No, You Don't Need an App

Mobile Strategy: No, You Don’t Need an App

With the iPhone released nearly 10 years ago, mobile web and apps have been around for quite a while now. Still, the question continues to come up: Do I need an app?

The short answer? No.

The long answer? It depends on what you’re trying to do.

As mobile started to take off and the world was enamored with the new app economy, the immediate rush of thinking was to either build an app or miss out on mobile. The question most people didn’t ask was this: What will an app accomplish that my website won’t?
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How Google may be slowing down AMP by not using direct links to publishers

My Thoughts: AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) continue to be a controversial topic, and this latest news sure doesn’t do anything to help their cause. But with Google supposedly putting more “weight” behind pages that load fast on mobile, particularly through AMP it starts being a question as to if you want Google to like your site a little more or not.

Granted, AMP is considerably faster (as of this posting I’m using it on this site) but I also fear the loss of control it brings. Now that Google will apparently be loading up its own cached pages regularly now instead of using direct links to publishers own sites I’m even more concerned. At what point does Google start “owning” the traffic to these pages and the actual content sites start losing ownership of their own work?

Add in the fact that some recent tests have shown that Google loading from their own cache may be slower than loading from the actual publisher site, and AMP loses even more of its value.

Are we about to see a reversal on adoption of the AMP format?

One of the biggest disadvantages for publishers in using AMP — the accelerated mobile pages format — is that Google will not show a publisher’s actual URL when displaying AMP pages. Google says this is so AMP pages load quickly. However, using a publisher’s URL might hardly slow a page down. In fact, using Google’s URL might actually cause AMP pages to load more slowly.

Source: How Google may be slowing down AMP by not using direct links to publishers

An Obvious But Unused Application of Geofencing + Mobile in Retail

I’m sitting here at the Orlando Airport, waiting for my flight, thinking about everything I learned during my second trip to the eTail Connect conference. As usual, it was a fantastic experience, with a lot of great conversations with a lot of really smart people in the e-commerce industry. We discussed issues like fraud, personalization, payment processing, social sign-in, loyalty, communication strategies and a lot more … but of all the conversations I had, there’s one in particular that keeps coming back to me.

During the cocktail reception the first night, I met with my friend John and we were discussing his company’s geofencing and beacon technologies. As I currently work in a pureplay dotcom, geofencing isn’t of that much use to me – but it’s a topic I’ve always found interesting. Just being part of the retail community, what’s going on in omnichannel always fascinates me, as they deal with different variations of the problems I deal with, and have to look for other solutions and integrations that make sense across their physical and digital presences.

Anyway, we were talking about geofencing and beacons and I told John how impressed I’ve been with Target’s use of the technology so far. Even things like little reminders to use my cartwheel app when I’m in store are great uses of the tech, as I often forget about Cartwheel until I’m at checkout, and by then it’s too late for me to start looking at offers or scanning my products in the cart. The reminder as I walk in the door has been helping me here considerably.

We talked about this and other uses geofencing has been helpful in, and as we talked we got onto the subject of how the tech can be used to help guide you around the store to help find the departments and items you might be looking for. Then came the “eureka” moment.

My wife and I recently built a new house with a nice deck overlooking our creek. We want to spend more time out there enjoying the view, but the patio furniture we had was not quite matching the style of the new house – so we were in market for something new. Target had exactly what we were looking for, a little chat set called Carag, but every time we went to the store we found out it wasn’t in stock (and they didn’t sell it online). So we kept checking back. Sometimes we’d call, but othertimes we’d just ask when we were in the store for another shopping reason.

The problem I kept running into though was that there was never anyone working in the patio section – at least no one I could find. I had a simple question: do you have this in a box in back? All I needed to do was ask an associate and they could check and if so, they just had a $200 sale. As I discussed this experience with my John I thought of all the other times I’ve been in stores and wanted something or had a question but needed to track down an associate to get help (I actually had a similar experience at Target again the other day when I wanted a new Fitbit but needed someone to get it for me from their locked areas).

So, this all leads to my big question / idea: Why don’t stores add in “call for assistance” into their apps? Sure, a few stores have buttons on kiosks for this, but again you still have to hunt to find them (just like hunting for an associate). With geofencing and beacon technology, working in conjunction with your store app, you should be able to easily allow your shoppers to tap a button to request help, then send a ping with the rough location to your sales associates, telling them where you are and that you need some assistance. In an ideal experience, I’d tap the button, the associate would get pinged, and I’d be told to hold tight for a few minutes because someone is on their way to exactly where I am.

Since I don’t work in physical retail, I have no idea how many sales are lost simply due to customers not being able to find an associate at the time they have a question. What I do know is that I’ve walked out of stores plenty of times when I went in with intent to purchase, but wasn’t able to get the help I needed to get the product / close the sale.

It’s a pretty simple use of the technology, but it would give customers the ability to ask for help when they need it, where they need it, rather than hope that an associate and a guest would cross paths at the right time in-store.

So there you go stores. Go do this.

… and while you’re at it, let me pay for my purchase in-store with my phone, so I don’t have to wait in lines. Barnes and Noble, I’m looking at you in particlar … you don’t want to know how many piles of books I’ve not bought because your lines were too long and slow, and then just put them on a table, walked out the door and bought them on Amazon instead. But that’s for another conversation.