This past month, we've talked quite a bit about causes. Earlier this month, we discussed how Movember has added a twist to the traditional pledge-based charity, and also how social is becoming increasingly important to causes. With the plethora of charitable organizations out there, it's apparent that innovation will become an integral element to acquire funds for your cause. Let's check out some interesting examples: CauseCart CauseCart is a bit of a play on the traditional 'portion of the proceeds'? idea by creating a network of giving. It's simple for both brands and consumers. Users simply install the plugin into their Chrome or Firefox browser, and then CauseCart communicates with the online shop to direct them to give a small percentage of the purchase to a cause/charity of the user's choice. Though still in its infancy, CauseCart has already secured a number of big name commerce and charitable organizations in its network like Amazon.com and charity: water. LevelUp We've loved LevelUp at AMP since it first came out (it doesn't help that there are about a dozen spots within walking distance of our office that accept it for payment). It's a pretty simple concept. Download the app, link a credit card, scan a personalized QR Code at checkout as your payment, and receive rewards and discounts when you reach certain spending levels. It's a simple loyalty program that rewards you for going back to the places you like. What many people may not know about LevelUp is their charity platform. In the app's settings, there is a feature which allows you to assign a % of your savings towards a charity of your choice. CrowdTilt Crowd funding is by no means a new or novel concept; however, sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo make it tough on charitable initiatives. While Kickstarter doesn't allow for charitable projects altogether IndieGogo doesn't offer tax-deductible donations ' both issues creating problems for causes looking to generate funds quickly, similar to what we recently saw with Hurricane Sandy efforts. In comes CrowdTilt. Earlier this month, they started offering tax-deductible options for non-profits which makes it the 'first crowdfunding site to fully support charity fundraising.'? Instead How many articles have you read that tell you how much you can save just by forgoing your daily latte? Instead takes that same idea but instead (get it?) of putting that money towards a new pair of Manolo Blahniks (those are a thing, right?), they donate that money to a worthy cause (not to say that your shoe 'hobby'? isn't worthy). According to its developers, Instead is a 'micro-donation app for non-profits that encourages people to live within or below their means in order to give.'? The app is pretty easy ' just pick something you want to give up (like a coffee for instance), pick how much you want to give (usually the price of that coffee), and then pick a non-profit to give it to. The app then takes you to a secure site where your donation is processed and you have the option to share your donation via your social channels so that your friends will know how swell of a person you are. So, what do these things all have in common? Ease. It's apparent that people are more than willing to donate to causes, but often they are overwhelmed with the process or the sheer number of options out there. If you can cut down any of those barriers, you're chances of succeeding will increase exponentially.
One of our favorite events from this year's CES was the Mobile Apps Showdown. Hosted by Howard Stern regulars Jon Hein and Gary Dell'Abate, this event gave ten app developers four minutes to pitch their app concept to the audience and conduct a quick on-stage demo. The top app was determined by an Applause-O-Meter winning a shiny trophy, the admiration of attendees and a landslide of CES media coverage. In a previous blog post (http://bit.ly/zJTZje), we discussed 'CIA: Operation AJAX'?, one of the top ten finalists. Today, we take a quick look at five finalists that inspired our imaginations. Aurasma Lite by Aurasma Developer's Description: Aurasma is a new technology that brings the physical and virtual worlds together. Available as a free app for iOS and Android devices or as a free SDK for developers, Aurasma uses advanced image and pattern recognition to recognize and understand real-world images and objects in much the same way as the human brain does. It then seamlessly blends the real-world with interactive content such as videos and animations we call 'Auras'?. Auras can be created for printed images, products, clothing and physical places. Users can even use the simple tools in the app to create and share their own Auras. Since its launch in July 2011, Aurasma has had more than two million downloads. Over 1,000 partners around the world in markets including consumer electronics, retail, sport, automotive, entertainment, advertising and publishing are using the free technology. Aurasma was developed by and is part of Autonomy ' an HP Company. Cost: Free Link: Website (http://bit.ly/ycTMoX), iTunes (http://bit.ly/zHWYVf) Ellis' Take: This platform has HUGE upside. Augmented reality is something that to most is complex, confusing, and costly. This app empowers everyday users to tag and affect the digital world around them. Will it evolve into the next big digital platform or linger on as a simple novelty adopted and loved by a core group of hobbyists (like a new evolution of geocaching)? Matt's Take: Interesting opportunity here for brands. While augmented reality is something a lot of brands are looking into, the price tag is usually a barrier for entry. Being able to utilize pre-existing technology to create branded information with your products is something that should be very enticing for most brands, especially in the retail space. Magisto by Magisto Developers Description: Magisto is an amazing app that takes your raw videos and turns it into a beautifully edited & produced clip perfect for sharing. And it does it all in a click, for free. Right now, all these special moments are too long and boring to share. With Magisto you can create videos that your friends actually want to watch and you can do it with minimum efforts and maximum quality. Magisto will analyze these videos, understand it, find the best parts and make it look amazing! Now you have a way to express yourself and to capture those special moments that you want to share with the people around you. Cost: Free Link: Website (http://bit.ly/xwXL3P), iTunes (http://bit.ly/xPbikY) Ellis' Take: Three easy, mindless steps to create a highlight reel from videos of my dog. Win. Matt's Take: Really liked this at first, but upon further review, all videos need to stream from the site and you can't actually 'own them'?. Their plan is to move to a 'freemium'? model that gives you added capabilities for a price. Cinefy by App Creation Network Developers Description: Cinefy is a mobile video editing platform for iPhone where users create and share videos mixed with high quality special effects. Cinefy empowers users with no editing skills to quickly insert footage, add music and apply visually stunning effects with its intuitive and simple interface. 'As a former television director, this is a thrilling product to see in action'? said Gary Stover, Product Director. In Cinefy, individual themed or branded effects packs are available for in-app downloads, offering TV and game studios the ability to market products in a way that creates exciting and massive viral exposure potential. 'We made Cinefy to put the most exciting Hollywood quality production tools directly in the user's hands,'? said Dan Hellerman, CEO of App Creation Network. 'The ability for studios to promote their brands, by empowering users with actual effects elements themed to their shows or games, is an explosive marketing tool.'? Cost: $2.99 Link: Website (http://bit.ly/w6dl86) Ellis' Take: I don't know if this will make home videos better'?¦just different. For brands with user-generated content strategies in place, this could be a valuable tool that you may want to encourage consumers to consider. It could certainly raise the presentation of user-generated content, adding more value to those campaigns. Matt's Take: Much like Magisto, I like the idea of being able to easily create better videos than the ones most people are uploading to Facebook now. SecuraFone by SecuraTrac Developer's Description: SecuraFone is a multi-purpose smartphone app that functions as a powerful, personal safety solution. SecuraFone helps prevent distracted driving and accidents, provides instant emergency response, and offers 6 other GPS tracking and alerting features including: real-time tracking, historical tracking, geo-fence alerts, SOS alerts, and covert, emergency help calls to emergency response centers or the primary account contact. The alerts are sent using email and text messaging. 45% of teen drivers text while driving and 11 die each day in accidents caused by distracted driving. 35% of seniors will fall each year ' the leading cause of injury-related deaths among seniors. Employers spend over $60 billion a year in medical costs, legal fees and property damage related to employee driving accidents. SecuraFone serves as a tool for instant communication in this type of emergency situation and as a proactive solution to prevent accidents and dangerous conditions before they occur. Cost: Free Link: Website (http://bit.ly/xKPtOv), iTunes (http://bit.ly/A10nYP) Ellis' Take: It was interesting to hear the audience reaction to this app being presented. While many of the other apps received 'oohs'? and 'aahhs'?, this app had a strange impending sense of 'big brother'? to it ' especially when the developer referenced being able to track your employees locations in real time. You can imagine that at a conference held in Las Vegas, the response to that feature was rather lukewarm. Matt's Take: Absolutely horrifying. I must download this immediately. Foam Fighters by AppGear Developers Description: AppGear is an innovative line of apps that seamlessly interact with cool, collectible toys, shifting digital gaming into your reality. Foam Fighters is a collectible line of detailed foam airplanes that really fly and look fantastic on their own. These foam fliers also unlock missions in the digital world by scanning them into a smart device. Once unlocked, these planes are attached to the front of the device with the included arm, then dive in to the digital world and battle for control of the skies. The plane is mounted on the front of the smart device, dog fighting and taking digital damage in the app. The real world plane is now flying in the digital battle for the skies. This new product category will redefine game play by upgrading the physical experience with digital action. Cost: App is free; Retail play set is $9.99 Link: Website (http://bit.ly/xG1g1r) Ellis' Take: Is it wrong if I wish I was ten years old again? Or if society didn't have a stigma about adults playing with toys that they've outgrown by two decades? We're seeing augmented reality starting to enhance playtime, a trend that is very likely to continue as brands look for ways to connect real-world, physical play with digital extensions. Another great A/R example at CES was Intel's booth that featured a demo of LEGO's Intel-powered augmented reality retail display (http://bit.ly/ycmj3T). Matt's Take: Meh. I understand they're trying to be creative mixing in the physical plane with the game, but it seems like the game could be just as successful without having to attach a foam plane to your tablet. It just seems like an unnecessary step.
On the business development front, we've noticed a handful of clients and prospects that have expressed interest in developing a downloadable application for their brands. Who can blame them? I personally get giddy every time I fire up the Urbanspoon app on my iPhone. "Where should I eat tonight?? The possibilities are ENDLESS!" And we've all killed an hour or 70 playing Angry Birds. But is this the right solution for your brand / product / service / Russian mob scam? Let's examine a few questions that you should ask yourself to see if it makes sense. Will it drive sales? First you need to be honest with yourself and ask, 'Is this critical to my business?'? For a brand like REI to develop a mobile app with e-commerce capability that allows users to purchase a new camping tent with a few swipes, a mobile app can be an incredibly powerful way to connect to users. The app delivers a new, convenient purchase channel to drive sales thereby justifying the ROI for building an app in the first place. However, if your brand is Yoplait, you may need to think twice since the same e-commerce opportunity is not there. Instead, you'll likely explore content centered around brand positioning and identity, perhaps exploring more health-specific / promotional content. Which brings us to our next point'?¦ Will it be good? Sounds easy, right? Let's continue to use the Yoplait example. So we can't purchase online (cause that'd be gross) but maybe instead we build an app tied to healthy dieting and exercise. That is a very competitive space and you'll be competing with best-in-class applications that will often be so much more robust with content, support, maintenance and updates. Think about the competition among health (Lose It!, Weight Watchers Mobile, Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker) and fitness (Nike+GPS, FitnessBuilder, RunKeeper). Building a mobile app on the cheap to compete against these is like trying to build a bike in your garage on the weekend, then racing it in the Tour de France in July. Although this space is expected to experience tremendous growth (2010: 10.9 billion downloads; 2014 (projected): 76.9 billion downloads!), maintaining user engagement will continue to be a challenge as one in four apps that are downloaded are only used once. Will it be costly? It could be. Very quickly. Alarmingly so. Let's say you wanted to develop an app for iPhones, which only account for a quarter of the total smartphone market. Don
Last week, the 10 billionth app was downloaded from the Apple store. Remarkable really. If brands were not racing to develop an app before, the race is officially on as this news is sure to push any brands that have been holding off over the mobile edge. Before your brand dips its toe into the app waters, a few questions to check off the list for marketers and developers: Why an app? Yes, an obvious question but so often with new technology we 'just want it'. We feel the need to keep up, show that our brand is on trend. Clearly the world loves apps 10 billion times over, but not all apps. There are many apps that were created by well meaning, hard working marketers that have yet to get more than a few downloads. Will the app fill a need or will be for entertainment only? An industry specific tool Does the app allow the medical community to share data easier in emergency rooms? Does the app allow architects easy access to solutions to complex mathematics while on the job site? A fun tool, but a tool none the less Golf tips that can be accessible on the 7th hole when the ball just keeps going to the right no matter what you do @%!& There is a clear path to success (and optimization) if the app fulfills a very specific need. Not to simplify it, but find a real need that matches with your industry and then challenge your developers to make it user friendly. Entertainment: This is where success is both harder to control and can be more broadly defined. This is the challenge for the marketer. If it's for entertainment ' be true to entertainment. Don't say you want to create the most fun app ever, measure it on downloads and then ask: "but where is the product tag line in the app?" It is user friendly? No choice here. If it's a bad idea, it won't matter. If it's a good idea and it's not user friendly, someone will rebuild it, only better. Make sure the end game for the brand and the user is clear and achievable.
Who wants to spend hours on end waiting in lines at the mall when you can take care of your holiday shopping via your mobile device? Between check-in deals, social coupons, scanner and price comparison apps, shopping has never been so easy. But does it really match up to the holiday spirit of in-store shopping? Smartphones have developed so drastically over their short lifespan that the current technology allows for users to stay connected as much as you can from a computer, without even having to be connected to one. The phones have more power than ever before, and even larger viewing screens to assist consumers in these mobile shopping sprees. Shoppers frequently conduct research before making a purchase in-store or online, whether they are looking for the best price or consumer reviews on the product. This process has been simplified, as these new mobile search capabilities are not only helping the sales cycle in-store, but they are now enabling us to search for and purchase items all from one mobile device. According to eMarketer.com and IDC Retail Insights, mobile shopping will account for 28% of holiday shopping this season, which translates into $127 billion of the $447 billion in holiday spending that has been forecasted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) for the U.S. Therefore, it has become more relevant for retailers to create a mobile presence either through a mobile app or an easy-to-use mobile web interface. In a recent survey conducted by Google, nearly half of the smartphone users questioned claimed that they were 'very'? or 'extremely likely'? to download a mobile app for their holiday shopping this year. According to Stacy Janiak, United States Retail Practice Leader at Deloitte, 'We are at the cusp of this technology really driving a lot of activity during the shopping season'?¦ It is both an opportunity and a challenge for a retailer, because you can have a consumer who can cross-shop your store with other brick-and-mortar stores or online, all from the convenience of your aisle.'? For example, J.C. Penney launched an integrated marketing campaign in mid-November ('New list. New Gifts. Who Knew'?), that helped to showcase the chain as the place to find gifts that will top everyone's Christmas list. The campaign helped to raise awareness of the quality and breadth of merchandise that the retailer has to offer, and included national television spots, outdoor ads, print, digital, direct mail and of course mobile and social networking. The launch of their new mobile app, specifically for the holiday season (m.jcp.com), should be highlighted, as it allows consumers to make purchases right from their smartphone, while checking-in on Foursquare and Facebook Deals to receive special in-store offers. Mobile coupons are also sent to consumers via text-message, which give them the option to receive special offers. However, one must raise the question of whether or not mobile shopping can really equate to that of in-store shopping during the holiday season. Part of the holiday tradition in my family is taking the time to make our lists, and visit the stores together for an evening of holiday cheer as we purchase gifts for family and friends. Some may argue that there is a lack of holiday spirit in shopping online, as you are not emerged in the excitement, smells of the holiday season, or the joy of stumbling upon the perfect gift that you may not have thought of otherwise. Technology can only do so much around the holidays; the rest is all found in the full-on experience of traditional holiday shopping. I, for one, will always take part in the experience regardless of how crazy the malls may be. Nothing in my mind can beat the holiday rush, as it only comes but once a year!