I’ve just come across this rather cool application by One Potato. One Potato specialise in making 2D and 3D photographic images for advertising, marketing and editorial using their bespoke technology ‘ Tilt-o-Vision’. Essentially it’s a 3D photographic, accelerometer-powered animation you can control by tilting your tablet. The results look outstanding in more ways than one!
Virtual stores are nothing new. When you think about it any branded website which replicates the shop environment through interactive visuals or e-commerce functionality could be classified as a virtual store. But what I find interesting is the emerging trend of extending this concept into other digital, mobile and social spaces. In a lot of ways it makes perfect sense to take your shop to where your customers are rather than wait for them to find you.
But simply replicating e-commerce in different platforms doesn’t necessarily cut it. In fact, the WSJ reviewed a report by Forrester recently which warns brands not to rush out and add ecommerce functionality onto their social platforms as the ROI is still questionable. Their study suggests that early adopters of shopping carts on Facebook had seen only modest results, and in most cases not until after they’d established a loyal-fan following. But there does seem to be an emerging opportunity here for brands to explore, whether that’s incorporating e-commerce or replicating the store experience in some other way. So here’s my pick of the bunch which I feel work brilliantly.
#1 – Asos Facebook page
Asos claimed to be the first in Europe to open a virtual store on Facebook where fans could buy their merchandise without even leaving the site. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know but it’s clearly paying dividends for Asos who now boast almost 1 million fans already. The e-commerce app they developed has the same functionality as that used on their main website including add-to-basket, edit cart contents, check out and order-tracking features. But now they can tap into all the benefits of building a fanbase on Asos at the same time.
#2 – Amazon mobile app
I have the Amazon app on my iPhone and have to say I absolutely love it. It’s so simple to use and brings all the benefits and convenience you’ve come to expect from Amazon directly into the palm of your hand – so you can effectively browse the whole Amazon store without even getting off the sofa (or the loo for that matter). But for me the best function is the barcode scanner. I used this the other day when I was buying a flat screen TV. I popped into various stores on the high street to review the latest products. I checked them all for picture and sound quality and prices. I even spoke to the friendly salesmen for advice. Once I’d decided on the one I liked the most, I simply scanned the barcode using the Amazon app and found the exact same model on Amazon. Not only was it £100 cheaper but I could also check all the consumer reviews to give me the social validation to go ahead with the sale. I completed the transaction with a couple of clicks on my mobile (whilst in the other store) and had the TV delivered the very next day.
I must admit I did feel slightly guilty about abusing the high street retail system but since they didn’t have the one I wanted in stock that was their look out. Also at least I paid something for my TV, which is more can be said for the London looters!
#3 – O2 Guru TV
If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should check out O2 Guru TV – they’ve delivered a fabulously engaging virtual store experience by creating a custom channel on YouTube. It’s not a virtual shop which uses ecommerce as such but rather a portal for handling customer service queries. So customers can go there to find videos on a range of topics from the latest handset reviews to how to reduce your mobile tariff when travelling abroad. It’s a a video rich resource which is not only social and interactive but also excellent for driving awareness through video search optimisation. I’ve heard it’s had a positive impact on reducing call centre volumes too.
#4 – BMW on eBay
It’s easy to think of virtual stores within the retail sector but what about other industries like automotive. Well, if you’re a BMW owner, the prospect of driving to your BMW dealer to pick up a spare part or accessory could be a thing of the past. Nowadays you can simply visit their virtual store on eBay – BMW Direct.
#5 – Ocado on the Go
The Ocado on the Go app is available on the iphone and android. As you’d expect you can browse and buy all your groceries, as well as book a delivery slot directly from your phone. Very impressive functionality. I probably wouldn’t do a complete weekly shop on it as it’s quite a protracted process – not sure my iphone battery would last that long – but I do occasionally amend existing orders or do a mid-week top up shop when I’ve forgotten something. According to econsultancy, they have 10,000 users registering every month and 4,000 checkouts a day. In fact, mobile transactions now account for 12% of Ocado purchases.
#6 – First Direct iphone app
I guess First Direct’s whole raison d’etre is around the virtual store proposition – after all if it wasn’t for telephony or online banking they wouldn’t exist. But their latest app is a natural extension of the virtual store. It only has limited functionality at this stage – so all you can do is check your balances and make payments/transfers directly from the app. But for checking things on the fly, it’s perfect.
#7 – M & S mobile site
M & S recognised the importance of virtual shopping or ‘mobile retailing’ a while ago and launched their mobile ecommerce site in May last year. Since then, their site has received nothing but praise due to its simple usability experience and seemless ecommerce integration. In fact, according to eDigital Research which publishes the mCommerce Benchmarking Study 2011, the M & S mobile site came out on top.
#8 YouTique by French Connection
French Connection have created a well designed custom channel on YouTube called YouTique. It hosts a range of video including anything from fashion tips to more leftfield content to keep things interesting. They have incorporated video annotation too to guide visitors through the channel.
#9 – Google shopping
If you can’t run to the cost of producing your own virtual store, there’s always Google Shopping. A search on Google Shopping will collate all the products within your vicinity so you can see at a glance what’s the cheapest. You can then go on to buy online with just a few clicks.
#10 – Tesco Homeplus & John Lewis
Tesco in Korea came up with an innovative idea recently where they decided to bring the store to the people. By creating a virtual store on the underground platform, commuters could shop by scanning the QR code with their smartphone which would then add the item to their shopping basket. Neat.
Funnily enough, John Lewis have recently come up with a similar execution in Brighton where they’ve converted a window display from one of their Waitrose stores into an interactive shopping experience using QR codes.
#11 – Virtual Facebook
Perhaps saving the best till last. Here’s an exciting idea by Shaker who have created a virtual world within your social network. The video is a bit corny but if you jump towards the end of the clip you’ll get the idea. Who knows it might catch on.
This isn’t an exhaustive list so if you know any other virtual stores, whether that’s ecommerce based or simply replicating the store experience on other digital or social platforms, please share them below.
Step aside QR codes and make way for the new kid on the block, Blippar.
Blippar is a new mobile augmented reality app which allows brands to overlay additional interactivity and value added info to existing ads whether that’s on a billboard, poster, press ad, DM pack, on pack promotion, or POS.
I really like it and can see this taking off a lot quicker than QR codes because the user experience is much easier and the consumer benefits are much more apparent and immediate. The applications appear to be endless too and have already enticed the likes of Tesco, Marmite, Walkers Crisps and Warner Bros.
Do you agree or do you think this will only appeal to early adopters and technofiles?
The IAB Social Media and Mobile Council have just published 10 things you need to know about mobile and social media. In fact, if you look carefully you’ll see one of the tips happens to come from yours truly 😉
1. Accelerating change. Whilst Gartner predicts that mobile will be the dominant form of web access worldwide by 2013, today, already, the combination of social and mobile is accelerating that trend, with nearly the same percentage of iPhone owners accessing Facebook through their mobile (71%) as through fixed line internet (77%).
(Ipsos, “The Future of Mobile” study, December 2009)
Steve Wing, Head of Mobile and Digital Attraction, Guardian
2. Social media and mobile are growing. It’s been predicted by eMarketer that mobile and social network users worldwide will grow more than fivefold between 2009 and 2014, rising from 141.4 million users in 2009 to 760.1 million in 2014.
Clark Turner, Editor, UTalk Marketing
3. It’s how we spend our time. 48% of time spent on the mobile internet is on social networking sites.
Alistair Hill, Analyst and Mobile Products, Europe, comScore
4. It’s personal. To get the most from mobile it is crucial to fully understand everyone you see, along with their actions. Use mobile analytics to precisely identify, measure and personalize websites and apps for each person. Then give everything a social element and learn how people share your service and spread the word.
Andy Bovingdon, VP Product Marketing, Bango
5. Becoming the norm. We conducted a survey of mobile users who viewed ads on our network to better understand how mobile social networking differs from PC usage. We found that over 55% of all feature phone users, 47% of smartphone users and 38% of iPhone users report using social networks from their phone “often”. Additionally, high-end mobile device users are more likely to use Facebook and Twitter while mobile than the reported PC usage patterns.
Jonathan Abraham, Brand Sales Director, Europe, admob
6 It’s frequent. Social networking on mobile is encouraging regular usage – when people use social networks they do so an average of 3.8 times a day for 42 minutes.
Alex Kozloff, Media Research Manager, Unanimis
7 Making mobile inspirational. Using mobile and social media together can add insight to your campaign at the same time as being inspirational. Nike’s True City app created by AKQA is a great example of this. The app utilises social media by encouraging the user to share content from their iPhone to their Facebook page.
Harriet Clarke, Communications Executive, IAB
8. It must be mindful of consumers. If driving users to your online social networking site, be mindful of the user journey for example iPhones aren’t flash enabled which could result in a deflating user experience and a missed opportunity for advertisers.
Mike Newcombe, Mobile & VOD Controller, bskyb
9. It can be compatible. A staggering 2.2 billion minutes were spent using Facebook in a single month via UK mobile phones (GSMA Mobile Media Metrics Dec 2009). As more and more people choose to access Facebook via their mobile rather than their PC, it will become increasingly important for branded Facebook apps to be mobile compatible too.
Richard Pentin, Senior Planner, TMW
10. It can be integrated. You can significantly add to your overall communications plan by including a mobile element to make your marketing more social. Setting consumers tasks that are relevant to their mobile usage and then providing a forum for comparison or competition can add dynamism to a campaign. Lean Mean Fighting Machine recently launched an award-winning campaign for Samsung, which made the most of the exceptional quality of their new phone with a ‘silent disco’ with a twist… Contestants danced to the music on their mobile phones and if someone called or texted them during the disco they were out of the competition. This campaign successfully tapped into the mindset of the mobile consumer, and built on behaviours they were already used to in a very social way.
Amy Kean, Senior PR and Marketing Manager, IAB
If you’re seriously wondering where mobile is going over the next few years then I’d recommend you check out this fascinating presentation. It’s essentially a collaborative effort where 45 mobile ‘experts’ provide their top 5 predictions.
And there I was thinking my iPhone was state-of-the-art!
I thought this was worth sharing – Gartner published last month their IT predictions for the next few years. Of particular note are their mobile phone /user devices predictions at the end of the report (section 10).
In a nutshell, they anticipate that in the next 3 years mobile will surpass the PC as the most common web access device worldwide. They’re not saying that mobiles will replace PCs as the primary way to browse the web, but rather the sheer penetration of smartphones and browser-enabled enhanced mobile devices by 2013 will ultimately mean that more people will be accessing the web on their mobiles than on PC.
When I shared this report with Douglas McDonald, the Head of Mobile at TMW he suggested we should use some caution using global numbers as much of that growth is in emerging economies where mobile is the only option for connectivity. Fixed line will be far more important in the short term in US, Western Europe. That said, it’s very clear that brands need to seriously consider developing a mobile website strategy if they haven’t done so already.
The full report can be accessed here or you can review the relevant extract below:
GARTNER EXTRACT: KEY REPORT FINDINGS
- According to Gartner’s PC installed base forecast, the total number of PCs in use will reach 1.78 billion units in 2013. This figure comprises desktops, notebooks and mini-notebooks (netbooks). All of these devices are capable of being used for Internet access, even if some are not.
- Gartner’s smartphone installed base estimates indicate the number of smartphones in use will reach 1.32 billion units in 2013. All smartphones (e.g., the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3G S, HTC G1 and Touch HD, Nokia N97, Palm Pre, Research In Motion BlackBerry Storm, Samsung Omnia and Omnia HD, and Sony Ericsson Satio and Experia X1) are equipped with Web-browsing capabilities.
- Shipments of enhanced phones (which have media or application capabilities but no local operating system, such as the LG Arena and Samsung Jet) peaked in 2008 and will decline from 2009 onward. The installed base of enhanced phones also peaked in 2009. A growing percentage of enhanced phones are equipped with advanced Web-browsing capabilities. By 2013, over 40% of the enhanced phone installed base (1.26 billion units) will be equipped with advanced browsers — 505 million units.
- By 2013, the combined installed base of smartphones and browser-equipped enhanced phones will exceed 1.82 billion units. From 2013 onward, this combined installed base will be greater than the installed base for PCs.
- Although few users exploit smartphones or enhanced phones for extended Web access, most use them occasionally to access information, Web-based applications and social networks on the move. For example, in September 2009, 65 million of the 350 million registered Facebook users used the mobile device application.
- Although the bulk of page views will continue to occur through larger-format devices (PCs), from 2013, mobile phones will drive the higher number of website accesses due to the sheer weight of device numbers.
- Most users in 2013 will use a PC as their primary Web access device and their phone as a secondary access device. However, as takeup of smartphones spreads globally, there will come a point in 2015 when the mobile phone will overtake the PC as the most common primary device for Web access worldwide.
- In 2009, the majority of organizations do not have mobile-friendly websites. Among others without a significant mobile presence are Ikea International, Samsung Electronics, Apple, Samsung, H-P and Pitney Bowes. But many leading organizations are now re-evaluating their website design to improve accessibility from mobile devices.
- Mobile Web users are typically prepared to make fewer “clicks” on a website than users accessing sites from a PC. Although a growing number of websites and Web-based applications offer support for small-form-factor mobile devices, many still do not. Websites not optimized for the smaller-screen formats will become a market barrier for their owners — much content and many sites will need to be reformatted/rebuilt.
- Organizations in geographic regions where the PC is not as prevalent will face the most need to invest in mobile browser access to their websites. Organizations with consumer-facing websites and portals will be more at risk of reduced customer interaction and fewer transactions than business to business. Many information portals used by educational institutions and the government sector will also require reformatting and restructuring. Online retailers, banks and financial service providers will be the most exposed to this risk.
- Re-evaluate your websites, customer portals and Web-based applications to ensure they provide adequate support for access from smartphone and other mobile devices.In most cases, websites and Web-based applications should be designed to be device-independent. Consider using mobile consumer application platforms for this.Where redesign for mobile phone access is required, consider both format (to fit the restricted user interface capabilities) and information structure. Unless absolutely required, commonly accessed information and resources should not be positioned more than “three clicks away” for the user.