Heads Up: Google Just Invented The Mobile Browser

Self-driving cars? Hot-air balloon Internet-delivery? Alchemy-tech projects from Google X’s laboratory. Now, finally the Mountain View scientists launch a moonshot project that has immediate impact on our mobile economy: the invention of the mobile browser.

Google X’s ability to “stream” app functionality without requiring the user to download the heavy app chassis is a watershed technology. It is the first step in delivering the mobile browser content experience we, the diehard mobile consumers deserve.wheel

It also is the first salvo on the sanctity of the App Store, in the same way that streaming music services are forcing iTunes to reinvent its business model and Wi-Fi in the car is the death knell for satellite radio subscription services.

When you click the “stream” link on nine beta app partners, including the Weather Channel, Hotels Tonight and The New York Subway, the content will render in the cloud (as it does on Google’s Chromebook). The phone simply pulls down the resulting visual data from the Google virtual computing platform.

Of course, this does not mean that the app store is about to crumble and vanish. However, for anyone with an app strategy and that are contemplating how to leverage the app store, this may steer resources or, at the very least, have them thinking about the browser as a viable destination for further development.

Invention Of The Browser

“Invention of the mobile browser?” you ask. “We all have a super-app called a browser on our phone.” Well you are correct. There is a search portal on billions of phones globally that opens up mobile-friendly responsive media to a small-screen consumer.

Chrome, Firefox, Opera Mini and Safari lead the phone-top browser wars. However, for the iOS an “open” browser does not provide a market advantage. The open browser search portal has been outgunned by the marketing muscle of Apple. It knows all too well that content-sells-hardware, and the company that can show more apps exploding from its billboards wins.

I have always said the Apple SDK for its App Store is the best marketing investment the company ever made (outside of the legal dollars it spent on patent grandstanding).

The fact that Apple (and grudgingly Android and even more grudgingly Windows) has a segregated digital portal of mobile apps (many clunky, forever updating, getting lost in folders and soon forgotten after the impulse download) seems to be an accepted evil.

Many apps are built using web technology like PhoneGap or React Native, packaged as a native app (with considerable complexity) and being live-streamed back into web search (with considerable complexity). Unquestionably, Apple has an unnatural chokehold on content distribution.

Apple has fought back offering Bluetooth shopping beacons that tether the native app to bricks-and-mortar shopping. However, many CMOs are unaware that the mobile browser can be tied to the store Wi-Fi and used as a powerful beacon leveraging SMS to drive the proximal consumer into deals and other rich media.

It is clear that Apple doesn’t want to give up its content control to the universal browser. Losing its lock on the app store would be an attack on its big data strategy and market differentiation, ultimately loosening its walled-garden hold on the consumer.

Heavyweight To Featherweight Champion

Google’s ability to “stream” app functionality (without requiring the user to download the heavy app) is presently seen by the app developer community as a great “preview” opportunity. Audiences can find and taste test their apps via a simple search. However, ultimately this has to be Google’s first attack on the legitimacy or outright pragmatism of many heavy app downloads.

Initially Streaming Apps are limited to Wi-Fi connect devices due to the large amount of data transferred in a virtual rendering. However, it is a stepping stone to completely rethinking the traditional web application.

New technology frameworks, such as AngularJS, enable the retailer’s development team to build powerful and compelling user interfaces — this front-end spit shine is the hallmark of the native mobile app. As the mobile browser matures to allow a slick user interface on the phone top, the server development becomes simpler. Using App Engine Data store access and OAuth authentication, developers can focus on business logic instead of backend technology.

The first phase is tying native apps to browser-based search. Google has gone to great lengths to get its app community to “index” its content to be searchable and allow for deep links. Google now can search inside the app for retail deals and news.

Second, is the ability to view a rich app experience through the browser without the usual slimmed down, reductive UI of the browser. Initially the streaming data will not be optimized but as developers see this as an opportunity to become more searchable and more accessible without mandating the multi-megabyte initial download to the phone, they will design for cloud functionality.

While the service may appear to cannibalize the market for app developers, there is an inevitable shift in the way mobile consumer finds data. The streaming app maybe a half step as my developer friends tout: it is part of an evolution. The power of mobile CPUs, newer web technologies, local storage as well as fantastic performance debug tools in Google Chrome have enabled new web apps to closely match the potential of native for many applications.

Perhaps the native app is soon to be the vinyl of the phonetop.

Social: Shouting so loud, we lose our voice!

We tend to be nostalgic about the past. Media and news are good examples. We often romance the content and integrity of publications and television outlets. However, the vast majority of us have always consumed our world through one-line headlines and conversations overheard, often misquotes or dubiously represented.

Perhaps contemporary social media is simply a celebration of this human penchant for thin data and lots of it.

Social Haiku

Twitter became successful because of its wonderful ability to tap into Churchillian sound bites. It made people quotable and, most importantly, consumable. We – read as I – spend gobs of time in Wi-Fi-enabled cafés, fashioning that perfect sharable, letter-pinching constrained line.

The Facebook post, Instagram image and Snapchat story, has moved the Tupperware home or water-cooler office flow of ideas and information into a digital version on an incredibly large scale. Like a global game of tag-your-it, social memes rise and fall. The Web is now a news barometer with headlines reading, “Twitter’s Highs on the Presidential Debate” or “Tweet Storm on Jose Bautista’s Bat Flip.”

We should not be surprised with the Pew research results on news consumption.
Sixty-four percent of United States adults use Facebook, and a whopping half of those users get their news there and nowhere else. That means that more than 30 percent of the general population gets their news from a social media network. When you add YouTube at 10 percent, Twitter’s 8 percent share and Reddit’s 2 percent, it is not surprising that traditional media outlets are under siege.

There is further pressure from news-entertainment platforms such as John Oliver’s This Week Tonight. Mr. Oliver has taken over the leadership role of the Daily Show, which along with the satirical publication, The Onion, managed to create a new category of reductive and highly consumable news content. Search the “Daily Show” on Google or Verizon, AOL TV or TiVo and the warning reads that it is “not a news program and only uses newsworthy stories as a jumping-off point.”

So where does the average consumer find “newsworthy stories”? Incumbent news publications and broadcasters are losing their audience and, without eyeballs, ad revenue has drained from the physical and digital pages and channels.

While a few content providers are able to command a paywall, the vast majority of news providers are desperately trying to diversify, sign partnerships with Facebook and Twitter for distribution and advertising, generally sliding down a greased skid to irrelevancy.

For the publisher that cannot repatriate the power game and own the relationship with the consumer, it will have to hang tight to its brand in the hope that the consumer will remember it within a generation.

Lost art of thinking

But can social media provide the same value proposition as our incumbent news media?

A hashtag can attempt to sew together ideas and trends. However, while good for a chatroom environment, it is a challenge to focus discussion and hard to drive editorial content and oversight.

Twitter has defiantly fought to hold to its 140-character constrained tweet. While powerful for one-liners and hyperlink, it is ill suited for narrative. Because of this limitation, Twitter has become a Bitly to longer articles and thoughts dotted about the Web.

Reductive sharing is ubiquitous across social. Whether its adding a “Je Suis Paris” filter to your profile picture on Facebook, upvoting a meme on Reddit, or uploading an infographic on Pinterest, the conversation is horizontal and there is no structured editorial oversight.

When social readers want more roughage, there are longer-form social platforms – the Mediums, WordPress and Tumblrs that offer a microphone to reader and writers.

While these long-form social tools democratize publishing, they continue to undermine the incumbent punishing infrastructure – similar to self-publishing on Amazon, undercutting the author/agent/publisher vetting process and creating a marketing place challenging for a reader to navigate.

There must be more.

Unquestionably, social media provides profound value. It has given rise to citizen journalism and defiantly fought for the right to challenge the status quo.
However, in the process, it has weakened the strength of the editorial voice. I discussed this issue with my colleague, Ethan Zimmerman at MIT, the democratization of news. How each person now can be instrumented for information. A citizen can even carry a biosensor kit with herself so a person in London can report information on pollution and a person in Fukushima on nuclear levels. We all become content beacons. It is as if a person is an Internet-of-Things thing.

We have the ability to access the raw news data. The challenge is the curation of this data and the discovery of this data.

“People are hardwired to pay attention to the people who are in our inner circle,” Mr. Zimmerman said. “It’s one of the strongest and best-documented social forces. We pay attention to the people to those who are in our immediate social network.”

Conversely, we tune out information and opinions from outside this circle.
While this is not a new phenomenon – a Republican reads the New Republic and a Democrat reads The Nation – our circles become ever smaller with fewer external experts to guide the dialogue.

Reintroducing an expert

There are tools that help brands and publications aggregate this content: Storify, Rebel Mouse, Mass Relevancy. They cherry-pick the past. I call this forensic social. These are powerful platforms but they are more archival and less editorial.

These tools tell an effective story about a brand’s past and the ability to moderate their present. However, they do not let the brand editorialize their future.

For many publications and brands creating new content socially is dangerous. A publication may throw in a Disqus platform to capture its readers’ comments below its curated content seemingly to play lip service to a social voice.
A brand may actively manage a hashtag. However, there is noise on the Web that brands often find daunting to navigate.

Shelly Palmer, a tech blogger based in New York, wrote very pointedly in response to social hate posts: “The good information must be programmed better than the bad information, and it must be propagated in overwhelming amounts. We can select the social media world we want to live in and social-engineer our way back to safety.”

So how can we structure social to be a little smarter? We have models in the physical world that we seem to respect and continue to support.
For example, when we go to an industry conference, the content chair has arranged a keynote and a few panels on relevant topics, maybe a fireside chat with a pundit.

From TedTalks to a PBS electoral debate, there is a universal model of knowledge transfer: there is stage and an audience. The stage has microphones with thought leaders that have spent their lives becoming experts on an idea.
On the stage there is, hopefully, a smart moderator who can move the ideas around, challenge and weave the narrative. The audience can tweet and ask questions that the panel can, in turn, field. In the digital world, we run webinars using the same virtual formula.

However, in social we have few expert stages.

There are structures to build on.

ScribbleLive has developed real-time tools for delivering content for publishers. Thinkwire is a startup that is pushing the boundaries of creating an editorial stage while allowing for a social “lanyard” for audience participation.

AS WE LOSE the traditional curators of content, we need to build more digital stages for expert editorial narrative and, in the words of Mr. Palmer, “social-engineer our way” forward more effectively.

6 mobile-oriented services to complement the live operator experience

By Gary Schwartz

Mobile Marketer:  http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/opinion/columns/20979.html

Until 2015, business process outsourcing (BPO) was based on a simple math formula: outsourcing non-core services including customer call centers to more cost-efficient partners and markets to reduce spend.

When technology was deployed, it was predominately committed to optimizing the BPO infrastructure and managing “bums in seats.” BPO suppliers focused on solutions that could mitigate operational costs and driving process efficiency.

However, as the end consumer becomes increasingly mobile, equipped with smarter devices and, most importantly, higher customer service expectations, Corporate America needs to address how best to service this new customer.

In 2015, BPO needs to move beyond managing call center bodies. This is particularly important to inbound call centers.

As the vast majority of consumers use their always-ready mobile phones to reach the call center services, providers need to revisit their call center architecture and develop mobile-centric efficiency throughout the lifecycle of the call.

BPO companies have traditionally differentiated their services by providing workers at a lower cost.

Historically, operations focus on large-scale transaction processing beating the clock on handling times: i.e. average hold time – AHT, or average speed of answer, ASA. These business models need to be revisited.

As in other verticals such as retail, health and finance, the consumer is now at the center of operational design, and customer satisfaction is the new and key performance index.

The challenge for many providers is executing on this vision.

Making the call

Designing mobile hooks, leveraging new APIs to enhance the existing call flow and creating omnichannel content delivery is outside the scope of most call center operations.

We see this shift in national and municipal services such as Next Generation 9-1-1 in the Canadian market and Next Generation 3-1-1 service in cities such as Chicago and New York where the incumbent call center now offers onmichannel interactions catering to the mobile user.

SMS-based call flows allow for instant information. Operator text chat via SMS and application layers allow for on-the-go convenience as well as operational efficiency and cost savings for the call center.

The goal is to move away from an intelligent Siri-type system to an anticipatory GoogleNow-type approach. Delight the customer by anticipating their preferred channels and their time-sensitive needs.

This is no easy task.

For more than 20 years, BPO call center performance was measured, in large part, on cost-per-call or by the number of seats in a call center. This simplistic math led to globalization of services with early adopters such as GE and American Express moving operations to India in the early 1990s.

The Philippines’ BPO sector is the fastest-growing industry in the country with 900,000 Filipinos employed full time in 2013, providing an estimated 1.3 million new jobs in the IT/BPO sector by 2016.

However, as we move into 2016, the consumer is demanding smarter services from legacy call center IVR and live operators.

Ideal operator

At its core, the call center will continue to focus on availability, information accuracy and consistency.

While voice communication will remain the call center’s pillar, here are a number of key next-generational services that can complement and enhance the live operator experience:

1. Mobile triggers (calls to action, or CTA) to reach the call center. This has become a standard creative ad unit in mobile advertising. Traditional media also has leveraged mobile # or * services. This quick mobile access needs to become ubiquitous.

2. On-hold omnichannel selection. When customer security authentication is not a concern, providers can use the hold time to offer options to mobile callers that mitigate high abandonment rates (AAR) and optimize their on-the-go mobile requirements. Jumping into a text-based chat is an example.

3. Disconnect mitigation strategies. If the call is dropped, push text-to-queue services to make sure the customer is reentered into the priority line or trigger a callback service with instant SMS notification.

4. End-of-call informational push. Send end-of-call informational summaries – virtual sticky notes – via SMS to mobile callers with time sensitive information.

5. Customer satisfaction surveys. Always move a live call into a mobile C-SAT survey that can be completed at the customer’s convenience. Text-based multiple choice questions result in much higher response rates than IVR surveys.

6. CRM push follow-up. Acquire an opt-in to future communication from the caller. This allows for timely follow-up engagement/closure using the request channels to delight the customer.

THE BUSINESS FLOW can be made asynchronous, allowing the mobile consumer to jump into her preferred communication channel before, during and after the call.

Increased use of cloud-based technologies allow call center operators to differentiate their services and ultimately become Big Data and analytics shops providing insights to drive their clients’ business objectives.

This move will enable providers to participate in the business goals of their clients –a far cry from simply answering the phone cost-effectively.

Mobile Marketer:  http://www.mobilemarketer.com/cms/opinion/columns/20979.html

The Retail Internet Of Things (IOT): Turning Your Store Into An App

Retailers are an innovative bunch. We adopt and trial new technologies at a more nimble rate that other verticals. In a world where shopper marketing, field marketing and consumer insights have all been merged into an unending list of “mobile path-to-purchase” solutions, the retailer gets an A for effort.

Before we celebrate our successes, let’s look at another vertical: Cities. Like stores, their consumers are changing, their services need to adapt. IBM invested approximately $350 million in smart city technology and marketing trying to reinvent the metropolitan centers globally and have perhaps made 10 % return on this effort. But 557,000 cities spend $4.5 trillion per year, 10% of the global GDP.

VP Schwartz head shot

According my colleague, Sascha Haselmayer, the CEO of CityMart in Barcelona, 0% of cities publish their needs, a mere 10% of cities engage with business that have new solutions and 70% only trust existing solution providers. Killer apps such as Shared Bicycles globally have taken 20 years to reach 0.1% of the market.

Why? Because cities look at a problem: Say, street lights for the blind and they focus on procuring a solution for street lights. Whereas, they should be looking to find a solution for the blind. Minnesota spent their budget on a talking street lights. Stockholm, on the other hand did not. It provided a device to its blind population that empowered them all the time (not just at street lights) and made them feel 90% less disabled and saved the city 20 million per year.

INNOVATORS UNITE!

Why am I talking about cities in an article on stores?

Because we need to understand the challenges we face and embrace what we do well in order to do it better.  Yes, are inundated with vendors that offer to change our world and it is a challenge to weed through the solutions and find pilots and trials. But we do.

I cannot tell you how many times I have sent an article on something that Jason Newport at Carat is doing with Macy’s and have been asked to investigate how we can do this in our store. Maybe it is because we feel that we are under siege in the retail vertical and need to trial and innovate?

Well to all the innovators that are reading this article, I want to ask you to explore a very simple sea change in the way you need to adapt the world in 2015. The retail mall, the city and the shopper are all about to change profoundly.

This change is not based on a technology as much as a new way of looking at the mobile landscape. Until now, we have seen the store as Minnesota saw their traffic light challenge: “How do we adapt our streetlights to service our blind population?”

Minnesota got their best and brightest on the task and solved this problem. However, we know that Minnesota should have asked a different question: “How do we best service our blind population?”

“Spend 90% of the time framing the question. And 10% on the solution,” as Albert Einstein once said.

Retailers are very good at finding solutions for “traffic lights.” We have trials and jettisoned countless solutions and won industry accolades for them in the process. We celebrate innovation but we often miss the ROI award.

THE APP STORE DILEMMA

What are the questions? Well perhaps they are:

  • “How do we drive more loyalty doorswing?”
  • “How do we better address showrooming in our stores?”
  • “How we build a better mobile app?”

Or maybe we need to refashion the questions with the independent, mobile empowered shopper at the center:

  • “How do I help the shopper find me?”
  • “How do I help the shopper reach the web through my portal?”
  • “What is a mobile app?”

Take our retail marketing departments. Our CMOs go to work every day and try to better position their products and services to the marketplace. They get to work and instead of marketing these products and services, they try and drive their app download.

Instead of marketing themselves they are marketing Apple.

Now, this understandable. Apple makes its money selling hardware. One of the reasons it has always succeeded is because it can bundle content seamlessly with an iPod or iPhone. To do this, Apple spends a large amount of its marketing dollars on helping developers. It publishes simple SDKs to help developers build better apps faster. Then they provide a virtual main street and allow retailers to publish their stores to their storefront.

There is nothing wrong with this; however, let me ask the following questions:

“What is a mobile app?” Could it be that our stores are apps? Could our shelves be apps? Could our products be apps? And the phone could be the trigger.

THE INTERNET OF THINGS

There is a new term in town, The Internet of Things (or IoT for those in the know). This is big. Why? Because it could force us to ask the correct questions.

The IoT is really an extension of good old machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. What the industry calls telemetry (tele – distance metry = measurement). With mobility, we have consumerized telemetry. Every modern phone has a compass, gyroscope, accelerometer ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, and many other ways of seeming sentient and smart. These sensors allow apps on your phone to also be smart and capture all sorts of information on the phone user and adapt accordingly. It also allows the app to transmit this data for medical, wellness, business needs to the cloud.

The phone was the first IoT thing. We took a rotary dial object, made it portable with a mobile network and then gave it all these smart sensors to allow it to be an ambient device.

In the IoT of 2015, everything you can shake a stick at has the potential of being an IoT thing. The lighting system in your store, the POS, the electric switches and garbage disposal units.  All inanimate things have the ability with sensor and business logic of becoming much more efficient and intelligent in their tasks.

So when a retailer looks at their store this year, do they want to think of putting their store on the app store or making their store into an app? When the digital web is becoming a physical web (See Google’s Github post: https://google.github.io/physical-web/),perhaps we need to repatriate the interactivity of our stores from the app store and infuse it into our bricks and mortar?

HOW DO WE MAKE OUR STORES INTO APPS?

Ah, good question. Well the first thing that many well says is use a $20 beacon. This is a good answer. If you have an investment in apps and need to connect the app to the store, a beacon is a good solution.

But if you want to go IoT on the status quo and put the store back in the center, start to delight your mobile consumer by offering smartphone like services in the aisle and counter.

Does your store have Wi-Fi? Well a mobile consumer is a connected consumer. Let them offload their social Wi-Fi data needs onto your network. Act as a gateway to the web and be the concierge.

If this simple move did not intimidate Apple, they would not have made such a privacy fuss about nothing by hashing the phone unique identifier. (Privacy for pseudonymous consumers can be addresses without Apple’s deus ex machina approach.)

Wi-Fi offers the store (from basic VAS to super enhanced value):

  1. A way of being a social concierge
  2. Basic heat mapping of the store
  3. A digital hub to drive manufacturer promotions and smart coop dollars
  4. A loyalty platform to opt in shoppers and tether their phone to a OTT communication channel like email or SMS.
  5. A IoT network where every store now can communicate directly to a loyalist phone without the need for an app download.
  6. A proximity smart digital out of home engagement network to allow the store to identify and based on certain business logic drive street to aisle marketing for itself and its manufacture partners.
  7. A media network that can not only ask for coop budget from their manufacture partners but real media dollars to drive targeted, proximity-based engagement.

The store becomes the smart IoT things and the phone becomes the IoT trigger. The investment is back in the store’s domain and cannot not be disintermentiated.

Tie this engagement to wallet and coupon, and the solution becomes more and more sexy. And you thought IoT was something futuristic? Start being the innovators you are and begin asking the right questions.

Read on RetailTouch Points @ http://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/the-retail-internet-of-things-iot-turning-your-store-into-an-app


Gary is the CEO of Impact Mobile, Inc. and author of The Impulse Economy and Fast Shopper, Slow Store, which were published by Simon & Schuster, Atria Imprint. He also is working on a new book, covering the Internet of Things as the new app store. Schwartz founded and chaired the mobile committee for the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) helping to establish a joint task force between the IAB, Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the Media Rating Council (MRC) to develop global mobile measurement standards for which he received an IAB award for industry excellence in 2009. He was elected for three terms as the Chairman of MEF North America and currently is the Global Director of Location Based Marketing Association; the Executive Chairman of 4More Innovation (Thinkwire platform on Twitter) and Special Adviser to The Wireless Registry.

Your Hotel & 50 Billion Things (60min keynote on the IOT)

HEDNA.org Brussels Conference, June 2014 Keynote by Gary Schwartz on the Internet of Things and how it impacts your hotels and the relationship you have with your guests.

hotel

While the phone will continue to connect people to people, it will increasingly connect machine to machine. The new phone will amplify, control and navigate the world around us. Many call this the Internet of Things (IOT).

The IOT is about how to talk to your washing machine as your friend. Maintain a relationship with your baby as if you were beside them in the crib. It is about finally having the basketball tell you how it thinks you have played and could improve your game. It is about having plants talk to you and shoes become your eyes. It is about clicking, signalling calling, texting, waving, approaching inanimate things and making them into digital, active, responsive stuff.

The digital app store is expanding to a new app store of objects for our home, work, and travel.