Thursday, January 20, 2011

A New Form of Payment - The Smartphone

Society has gone from the use of bartering, to gold coins, to currency, to debit and credit cards in order to facilitate exchanges.  Is it insensible to think that the new concept of using a smart phone to make a purchase is the future?  I mean who would have ever thought that debit cards would have been as popular as they are today.  And, countries like Japan and South Korea have been using mobile phones for payments for a while.  Omar Green, the director of strategic mobile initiatives at Intuit, a company highly interested in using cell phone purchasing technology believes that 2011 will be the tipping point for this technology.
But, how does it work? It’s called, “Near Field Communication (NFC), which allows two-way wireless communication between a chip inside a phone and a receiving terminal. This means that soon, if you have a phone that supports NFC, you’ll be able to not only pay for a purchase by waving your phone near a contactless reader, but you can also get instant loyalty points, coupons and rewards.” Starbucks is rolling this technology out at all its stores. And, over 13,000 taxis in NYC have been equipped with this technology. As such this technology is already among us.

Some may consider NFC technology farfetched but, let’s consider the number of purchases we make online on our computers.  A smartphone is simply a computer/phone.  The technology in a credit card is not nearly as advanced as the technology that a Smartphone provides so it may even provide more security than a credit card provides.  However, it could create another whole set of issues such as the ability for merchants to track the information of those utilizing the technology. The law makers are currently arguing over the issue of internet privacy, NFC technology would just add to that issue. 

But, if we aren’t already reliant on our Smartphones as they allow us to make phone calls, wake us up in the morning with their alarms, take pictures, browse the web, and provide directions.  They can now make payments for us.  What’s next? Maybe we will be able to get rid of our keys and start our cars with a smartphone.  Come to think about it I may need to make sure there isn’t an app already for that.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

With a Little “Sniffing” Can Marketers Tell Where You Have Been?

Imagine if you had a bar code on the top of your head that stores could scan as you walked through their doors allowing them to tell what others stores you had visited.  Sounds outrageous, but this is exactly what marketers are able to accomplish though “sniffing” online.

Forbes Kashmir Hill explains in her article The FTC Promises an End to History Sniffing (Microsoft, Take Note), how researchers found that some popular sites were taking advantage of a Javascript security flaw that allowed them to see what other sites their visitors had visited.  This flaw has sparked some law suits pushing browser companies to make corrections to their security software.  Chrome, Safari, and Mozilla have addressed this issue; however Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is still vulnerable to sniffing.  Is Microsoft’s dominant/monopoly position contributing to their inability to address the sniffing issue, or are they making financial gains by way of not addressing the security issue?

Per the FTC, self-regulation has not progressed at the pace policy makers would like, as such an onslaught of online privacy policies is looming.  The solution will need to involve both the policy makers and the industry because online technology is evolving far too quickly for policies or regulations to keep pace.  

Currently the “do not track” technology is on the table in congress.  This technology allows consumers to opt out of web tracking.  Will this technology provide the reasonable privacy to the consumer or will it impose too many burdens on the industry. Time will tell.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Under Utilization of Social Media

Successful sales people usually focus on understanding their prospects demands/requirements in order to build a proposal that fit the prospects needs.   This level of feedback can only be gained through two way communication channels.  Some popular channels of two-way communication include person to person, by phone, email, and text message.  However, social media provides yet a new means to communicate with prospects and customers that if effectively leveraged can be utilized to provide not only a platform to promote its products and services but also a platform to gain feedback from customers to understand what customers want in terms of products, experiences, and services.  It befuddles me why firms don’t take full advantage of this new channel of communication.

A new poll from Netherlands based consultancy, Executive Learning Partnership, has found that while regular users strongly believe that social media has improved their relationships with customers, far fewer of those polled actually use it for business purposes.” Citing only 38% of the respondents to their survey say that they actually use social media for business purposes.

The ROI that social media provides far outweigh the drawbacks.   Sure a prospect or customer may post negative feedback about a firm’s products or services or maybe openly shared information is not something a firm wants its competitors to see.  But most business should agree that feedback itself is valuable rather negative or positive.  A firm should want to know what its prospects and customers are thinking, especially if it’s negative and could potential result in loss of business.
To take full advantage of the benefits social media provides a firm should have a “living” social media presents.  As such they should be able respond to inquiries within social medial much like inquiries can be responded to by phone, in person, or by email.   Social media is simply a new means of two way communication and it should be utilized as such.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Jury Is Still Out on Neuromarketing

Contrary to Joseph Turow beliefs, a professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, neuromarketing “…will never enable marketing professionals to discover that Holy Grail of market research, a ‘buy button’ - some mythical region of the brain which need only be stimulated to compel consumers to purchase a product whether or not they actually want to do so! It will never be found because, of course, it does not exist!”1

Purchasing decisions are much more complex than what information can be taken from the technology available through EEG or iMRIs. “The idea is that somehow neuromarketing is going to be so much more powerful that, like zombies, we are all going to go out and buy soap,” Professor Wolpe says. “But that is just not realistic in terms of the way the brain works.”2 Sure, EEGs and iMRIs provide marketers information about the consumers responses to a particular add but it will not provide them the feedback they need to determine what it is that makes a consumer decide the way that they decide.

Firms such as EmSense, Sands Research, MindLab International and NeuroSense that specialize in neuromarketing techniques are riding this fad that in the short-term will provide a return. However, long-term the success of these firms will depend on their ability to diversify their product offerings.