple would build the advertising component on their own. Similar to their iAd acquisition with Quattro, I believe they’d acquire a company that has already built an ad system around NFC payments. I’m not sure one exists, but if it did it would be in Japan built around the FeliCa RFID payment system. Still, this double dip is highly unlikely more so because of the privacy issues. Apple does not want to be embroiled in what will likely be a controversial form of advertising. There’s little chance of a perfect ad partner in the NFC space as of today. If the double dip scenario happens, it will be in the future after Apple has watched the successes and failures of Google in the space and then tries to build a better mousetrap.
Ultimately Apple and Google will go their own way with mobile payments and while at it stay true to themselves.
Netflix on Android & iPhone: Is Windows Phone 7 your only hope?
The mobile industry moves so fast that today’s plan is tomorrow’s trash. What’s also apparent is that each mobile platform’s approach is both providing and constraining user choice at the same time.
Thanks to recent developments, if you’re a Netflixuser and you own a smartphone you may be out of luck. What’s affecting iPhone and Android Netflix users? Two recent announcements about subscription billing and mobile processor exclusivity.
Android Users: You’ve been wondering where in the world is your Netflix for Android. It’s on iPhone. It’s on Windows Phone 7 even. But millions of US Android users are forced to wait with no announced date in sight. Well, you could be waiting forever. Qualcomm and Netflix announced at this week’s Mobile World Congress that Netflix will arrive on Android for new phones that ship with Qualcomm’s second generation Snapdragon chip.
If you own any existing Android phone, you’re out of luck. No Netflix for you. Don’t feel too bad though. If someone goes to a store today and buys a top of the line Android phone, they’ll have a shiny new phone that can’t watch Netflix either.
Unlike the comment in the CNET article, I don’t believe the average Android user will need to know what chip is in their phone. I believe from an Android Market level the app will not show up for users on certain devices.
So Android users, give up hope for Netflix anytime soon. Even if Netflix later decided to release an alternative app that doesn’t use the Snapdragon 2 chipset, Qualcomm most certainly has at least a 6 month exclusivity window on the Netflix app. Remember how Skype was exclusively on the Verizon Android phones for 6 months?
Android owners, misery loves company. You may yet be joined by your iPhone carrying friends. Apple’s announcement regarding subscription apps could easily impact Netflix as well. Besides a requirement of adding Apple’s new in-app subscription service, there’s additionally a requirement that pricing must be the same across all platforms. There’s speculation that Netflix and others would be forced to potentially remove their apps from the iOS ecosystem because of the limited margins that the all-you-can-eat media apps have like Rhapsody and Netflix.
Netflix could be faced with two options; raise prices, which would have to be across ALL Netflix platforms, or remove their iOS app and send everyone to a web app on those platforms (that is a very much viable option and the Netflix iPad app is essentially a skin for their website anyway). I doubt they would raise prices, and without special exemption, they will face a tough choice.
So it’s possible that every current iPhone and Android user could be out of luck when it comes to a native Netflix app on their smartphones. Right now there’s only one smartphone platform with neither a chip issue nor a revenue-sharing issue involving Netflix… Windows Phone 7. WP7 has a native Netflix app and has none of the potential Netflix issues. Of course this could change, as I started things out by saying how quickly mobile moves. But it is funny how this worked out for Microsoft.
Dear Amazon Android Market – So Long and Thanks For All The Books
It’s official, the Amazon Android Market has no hope of helping premium Android developers.
I’ve been hoping for an alternative to the Android Market which, despite the sales volume of Android, generates a fraction of the sales that iTunes does. I welcomed the Amazon Android market because they would likely fix all of the issues that the Google Android Market suffers from AND have the power of an e-commerce account with widespread adoption (just like iTunes).
Today, Amazon announced the availability for developers to submit their applications to their Android market. There’s one gigantic caveat though… Amazon can price YOUR app at whatever price THEY want. The price will never exceed your suggested retail price (“List Price”). Huh?
Let’s take a look at Amazon’s Developer License agreement, section 5g:
g. Our Operations.We have sole discretion to determine all features and operations of this program and to set the retail price and other terms on which we sell Apps.
Amazon will use a variety of market factors to determine what price it wants to use, and you get a 70% cut of the proceeds of each sale (which is the industry standard). In the event that Amazon steeply discounts your application, or offers it for free, you’re guaranteed to get 20% of the List Price.
So if I’m Rovio (Angry Birds), or MLB, or any of the developers that generate million dollar revenues from their app sales, does Amazon really think that those companies are going to let them set the value of their apps… even to free?
Even worse, Amazon can undercut the price of your apps on Android as well as on other platforms like iPhone and Windows Phone 7. What if a customer buys an app on the Android Market, then goes to Amazon market and sees that it’s free. Now you’re stuck with a 1 star review from an angry customer that says they were robbed, and a negative hit on your company’s reputation.
I pronounce the Amazon Android Market dead on arrival.
Android Market Changes: Everything But What We Needed
As someone who started in December of ‘08 working on an Android app, before there was even a paid app store, clearly I saw the reasons why Android would be successful. It still amazes me though how little has changed with the Android Market since then.
The recent changes to the Android market still miss many of the basic issues and concerns that continue to make the iPhone “the” platform for premium (paid) app developers. I’m not going to applaud changes like making the app description longer than a measely 350 characters when that could have been changed almost 2 years ago. It’s still welcome, but it’s not nearly enough.
Today’s big news is the addition of carrier billing from AT&T to the Android Market. It seems like progress but it has little hope of moving the needle. AT&T is the one carrier whose carrier billing doesn’t matter for Android. AT&T has always had the smallest market share on Android and the most limited Android device selection. And with the iPhone, who is really buying Android on AT&T? I once spent two days convincing a friend that for her specific needs, she should get the Galaxy S class AT&T device (the Captivate). She agreed. Three days later I found out she walked into the store, saw the iPhone 4 and left with it only minutes later.
Despite Android sales surpassing iPhone sales, cross-platform developers know that paid Android app sales are a fraction of paid iPhone app sales. There are a myriad of reasons and theories behind this (Apple has had your credit card for years with iTunes, their marketplace is organized sensibly and has a desktop browser, the aggregate audience is still much larger on iOS, the Android audience makeup is different, etc). I still believe one major issue is trying to peck out a credit card number and your home address into a phone. You really have to “want” that first paid app if you’re going to buy it on Android. If you can discover it.
To me, AT&T carrier billing isn’t big news. Big news would be universal carrier billing from Verizon. That would mean the huge Android install base from Verizon would have access to seamless purchases on the Android Market. Realistically, that will never happen… at least not in the Android Market. Verizon has their own VCast app store with carrier billing and would be unlikely to add that to the generic Android Market. The best hope there would be for Verizon to retroactively update their old devices to include the VCast App Store. Actually, if that happens then that’s a great growth prospect for premium app developers already invested in the Android platform. Anyone remember why ringtones were so successful?
Another remaining concern is the byzantine sorting system Google uses for the Android market. Most people don’t realize that it is not a top sales/download list. See my previous post on the Black Box algorithm that Google uses. How did Windows Phone 7 get the sorting right and Android in 2 years still can’t? At a minimum, provide manual sorting options like “Most popular” or “Top Rated.” Give users some way to see a true sort of applications. If you look at the top paid apps, in certain categories it just makes no sense whatsoever.
My guess as to the holdup? I believe Google doesn’t want to show the drastic before and after picture when there’s a shakeup in the Android Market rankings. My advice to Google is to hurry up and rip off the band-aid. When you explain you’ve moved to default sorting based on actual sales and downloads, no one will complain because it’s a fair, transparent system. The Google run Android Market has a real chance of being replaced altogether by carrier specific stores or alternative markets. Now even Amazon is getting into the picture. I say good luck to them, but I also know that I’ve argued since last year that Google should have partnered with Amazon for payments from the very beginning. Besides iTunes, what other “account” tied to billing is everyone guaranteed to have? Amazon.
Until these issues are resolved I will continue to advocate that premium app developers stay or start with iOS unless they’re a smash-hit game and can monetize through advertising (see Angry Birds). If you want to develop a free app, well that’s an entirely separate blog post…
I’ve linked a couple of write ups below on the MESA Augmented Reality panel. This is the second augmented reality event that I’ve had the pleasure of participating in with Professor Feiner of Columbia University. There isn’t much that we’re doing today that he hasn’t done over the past 20 years. Just instead of carrying a computer on your back, it’s now powered by a smartphone.
If you’ve read my blog, you know I mourned the death of the Google Nexus One.
If you’ve read my Twitter you know I created a trending topic about Gingerbread when I mistakenly thought I was receiving Android 2.3 but instead was a two part 2.2 update (sorry again).
So clearly I’m interested in the Android platform, and in fact have an absolutely slick looking new version of my Android app coming out next month.
But Google is allowing misinformation to circulate.
I’ve been promoting the almost there prospects of RFID and Near Field Communication (NFC) since the middle of last year, so I have an interest in where this field is going. When I heard about the Nexus S shipping with NFC built in, I was excited to say the least. If you do a Google Search for Nexus S and Mobile Payments, you’ll get tons of articles from the AP all the way to niche Android blogs. Everyone seems to believe that on December 16th, they can buy a phone that makes mobile payments. Those people would be wrong. It won’t make payments on December 16th 2010. And depending on the hardware, it might not make payments on December 16th 2011 either.
The RFID reader as it’s currently shipping in the Google Nexus S, is just that - a reader. It’s read-only. No data is transmitted from the phone to an RFID sensor. This was confirmed by Simon Wilson, an engineer at Google, during this video.
What does this mean? If your phone can’t transmit data as part of the NFC transmission, then it can’t identify itself as your phone… as your credit card, etc. There is no data going from your phone to another RFID sensor. Your phone is only pulling data back. So your brand new Nexus S offers nothing but a cool bar code scanner when it comes to NFC.
Google is making no efforts to correct the incorrect assumptions and statements. To be fair, all Google has actually said is that Android 2.3 Gingerbread OS supports mobile payments, not that the Nexus S can actually deliver on mobile payments. Remember when Eric Schmidt responded to a question about why it was claimed there was no Nexus S by saying it was stated there was “no Nexus 2, not Nexus S.” Still, I can’t help but feel they’re letting people believe something that isn’t true.
I can’t wait to see read/write chips in Android and iPhone (speculating based on US patent 20090167699) in the near future. But there’s nothing “near” with the Near Field Communication in the Nexus S.
Okay this is my second try at this (epic Tumblr fail: next time, Tumblr should make sure that they allocate all resources to saving posts in progress when the site is crashing).
Big thanks to the folks involved with the Harvard Business School Cyberposium. The mobile apps panel was a huge success, and I was humbled and thrilled to be invited to represent consumer products in the mobile app world. I met several HBS students excited about the mobile space, and a few great execs from Verizon, Microsoft, NGmoco, and of course Rovio (Angry Birds!). In fact, I got a preview of their soon to be launched plush line for Christmas. Will this be the new Zhu Zhu Pet for 2010…?