Facebook Deals launches in Europe

Facebook Deals, similar to Foursqaure’s Check-In Offers, launches in Europe from Monday 31st Jan. One of the first up is Argos, who are using it for charity donations. The first 10,000 people to check in through Facebook Places will see £1 each being donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust. With 1/3rd of the company’s sales coming through their website, and 60,000 plus fans on Facebook, it looks like Argos will find their 10,000 check-in’s pretty quickly.

Whilst the Argos deal is the most high profile, other brands including Debenhams, O2, Alton Towers and Mazda are also taking iniatives. YoSushi! who are offering 5 free plates and a drink for those checking in to selected restaurants. At a time when retail sales are taking a plunge in the UK, Facebook Deals may help drive some business back to the high street.

iPhone 5 to have NFC (Contactless Payments)

All the signs are there that the next iPhone will include contactless:

  1. Richard Doherty, director of consulting firm Envisioneering Group who work on NFC hardware, told Bloomberg that the next iPhones/iPads will have NFC.
  2. AppleInsider has discovered that Apple this week put out a call for an engineer with NFC experience.
  3. Apple filed a number of NFC related patents in 2010.

Aside from all these signs, NFC makes a lot of sense for Apple. At the moment their itunes store pays massive transaction charges for purchases bought on credit cards. Though highly profitable, it would be much cheaper for Apple to see more NFC payments which would debit a bank account and reducing their transaction costs. Google have already added NFC to their Nexus S, but the addition of a contactless iPhone will make the technology almost inevitable.

The infrastructure of contactless is appearing in many countries – aside from Japan and Korea who have had contactless phones for years, the US now has 750,000 contactless payment terminals. In the UK similar NFC devices are being rolled out in numerous shops and restaurants where there are 42,500 contactless payment points. Barclaycard and Everything Everywhere (Orange and T-Mobile) re-announced their plans to deliver a contactless handset from April 2011. With the payment technology added to phones there technological barriers to contactless will be removed. Of course, there is still one big ‘if’ with the whole – will users want to adopt it? It looks like the handset manufacturers (and banks and operators) are assuming they will. However, mobile is littered with technologies that users weren’t interested in (in spite of Face Time, how many people actually make a video call?). When it comes to NFC payments the big question from users will be security. How easy will it be for someone to get hold of my money?

It’s the NFC Shoe! Utterly Brilliant or Totally Stupid?

I really can’t make up my mind whether this is the best or the worst idea ever. It’s the NFC shoe. Fashion house WeAretheSuperlativeConspiracy (there’s a catchy name if I ever heard one), have embeded an RFID chip into a shoe. It allows the wearer to walk over pads to trigger a number of actions: take a photo and send it to Flickr, add a friend to Facebook. I’ve never been one for wearable technology – most of them make people look stupid, but this has the advantage of being invisible. Given that the next couple of years will be big for contactless, maybe, just maybe the contactless shoe will catch on.

Read more here

Google Local Search: is this how they will get into social media?

So far, Google’s attempts at social media have been something of a failure. Google Buzz annoyed many people and was seen as a breach of privacy. Latitude had the same problem. When it comes down to it, Google are a search company and not a social media company. However their focus on local search as led to an interesting new product. Hotpot shows recommendations on Google maps. Now they have added a function to see your friends local recommendations. This could be a good idea. We often value our friends recommendations so why not include them in their maps? It’s not a fully fleged social network a la Facebook, but nonetheless this could be their way in. It will be available in the web and Android versions of their maps. More info here.

When it comes to location, SCVNGR may have got it right

A while back, I argued that Foursquare is not social media at all, but it’s actually a game. Yes, it has the tools of social media, but when you look at how people interact with it, it’s the gaming element of becoming mayor that keeps users engaged. There’s an interesting interview with (the very geeky) CEO of SCVNGR (what have they got against vowels?) explaining the difference between what they are doing and the Gowalla/Foursquare approach. The key difference is the challenge element and making each check-in different. When you consider that this is actually what keeps the Foursquare users engaged, the it looks like SCVNGR have nailed it.

You can view the interview here:

Where do AdMob’s 2 billion daily requests come from?

The Google Mobile mobile ads blog has given some insight into the countries that generate the most traffic to their mobile Ad network, AdMob. The 80:20 rule still seems to apply, with just 17 countries out of 190 served, providing 80% of the traffic. Whilst North America is the biggest region, Asia takes second place, with Europe in third. Surprisingly India saw the most ads served in Asia. Although the country has a large mobile population, it is generally represented by lower end handsets and small data usage. However this shows the trend towards more smartphones and a growing middle class population. In Europe, the UK represented 1/3rd of advertising traffic, with France and then Germany some way behind.

With 1000% rises in traffic in some territories, Google predicted that 2011 would be a ‘break-out year for mobile’. It looks like mobile advertising has really come of age.

M&S mobile site sees 1m+ uniques per day

Proof that mobile retail is the next big thing, M&S have announced that their mobile site saw over 1m unique visitors per day in December. Whilst high street retail sales were decimated in the last month of 2010, it looks like those brands with mobile sites were doing very nicely thank you. Sienne Veit, M&S’s head of mobile said: ‘We’re delighted, as this is confirmation that our customers are ready to shop in this way’. Whilst they haven’t released any sales figures the indication is that shoppers are ready to buy through their mobile. Increasingly the mobile site is the one that customers choose to visit at home, using their smartphones in preference to their PCs.

Starbucks offers Mobile Payments to Customers

In a very interesting move, Starbucks has introduced a mobile phone payment system to over 6,000 of their US stores. Customers with a Starbucks card can use a mobile app to make a payment on the card. They simply show a barcode at the till and the payment is taken. They can top up their card via PayPal.

With the world of mobile retail hotting up, there will be greater demand from consumers to make payments through their phones. However, there is a battle going on between various providers. In the UK the operators put their energy into PSMS and the web-based system PayForIt. However these payment methods have a limited future. It limits the kinds of things that can be paid for (mobile or web content only) and the high operator charges make it prohibitive for many brands. Looking ahead the future is likely to be in contactless or NFC payments, however outside Japan and Korea it has not taken off yet. Even in NFC there is likely to be a battle between operators, handset manufacturers and credit card companies for control of the channel.

So in the meantime brands are using their own payment methods. The iPhone appstore demonstrated how registered users could quickly make a payment against an existing credit card, which has extended into retail with the likes of Amazon’s one click payment system. Various providers have played with their own mobile payment systems, but few of them had the reach for it to take off. The move by Starbucks is significant though: 20% of their US transactions are made on the card. Given the large number of outlets from Starbucks their mobile payment system has a good chance of taking off.

Yet more reasons why QR won’t take off

I’ve previously blogged on the problem with QR codes in the UK and Europe. Essentially the issue is about effort vs reward – most campaigns fail to make enough compelling uses of QR to get people scanning them. Two QR campaigns this week provide yet another example of why QR isn’t working. The Indian airline Jet Airways has launched a campaign which uses QR in their in-flight magazine and on Facebook to provide more information to their customers. There’s nothing wrong with that as an aim, but it would seem that all the QR code does is takes the user to their mobile site. Why bother? For starters if I’m on Facebook I’d rather just click a link to take me to further content, and if I’m reading a magazine I’ll just put the URL or do a search for a mobile site. It’s faster and it works better. Jet Airways are looking to extend the use of the codes to their e-tickets. But again, if it just takes users to their mobile site, what’s the point?

How could Jet Airways use QR in a more compelling way? It would be great if my e-ticket had a personal QR code. Scanning that would show me my flight details and perhaps travel details such as the current traffic status, or trains that arrive at the airport in time for my checkin. Maybe I could scan the code and access my own information? Perhaps I could amend the number of checkin bags, or change my inflight meal? Or maybe I could scan the code to get a voucher for a free coffee at one of the over-priced airport cafes? That’s the great thing about QR, it can contain up to 700 words in one little 25mm code. And they can be personalised.

Another campaign that popped up was a trailer for the film The Mechanic. It’s vaguely intriguing. A minute into the film a QR code briefly pops up. If you manage to stop the trailer at the right point and scan the code (not easy), it takes you to another video. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what that video is, because it didn’t work on an iPhone. Nor an Android phone. There’s nothing worse than poor user experience to drive people away from mobile campaigns.

Ultimately the problem with these campaigns is that they will actually increase the likely hood that people won’t use QR codes. All they will do is reinforce the idea that QR is pointless and it doesn’t work. Now is the time for brands to use QR in an exciting, compelling way.