Download the award-winning Brandheld presentation

As mentioned in my previous post, I had quite a successful experience at the Media Research Group conference in Malta.

My presentation on Brandheld: Unlocking the potential value* of the mobile internet, which won the IPA/Simon Broadbent award for Best Paper can now be viewed and downloaded on Slideshare. I’ve even included an amended version of my speaker notes, although due to the terms and conditions our research participants agreed to I am unable to show the three (frankly awesome) videos we produced.

The presentation is embedded below (RSS readers might need to click through to see it)

Additionally, most of the other presentations from the conference can be downloaded from the MRG website. It’s definitely worth checking out, though the presentations that were speech accompaniments rather than slides/handouts don’t make a lot of sense without the accompanying notes.

Any feedback or (constructive) criticism would be appreciated. My contact details are on the final slide, or on the “About the blog” page if you don’t want to do so publicly.

sk

* The title occasionally switches between “potential value” and “value potential” – the former comes to me more naturally but the latter is probably better

Mobile internet adoption isn’t an inevitability

To tie in with the MRG conference, Mediatel is running a series of opinion pieces from the speakers.

Mine is on the diffusion of innovation with regard to the mobile internet (I’ll be speaking about Essential’s Brandheld mobile internet project at the conference). I’m not sure if it will eventually go behind a paywall or not, but the article can be found here.

In it, I say that the majority of people will eventually have powerful internet-enabled phones, but that adoption of the mobile internet isn’t guaranteed as

  • Ownership doesn’t equate to usage
  • The mobile shouldn’t seek to replicate the computer
  • Needs and behaviours vary across the adoption curve
  • Usage does not always correspond to value
  • Seek to surprise

Each of these points are explained within the article, which even has a photo of me adorning the page.

sk

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The perception of disruption

Network effects hasten the rate of innovation. Therefore, the rate of technological change is faster now than it has ever been (at least if my memory of Solow-style exogenous growth models is correct.

This tends to be iterative. Small, continual improvements that improve the efficiency of processes and provide new opportunities for people to achieve their desires.

But, over time, this can be problematic.

Particularly with user perceptions.

The core proposition (and branding) of a product or service will try to remain fairly constant. But feature creep will bloat and complicate.

It is even possible that some innovations will supersede the original benefit in terms of usefulness and relevance, but it gets lost in the perceptions of users since it is only additive to the core proposition.

In order to focus upon the most useful innovations, a disruption is necessary. A break with the past.

Mobile is a good example of this.

Mobiles have evolved at a rapid rate. They got smaller as technological processes improved but then bigger as new features emerged. Cameras, music players and internet connectivity all augmented the core proposition – a device to make calls on, wherever you are.

But the internet has superseded the phone network. Email and social networks (and Skype) sit alongside voice and text, along with the numerous other benefits the mobile internet offers.

And a disruption was needed to make these innovations apparent. Because ownership doesn’t equate to usage.

This disruption was led by the iPhone.

Nokia has tended to lead technological innovations, but Apple repackaged the device. It brought back usability and simplicity, with the mobile internet at the core of the offering.

Nokia, Sony Ericsson and Samsung (NSS) may offer “smartphones” or internet enabled phones. But they are perceived fundamentally differently to the disruptors – Apple, BlackBerry and HTC/Google (ABH).

NSS represents an easy choice – a safe upgrade on something familiar with. The bells and whistles may be a bit shinier, but the phone is basically the same. And behaviour remains similar.

ABH are disruptive. They represent a new type of phone. People will think more carefully about switching. The benefits are framed in what is different or better to their current phone. Once they have invested, this behaviour needs to be justified and so they utilise the functionality. Behaviour changes.

The data from Essential Research’s Brandheld study illustrates this.

Looking purely at those claiming to own a smartphone (we gave them a consumer friendly definition outlining benefits; many wouldn’t know whether their phone allowed third party apps to be developed), there was no real difference in claimed internet use via a computer. ABH owners spend 25 hours a week online; NSS owners spend 24 hours.

But when the data for mobile internet usage is explored, a different story emerges.

  • 65% of ABH smartphone owners access the mobile internet every day; 29% of NSS smartphone owners do so
  • 78% of ABH smartphone owners access the mobile internet at all; 63% of NSS smartphone owners do so

The ABH figures are actually skewed by BlackBerry. 87% of iPhone owners say they use the internet on their phone on a daily basis. They are also far likelier to use services such as games, maps and commerce based services.

Is there hope for the incumbent? I’m not so sure. Clay Shirky noted, with regard to media companies, that there is no incentive to disrupt the core business model. Executives are used to things working successfully in one way, that they will seek to protect this for as long as possible rather than embrace the risk of the new.

Can this be combated? Maybe, but maybe not. It seems to be cyclical. Eventually the disruptor becomes the incumbent, and the process repeats itself.

On a sidenote, as previously mentioned I don’t think the iPad will disrupt the computing space. It is disrupting a market that is nascent; the mobile market was well established before it was disrupted. If anything, I think the iPad will just precipitate touchscreen laptops.

The data I used above was from Brandheld. More information about the project can be found here, and I’ve included a Slideshare presentation below that indicates some of the key findings (Although I worked heavily on the project and analysis, I didn’t write this document. As you can tell. I don’t possess Keynote and I would never include the word “insight” in a presentation)

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jesse_sneed/2383953694/

The selective truth

There are two sides to every coin, but nuance is difficult to convey in a headline or summary. A clear and decisive statement is far likelier to catch the eye. It is important to question the motives of both the source of information and the reporting when making a decision as to the veracity.

I’ve noted this during my experiment to alternate my news sources. Similarly, I’ve tracked the early responses to a recent project I’ve worked on with interest.

SIDENOTE: The project is Brandheld – an extended study into consumer perceptions of the mobile internet, and both their current and intended behaviour. The press release is here and a topline slide deck will be released shortly. If you want more information about the report, contact me at [firstname]@essentialresearch.co.uk [/sales pitch]

The press release for the project can basically be split into two sections. The first section is a reality check, noting that adoption of the technology is perhaps lower than those in the London-centric media sector might think. The second section is a call to arms, suggesting a pathway to make the mobile internet seem more relevant to the mainstream.

SIDENOTE: The comments on The Register article nicely illustrate the reason for our first section. Most comments seem to fall into the “I do this, therefore everyone else must be doing it as well” category.

Several of the outlets picking up the story (to date) are only reporting or emphasising one of these sections. The reality check grabs the attention, and the call to arms supports the relevant sectors.

There’s nothing wrong with this – reporting a single side makes it easier for readers to digest, while many of us have an agenda we seek to push and any supporting evidence we can get is gratefully received and promoted.

This is fine for external communications and reporting. But for internal knowledge, it can be dangerous to be reliant on one side of the story.

The best clients I have worked with are those that recognise that while research may be commissioned in the hope of proving something, it is necessary to start with the unbiased and unvarnished truth, even if that might be difficult to hear. Even if only half the findings are externally reported, the other half should still be included in internal briefings.

This requires a strength of conviction if there is pressure coming down the chain of command for a particular result but there is clearly a need to avoid self-delusion. If the results are “bad”, it should be made clear why. If the desired outcome is achieved, it is unlikely that there won’t be a single caveat. And these caveats are important to understand when designing or promoting a strategy.

A similar principle is required when collating secondary research. Even if the findings are sourced or quoted as evidence in external communications, it is important to understand the biases or reliability of the data for your own internal knowledge. Recognising the nuances or limitations of something can only assist your efforts to improve it.

News articles remain a fantastic way to distribute information, and are often the first place that research or data is discovered. Nevertheless, it is vital to go back to the original source if you plan to do something with the findings. That way, an informed decision can be made about the accuracy or reliability of the information (for what it’s worth, Brandheld is an independent study conducted with no prior agenda aside from us thinking the mobile internet would be an interesting area to research). Even if this doesn’t affect the way the information is collated, it is still an important facet to consider.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/colin-c/200867665/

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Foursquare uses for my iPhone

In my post on mobile yesterday, I mentioned that the mobile internet is changing people’s conception of what a mobile can do.

Initially, a mobile phone was purely about communication. This is no longer the case. Broadly speaking, there are four main ways in which a mobile phone is now used:

  • Communication
  • Information
  • Entertainment
  • Utility

To illustrate the multiple ways in which a mobile phone can now be used, I shall give personal examples of how I have been using my iPhone in the month or so I have had it.

Foursquare is Mashable’s tip for the tool that makes location-based services acceptable for the masses. It is not yet available in London, but offers a nice title for the below 4×4 (i.e. four squared) examination of my behaviour.

By the way, I am not going to do a Morgan Stanley and extrapolate one person’s experiences into the behaviour of an entire generation. This is anecdotal only.

Communication

  • Phone – this has been relegated to the position of “just another app”. On the iPhone, it has equal prominence with Mail, Safari and iPod
  • Mail – I have both my Essential and Gmail accounts set up, and reply to emails when away from my desk/home
  • Tweetdeck – my preferred Twitter client, which is free and works extremely well as an app
  • Facebook – A big driver of mobile internet use, according to this report

Information

  • BBCReader – this is an unofficial tool; the BBC should bring an official version to market as it is incredibly useful. I cache all of the top stories onto my phone memory, and then am able to browse the news while on the tube
  • NYTimes – similar to the above, except that it is official and thus much smoother. They’ve started experimenting with disruptive interstitial ads, which I am willing to put up with in exchange for free access
  • London Tube Deluxe – there are free versions available, but a handy tool to keep abreast of closures and delays, as well as planning journeys
  • Flixster – it is US focused, but it does recognise my UK location and tells me my local cinemas and the showings. I can see the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and review films I go on to see.

Entertainment

  • Slugger – the game that has seen most usage. An addictive home-run derby game, which uses the iPhone motion detector as the aim for your swing
  • iPod – ingeniously, this continues to work in the background while other apps are used. Apps themselves shut down when not in primary use, which means that if the Spotify app is approved, listeners will not be able to do anything else while using
  • Tap Tap Revenge – a Guitar Hero esque game that provides free tracks to play along to, with the option of going on to buy them
  • Simon The Sorcerer – I only downloaded this Monday and haven’t played it yet, but loved it when I was a kid. And at £1.19 it is far cheaper than any (legal) PC version

Utility

  • Calendar – it automatically syncs with Outlook but not Gmail (annoyingly)
  • Clock – I use my phone as an alarm clock. I’m not alone.
  • Camera – I still carry around a digital camera for events, but the camera is good enough for basic daylight photos that can be quickly emailed
  • Voice Memos – I haven’t had a great deal of need to use this yet. Aside from Twin Peaks impressions – “Diane, I am holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies”.

In terms of weight of behaviour, I would estimate the majority of my behaviour is centred on information and entertainment. My phone is incredibly useful in particular situations (thanks to my dodgy sense of direction) but I derive the most consistent usage on my commute. Reading material (whether free newspapers, a book or the Economist), my “standalone” iPod and my Nintendo DS are all seeing far less usage as a result.

However, this is just one anecdote. Some may use it primarily as a communication tool (whether telephony or social media) and others as a utility (e.g. Nike+).

One of the greatest things about the App store is the customization it affords us. Rather than just changing the look of a phone, we can now alter the functionality.

Therefore, if we are to understand how mobile media is to be used (and potentially how it can be monetized), we first need to understand people’s motivations and interests. And since customization is near limitless, we need to try and do this at the individual level.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigalakos/

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Google Android and the Mobile Internet

I consider myself competent when it comes to navigating the internet. But mobile phones and the mobile web are alien to me.

This may soon change.

My current contract expires early next year. Previously, I have been happy with my low-price/basic-handset tariff. But the one-two punch of the iPhone and G1 is winning me over. A near-full browsing experience (excepting Flash on the iPhone) is looking extremely attractive. No more cumbersome WAP connection when I have forgotten to print off directions to my intended destination in advance. I am tempted.

To my untrained eye, there have been several barriers to mobile internet take-up which prevented myself and others from converting earlier. These have now mostly been overcome

  • Size – more features require more components. Fortunately, the miracles in miniaturisation that engineers perform are continuing unabated. It surely won’t be long before I can fit a microwave in my back pocket
  • Speed – wi-fi broadband has sorted this out
  • Cost – paying for each data transfer was a ridiculous barrier to growing this sector. A growing prevalence of all-you-can-eat tariffs is welcome, though limits need to be higher than 1gb if mobile video browsing is going to take off
  • Interest – People are increasingly using the web for entertainment as for particular information needs. Fun activities – Facebook, iPlayer, online gaming – are more compelling propositions than functional
  • Site Design – Sites will still need to be optimised for mobile screens. But this should be a lot easier now, reducing the need for alternative sites such as the text-heavy WAP versions
  • Content – it is surely inevitable that the iPhone will allow Flash. Then the only content restrictions will be licensing e.g. sports rights for Mobile and Web are sold separately. If these rights are combined at the next negotiations, another barrier has been overcome

Will 2009 be the year that the mobile internet finally becomes widespread?

sk

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/misbehave/