November 4, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
ShopSavvy, the mobile app that allows users to compare prices on anything, anywhere, will be adding Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin to its board of directors.
The company announced Thursday that it has secured a $7 million round of Series A funding led by Saverin. Additional funding came from Brad Martin, former Chairman and CEO of Saks Incorporated, who will also be joining ShopSavvy’s board of directors.
The ShopSavvy app scans the barcode of any item and shows users the best deals for that item both online and in nearby stores. The location-based technology makes it easy for shoppers to quickly find all local retailers that carry an item in order to get the best price without having to actually visit every store. ShopSavvy also uses mobile wallet ecommerce software QuickPay to allow shoppers to make a purchase with their smartphone.
ShopSavvy launched in 2008 and has had 20 million downloads with a current user base of 10 million. The company has more than 40,000 partnerships with retailers including giants such as Walmart, Target, BestBuy, Sears, Nordstrom and Barnes & Noble. Saverin had this to say about his new investment:
“Much like the nascent days of social media, I believe the mobile shopping services market is in the very early stages of change. In my opinion, ShopSavvy has the right connections, the right partners and the right technology to be a game-changer.”
Prior to the recent round of funding ShopSavvy generated revenue from AdOns. AdOns target shoppers based on their location and the items that they are scanning to compare. Businesses can choose to offer things like coupons or rebates to entice customers to add items to their shopping carts.
ShopSavvy will use the new funding to open an office in San Francisco and hire more engineers. The company currently has an office in Dallas and 15 employees. Alexander Muse, CEO of ShopSavvy, had this to say:
“Our focus has always been providing the best experience and service to the consumer. This round of funding gives ShopSavvy the resources to build new services that will help provide consumers better real-time visibility for the best buying decisions possible.”
Apps like ShopSavvy are changing the way people shop, more than half of the people who own smartphones use their mobile device at some stage of the shopping process, whether it be to get directions to a store or compare prices. Mobile payment ecommerce solutions such as Google Wallet and Card.io are also changing the way that people pay when they shop.
October 28, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
MoPub Marketplace is a real-time bidding platform for mobile ads that directly connects publishers with ad buyers.
The marketplace acts as a virtual trading floor that allows mobile ad buyers to bid on ad space from app publishers without going through an ad network. Advertisers are able to better reach target markets and publishers have more control over the types of ads that appear on their apps. The competitive bidding in the marketplace also means that publishers benefit from increased revenue. Jim Payne, CEO and co-founder of MoPub, had this to say:
“Until today, publishers have had to operate their mobile ads through a black box: blindly trusting ad networks, without knowing which ads are effective and with no control over the type of ads consumers receive. This matters considerably to the top tier publishers we are working with who are concerned with brand protection as well as ad performance.”
The ecommerce solution provides app publishers with analytics and management tools that allow them to see exact ad performance statistics, block ads from specific brands or competitors, and choose whether to share the name of their app with bidders on the MoPub Marketplace. There are currently more than 650 publishers using the real-time bidding platform to sell ads. Victor Rubba, CEO and founder of iTunes app store games publisher Fluik Games, had this to say about MoPub:
“We investigated all the players in the mobile ad ecosystem and selected MoPub because it brought together everything we needed into one product. Marketplace gives us 100 percent transparency and control over our revenue and the types of ads we display to our community.”
San Francisco-based MoPub was founded by Payne, a former AdMob product manager, and former AdMob and Google managers Bryan Atwood and Nafis Jamal. Back in July the company recieved $6.5 million in series A funding from Accel Partners and Harrison Metal. The ecommerce solution is already serving billions of monthly ad impressions. Main competitors include Nexage, another popular real-time bidding platform, and InMobi, an ad network that recently raised $200 million in funding and is maneuvering to overtake Google as the global leader in mobile advertising.
The mobile ad market is currently smaller than the online ad market, but advertisers are reaching out to target groups with mobile ads in greater numbers. The mobile ad market is projected to double to $3.3 billion this year and to hit $20.6 billion by 2015.
MoPub’s real-time bidding platform may be the next big thing in the mobile ad market. Things like location-based advertising, which allows marketers to target people on their smartphones wherever they are, make mobile ad space an increasingly competitive arena. The control that MoPub gives over the types of ads that publishers allow on their apps makes it a much more effective ecommerce solution than a standard ad network. The marketplace is open to all types of publishers across both Android and iOS devices.
October 24, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Looking for that perfect holiday gift but can’t afford the full retail price? Want to know what top designers, tech giants and celebrities are dreaming of this year? Or maybe you need to reward yourself–since about 60 percent of shoppers admit they will buy themselves a gift this holiday season. If you’re in the NYC area, head over to 404 Park Avenue South between now and November 10 to check out eBay’s and designer Jonathan Adler’s new “Inspiration Shop.”
The storefront was unveiled on Friday, and it allows passersby to act on their impulses. Think of it as modified window shopping–except this time you actually make a purchase, even though you never enter the store. Potential shoppers walk by, and a name, product or pattern catches their eye. They read a little bit about it and raise their smartphones to the display. There, if they’ve downloaded the eBay app, they can scan any of the available QR codes to find similar items on eBay, allowing for price comparison. There are about 200 million eBay listings available on the app.
The window displays feature exclusive products selected by fashion favorites like Betsey Johnson, Charlotte Ronson, Molly Sims and more. It isn’t only designers, though: actors, editors, photographers and musicians were among those asked for their wishlist items. Jonathan Adler contributed his bold patterned designs to provide a visually exciting background for the showcase.
eBay’s Chief Marketing Officer, Richelle Parham, commented on the new concept:
“Consumers today expect to shop how they want, when they want – and mobile technology is blurring the lines between online and offline retail to meet this demand. The Inspiration Shop brings to life how eBay enables people to immediately act on their passion for shopping in this new commerce environment.”
46.7 percent of surveyed shoppers plan to buy gifts online this year, completing about 36 percent of their total shopping via ecommerce solutions. Since about 48 percent of shoppers say they want to be able to purchase desired items immediately, and 46 percent like to browse window displays to get ideas, the eBay Inspiration Shop seems right on target. Consumers’ biggest issues with brick-and-mortar shopping, especially around the holidays, helped inspire (yes, inspire) the concept for the Inspiration Shop. A survey found that 57 percent of consumers hate long lines, 54 percent despise stores with too many shoppers, 52 percent are deterred by commission-driven or otherwise invasive sales people, and 65 percent feel there isn’t enough selection or availability in physical stores.
Although a majority of shoppers–62 percent–hope to spend less on their holiday gift buying this year, consumers are turning to digital shopping carts more frequently. E-tailers should focus on offering incentives like free shipping and discounts, and make sure their brand is top-of-mind so that people will spread the word about their store via social media. That way, the difficulties of the economy don’t have to be quite so difficult for all ecommerce solutions.
With a combination of impulse buys and comparison shopping, such as can be found at eBay’s Inspiration Shop, consumers and online retailers alike can get what they want out of this holiday season. What do you think about the Inspiration Shop and its limited engagement? Would you like to see something like this in your area, and in a more permanent capacity?
October 21, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Google has partnered with New Jersey transit to offer their contactless payment platform Google Wallet for customers purchasing transit tickets at a couple popular train stations. Both New York City’s Penn Station and Newark’s Liberty International Airport Rail Station have implemented the necessary technology to support a tap-and-pay system for customers with Google Wallet. New Jersey transit is the first public transit system to accept payments using Google Wallet. The application, which utilizes near field technology, or NFC, to wirelessly collect payments, will allow customers to purchase transit tickets by simply tapping their phone on a point-of-sale sensor.
Google hopes to reach a large consumer market by offering their innovative payment service in the transit system. Their decision to partner with NJ Transit gives them access to the third largest public transit system in the country, with more than 895,000 bus and rail trips weekly to New Jersey, New York City, and Philadelphia.
In the words of Google vice president of commerce, Stephanie Tilenius:
“Transit is the fastest way to accelerate adoption and reach usage density in major urban centers by habituating the behavior of tapping and paying with phones.”
The announcement of Google’s partnership with NJ Transit comes just days after Google Wallet’s expansion of the SingleTap platform, which gives customers the ability to redeem coupons and/or earn rewards points with one tap of their phone. In addition to several Walgreens and Subway locations who have already implemented the technology, American Eagle Outfitters, The Container Store, Foot Locker, Guess, Jamba Juice, Toys “R” Us, Macy’s, and OfficeMax are also now accepting Google Wallet payments. Chevron, D’Agostino, and Pinkberry have also signed on to begin accepting it.
Using Google Wallet, customers can access and save coupons and loyalty cards to redeem deals and collect rewards points. It aims to enhance convenience for shoppers by eliminating the amount of papers and cards they need to carry around. Google will also be offering exclusive deals for users such as $2 off at Jamba Juice, 15% off at American Eagle, and 10% off at the Container Store. Users can save these offers to their account and then, when a purchase is made, saved deals will automatically be applied.
Though mobile commerce solutions are quickly gaining popularity, Google Wallet has a couple roadblocks to address. One being that the application is only available on Sprint’s Nexus S 4G phone. Also, it only supports Citi MasterCards or Google prepaid cards and is only available at stores using NFC technology.
Before Google can spark universal adoption of electronic wallets, they must increase the availability of their application to several mobile devices. However, the potential success of this technology is unmatched.
October 13, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Mega Jump Record Holder Philipp Schneckenburger
The world of mobile gaming is expanding all the time, along with mobile commerce and, well, everything mobile. There are tips and tricks all over for improving your mobile-optimized website and ensuring customer satisfaction and ease of use with your m-commerce platform. Everyone is getting involved, and with good reason–10% of visits to ecommerce websites now take place on mobile devices. New tablets and smartphones are high on everyone’s list for the holidays. And gaming isn’t just for PCs or consoles anymore. The rate of mobile gaming has increased from 8% to 38% of gamers since 2009.
For the first time, mobile gaming is making Guinness World Records history. The first mobile gamer to be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records has been announced. Twenty-one year old Philipp Shneckenburger, an accountant in Switzerland, earned a high score of 6,133,889 playing Mega Jump. In an e-mail exchange with the company, we found he is reportedly not your typical gamer: “It’s funny because I normally don’t play video or mobile games,” he said of the achievement. But that may just go to show that mobile gaming is accessible to everyone.
While visiting the United States about a month ago, Schneckenburger’s American cousin showed him Mega Jump. He took to the game quickly and downloaded it for himself when he returned to Switzerland. Then, between September 28 and October 3, he participated in the Mega Jump high-score competition set up by Kiip (a mobile gaming platform with real-world incentives to win) and Guinness World Records, beating out about 200,000 other players to take the winning title.
Kiip and Guinness plan to team up for similar events in the future, giving all gamers the opportunity to break records and earn a place in history. (Schneckenburger’s achievement will be recognized in the 2012 Gamer’s Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, which will be coming out in January.) Kiip gamers earn nearly 2 million achievements daily, and players have the opportunity to automatically submit high scores to be pitted against others for a world record.
Kiip CEO Brian Wong is excited about the record and the partnership:
“We’ve truly upped the ante on what players around the world can now strive for; but it’s closer in reach than ever before in history. This truly changes how we perceive the significance of mobile gaming today.”
In other mobile gaming news, Zynga has just announced its next move: a step away from Facebook and toward its own independent platform. Project Z would allow Zynga to get away from Facebook’s rules and form its own, but it also potentially compromises the number of users and the amount of exposure. Many of the new games Zynga has released have been HTML5, which seems to be the wave of the future for mobile gaming. This all comes as Zynga prepares for its IPO.
The release of the iPhone 4S, with graphics comparable to that of the iPad 2, is also good news for mobile gaming. The Gaming Center app now lets users connect with friends and get suggestions on games, as well as offers more achievements. The screen size has remained the same at 3.5 inches, but facial recognition technology may offer some interesting developments in the coming months and years.
Where would we be without the ability to play Zuma on the subway? Scrabble as we cross the street? Mafia Wars in a lunch meeting? (Just kidding about that last one. Sort of.) We’d be bored; that’s where we’d be. As we gear up for the holiday season, keep these mobile developments in mind and consider the gift of game.
October 13, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
L2 recently released its third annual Digital IQ Index for fashion, which ranks the digital competence of 49 prestigious fashion brands.
The index ranks the brands based on the effectiveness of their digital strategies across four categories: site, digital marketing, social media, and mobile. Brands were given digital IQ scores that fall into one of five rankings: genius, gifted, average, challenged, or feeble.
According to the index’s methodology, a brand’s website accounts for 35 percent of its overall digital IQ score. Nine sites of the 49 brands studied did not have an ecommerce solution, which significantly lowered their score. Brands that did have ecommerce-enabled websites averaged 19 percent more visits per user. The U.S. has the most brands selling online, at 79 percent, with the U.K. coming in second at 61 percent, while other European countries came in third at 41 percent.
The top two brands studied, falling into the genius ranking category, were Burberry and Kate Spade. Factors that led to Burberry’s number one spot are its high quality ecommerce-enabled site, Facebook page with more than 8.6 million fans, Twitter handle with 565,790 followers, and Instagram account with more than 86,000 followers. Kate Spade is doing some innovative things with social media and on the brand’s ecommerce solution. For example, an automatic email is sent to customers who abandon their shopping carts, offering them free shipping as an incentive to complete their order.
Social media presence, and the ability for customers to share information about fashion items via social media, are other big contributors to brands’ overall digital IQ scores. Fifty-seven percent of consumers surveyed reported that information they get through social media influences their luxury purchases. Only 57 percent of the brands studied allow users to Tweet products from their product pages, and only 53 percent allow users to share products on Facebook. According to the study, social media accounts for more than 14 percent of traffic going to a fashion brand’s website, and the majority of this traffic is from Facebook.
The mobile category was the least influential of L2’s four digital competence categories, but still accounted for 15 percent of a brand’s overall digital IQ score. Forty percent of consumers likely to buy luxury fashion products access the Internet from a smartphone daily, but only 18 percent of the brands studied provide mobile sites with ecommerce solutions. The majority of the 49 brands’ mobile sites have limited functionality, although some of the brands do offer mobile commerce apps.
Other interesting key findings from the study include that 10 of the top 15 brands are based in the U.S., compared to 6 in 2010. U.S.-based brands have the highest overall digital IQ rankings, followed closely by the U.K., Italy, and France. According to the study, a higher digital IQ translates to a higher shareholder value, so brands should take a close look at what they are doing across the four digital competence categories to see what they can improve on.
October 12, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
There’s no question that if you are in the business of ecommerce you should be concerned about the business of mobile ecommerce, or m-commerce. Whether you choose to embrace the mobile ecommerce world or not, we’re here to offer a simple fact: your website can and will be accessed via mobile devices.
According to a recent study by Screen Pages, 10% of all ecommerce website visits are via mobile devices. For premium brands attracting more affluent consumers, this figure is closer to 15%. Even the smallest ecommerce retailers can be losing out on huge profits by missing m-commerce opportunities.
However, the study also pointed out conversion rates are 40% lower for shoppers on mobile devices than on PCs. The low conversion rates could be attributed to merchants’ poor mobile website design. For example, a person shopping on a mobile device has a smaller screen, more difficulty typing, and less precise “clicking” than a person shopping on a laptop or desktop computer. These constraints on users need to be taken into account for the optimization of mobile ecommerce solutions.
Lauren Freedman, president of retail consultancy The E-tailing Group Inc., recently said:
“Mobile poses new challenges for merchants, so it is essential that they think about the shopper’s journey through the mobile shopping experience, and what they need to deliver. [...] Smartphone usability is still awkward, and there is room for improvement in the mobile shopping experience. Consumers want to be comfortable shopping your m-commerce site.”
Here are several suggestions to increase m-commerce conversion rates:
1. Take advantage of QR codes to attract shoppers.
Adding QR codes to print advertisements will allow shoppers to scan them and be taken directly to your mobile ecommerce website. The first step in increasing product sales via m-commerce solutions is getting customers to your website in the first place.
2. Avoid drop-down menus.
Picture from: http://www.getelastic.com/mobile-app-dos-donts/
Though drop-down menus are popular and easy to use on a laptop or desktop computer, the same is not the case for mobile devices. Mobile users do not have the option of hovering over a link; thus drop-down menus will make an extra step for shoppers, and the inconvenience of that extra step may be where you lose a potential buyer.
3. Allow users to stay logged in.
Picture from: http://www.getelastic.com/mobile-app-dos-donts/
Since a mobile phone is a private device, users should feel comfortable remaining logged on to websites. Allowing users to stay logged in also eliminates the extra step and hassle of typing in a user name and password. It also goes hand-in-hand with our next suggestion:
4. Store customer credit card information.
Picture from: http://www.getelastic.com/mobile-app-dos-donts/
As with the first two suggestions: convenience is key! If a customer’s billing information is already saved, they don’t need to worry about typing or wasting time. Make it simple for shoppers to click to buy and increase repeat customers at the same time.
5. Use product photos effectively.
Picture from: http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/7285-mobile-commerce-25-essential-tips
Cater to the fact that a mobile screen is significantly smaller than a laptop or desktop computer screen. Shoppers won’t put an item into their shopping cart if they can’t get a good look at it. Offer photos showing different angled views of the product.
With more and more people using mobile devices for their ecommerce needs, the necessity to get the most out of your m-commerce solution is vital to your business. Make sure you clean up your mobile website before the holiday shopping season gets into full-swing!
October 7, 2011
By The ZippyCart Content Team
If there’s one thing we know about online shoppers, it’s that they can’t pass up a great deal. This truth is validated by the ever-increasing number of people flocking to group-buy and flash sale sites. The booming industry, most often promoting daily deals to create a sense of urgency among shoppers, is experiencing huge gains in traffic and is only expected to grow for the next couple of years.
According to a study by Experian Cheetahmail, in August 2011 visits to flash sale sites in the U.S. increased 59% from those in 2010. Flash Sale sites are characterized as those featuring sales lasting 24 hours or less and include companies like Hautelook, Rue La La, Ideeli, and Guilt Groupe. These four sites all operate on a limited-time business model, featuring sales usually lasting several hours to a couple days. Flash sale sites are a niche market, with less product variety than group-buy sites like LivingSocial and Groupon, but implement the same time-frame concept to spark a sense of urgency in browsers.
A new player in this flash sale game is sneakpeeq. Launched only a few months ago in May, sneakpeeq offers a unique twist to the preexisting flash sale platform. sneakpeeq ties together elements of flash sales, gaming, and social media, creating a beautifully addictive ecommerce solution.
The company, based in San Francisco, has a partnership with Facebook’s “Lifestyle Apps” and shoppers can only access deals by signing up via Facebook Connect. Their partnership with Facebook brings social aspects into the online shopping experience. While browsing sneakpeeq’s online store, a live feed streams showing you what others have been peeqing at or purchasing. An offline shopping experience is created with this stream as users are able to see what friends and other members are shopping for in real time.
Another unique feature is that prices are not displayed next to an item. Instead, shoppers must choose to peeq at the price, which will then reveal the discounted deal. But there’s a catch- even if you like the deal price, you may want to peeq again in a few minutes because with every peeq an item receives, the more it is discounted. Shoppers are initially allowed 10 peeqs per day, so you must use them wisely.
Peeqing adds a gaming aspect as shoppers may chance missing out on an item if they opt to wait for the price to discount further. Also, adding to the gaming feel of sneakpeeq, the more you peeq, the more points you accrue and you can advance to different levels of membership. For example, 1 peeq gets 1 point and just 20 points advances users to the next level which then allows them 15 peeqs per day.
Staying true to the flash sale model, all items are only available for a limited time, so if you’re going to buy, you gotta do it quick.
As for product selection, sneakpeeq has partnerships with over 300 brands and their website offers this note:
We work with great brands, both national and boutique, and our mission is to bring you the best of lifestyle products in fashion, dining, travel, and more. Our products change every day. We all aspire to have the best and we want you to have access to these great products and experiences at great prices.
The future of sneakpeeq includes plans to release mobile apps for both Android and iOS platforms.
October 5, 2011
By The ZippyCart Content Team
It appears PayPal is advancing into the realm of brick-and-mortar stores with the revelation of its new point-of-sale technology and payment options. The ecommerce solution, owned by eBay, is set to open a pop-up store in New York City this November to showcase their new digital payment technology and give merchants a realistic idea of what it will look like in retail stores upon its release.
Although the folks at PayPal had been hinting at new technologies in the works early this summer, the point-of-sale technology and new payment options were formally announced only a few weeks ago. The pop-up store, located at 174 Hudson, will be a place merchants are invited to visit and experience real-time demonstrations of the company’s payment processing technology and get an idea of its intended use in retail stores. Outside the store, passersby will have access to QR codes, which they can scan to learn more about the new technology and get information straight from PayPal.
In addition to QR codes and payment options, the new technology will allow users to check inventory real-time, immediately add items to their shopping cart, and provide location based services and in-store offers from local retailers. It will also be a virtual wallet, which will compete with big names like Google. PayPal President, Scott Thompson explained on their blog:
“[PayPal’s new payment technologies] will help give their customers a much better shopping and buying experience through PayPal. And let’s be clear about something – we’re not just shoving a credit card on a phone. PayPal is re-imagining money and making it work better for merchants and consumers – whatever device you’re on, wherever you are in the world, and however you prefer to pay (whether that’s cash, credit, or installments).”
Preceding this announcement, PayPal has been boasting record high profits. In Q2, PayPal announced earnings of $1 billion for the first time in the history of the company. Mobile payments already account for a great portion of PayPal’s business- about $10 million in mobile total payments daily. When PayPal’s new technology is officially released, consumers mobile payments will most likely skyrocket.
Seeing as ecommerce on mobile phones has been increasing exponentially as of late, PayPal could not have picked a better time to shake up the game with their innovative technology. If their vision fully comes to life, the entire shopping experience could be changed- but for now we will have to wait and see.
September 29, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
“What does ‘high score’ mean? New high score, is that bad? What does that mean? Did I break it?” – Grandma’s Boy
One of the great pinnacles for every gamer out there is to rank the highest score in a video-game, to be the top player in every war-of-angry-worldcraft-super-mario-birds game out there. The notoriety of “still_liveswithmom87” splashed on the virtual walls of every high score page and gaming forum is what geeky dreams are made of. However, dream no more because one mobile game challenge is letting it now become a very happy reality.
San Francisco-based mobile ad start-up Kiip (pronounced keep), which brings real-world rewards for in-game achievements, has partnered up with Guinness World Records to bring the ultimate recognition to the top scoring player in mobile game, Mega Jump.
Starting Wednesday, September 28th and running through Monday, October 3rd, hopeful Mega Jump players will have the chance to earn themselves a place in the annals of gaming history by achieving the highest score. The player with the highest score will become the Highest Score Achieved on Mega Jump title holder, in addition to getting their name published in the next Guinness World Records: Gamers Edition 2012, and an official certificate recognizing his or her achievement.
The partnership with Guinness is a rather smart way for Kiip to introduce its services to developers, brands and gamers. The company stealthily launched this year and is out to change the way brands can connect with consumers by creating ad-incentives on a growing and immensely popular channel, mobile games. According to a study by eMarketer, 65% of smartphone users recall seeing an advertisement while online, and 35% reported actually clicking on an ad. Smartphone ads are becoming the new frontier to reach today’s consumer.
The company essentially takes that moment where a gamer is the most excited (e.g. high score, new level, extra points, etc.) and Kiip-enabled games will then flash an ad/reward to follow/associate with their achievement. Rewards have spanned across the board from Sephora, PopChips, Carl’s Jr., and Dr. Pepper. It’s a very strategic form of positive brand association that the company is using to their advantage to attract potential users. Currently, Kiip is enabled in over 20 mobile games and has an active network of over 15 million gamers.
“We’re making achievements more rewarding while building a new ad model. That’s always what Kiip’s been about,” explained Kiip CEO Brian Wong to the press. “We thought to ourselves — how do we differentiate amongst networks and to build our brand beyond any network has ever seen? And so we found the ultimate way, through world records, to recognize our true inventory: the achievement moment. This is also an ongoing network integration that will see all Kiip-enabled games from today onward having the opportunity to contribute to the record books. It is a network enhancer that is super fitting to our moments-based model.”
Looking forward, Kiip will roll out more opportunities to become a Guinness World Record holder for other Kiip-enabled games. The current mobile game challenge is only open to iOS Mega Jump users. To see how you size up to the competition, check out the current leaderboard: https://kiip.me/gwr.
September 23, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Standard Chartered Bank Kenya has partnered with ecommerce software provider Cellulant to grow its mobile ecommerce clients.
The new mobile banking platform, called Release 3.0, will allow the bank to create applications that will allow clients to do their banking and make online bill payments or other transactions from their smartphones. Release 3.0 integrates into various core banking systems and combines ATM and Internet banking channels. The platform is versatile enough that Standard Chartered Bank will be able to custom-design products for different markets throughout Africa.
Standard Chartered Bank has been quick to jump into the mobile commerce market and has launched its own Apple app store for its clients and employees. Mobile commerce is finding a strong foothold in Africa and quickly gaining popularity. The bank has already doubled its number of mobile banking clients and won an award within its global network. Kariuki Ngari, Standard Charter Bank Kenya’s Consumer Banking Director, had this to say:
“The bank’s aim is to more than triple mobile commerce usage as an alternative delivery channel for our range of services as part of our strategic commitment to meet our discerning customers’ needs more conveniently. Cellulant has managed to meet our international demands to provide a technically superior, robust and scalable solution and we are proud to continue this journey with them.”
Cellulant is responsible for providing mobile ecommerce solutions in more than 30 mobile networks throughout Africa. It has a presence in a variety of industries including banking, utilities, insurance, retail, manufacturing, and music. Its presence also extends across twelve countries including Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Mauritius, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique. Paul Ndichu, Cellulant’s Chief Business Officer, had this to say:
“We have built a mobile commerce network that is connected to different platforms across different value chains in Africa such as MNO wallets, banks, merchant bill payment gateways and content delivery channels to deliver a transformational experience on mobile.”
Cellulant is at the forefront of mobile commerce in developing countries in Africa. Ndichu also stated that the company invests 15 percent of its annual revenue towards research and development to create innovative mobile ecommerce software for its variety of markets.
The partnership between Standard Chartered Bank and Cellulant will allow clients to use ecommerce software created with the Release 3.0 platform in order to do everything from card-less withdrawals to receiving SMS alerts regarding their bank accounts. The platform utilizes encryption and monitoring features for secure online payments and transactions. Ngari stated that the bank is eager to see its clients begin using the new technology as it begins to release a variety of new services.
September 21, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
The credit card scanning technology that Card.io provided for iOS back in June is now available for Android.
Card.io is a software development kit that developers can integrate into their apps to aid payment processes. The San Francisco based company was founded by former Admob employees Mike Mettler and Josh Bleecher Snyder. The tool allows users to simply place their credit card in front of their smartphone’s camera to scan it and upload the data, rather than manually entering it all in. 80 iOS apps have integrated the ecommerce solution since its recent release and Card.io says more than 750 additonal developers have signed up to start using the platform.
The hassle of entering payment information on a relatively small device is one of the biggest challenges to mobile commerce. The type of technology offered by Card.io makes the process much easier for smartphone users who wish to quickly purchase items in their shopping carts. Anytime credit card information is involved, there are obvious issues with security that become a concern. Card.io uses 128-bit SSL encryption to protect consumers’ data and doesn’t save an image of the credit card on users’ phones.
Major competitors in the field of mobile commerce and mobile payments are Google and Square. There are however some key differences between the types of tools that these companies offer and what Card.io provides with its SDK. The major difference between Card.io and Square is that users have to plug in an additional piece of hardware to their smartphones in order to use Square to accept credit card payments. Card.io targets the developers rather than the consumers and is actually integrated into apps to allow for easy payment options.
The newly released Google Wallet is a bigger threat to credit card scanning technology because it replaces the physical credit card itself. However, Card.io is more specifically targeted for use as a mobile ecommerce solution rather than as a replacement for an actual wallet to be used in everyday transactions. The launch of Google Wallet and impending release of other mobile payment technology from companies such as PayPal may make plastic credit cards obsolete sometime in the next several years. If this happens, ecommerce software like that offered by Card.io will no longer serve a purpose, but for now the company shows no sign of losing steam as developers sign-up to integrate the platform into their apps.
September 15, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
Red Robot Labs, creators of the Life is Crime app, is a start-up devoted to developing games that realize the potential of location-based mobile gaming.
Players in “Life is Crime” can fight each other at real locations on their city’s map for control of properties in battles where the winner is determined by weapons and stats. Players can also pick up and drop off virtual “goods” from each other around the city, a mutually beneficial action. The game launched at Seattle’s Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) back in August and quickly gained a following. For the duration of the convention alone there were more than 20,000 virtual “crimes” committed, including 4000 fights for control of the Convention Center and $1 million in contraband trafficked through the Convention Center.
Seattle is one of the first fully developed and mapped cities to be released for the game. Users can add the Life is Crime app to their shopping carts for free but it is currently only available on the Android. An iPhone version is set to be released soon and there is talk of allowing gang fights between iPhone and Android users to battle it out for supremacy of their cities.
Toronto based developers Massive Damage, Inc. created another example of location-based gaming, called Please Stay Calm, in which players battle hordes of flesh eating zombies at locations that they check-in at. Players can earn credits to purchase new weapons in order to better combat the undead. Location-based, or real-world, mobile gaming is still in its early stages but games like Life is Crime and Please Stay Calm provide a glimpse into the future potential of location-based gaming to change how people interact with their Smartphones and with each other at popular locations. Massive Damage’s Garry Seto had this to say:
“Our game is just scratching the surface of the emergent gameplay possible by implementing features like implicit teamplay and ad hoc group missions that occur when multiple players are in the same location.”
Please Stay Calm is currently only available through ecommerce solutions in Canada and only for the iPhone. The game will be released in the United States sometime next month and for the Android later this year.
Red Robot Labs announced Wednesday that it has raised $8.5 million in Series A funding. The funding was led by Benchmark Capital with participation from Shasta Ventures, Playdom co-founder Rick Thompson, and Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive. Red Robot Labs will use the new funding to work on developing its location-based gaming platform, create new games in-studio, as well as forge partnerships with third-party developers. Mike Ouye, CEO and co-founder, had this to say:
“We recognized the enormous opportunity presented by location gameplay on mobile devices — location games are very sticky. We’ve developed a significant game and platform strategy that appeals to both core gamers and casual audiences seeking a high quality social gaming experience built around their daily routines.”
Smartphone users can expect to see more and more location-based mobile gaming apps available for their shopping carts in the near future. Red Robot Labs hopes to have three more games out by then end of the year.
September 12, 2011
By the ZippyCart Content Team
PixelMags is an online publishing powerhouse that specializes in taking your magazine or catalog for you ecommerce solution and bringing it into the 21st Century. They can help you add other media, interaction, and other advanced features to what used to be a static document. Keeping things fluid and dynamic is the name of the game for online publications and ecommerce solutions alike. We were lucky enough to sit down with Ryan Marquis, co-founder and COO of PixelMags:
So right off the bat, let’s get into this. PixelMags is unique in that you provide a powerful service for two very different groups: retailers who want fully-featured catalog apps for their businesses, and also publishers who want sleek, functional, sharp-looking publications (I’ve got that right, right?). Can you talk a little bit about the processes that your team employs when serving these two different groups, or are they more similar than one might initially think?
They are as similar as they are different in terms of magazines and catalog clients, depending on what the publisher/client is looking for. Most clients that we have worked with haven’t evolved into what we call “interactive tablet content.” This means building an HTML5 catalog, or by using a provider such as Adobe or WoodWing. A majority of publishers are sticking to the standard PDF format, and producing a replica catalog. Where we come into play with that is we take the PDF, and with our CDS (content delivery software) tool kit, we make these PDFs into fully interactive catalogs.
We like to call the tool kit we have developed “unlimited.” Clients can have videos, slide shows, catalogs, links, 360-degree product rotation and so forth. Some of the catalogs that are utilizing these features are Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, FrontGate and LampsPlus. All of our catalogs have utilized our white label solution, which is basically saying that our logo and name are taken out of the application to make it appear is if the magazine or catalog themselves made the application out of their own office. It gives the publisher all of the identity, giving the consumer more confidence to shop and buy.
We have also integrated the catalog ecommerce system, which allows people to shop and purchase products right from the application. I am not going to put any numbers out, but Pottery Barn has seen a rise in sales and has seen millions of dollars in increased revenue. You can touch a couch on the interactive catalog, read more about it, and decide if you want to buy it without ever leaving the application.
When it comes to magazine publishers, a lot of those same features are available and have been utilized by using our CDS tool kit. Being able to pull videos from YouTube is a great feature that allows readers to take the reading experience farther than before. Of course, all of our apps are compliant with Apple’s new polices for iOS5 and the upcoming Newsstand. With all the features of auto-renew subscription SKU’s, background downloading and other specifications. We put a press release out announcing this recently in August.
Magazines present their material differently than catalogers. Magazine publishers I would say are little more adventurous than others as far as trying new interactive content. That is one of the unique things about PixelMags compared to any of the providers in our space. We have designed our approach to be a digital distribution company. When I say that, I mean publishers have the choice to upload any form of content they wish. They can start with a PDF, and three months down the line they can transfer over to Adobe. Using the PixelMags destruction platform for a publisher, it allows them to start with a PDF and evolve into interactive content, meaning Adobe, WoodWing or even HTML5. Our reader within our application accepts all forms of input, which is very critical for both publisher and consumer.
We are the only provider in our space that is currently offering this evolution process. Typically, if you have been live for a year, and you try to switch from PDF to WoodWing or HTML5, you are not going to be able to just substitute one format to the other. You would have to shutdown that application completely, build an entirely new application, and then try converting the consumers that you already have to your new application. It is not an easy process, and it can have very big consequences. With our platform and distribution model, we have alleviated that nightmare of having a consumer transfer, making the process seamless.
Who are some retail clients that you’ve found it particularly interesting to work with?
Pottery Barn has been great to work with. LampsPlus is a great client, and they are doing a lot of innovative stuff, both with their digital content and even in their store. We also offer a web-based reader for our clients, where consumers can read their catalog on a website, like a page flipper. What’s unique about our platform is that whatever a publisher creates in our CDS tool kit will automatically upload to the application and onto their web base version too. They create in one location, and they can distribute it to multiple outlets. With LampsPlus, we have built a kiosk for them. So when consumers go into their store, and they do not have an iPad with them, they will be able to go to a kiosk in the store and be able to view the same interactive content on a web based kiosk that we developed for their iPad. Once again, Pottery Barn is great, Restoration Hardware is great, FrontGate is great, and same with LampsPlus. All great clients to work with as far as retail clients go.
How was the integration with Apple Newsstand? What have your customers been saying since you brought your services to that platform?
They have all been pretty ecstatic about it actually. We have a couple hundred clients now, and it’s a very big transition. We are focusing on the bigger clients right now, like Hearst UK and other ones to help integrate into Apple Newsstand. There is a lot of confusion though on Apple Newsstand. A lot of people actually think its an application, when in essence it’s a folder that is going to aggregate auto-renew subscription SKU’s and organize your magazine subscription. We have been working with Apple now for almost three years, and recently working more closely than before, making sure that we are doing everything right for when the Newsstand launches.
But beyond Apple – your website says “Android coming soon.” The Android OS is growing crazy-fast. I know that you and your team decided to focus on the iPad and iPhone because they are such well-designed devices and use such similar operating systems (I actually read a previous interview where you talked about the complexity of writing what is essentially two different apps in one). Android has some problems in that arena: a million different devices, different versions of the OS running all over the place, etc. How are you and the team dealing with that?
Great question. Android OS is growing very rapidly, and we are getting a ton of inquires from publishers about consumers wanting the app and magazine to be available to them on the Android. You have to take a step back though, which is what we have done, and evaluate the space. To develop on Apple, Android, Blackberry or any other OS system for tablets and smart phones out there, you need to know the install base, (how many consumers have this installed) and also the user experience. Android is an open source OS that tablet manufactures no matter if you are Samsung or some random developer out of China, can run and install this OS on their tablet device. As a digital distributor, I can go to China tomorrow, have a tablet built with Android OS running on it in a few weeks. Does that mean I am going to have a big install base or quality tablet? So getting back to the question, we are focusing on Android, but we are going to developing Android OS that running 3.0 or higher, like Honeycomb, and will narrow it done to specific tablets. We will use tablets with a good consumer adoption rate and a good quality name behind it. The Samsung Galaxy tablet and Motorola zoom are the first two tablets in that market that we are going to focus on.
Speaking of the team, how big is your group, all offices included? How quickly have you had to grow? What advice can you give our readers about adding new members to your team?
We have offices in the US, UK and in the South Pacific. In the US, we have ten employees. In the United Kingdom we have 13 employees, and three people in New Zealand and Australia. We have had to grow very quickly. The company is still relatively young, we are almost three years old. It has grown from my partner Mark and I to 26 employees now.
The advice I can give to readers about adding new members to our team, or in this industry in general is that we are always looking for good people. When we interview people, we go off their work and their work history. We don’t really focus on where someone went to school; we choose to focus on performance. You need to have a strong digital background, and be on top of what is going on in our industry, especially in the tablet world. We are currently looking for Java script developers, iOS developers and Android developers.
What has been one challenge that you and the team have had to overcome that gave you all a huge sense of accomplishment? How did you do it? What was so significant about the challenge? What did you all learn through the experience?
The biggest challenge in this space is the iOS platform. When we first started the business, it was just my partner Mark and I. Our biggest challenge, to be honest and totally upfront, was just starting the business. It took us nine and half months to get our initial software application developed and approved by Apple. We probably went back and forth with Apple with dozens of revisions of how our database works with the Apple infrastructure, and how a new issue is delivered, and how notifications are delivered. Setting up the whole infrastructure, the whole content delivery network was a challenge. We actually use Amazon as our delivery method. So when someone clicks download on an application, that content is actually streamed from Amazon’s cloud streaming network. There were a lot of different pieces that had to be put together. The biggest challenge was to build the initial platform, and the ongoing challenge is of course, maintenance, and adhering to Apple’s new regulations, especially when a new OS launches. Through this process we have learned how to work hard and how to drink a heck of a lot of Redbull!
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