I recently attended an event, “Big Data for Engagement and Content Creation,” which was sponsored by the Atlanta Interactive Marketing Association (AiMA). While “big data” has recently become an industry buzzword among many working in the digital space and cursory discussions about the topic have become a dime a dozen, I was pleasantly surprised that the panel discussion I attended dove deeper and explored in greater detail the impact that big data will have on today’s market.
What Is Big Data?
As the name implies, “big data” refers to data sets that are large and complex, and require more than on-hand or traditional data management tools to parse and analyze. Increasingly, though, when people talk about big data, they are referring to the recording and collection of anything that can be quantified, not simply numbers. Most marketers are aware of this shift in perspective about big data and many are accessing and utilizing data to their advantage. But quantitative data isn’t what’s changing—it’s what can’t be (or traditionally wasn’t) counted that’s redefining the meaning of big data. No longer is big data limited to the collection of demographics, CPMs, and CTRs. Our understanding of big data has been refined to include a better understanding of the breadth of data sets being examined, rather than simply the pure size of data, and that breadth is being derived from the addition of qualitative data to the equation.
Layering Effect and Data Success
Through strategic layering of these two categories of data—qualitative and quantitative—marketers are starting to gain a clearer picture of campaign performance. An example of how layering adds resolution and context to traditional data is within the realm of social media. There may be hundreds of comments generated from a Facebook post; a community manager simply exports Facebook data, open the results in an Excel worksheet, and, like magic, the data is ready to be presented to a client. However, the number of comments can be a misleading success metric for a campaign, since the number alone omits the most important data point: tone. If 90 percent of comments are negative or sarcastic toward the brand, then the campaign is a failure. Therefore, it’s important to employ a measure of social listening to gauge the tone of the conversation and adjust the campaign’s social strategy accordingly. Success should be defined by the combination of hard numbers within the context of social listening.
Robots vs. Humans
There are many social listening tools that are designed to measure and quantify sentiment, but they are generally expensive and often misinterpret nuances. Alternatively, organizations in growing numbers are using human resources (like Community Managers) in conjunction with free online tools such as Hootsuite, TweetReach, Google Alerts and Analytics, Facebook Insights and Power Editor, Topsy, Social Mention, IceRocket, and IconoSquare. These resources make social listening an accessible strategic tool for any budget. The combination of machine-powered and human-powered intelligence can lead to a deeper understanding of what quantitative and qualitative data are expressing.
Leveraging Data Creatively
Content Cadence Testing involves live tests of several combinations of variables. Examples of variables include time of day, frequency, text length, inclusion of an image versus no image, user-generated content versus brand content. For example, if cadence testing revealed that user-generated images produced the best results, than creative teams should be briefed on this finding so that assets can be tailored to fit the data rather than pushed through social channels as is.
By interpreting and understanding numbers in the context of sentiment that may not be apparent in numbers alone, marketers will gain invaluable insights into the effectiveness of campaigns, and allow big data to better work for them.
The Internet of Things is growing rapidly—by 2020 it is estimated that there will be 7.6 billion people and 50 billion connected things. While some critics may dismiss IoT as a trend or fad, there’s no denying that we are rapidly approaching an age when Internet connectivity of ordinary objects in a post-PC world will change the way that consumers interact with products and services—and will transform the ways that businesses operate.
At Nurun, we believe true innovation is about creating new value where it didn’t exist before for businesses and consumers. Our comprehensive approach to innovation development takes into consideration three primary concerns and asks the following questions:
David Bliss, Executive Director, Technical R&D at Nurun’s San Francisco office, outlines a few benefits of connected objects in the presentation below, and provides great examples of disruptive products and services that are already transforming their respective markets and industries.
For more information on connected objects and the Internet of Things, read our recap of the prototyping workshop we hosted with Arduino.
This article originally appeared in Strategy.
Last month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos unveiled Fire, Amazon’s first entry into the already crowded and hyper-competitive smartphone race, sparking renewed interest in the global e-tailing giant’s mobile commerce strategy.
Pitched to go up against premium category leaders Apple and Samsung, the Fire smartphone features built-in Amazon apps working on Fire OS 3.5, a custom layer built on Android. With a generous but not overly generous 4.7-inch display (landing it squarely between the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Note), Bezos boasted that Fire was the perfect size for easy single-handed operation. (The gyroscope-enabled, one-hand scrolling is a nice touch, but it seems more like a gimmick than practical.) What currently sets Fire’s display apart from its competition though, is a unique optical effect that Amazon has dubbed Dynamic Perspective, which renders onscreen images into something that simulates 3D. Neat stuff.
At $199 for a 32GB model and $299 for the 64GB with an AT&T contract, its cost is comparable to that of other high-end smartphones. Along with Fire’s price comes a free one-year subscription to Amazon Prime – valued at $100 – which offers second-day delivery on most products and access to Amazon’s huge library of music, movies and TV shows – all gratis. Current Prime subscribers will receive a credit toward an additional year. Clearly, Amazon is banking on the idea that Fire will address shoppers’ m-commerce needs by neatly integrating into its growing ecosystem of products and services.
Despite the standard and not-so-standard smartphone bells and whistles, Fire’s core customer might just be Amazon power-users who are looking for easier, more convenient ways to shop… on Amazon. By controlling the canvas and the content of its smartphone, Amazon is effectively turning Fire into a hand-held product showroom, making the buying process as seamless as possible for its customers. This move supports a recent report published by RetailMeNot, which found that 70% of marketers believe most consumers care a lot about finding a good deal and almost two-thirds of retail executives think branded mobile platforms are effective at driving sales.
Firefly, Fire’s app that could be the ultimate killer of bricks-and-mortar retailers, is best thought of as an embedded marketing tool for Amazon.com. With recognition technology that operates like a mix between Shazam and Google Goggles (on steroids, natch), Firefly can recognize more than just barcodes or QR codes (which it does), but also identifies printed text on posters, magazines, and business cards – making calls, saving contacts, sending emails and visiting websites are all possible without typing long URLs or phone numbers. Using Fire’s camera, Firefly is so smart that it can recognize ordinary household products, from food items to books to videogames and more – all leading to online purchase opportunities and increasing the chance for conversion. This convenience does come at a price, however, with privacy activists citing that using Firefly could give Amazon unfettered direct access to the phone’s camera, microphone, GPS location and metadata.
Given Amazon’s calculated push to own the digital entertainment space through its growing Music Store and Instant Video service, Firefly’s uncanny ability to know virtually any product, then directly link Fire users to make purchases on Amazon, could spell trouble for both Apple’s iTunes service and bricks-and-mortar retailers.
While Fire won’t be immediately available in Canada when it launches in the U.S. on July 25, there are some notable issues to consider when Amazon’s smartphone does head up north. According to the 2014 Mobile Personas report, a comprehensive study of mobile usage and behaviour of Canadians, Android is steadily building momentum among mobile operating systems, which bodes well for the Android-based Fire. What doesn’t fare well for non-Amazon retailers is the fact that smartphones have become de facto sales clerks for many Canadian shoppers on their path to purchase, with nearly half of all Canadian shoppers across all demographic groups stating that they use their smartphones to solicit advice from friends and family about products, compare prices and look up product information.
By delivering a smartphone that helps shoppers make informed decisions, and then making purchases so much easier, Fire and Firefly could fuel impulse purchasing like never before – all through a smartphone.
In the most essential ways, the phone options in Fire seem like an afterthought. Think of Fire less as a smartphone, and more as a Trojan Horse designed to cater to impulse shoppers on the go. Only instead of unknowingly being lured into making a purchase, Fire users have actively put the power of Amazon in their own hands.
Recently, we had a lively interoffice e-mail thread that discussed the pros and cons of m.dot (URLs optimized for mobile web) and responsive websites. Based on our discussion, I wanted to sum up my opinions and share a bit about why I personally prefer responsive web design (RWD) over separate m.dot URLs.
Screen resolutions are getting higher and higher every day, and users are using their mobile devices for much more than quick searches while on the go. One of the biggest issues I have with m.dots is not always being able to find the information that I am looking for, and ultimately having to switch to the full “desktop” webpage. Context is and has been important, but it gets increasingly harder to infer the context of use based on the device—think phablet or browsing your iPhone on the sofa. Another question is how to group devices in the first place. At Nurun, we might identify a resolution range for a “tablet” breakpoint to simplify communication, both internally and externally, but everyone also is aware that this range doesn’t apply exclusively to tablets, nor does it contain the resolution of all tablets.
That said, there are some exceptions. For example, it would make sense for a company to have a separate, reduced m.dot website to serve users in remote areas with low-bandwidth mobile connections.
There also are valid concerns regarding the performance of responsive websites. In this case, m.dots have the advantage since it is easier to convince stakeholders to remove heavy components and third-party scripts (social media, foresee, analytics, page tagging suites, ads, etc.), since it’s “only” the mobile site. I believe all of these issues can (and should) be addressed with a responsively designed site. The same is true for content, which is often a symptom of a lack of content strategy and prioritization. Web teams (including stakeholders such as content creators, UX, design and development) must be aware of these concerns, and make sure to implement a solid strategy that has the necessary buy-in from the project owners or whoever is in charge of the evolution of the site. Part of this strategy could be mobile-first development, dynamic-loading of components, performance budget, reverse proxies or optimization workflows—there is a lot that can be done but it takes time, analysis, convincing, resourcing, and testing. The upside is that you will only have to maintain one code and one content-base, and you won’t end up with a stale mobile site.
The other elephant in the room not mentioned in this article are apps. This discussion is a whole different beast, but I can appreciate a different use cases for apps. Besides the marketing and convenience advantage—to scan barcodes, using augmented reality to find items, etc.—apps can offer a lot of things that are (at least for the moment) not possible or feasible as part of the website. Using hybrid or webview approaches (e.g., via phonegap) makes it easier to re-use content from the website, like list management or coupons, though this might result in creating content that isn’t ideal for either.
Other considerations include SEO, which isn’t great with m.dot redirects, and the larger philosophical debate about websites residing under a single URL, but those are discussions that deserve further scrutiny and dedicated articles.
Overall, it’s a question of the purpose and what bang for your buck you get, and responsive sites are, in most cases, the best point to start and iterate from.
Our Toronto office recently hosted a QA Professionals meetup. The QA team’s presentation, “E-TAIL QA: Approach to E-commerce testing in an Agile environment,” was followed by an interactive and lively discussion where attendees shared their experiences, processes and best practices on related QA topics.
Speakers discussed various approaches to E-commerce testing in an agile environment, covering topics like:
This article originally appeared in Strategy.
From diapers to dishwashers, smartphones are playing an increasingly important role in helping Canadians shop for a variety of products and services. A recent report by IDC Canada revealed 61% of Canadian smartphone users have used their phone to find a store location or hours; 69% have downloaded and used at least one shopping app; and 35% have used their phone to look up information instead of asking a store employee.
In response, Canadian retailers are scrambling to determine which combination of mobile technologies they should invest in to best serve customers’ needs and evolving expectations: mobile web, native mobile apps, and/or responsive sites?
There is no shortage of opinions on the topic — but what has been missing from the conversation is a decision framework to help retailers evaluate their options and select the best approach.
Is your priority to reach a broader audience or deepen engagement amongst loyal customers? To be universally accessible, or to offer a unique and personalized experience to a subset of your customers? To support mobile shopping or improve the in-store shopping experience?
Responsive and mobile sites provide a device-optimized experience, are search engine accessible and deliver the majority of expected shopping features and functionalities, from local store information to catalogue browsing and searching, and enabling transactions. In comparison, the most popular retailer apps go beyond the basics to provide immediate and specialized utility to enhance and extend the in-store shopping experience.
For example, popular retail pharmacy chain Walgreens has both a transactional mobile site and native mobile app. Both sites provide mobile-focused shopping with free shipping; however, the Walgreens mobile app experience is oriented toward improving a customer’s in-store experience. Through the mobile app, customers can manage and refill pharmacy prescriptions, set pill reminders, access personalized offers via reward cards and place orders that can then be picked up at local stores.
Support your customers’ needs and behaviours
What activities do your customers want to accomplish on their mobile devices and what are their underlying motivations? Are their behaviours similar across desktop, tablet and mobile devices, or do they differ? And in which contexts are your customers using their mobile devices — in the store, at home, or on the go?
One of the main benefits of responsive sites is their ability to provide a seamless and unified user experience across devices. For retailers whose customers display similar shopping habits and want access to the same information across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices, responsive sites can be an excellent option. However, they may be cumbersome and restrictive in supporting the unique differences in desktop and mobile shopping behaviours.
In these situations, a hybrid approach that combines the best of responsive and adaptive principles can be another option. In this approach, templates are designed using a responsive framework, but key screens and functionality can be customized for contextually unique interactions. This can be an ideal solution for retailer sites in which mobile intent and behaviours differ significantly across devices.
Identify technical and operational considerations
Are speed and performance a priority? Is there a willingness to manage separate code bases? How frequently will updates occur?
Last but not least, it’s crucial to evaluate the underlying technical or operational considerations that will be required to support your mobile strategy. Responsive sites can suffer from slower speed and performance issues, but are easier to maintain and update due to their single code-base. And while mobile apps offer specialized features and functionality, they may take longer to launch due to a lengthy app store approval process and might frustrate and inconvenience customers by repeated security updates and bug fixes requiring them to download new versions.
While mobile apps, mobile sites and responsive design each have their own merits, determining which one is right for you can be answered by prioritizing your goals, putting your customer’s needs front and centre, and being aware of the underlying operational considerations required to support each technology.