Is Wearable Technology Really Here?

August 1, 2014

Dick Tracey update. Well the big talk at the Annual Consumer Electronics Show(CES) this week is Wearable Computing. Smart Watches, Health Monitoring, and Smart Glasses abound. But will any of this new ‘sexy’ technology become mainstream? Will you be wearing a Smart Watch or Google Glass this year?

I think I know the answer to this question, but first a little perspective. I’m an admitted geek and love to test and play with the latest technology. I’m what Regis McKenna would call an “Early Adopter.” If you haven’t read it, you should check out his landmark book, “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers .“

msgwatch-picture

My first wearable “computer’ was a Seiko Message Watch circa 1997. I loved it. People could send me text messages from their computer to my watch. The watch had its own phone number so it also acted as a pager. It knew when you changed time zones and automatically corrected the time. Since it updated regularly to a satellite, the time was always accurate. I was very disappointed when Seiko discontinued the service in 1999. My Smart Watch just became an ordinary watch. The problem: great technology, but a feeble marketing effort meant no sales.

Two years ago, 2011, I bought a Sony Smartwatch. Pretty cool. Did everything the new crop of Smartwatches do. It syncs with an Android Phone, displays text messages, weather, tweets, and even displays traffic cams. Fashionable – no. Was a great toy and conversation starter with potential clients, but not a winner. Three months after I got it, it just mysteriously died. RIP.

Pebble-2259_610x435

Flashback to 2003 and I’m attending what was a big annual Internet Tradeshow at the Javits in NYC. There was a Wearable Tech Fashion Show where sleekly clad fashion models pranced down a runway wearing all forms of electronics on their body, head and other orifices. That was 10 years ago and still no killer product.

So I think you know where this is leading, but hold up a minute. Remember the Apple Newton? It was one of the first tablet computers and a big failure. So why is the tablet from Apple and others, the hottest selling device category now? I think the answer is that all technology evolves. Inventors and tech companies alike try to develop the ‘next big thing.’ They design, do focus groups, and market new tech all the time. Most of it works but fails to capture the imagination of the mass market like the iPad does. However, these failures and small successes are necessary stepping stones to developing the winners.

The developers, engineers and thousands of other people involved in developing new products are to be praised and supported for their efforts. Without them and their many failures, we wouldn’t have the tremendously enabling tech we have today.

Ok, so let’s answer the question posed in the title of this post: Is Wearable Technology Really Here? I think the answer is No, Maybe and Yes in that order.

The ‘No’ is recognizing that 90%+ of what you see at tradeshows either never makes it to market or fails. That’s always true and especially true here.

The ‘Maybe’ is that if a company develops a device that is the right combination of features, usability, price and captures the imagination of the mass market, it could happen. Just like the Newton ultimately led to the iPad, it could and will happen again. The ‘When’ is just unclear.

fitbit-force-2-970x0

The ‘Yes’ is that some successes are already happening. The Fitbit tracker for your exercise and sleep is a winner. It’s really just a pedometer with an Internet connection, but it has the right combination of usability, cool-factor, and price and it’s working. It’s early yet, but I believe Google Glass and/or some iterations of it, will ultimately happen. There still are fashion and privacy issues to be solved there, but those are not really big hurdles.

Whatever happens, it will be fun trying it out.


Case Study: Handling High Web Volume & Healthcare.gov’s Failure

October 3, 2013

The new Heathcare.gov provides an interesting case study in doing successful(or not) high volume web sites. I happen to support the law, but the launch of the online exchanges is unfortunately a dismal failure. My company builds high volume sites, eg we got a call from a client that their products were to be featured on Oprahs Favorite Things and they expected 250,000 simultaneous users. We ramped it up in less than a week to handle over a million and had hardly a hiccup.
Healthcare4
So I was interested to see how Healthcare.gov would handle the inevitable rush on Tuesday. I tried getting in several times the first day and got the friendly ‘Wait’ screen. That’s Ok but the wait may be interminable. I finally got in later on Day 1, filled in my info on 2 screens and got an Error Screen(shown) and Try Again. Tried again – same error.

Heathcare2

Now it’s 2 Days later and I still can’t get in. I’ve heard claims that they had anywhere between 2 million and 10 million visitors on Day 1. So what? How many visitors do you think Amazon or Google get in a day?
Healtcare-gov
So it’s ashame because the people who really need the program or may visit one of the thousands of Govt ‘Navigators’ will get frustrated. This is more of a PR Nightmare than the Media is reporting so far. If they don’t fix it soon, it may undermine a great program permanently.

If you or someone you know needs help with high-volume Ecommerce, let me know. We know how to make it work.


Our Latest Project: Inventing A New Paradigm for SMB Purchasing and Sourcing

August 27, 2013

Before the Internet, we used to build software that took years of an Expert’s learning and knowledge and build it into interactive databases to help businesses get that expertise from a computer instead of a person. We called them ‘Expert Systems.’ Now with the Internet as a platform, we’re able to not only bring the expertise but also the ‘processes’ that the experts use to successfully leverage their knowledge. This is a big deal in the Purchasing and Sourcing World.

Here was the challenge. Digitize the expertise and help of a Fortune 500 Purchasing Manager for free for small and medium size businesses. The result is Focusedbuyer.com, which has been 3 years in development. It brings Purchasing Expertise that big corporations pay big dollars for, to any sized-business with an hour to spend and thousands of dollars to gain.

 

FB-Home-8-8-13

Buyers are able to create Listings for their needs and have the world respond with Offers. The Buyers can also issue Purchase Orders online and track their Suppliers Performance.

Our assignment was taking what could be a very complex User Experience such that the Users – Buyers and Sellers – can easily and intuitively make their Listings as simple or as detailed as they choose. The Expertise comes in prompting the user to provide information and detail, if they choose, that they may never have thought of. The minimum 10 required fields are shown with a plus’+” sign next to each. If the User clicks the ‘+” it opens up the world of ideas and details that could lead to a more cost-effective, high-performance sourcing outcome.

FB-pluses-8-27-13

FocusedBuyer.com is a great example of using the Internet to gain a ‘Digital Advantage(DA)’ for its customers. What does that mean?

There are 3 kinds of Business Web Sites:

1>  The brochure or marketing web site that provides mostly information and a sales pitch. These sites include text, graphics and maybe a few interactive forms for contacting or signing up with the company.

2>  The Ecommerce site that basically takes brick-and-mortar retail or wholesale and puts it online.

3>  The Digital Advantage site that leverages the Internet to do something creative and desirable online that could not be done offline in the brick-and-mortar world.

FocusedBuyer.com is a great example of Digital Advantage. There is no offline way to create Requests for Quotation, rally thousands of potential suppliers from around the world, accept offers and issue Purchase Orders in realtime.

Check out FocusedBuyer.com for your business or contact us to help you invent a new business paradigm online. Huge thanks and kudos go to FocusedBuyer.com founders, Don Jean and Tom Middleton, for providing their decades of Fortune 500 Purchasing experience, vision, hard work and patience in making this amazing new platform possible.


7 Keys To A Highly Effective Mobile Web Site

May 23, 2013

We are all aware of how our lives – and particularly our Online lives – are connected to Mobile Devices (see our March Post – “The Increasingly Mobile Web”). However, creating an effective Mobile site is not just a matter of using some conversion software or shrinking the size. Highly effective mobile sites are re-conceived to take advantage of mobile phone capabilities while minimizing their limitations.

I’ll use the example of a mobile site that we built for Coopskw.com and share our top 7 Keys to a Highly Effective Mobile Web Site.

1>     Make sure your Mobile Web Site looks good and fits all mobile phones. Too often the Web Site owner or developer is an Apple iPhone User and sees the mobile world as all Apple. Well 60% of the Mobile Users out there, use Androids! Now I hear many developers complain the Android varies so much from device to device, that they can’t control how their site will look or behave on an Android. Non-sense! Get a new developer or better yet, hire us – it can be done.

Developers also frequently use conversion software to scrunch their regular web sites to fit the smaller screen. Bad idea. Text and images become too small to read or use. Best practice is to re-conceive your site for mobile. See the screenshots below comparing the PC Web Site version to the Mobile Version. We changed the Mobile layout to fit better on the screen and display only priority links and content. We pull the content from the same database as the Full Site but redid the display.

Pathfinder Consulting builds web sites

Full Site – Fig. 1

Pathfinder builds mobile web sites

Mobile Web Site – Fig. 2

You can easily see how your site looks on various Mobile platforms from your PC by using a Mobile Phone Emulator like http://www.mobilephoneemulator.com/

2>     Show only the most important content and links. Eliminate the fluff. People on mobile devices are generally in a hurry and want a quick answer to their questions. They don’t want to sit and read a long dissertation or use a magnifying glass to read your content or click links.

Pathfinder Consulting Group Mobile Web

Key Product Details Fig. 3

3>     Make your Phone and Directions links hot. Here’s where your mobile device beats your PC – take advantage of it. Mobile Users either want to call you or find you. By making your Phone# and Directions hyperlinks, a User can click the phone number and have it call you or click ‘Directions’ and have your location appear in your ‘Maps’ app. Cool and convenient!

4>     Provide a link to your ‘Full Site.’ You may have some more content or Forms on your Full Site that a User may want to explore. Give them that option.

5>     Make Navigation Easy. Mobile devices now have a universal symbol for a ‘Menu.’ Use it.  A good clear Menu(Fig. 3) will help your User get quickly to what they want.

Pathfinder Consulting Mobile web Sites

Mobile Nav Menu – Fig. 4

6>     Include Tracking and Stats for your Mobile site. Most of our clients use Google Analytics. Remember to include their tracking code on your mobile pages. Tracking is just as important to your success on Mobile, but is often forgotten.

7>     Search Engine Optimize(SEO). Do you want your Mobile site to be found on Google, Yahoo and Bing? Remember to do all the best practices you do for your Full Site on your Mobile Site as well. I’d even venture to say that Search position is even more important on mobile. With a smaller screen and a smaller attention span, mobile users are most likely to click on the top few Search links. It should be yours.

If Pathfinder can help you master the Mobile World, please contact us. Your first hour is free – so feel free to pick our brains.


The Increasingly Mobile Web

March 9, 2013

E-Commerce has, without question, forever changed the way we shop. The question is: has it changed the way you sell? In 2010, e-commerce represented 4.2% of retail spending, that’s $164.6 billion, up from 3.9% in 2009. The internet is constantly changing the way shoppers interact with stores, and nothing is more crucial for retailers in the modern age than to be versatile and adaptive along with the evolving technological stage. Over the past two years, and upcoming in the next 2 to 3, a major change has been and will be taking place. We are smack in the middle of a major shift, truly an epoch-change, in how the internet integrates into modern life and naturally, into business.

2011 Mobile Usage Statistics via Microsoft Tag

The Mobile Shift

If you haven’t noticed, the web has gone mobile. Of the world’s 4 billion in-use mobile phones, 1.08 billion are smart-phones. According to the Pew Research Center, 11% of adults own tablet computers. By 2015, the majority of users accessing the internet will be doing so on mobile devices. This is an incredibly significant prediction. It signals a complete change in the way we understand the internet and how a business adjusts (or fails to) will without question impact its future. To quote Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley’s internet analyst, “Rapid ramp of mobile internet usage will be a boon to consumers and some companies will likely win big (potentially very big) while many will wonder what just happened.”

Mary Meeker at Google Event

Mobile Changes Everything

The absolutely crucial piece of information for retailers to know about this mobile shift is what it means for how people use the internet. Let’s say this: it’s very good news for retailers. A smartphone is more than just a laptop with a small screen. It is, and is increasingly becoming, an optimized mobile shopping machine. For a consumer, a smartphone is a store-finder, a quality-distiller, and a bargain-hunter. For a mobile-ready business, the smartphone is a marketing godsend. With the right preparation, on that little screen your store can pop up on a map with positive customer reviews, your phone number and hours, and a link to your handy, mobile-optimized website. If you have a special app through which customers can, for example, view your products, find special deals, and review or share their experiences across various social media platforms, the smartphone becomes a customer-loyalty-machine. This is not a fantasy or a prediction, this is how smart-phones are being used right now. According to Nielson, 50% of smartphone shoppers use a GPS/mapping app to find a retail location; 44% access the site of a retailer where they typically shop; 34% downloaded a retailer’s app; and an equal number (24%) search for a coupon to use at checkout or use a barcode-scanning app to comparison shop. Mobile e-commerce is good for consumers, and it can have huge benefits for involved retailers.

Making your Mobile-Presence

There are basically two options for going mobile:

  1. Optimize your existing website for mobile browsing. This means designing a site which responds to and adjusts for changes in screen-resolution, so that it stays mostly the same from desktop to tablet to smartphone. This requires redesigning elements of your website however, the extensiveness of the redesign required depends on your site’s age, technology, and content layout. Keep in mind that when it comes to the internet, change and adaptation are good things; they mean moving forward, keeping up with or ahead of technological trends.
  2. Design an exclusive mobile site, separate from your existing online presence. Whether this is optimal depends on your business and how well your current website adapts to mobile platforms. However, for certain businesses, a standalone mobile site can attract customers and keep them coming simply by virtue of its ease-of-use. Consider Papa John’s mobile site, which is designed specifically for the needs of mobile-users and is a good example of a straightforward way to make mobile make money, so to speak.

To finish up, here a few tips for a great mobile site:

  1. Large Buttons: Good navigation is fundamental to web-design, and it becomes even more important at the more concentrated scale of the mobile web. When done properly, with big buttons which fit into your overall branding and marketing strategy, even the simplest navigation can guide mobile users quickly to the most important parts of your website.
  2. Vertical Navigation: Due to the dimensions of smartphone screens, horizontal menus will either run off screen or cause your whole website to be shrunken down. Nothing is worse for a mobile user than to have to scroll around a barely visible site, and a frustrated customer is not a customer for long. Vertical menus or, if necessary, shortened horizontal menus with vertical sub-menus, will make your site more compatible and pleasing for customers to use on the mobile web.
  3. Avoid Flash: iPhones and iPads don’t support the flash-player, and flash loads slowly on other mobile devices. A mobile adaptation of your site will require replacements for flash elements. The simple truth is that flash will always be an impediment to the quality and ease-of-use of your website, and is best avoided.
  4. Make Pages Shareable: Social media buttons (“Tweet this” “Like this”) on every page, article, video-clip, and gallery photo on your website will give visitors more chances to do your marketing for you. Mobile users are both likely to share what they like online and likely to notice elements that distinguish your mobile site, such as positive social media response. Total social media integration is a simple step with big benefits on the mobile web.

%d bloggers like this: