Building Smarter Cities With Social Technologies

[This post was originally published on ZaGarage by Kuliza on September 5th 2011. You can read the original post here.]

Community, crowdsourcing and mobile initiatives to make cities a smarter place to live

People look for great cities to live in. The Economist Intelligence UnitMercer and others help us out with their annual rankings of the best cities to live in based on – amongst other things – recreation, health care, political, social and cultural environment, education, housing and infrastructure. In the future, determining how good a city is to live in will also depend on how smart the city is. So along with healthcare, education and housing people will also look at how the city utilizes physical infrastructure, such as transport and ICT, and the availability and quality of intellectual and social capital to improve living standards and drive urban growth and competitiveness.

There are three defining characteristics of a smart city:

  • A networked infrastructure
  • Community intelligence to improve urban planning, development and innovation management
  • Social and environmental sustainability through the participation of citizens in city processes

The concept of smart cities has been on the agenda of governments and corporations for the last number of years. Investment is also accelerating. A recent report by ABI Research estimates that the market for technologies related to smart cities projects will grow from $8 billion in 2010 to $39 billion in 2016. This will include spending on e-government initiatives, initiatives to reduce carbon footprints, waste and recycling initiatives, intelligent transport systems, and wireless networks. There are a number of reasons why there is so much investment in smart cities:

  • There is a limit to how much people and businesses can be taxed. Budget crises during the recession of the last few years means that city governments have to look at long-term measures to manage and modernize their services and infrastructure
  • Governments need to cut costs without cutting services so they are using analytics to understand and improve operational productivity and efficiency
  • There is competition among cities to attract businesses to maintain growth and development and to attract people to live and work by improving the quality of the urban environment
  • 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050 the urban population is expected to double, further straining city services and infrastructure
  • Cities are major polluters: they occupy 2% of the world’s geography but account for 75% of the greenhouse gases

Leaving aside the smart city projects that focus on infrastructure and energy management, I want to look at how individuals, communities and governments are using social technologies to harness community intelligence, social capital and improve urban environments and city process. There are lots of projects and initiatives happening around the world and I have included a brief about many others at the end of this post.


There are plenty of enthusiastic people who want to make a difference in their community. SeeClickFix supports hyper-local, community-driven activism to empower citizens, community groups, media organizations and governments to improve their neighbourhoods. Their online platform and mobile apps allow citizens to flag and report non-emergency community issues such as potholes and graffiti, share them on a web-based map for others to view and comment on complaints based on location as well as view the profiles of people who report issues nearby. SeeClickFix also have a Facebook page and an app with game mechanics, giving users Civic Points for performing actions that engage with the app including reporting issues, uploading an image or taking action in order to get an issue resolved.

SeeClickFix doesn’t just crowdsource community intelligence to improve their local environment, but helps to improve city processes by routing complaints to the relevant parties such as local governments and media outlets to resolve them. SeeClickFix provides community groups (neighborhood associations, volunteer groups, business associations) with an online platform to connect and address the needs of their community, governments with a dashboard for tracking and acknowledging issues, and media outlets with a platform to stay up-to-date with events that impact the community. It has been a major success, with over 200,000 users, more than 30 government clients, and 50% of user-reported issues resolved.


In February 2011 BMW created a $100 million venture capital fund to invest in mobile apps that make it easier for people to navigate urban areas by car, bike, public transport or walking. This is part of establishing a new, sustainability-focused sub-brand to integrate the concepts of luxury and sustainability. Non-automotive transport has not been BMW’s interest, but it is to its customers and potential customers, and BMW is branding itself as a solution finder and innovator in making cities smarter and cleaner along with promoting their hybrid and electric cars.

There are three apps that BMW has invested in that use community intelligence and the participation of users to reduce traffic congestion, improve how people navigate their city and life in their cities.


Running only in Munich at the moment, this is a car sharing service that gives users access to a car whenever they need it. After registering with their driver’s license, users can reserve a car online or through a mobile app and use the car at a cost of 29c a minute, including petrol and free parking within Munich city.


It is the largest online parking marketplace connecting owners of parking spaces who want to earn money renting it out to people who need a convenient space to park.


It is a real-time, location-aware suite of mobile apps designed to help users navigate and explore cities. It can be used for connecting with other users, finding a restaurant that allows dogs, locating the nearest wireless hotspot, sharing tips, finding parking ahead of time, and checking live traffic cameras.


Traffic management systems are one of the major features of smart city projects, and are offered by companies like IBM as part of their Intelligent Operations Center. There are plenty of mobile apps that try to improve travel by facilitating carpooling, notifying public transport travel times and connections, or by route planning to avoid traffic jams.

One (future) app that sounds promising is SignalGuru. It was developed by researchers at Princeton and MIT to reduce congestion and fuel consumption in cities. It uses GPS enabled smartphones mounted on car dashboards to estimate traffic light patterns. The app informs the driver how long until the signal turns green and suggests the driving speed to prevent stopping at a red light. So far in early testing in Massachusetts the app has successfully predicted red lights to within 0.66 seconds and reduced petrol use by 20%.

With so many developments in this space, cities need a vision for the type of environment they want to develop and a masterplan of how they will achieve this that incorporates both large scale solutions and community-led initiatives that bring together experts and individuals. As exciting as these projects are, there are some concerns and questions that will need to be debated:

  • Each initiative creates a huge amount of user information and data, which naturally leads to questions about privacy and how governments in some countries choose to use the data to exert control over their citizens
  • Who owns the brains of a city? Is it the community and services like SeeClickFix, or large companies like IBM and Cisco with their ‘smart city in a box’ solutions?
  • What happens when the interests of a large company and the city and residents are no longer aligned?

Further examples of smart city initiatives

There are numerous smart city initiatives and projects underway around the world. I couldn’t cover every one so I’ve listed some others that I find interesting:

  • Songdo in South Korea – the first city to have developed the smart city concept from the ground level up
  • IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center to monitor and manage city services
  • Amsterdam Smart City – a collaboration between people, businesses and government to create sustainable, large-scale programs that reduce CO2 emissions
  • Austin’s budget allocator to determine which urban projects to invest in
  • City Sourced – a mobile civic engagement platform that allows residents to report issues to the local government for resolution
  • San Jose Mobile City Hall – a mobile engagement tool to allow residents to report issues to the San Jose government for resolution
  • Betaville – a collaborative platform for cities in which ideas for new works of public art, architecture, urban design, and development can be shared, discussed, tweaked, and brought to maturity in context by individuals and experts
  • Cooltownbeta – a crowdsourcing consultancy
  • Reset San Francisco – an online community that brings locals together around ideas and solutions to improve San Francisco.

Trash Tycoon: Gamifying Recycling

Games have great potential to educate people and encourage them to solve large-scale social problems. An obvious example was World Without Oil, which required players to work together on simple, practical ways to adapt to a world without oil. The value of the game was to get players to apply collective intelligence and imagination to develop realistic, alternative solutions to dependence on oil.

More recently less-ambitious Facebook games like Trash Tycoon are trying to educate and change people’s behaviours in relation to reducing waste and recycling. Players have to clean their city by collecting piles of litter, create fertilizer, learn what can be composted and what can be upcycled.









What is interesting is that Trash Tycoon is an initiative by TerraCycle, a fertilizer company that also produces products made from recycled materials. In order for TerraCycle to continue growing they need more people to recycle so Trash Tycoon enables them to increase awareness about both the environmental benefits and uses of recycled materials and expand awareness about TerraCycle.

It is not going to nudge people to make a holistic change in their recycling / waste management behaviour, but it will at least make people aware of how products can be used after we finish them. It will hopefully make us think before throwing things away, but stronger incentives are needed to solve waste problems.

Zombies, Run! A Survival Workout

There are numerous exercise apps that incorporate game elements but Zombies, Run! outdoes all of them. It has already vastly exceeded its funding amount on Kickstarter. The aim is to:

“help rebuild civilisation after a zombie apocalypse. By going out and running in the real world, you can collect medicine, ammo, batteries, and spare parts that you can use to build up and expand your base – all while getting orders, clues, and story through your headphones.”

Definitely more exciting, engaging and well thought out than collecting badges and ascending levels of fitness! Click to watch a video about the app.

The Evolving use of Social Media for Political Campaigns

[This post was originally published on Social Media Today on 17th August 2011. You can view the original post here.]

Campaigns and social media have been in the news a lot this year – Republican primaries and London riots in just the last week – and the exposure will increase as the US heads into election year in 2012. I want to look at how political campaigns have evolved in their use of the internet and social media, and see what possibilities exist in the near-term. For this purpose I’ve looked at two types of campaigns:

  1. Campaigns that are centrally organized by the political party or the candidate’s team. Here I will look primarily at Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008
  2. Campaigns that are organized bottom-up. Here I will look at how groups used social media during the Arab Spring

Centrally Organized Campaigns

Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004 had many of the features of successful campaigns: press coverage, successful fundraising and exciting people. He achieved this not just through traditional campaign strategies but also by extensive use of the internet. He used his official blog and to bring people together and organize fundraisers. This was cheaper than traditional fundraising and resulted in a hug number of small donations, allowing him to avoid fundraising limits. However, his team missed the crucial element of converting enthusiastic participants into active voters. As Clay Shirky points out in Here Comes Everybody [link], Dean created a movement that strongly appealed to some people, but which participation became more important than voting.

Some of the same strategies Dean used were taken up by Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign. Barack Obama was called the King of Social Networking by the Washington Post as he became the first social media President. His campaign team was the first to fully understand and harness the potential of social media to communicate his message and energize supporters to donate and vote.

Barack Obama’s campaign team didn’t invent anything new but strategically used social media, the internet, SMS and emails to establish his candidacy and win the elections:

1.       Build his political brand

Obama used social media to lower the cost of building a political brand. This was essential because there was very little brand awareness about Obama compared to his major competitors Hilary Clinton and John McCain, apart from 2 books (admittedly best sellers) and his 2004 convention speech.

2.       Created

A full-fledged social network, allowed users to create their own profile complete with a customized description, friends list and personal blog. They could also join groups, participate in fund raising, and arrange events. This was the centre of his social networking strategy and all pages on other platforms brought users here

3.       Present across multiple social media sites

Obama didn’t use just one platform but ensured his message was spread across multiple sites that complemented his message of change. He engaged people, listened and used not only the major sites like Flickr, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter, but also more specific sites like Glee and BlackPlanet

4.       Donations

The majority of Obama’s donations came from donors giving just $200 or less. He achieved this by ensuring that on each site there was a donation widget

5.       Encouraged participation

Traditionally campaign teams and spin doctors exerted as much control over content as possible. However, keeping with his change message, Obama allowed and encouraged supporters to participate by posting videos, photos and testimonials.

The effectiveness of Obama’s online strategy to engage and mobilize people can be seen in some of the numbers [reference]:

  • 6.5 million online donations
  • $600+ million campaign funds raised, most of it online
  • 13 million email addresses
  • 1 billion email sent
  • 2 million profiles on
  • 200,000 offline events planned
  • 400,000 blog posts written
  • 35,000 volunteer groups created

Image credit cqpolitics

Bottom-up Campaigns 

These are campaigns that are not initiated by a political party or a candidate / politician. They are characterized by groups of people who have new found political power because of the ability to use social media to mobilize large numbers of like-minded people. The most recent large-scale campaign was earlier this year in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), especially Tunisia and Egypt.

There have been a lot of debates on the importance of otherwise of social media to the Arab Spring. People make revolutions, but in this case social media played an integral role as a community builder and communication tool. Control over communication is vital as uprisings gain momentum to provide a common purpose to the community, keep them mobilized and updated. Typically during a coup or revolution the first buildings that are targeted by the opposition are TV and radio.

Image credit gaitri59

In the case of the Arab Spring, social media allowed protestors to both communicate across the community and determine the media output beyond their country without having to control the stations. People were able to instantly self-broadcast events, information and ideas, unrestricted by media and news deadlines and editorial controls. This contributed to the speed at which the revolutions moved and the momentum they maintained, and allowed news networks, especially Al-Jazeera, to continue spreading information and news across the region.

I think there are two major lessons from the Arab Spring that political parties and candidates can leverage:

  1. Citizens and communities of like-minded people have political clout because of social networks
  2. Democratic movements are about political change driven by social networks rather than by elites. This is where social media and social technologies are going to have the largest impact in the coming years.

What Next?

Obama was the pace-making politician in using social media but things have changed since 2008. One of thehallmarks of his 2008 campaign was how email, text messages and the internet were used to reach voters for organizing and fundraising. Since then Twitter and Facebook have increased hugely in popularity and smartphones and apps are far more common. In 2012 it looks like Obama will be more expansive in how he uses social media to mobilize funds and supporters. Community will still be at the heart of his campaign, but additionally he will look at making email, website, texts, mobile apps and social networks work together in harmony to communicate his message – “Are You In”.

Here are three things that he and other parties and candidates will need to do to run successful campaigns:

1.       Control communication using social media

No politician can control how the media uses and spins his message. One way around this is using social media channels to distribute the message. Also, with a large community eager to listen it is important to speak directly to them. Obama used YouTube to announce his reelection campaign. Twitter is a far more popular tool now than in 2008, and Obama’s campaign team have given it more importance by setting-up separate Twitter accounts for all 50 states to target state-relevant messages to supporters

2.       Adapting to the increasing social integration and sharing features

Obama’s campaign team have included social features on, allowing users to log into the site with their Facebook accounts, making it easier to invite friends and share updates. The campaign team has also added an official Facebook app “Are You In”.

3.       Smartphones and mobile apps

The official White House mobile app is a crucial element in building his community and communicating directly with supporters with alerts about speeches that can be watched live from the app, behind-the-scenes photos and videos, and updates from the official blog

Recently, a great example of using social media to communicate directly to a community and leverage sharing features was by the Social Democratic party in Zurich. Rather than only broadcast their policies, the party used Facebook as a platform for voters to suggest ideas and vote on ideas that they would like to be put into practice. Once the candidates got elected they took the most popular ideas from Facebook and passed them as legislation. The video is below. Hopefully this inspires other parties to try similar campaigns.


Can you gamify the use of airports?

[This post was originally published on ZaGarage by Kuliza on August 11 2011. You can read the original here.]

Indian airports plan to offer incentives to airlines and passengers to increase traffic

High value, long haul passengers travelling between the US-Europe and Australia, India and Asia have a range of options through established airport hubs such as Dubai, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. Indian airports and airlines miss out on this market because of lack of established hubs and poor onward connectivity for passengers not travelling further in India. As a result Indian airports are looking at incentivizing airlines, airports and even passengers to use their airports. Some excerpts:

Hyderabad international airport has started the ball rolling by offering incentives to travel agents to persuade passengers to travel via the airport and will soon reward passengers for using the airport as transit point.

“Hyderabad airport does not have captive traffic like Delhi or Mumbai,” he said, requesting anonymity. “Big airports will resort to incentivize airlines and passengers as competition is cut-throat from their international peers.”

Hyderabad airport is offering loyalty points through a specialized company called RewardPort India that claims loyalty and promotions industry in India is currently valued at Rs.20,000 crore a year.

The [Hyderabad airport] programme has three layers—a Web-based interface with travel agents, followed by a complete set of specially packaged privileges that can be availed by using a loyalty card, and the reward points that can be redeemed for products and services, including restaurants, spas, children’s products, etc.

The full article can be read here.

It makes sense to offer incentives to airlines or travel agents to increase airport traffic. I would find it very surprising if they are not doing this already. European lowcost airline Ryanair aggressively pursued incentives from local governments in exchange for increased passenger numbers to make it cheaper for Ryanair to fly to their airports.

However, for passengers the idea needs to be more exciting and engaging – essentially gamified – for it to encourage them to make decisions based on incentives and reward points. They could learn from some of the successful airmile programs such as United Mileage Plus by United Airlines.

As someone who uses airmiles I can’t see how this is going to encourage me to choose 1 airport over another while booking flights. I’m not going to fly via Hyderabad because I can use the airport spa or get a free sandwich at Cafe Coffee Day (that in itself is a great reason not to encash airmiles or reward points!). Ultimately I want to get to my destination with as little flight time, unnecessary stops and potential delays as necessary. The better connectivity and airport experience in Bangkok, Singapore, Frankfurt and Dubai makes it simple to choose how I would fly, irrespective of reward points or discounts at airport retailers.

Image credit: ncrkhabar

The Rise Of Facebook Commerce

[This post was originally published in the Social Technology Quarterly by Kuliza]

Our recent research reports have discussed how brands are using Facebook apps for contests and campaigns and social apps for social CRM. We want to continue our research on Facebook by looking at the different ways that brands are currently using Facebook and some of the options open to them if they are looking at Facebook for commerce. Here in this article I would like to cover some of the reasons behind the immense F-commerce buzz and why should your brand be interested in it.

What is Facebook Commerce?

Social commerce refers to the use of social technologies to connect, listen, understand and engage to improve the shopping experience. F-Commerce is a form of social commerce that is executed on or influenced by Facebook. This involves the range of different activities all related to buying and selling products and services with Facebook.

Why are brands on Facebook?

There are three reasons that I see why brands are establishing themselves on Facebook:

1. Customers are already there

This is an obvious reason. Brands need to follow the action and eyeballs, and that is all happening on Facebook. They are already enjoying significant traction:

  • There are over 600m active users (or about 1 in 11 people), 50% of whom log on to Facebook every day
  • 90% of social network users in the US use Facebook
  • 57.1% of internet users in the US use Facebook
  • A brand’s Facebook fan is 41% more likely to recommend the company and 28% more likely to continue using them in the future (reference)
  • The average fan is worth $133.38 and spends $71.84 more per year than a non fan (reference)
  • Facebook users spend 1.5 times more online that other Internet users (reference)
  • Facebook customers spend more than double that of non-Facebook customers (reference)
  • There is a 51% increase in likelihood that a customer will complete a purchase after clicking the ‘like’ button (reference)

2. Biggest brands are investing on F-Commerce

Because people are already spending time on Facebook, brands – and investors – are investing in F-Commerce. Brand adoption is accelerating and those who already have a presence are finding that it is driving their E-Commerce:

  • Major global brands already sell directly on Facebook
  • More than 50% of the global top 100 websites have integrated with Facebook using its social plugins
  • There are 50,000 independent retailers who have opened a Facebook store withPayvment
  • 76% of marketers plan to leverage Facebook for social commerce initiatives (reference)
  • 67% of retailers plan to use Facebook to drive traffic to their E-Commerce sites (reference)
  • Facebook commerce conversion rates range from 2% to 4% and are on par with E-Commerce websites

3. Shopping is social experience

Shopping is a social experience for most people. Not only do we seek out opinions and feedback before we buy, but we also prefer to shop with friends and family rather than alone. Along with shopping as a social act, people shop not just for themselves but to manage their public image and personal identity, things that can be advertised on Facebook where the average user has 130 friends.

How are brands establishing a presence on Facebook?

There are 2 basic types of approaches that brands are using on Facebook (reference: Social commerce today’s research on F-Commerce):

1. On Facebook F-Commerce

This form of F-Commerce is the purchase of real goods and services inside Facebook. There are 3 types of ways that brands can enable users to purchase on Facebook:

Facebook Stores

These are E-Commerce enabled Facebook pages that allow users to browse and purchase without leaving Facebook. Two examples of this are Coca-Cola’s store that allows fans to buy merchandise and JCPenny where people can browse and pay for goods without leaving Facebook. On JCPenny’s site users can share, like, and post comment on items on their Facebook wall.

Another example is Delta Airlines Ticket Counter that allows users to book and pay for flights through Facebook (though unfortunately only for flights originating in the US at the moment). Along with Keep Climbing, for their frequent flyers, and Delta Assist, all Delta interactions can be completed through their Facebook page without visiting their website.

Facebook Credits

This is Facebook’s own exclusive and mandatory currency used for purchases of virtual goods in games and Facebook Deals. They are used for in-game purchases of virtual goods on Zynga games such as Farmville and Cityville. More recently, Warner Bros. allow people to stream movies in Facebook using Facebook Credits.


Facebook Deals

Launched in April 2011, this service offers deals inside Facebook that are paid for using Facebook Credits. Deals are sourced from local retailers and are displayed on the left-hand navigation column. Users can ‘Like’ or share deals with their friends and publish an update on their News Feed if they buy a deal.

Off Facebook F-Commerce

This form of F-Commerce takes advantage of Facebook’s Open Graph, allowing shoppers to sign into Facebook from any online site through a computer, tablet or mobile.

Facebook-enhanced websites

These are traditional E-Commerce websites that integrate with Facebook to offer instant personalization. The Levi’s Friend Store allows shoppers to use Facebook Connect to see what their friends “Like” and share their favourite Levi’s products.

Amazon allows users to activate their Amazon Facebook Page once they have logged into Amazon. This shows a user’s Facebook photo and profile, birthday notifications and gift suggestions, Amazon items popular among your Facebook friends and recommendations based on your profile data, making it a more personal and social shopping experience.

Facebook-enhanced retail stores

These are traditional high-street retailers that provide in-store shoppers a Facebook experience. The first brand to experiment with this was Diesel with their Diesel Cam. This gave shoppers the options to take a photo of clothes they try on and then log into Facebook to share the photo with their friends

Macy’s took this idea much further by developing a Magic Fitting Room. This included a full-length interactive, camera-enhanced mirror that allowed shoppers to scroll through clothes on the mirror and virtually try them on by flicking them over your reflection on the mirror. Shoppers could then take a photo and post it on Facebook to elicit feedback from their friends.

What type of store should your brand choose?

Understanding where your customers already are can help brands choose what type of store to set-up on Facebook. For large brands like Amazon or Levi’s that already have large traffic on their sites, adding a social element provides customers with a more personal shopping experience; shoppers learn what their friends like and buy and get valuable recommendations from them. For smaller brands that don’t have a lot of users on their site, or for brands that are considering developing an E-Commerce site, then it makes more sense to bring their store to Facebook. Potential customers are already there and an On-Facebook store will help bring traffic and increase awareness of the brand without additional marketing efforts to direct consumers to their E-Commerce website.

How Brands Are Using M-Commerce

[This post was originally written on Social Media Today and was published on June 27th 2011. You can read the original article here.]

Smartphones continue to be increasingly popular with consumers; sales for 2011 are expected to increase from 305 million to 472 million. This presents brands with tremendous potential to leverage smartphones for M-Commerce and personally engage with consumers wherever they are, something that brands have not been able to do before. Brands have the opportunity to be ubiquitous, relevant and individualized to their consumers whenever and wherever the consumer chooses.


Much of the coverage of M-Commerce features FoursquareGroupon and Facebook Places. We wanted to see what else is happening in the space and how brands are engaging consumers. For this report we have considered tablets as part of M-Commerce. Indeed according to a recent Forrester report, tablet-based commerce could be the single biggest inhibitor to the growth of M-Commerce.

There are numerous definitions of M-Commerce, some more restrictive, and others more encompassing. For this report we define M-Commerce into 2 components:

  1. The use of a mobile phone or tablet to conduct financial transactions and payments online
  2. The delivery of information to a mobile phone or tablet that can facilitate a purchase

Growth of M-Commerce

M-Commerce sales have experienced huge growth in the last couple of years, from $1.2 billion to a projected $9 billion in 2011 and are expected to hit $31 billion in 2016. For me the key driver of M-Commerce is convenience. Mobile phones are a part of our daily engagement with our world, whether through calls, text messages, emails or apps. In terms of shopping, the convenience and immediacy comes across clearly when looking at some of the most popular activities for using mobiles from a recent study by Google of US smartphone users:

  • 74% of smartphone users end up making a purchase (76% in-store; 59% online via a computer; 35% via a phone)
  • 70% use a smartphone while in the store
  • 54% use a smartphone to find a retailer
  • 49% use a smartphone to compare prices
  • 48% use a smartphone to get promotions and coupons
  • 44% use a smartphone to read reviews and product info
  • 34% use a smartphone to search in-store inventory

The full results from Google’s study can be viewed on slideshare.

How are brands using M-Commerce?

Driving transactions is an important goal of M-Commerce, but with mobiles and tablets continuously used by consumers irrespective of where they are, they also become important marketing tools for brands. We are interested in what is happening away from the location and deal-based M-Commerce services that Grouponand others provide, and looked at a number of ways that brands are using mobiles and tablets to continuously engage consumers:

1.       Ensuring a mobile-friendly website

With more people accessing websites through their phones it should be a high priority for brands to create a mobile-friendly website. This is what Dunkin’ Donuts have done, adding a trip planner, restaurant locator and information (opening hours, wifi, drive-thru availability), menu, nutrition information, and integration withTwitterFacebook and YouTube. They have also begun to geo-target content (local promotions, new products, news) based on a person’s location.



2.       Engagement and Loyalty

Brands are adopting mobile strategies that go beyond a focus on transactions to also include loyalty, engagement and relationship building activities. This is the strategy that Sunkist has adopted. As mobile shopping is unlikely to work yet for selling fruit, they focus instead on educating people, building loyalty, engaging customers and increasing awareness for their brand and for citrus fruits. They do this in 2 ways:

  1. Sunkist Daily Diet offers ways to track calories and exercise, create a food diary, and search nutritional facts and tips
  2. Their mobile website aims to engage consumers at the point of purchase by providing fruit-based recipes. It also provides nutritional and fruit information, healthy living tips and a shopping list feature.



3.       Product Reviews and Purchase

The experience of shopping online is nothing like walking down the high street, stopping at occasional windows or going inside to browse. There is an opportunity for brands to improve the user experience and design of shopping on mobiles and especially tablets. The closest any brand comes to replicating the traditional shopping experience is Amazon’s fluid Windowshop app. All the usual Amazon features are included: product reviews and features, wish lists, DVD and music previews or trailers, the ability to manage your account and track orders, and integration with Facebook and Twitter. Unfortunately the social element of logging in with Facebook Connect is missing.




4.       Price Comparison


One of the worst parts of shopping online is the range of sites to visit when searching for comparison prices. Thankfully there are a number of apps that does this for consumers. While brands like Target can provide price and stock information across their stores, comparing prices across numerous retailers is something that 3rd party apps are better capable of doing. For travel CheapOair provides comparison and booking features for flights, hotels and car rentals. For retail products two of the leaders are Amazon Mobile and PriceGrabber. Both apps have a similar set of features – search for specific products, read reviews, ratings, compare prices across retails, and the option to share products by email, text, Facebook and Twitter. An advantage that Amazon offers is the ability to scan a barcode, take a photo, type or say the product name and receive comparison prices from Amazon and other retailers.



5.       Point-of-Sale Payment

There are a couple of ways that brands are offering point-of-sale payment options. Pizza Express, the UK restaurant chain, launched an app in June 2011 that allows customers to use a 12 digit code on their receipt to pay for their meal via PayPal, as well as book tables and view menus. Port’s Tea and Coffee Co. pursued an alternative method by using Square’s Card Case. Customers have 2 payment options. They can set-up a virtual tab with their credit card details, pay with the press of a button on their smartphone and receive a receipt by email, or they can swipe their credit card through an iPad accessory and sign with their finger.



What can brands do to take advantage of the M-Commerce trend?

I think there are 3 steps that brands can follow to create take advantage of the M-Commerce trend:

  1. Create great user experience. If brands don’t need an app like Target then at least provide a mobile specific site. Sites optimized for mobiles do not always translate well to a smaller screen
  2. Create great consumer experience. Amazon got this right with Windowshop. It is not only a beautiful app but it covers nearly every feature that consumers expect. I would expect them to add sharing the Price Check feature from their mobile app in future versions.
  3. Incentivize use. Brands want to make sure that they are available and relevant to their consumers at all times. This could be done by engaging daily like Sunkist’s Daily Diet app or ensuring easy purchase options and location-based information and deals.