Thursday, November 29, 2012

Heroes of Mobile London Podcasts & Round-Up

Didn’t we have a lovely time, the day we went to Mozilla’s HQ last month to talk about mobile. We did three lovely sessions and they were all recorded so even if you weren’t there, you can have a listen. I’ve also included links to some articles about the sessions and the day as well in case podcasts aren’t your thing. This is cross posted from

State of the Mobile Nation was chaired by Russell Buckley who is now running Ballpark Ventures and the session was sponsored by Hotwire PR. On the panel we had Eamonn Carey of Kiip, Benedict Evans from Enders Analysis, Azeem Azhar from PeerIndex and Roberta Lucca from BAFTA award-winning Bossa Studios. The group talked about the future of computing, additive printing, mobile innovation, consumer trends and a whole lot more.


Hotwire’s Andy West did a comprehensive write-up of the session here.

Next up was Mobile Advertising will Eat Itself. Again chaired by Russell Buckley, he was joined by Chris Bourke from Qriously, Stephen Upstone from LoopMeMedia, Greg Isbister from Blis Mobile, Denise Breslin from Mobsta and Nicky Spooner from O2 Media (now Weve). They talked innovation (or not), explained a bunch of acronyms, covered location based services and talked about how the landscape has changed over the years and what’s coming up and uncovering some of the opportunities in the sector.


And last but not least, we had (Mobile) Money Makes the World Go Around. Tim Green of Mobile Money Revolution chaired the session and he was joined by industry veterans Roy Vella (who will always be remembered by me for sharing the real meaning of the acronym NFC. For those of you not in the know, it’s ‘not for commerce’!), Martin Harris from Bango, Matt Dicks from BlueVia and John Maynard from mPesa. I’m not sure we drew that many conclusions but a lot of ground was covered and many issues raised. Well worth a listen.

BlueVia covered the mobile money session here.

We got covered on an interesting email discussion thread here. Thanks Bernard Tyers!

Guy Southam from The Lab at O2 covered the whole day here.

Many thanks to Hotwire PR for sponsoring and to Mozilla for hosting us. A big thank you to Russell Buckley and Tim Green for chairing and to all our panellists. Also, many thanks to Kirsty Styles and Mobile Marketing Magazine, Harold Verhagen, Emma Brincat and Inspiring Interns, Sofiana Dewi and James Norris for their support for the event.

Videos coming soon…

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

m-Commerce Learnings–from the Horses’ Mouths

It’s pretty much exactly a year ago since I live tweeted an event organised by my friend Catherine Crawley for the Ecommerce UK Group on LinkedIn. The topic was m-Commerce and it was done Pecha Kucha style. What that meant was that we had 7 expert speakers talking about their experience or thoughts on m-Commerce and they each had 7 minutes in which to speak and answer questions. The gong went if they ran over time and they had to stop at that point to keep everything to time. (I loved the gong. It was a great touch.)

I’d forgotten that I’d done a storify on it when I was pootling on the storify site earlier, so I’ve finished it by including the videos from the evening as well as the slideshare of all the slides used.

I’ve also taken another look at the content, and a year on, it is all still relevant. The issues that retailers face with mobile are very similar – except maybe the screen size has changed and now they’re looking at having to deal with 4G and perhaps the day they need to start taking NFC more seriously is edging closer. But when it comes to consumer behaviour, internal culture, the challenges of dealing with multi-platform and multi-channel retail, the issues are pretty much the same. The usage numbers of course, have only gone one way, and, in the words of Yazz, the only way is up!

So take a look. Listen to the retailers telling their own stories of mCommerce joy and woe… just follow the link.

I know what you did five minutes ago

Friend and fellow mobilist, Terence Eden, has just published a really interesting post ‘The Future is Now but not Everyone Knows it’. Well worth a read. This resonates with me on the privacy issues front in particular. I’ve been sort of aware of security issues around identity fraud, having your credit card cloned, about having your site or email hacked into. But it has never really felt real. It has always felt to me that these things happen to someone else, they’re things you read about on the news or memes that travel on twitter. And I sincerely hope none of them happen to me. But I fear that some of this stuff could become as commonplace as shoplifting or pickpocketing.

The reality is, that you usually give yourself a split second to decide on the convenience of clicking on something right now to get to a site or buy something or not and so we usually click. Who reads privacy policies, terms and conditions and what not? How do you verify a site is real and not fake? Convenience or immediate gratification usually wins out.

I’m afraid I don’t have the answers when it comes to data privacy and online security issues. But I do know that the mobile environment is dealing with similar issues around malware that the desktop world experienced ten years ago. Growth of mobile malware is huge and ‘it is now fully functional and mature’ to quote this article. There are holes in our smartphone operating systems that means smart, and probably not so smart, hackers can worm their way in to take control over a device or install a key-logging operation and from there, everything can unravel pretty quickly. The holes are often to do with the access rights that we actively give to app developers and also down to the access rights the handset manufacturer and network operator sets when they add on the 70 or so apps we have no control over to make our devices work.

And even if you don’t succumb to mobile malware, if you’re not careful with how you manage passwords, pin codes and privacy settings, you can still be vulnerable, as this wonderful video by Tom Scott demonstrates.


The Harrods fake till scam

samsung cash register 1990sIt’s always busy at Christmas in the retail world, especially for department stores. When I worked in Selfridges in 1990, I think they took on an extra 2000 staff for the season. That was in just one store. They’ve now pared that down but even last year, they took on an additional 1500 staff across their four stores. And come the first day of sale, everyone is on duty along with a bunch of people you’ve never seen before. The concessions will rope in extra staff from quieter branches and may even get additional help from Head Office staff who are usually sitting behind a computer screen for the rest of the year. It is pretty chaotic. We also used tills like the one pictured – although somewhat cleaner.

There was a story that went around at the time about a similar scenario in Harrods. A couple of thousand extra staff in store, and crazy busy with the general public eagerly buying their bargains. On the ground floor, an extra cash-only till was set up to deal with the additional customers. And then at the end of the day, it left as quickly as it had arrived. Full of money. It was a fake till. Some criminals had wheeled it in and it had been used all day by uniformed staff and then it and they left again, with thousands of pounds, no doubt. Or so the story goes. I don’t know if this is true or simply an urban myth. If it’s a myth, it’s easy to see how it could happen.

But that was 1990. Fast forward 20-odd years and we’re talking about a different in-store experience. I was at the Neoworks roundtable last night discussing the latest customer service issues in-store and on-line. One of the biggest customer gripes is having to wait in a long queue to pay. And hurrah, we can now issue staff with tablets so that staff can take payment where the customer is, there and then. With services like iZettle, Square and their ilk, taking payments like this is a breeze. Credit card swiped, confirmation of the amount and off we go.

Except, how do you know that it’s a real member of staff with iPad in hand? How do you know whether or not your card number will be secure? How do you know it’s not a scam in the same vein as the Harrods fake till story?

So before you rush in to adopting some shiny new technology, please have a think about some worst case scenarios so that you can work out ways to counter them so you don’t end up falling victim to some dodgy scam.

And if you’re a consumer, just be careful out there. Security risks are out there in the offline world too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Wenlock–what is it?

A friend was over in the summer from San Francisco and her trip coincided with The Olympics. As a good tourist, she bought her fair share of London souvenirs, including a plush Wenlock. There’s no denying that Wenlock is a bit weird. Hey the whole Olympics branding was a bit weird, but in this short video, we talk about what we think of Wenlock over a pint down at London Wonderground at The Southbank. It’s a bit of light relief.

The question is, am I right about Wenlock? Is it indeed back to front?!

Mobile coupons: People are the weakest link

I’ve just been reading an article over on Monty Munford’s blog by Rob Thurner about the ‘three things that need to happen before mobile couponing kicks off’. They’re both friends of mine but as a veteran of the mobile couponing business, I feel I should add a comment.

Some of you already know that I have many years experience at the coal face of retail. For those of you who don’t know, I spent the best part of 10 years working in fashion retail and working my way up from sales assistant to store manager in the early years of my working life. I’ve worked my way from the wilds of Worcester High Street to the bling of the West End and Knightsbridge. There’s not much I haven’t seen from store openings to store closings to being held at knifepoint for refusing someone a refund on something they’d clearly stolen. Yes, really. I was also lucky enough to work at the world’s first mobile couponing start-up, ZagMe, where we sent text messages to shoppers at Lakeside and Bluewater shopping malls. I think I know a bit about how this couponing and retail thing works.

Couponing in the UK is nothing like at the obsession levels that you’ll see in the US. They have shows over there about ‘Extreme Couponing’. I kid you not. We still like a bargain here, but we’re not quite as bothered about it. But it’s still big business and seems to be made for mobile. Well you’d think…

Like many things, usability isn’t quite there yet. But there are workarounds. Back in ZagMe days, we sent coupons via text message. We couldn’t event concatenate the message (that means combine two messages as one). Some phones could only store 10 text messages at the time. Can you believe it?! We’re talking 2000 and 2001. Yes, that long ago. Mobile couponing is not new. The ZagMe texts we sent had a code in them which was generated based on your age, gender, retailer and time of sending. That meant you might see a different code to your friend who received the same message so it looked like they were uniquely generated codes. Now of course, it is entirely possible to put a unique code into a SMS. If you want to. But it really depends on why you’re sending the coupon in the first place and how it’s financed. Since most coupons and discounts are funded out of margin, it doesn’t usually matter whether or not the coupon is shared or replicated. Indeed, that can just reduce the costs for the retailer that they’re getting free distribution. So chances are, you don’t need a unique code necessarily, you just need a way to manage the coupon or discount.

The way to do that is to set up a discount barcode for the specific promotion and have it reside by the side of all of your tills. You’ll need to train your staff properly so they know what to scan and when. And in the text message, email or whatever other coupon format you want to use, you make sure you put in any limitations on the offer – this usually means the date. Don’t have an open-ended offer. And if there are terms and conditions, make sure those are available for both the customer (perhaps via a link to click in the message) and the store staff (at POS and included in the training for example), so there’s no question about when the offer runs out. As it happens, I still have an Ann Summers coupon lurking on my hard drive offering me £5 off any purchase. There is no expiry date. It’s just a gif file. Maybe I should try redeeming it….

In his article, Rob goes on to explain about keyed entry, scanning and NFC as redemption methods. These are all coming. Some retailers who are further ahead have already embraced them. And as each retailer reviews their EPOS systems, they’re going to be thinking about mobile, tablets and offer redemption as part of the new system so we’ll see more. But these systems don’t get replaced every year like mobile phones or school shoes. They’re in place for many years and replacing them isn’t easy and it’s expensive as they impact on the whole supply chain.

But there’s no need to miss out on mobile commerce via couponing for non-food retailers*. You don’t have to wait until you implement your fancy new EPOS systems. Think about workarounds. Think about how secure your couponing needs to be (in which case, you can turn to Eagle Eye for a solution). SMS can still work here and it doesn’t have to be complicated. Or particularly techie for that matter. You just need to think about the customer experience and how you’d like that to be and then work out how to achieve it. And I suspect that eight, if not nine, times out of ten, you won’t need to have something particularly complex.

However, you choose to implement your discount offer – be that on mobile, email or pigeon post – please remember to communicate to your staff. It is no good having the fanciest mobile couponing system in place if your staff have no clue what to do when a customer turns up wanting their £5 off. Your people will be the weakest link if they haven’t been brought up to speed.

*caveat – grocery retail is a lot more complicated than other sectors of retail and the couponing rules are different.

Digital Inclusion Innovation Funding

There’s a new ‘contest’ for some funding to create some commercial prototypes in key areas of digital inclusion. Don’t be put off by the ‘contest’ label. That’s just public sector speak. They have to call it a contest. But it’s really a call to hear from people interested in this area who can create relevant prototypes and to allocate funding to the ones that most closely fit the brief. There is a briefing event in London this Thursday, 29th November. So if you’re half-interested, it’ll be worth popping along to to find out more.

Some more details for you:

Contest Overview
Digital Inclusion Innovation Contest - briefing event on Thursday 29th November, in London


The Digital Inclusion Innovation Contest is being run in conjunction with Scope, RNIB and the University of York and is offering businesses up to £48,000 each in funding for the development of innovative commercial prototypes. We are looking for applications under three challenges focusing on different areas of the digital inclusion theme

The challenges

  • one award of up to £48,000* for the development of a prototype service or application in the ‘sensory assistance’ challenge area supported by the University of York. For more information please click here.
  • one award of up to £48,000* for the development of a prototype service or application in the ‘inclusive media’ challenge area supported by RNIB. For more information please click here.
  • one award of up to £48,000* for the development of a prototype service or application in the ‘accessible Internet of Things’ challenge area supported by Scope. For more information please click here.


The successful applicants will benefit from:

  • funding of £48,000 to produce their commercial prototype
  • gain from exposure to a range of leading sector partners
  • test their proposed application or service with leading sector partners
  • promote their prototype solution via the IC tomorrow programme
  • retain their intellectual property
  • register a trial on the IC tomorrow digital test bed.

For more details on how to apply and what’s involved, please go to their website at There’s a two-stage process – a form to fill in online and then you have to submit a two minute video about your proposal by 8 January. Why not give it a go? The longer I’m in the mobile sector, the more I see the area of digital inclusion and accessibility growing. Why not be part of that growth story?

It’s complicated…

A friend on LinkedIn sent me the link to this thread about women's conferences being boring The comments are a real eye opener too. But that’s because the issue is complicated. There are pros and cons to women-only and women-mostly networks.

Sexism is still rife in this world. I’m astonished that inequalities in pay still exist. It saddens me to see all-male line-ups at conferences and all-male boards for any kind of company and dominance of men of a certain background in politics. I hate to see gender stereotyping when it comes to technology (although, admittedly, much of that is culturally specific to The West). Women’s voices need to be heard. There needs to be ways that women can get involved in society, in business, in how things get done. Our voices are just as valid as anyone else’s. In developing nations, it is even more important where violence to women is more commonplace. It is because of these issues that women-only and women-mostly networks exist.

As many of you will already know, I am a strong supporter of women in business. I like to see women speak and hear them on panels. I want to see that women are doing well at senior level. We know that mixed gender teams and boards means more profit and happier staff. You can look up the research. It’s all there and it’s not rocket science. It’s better to have a mixed gender team of average competence than a single-sex team of high competence.

I have also been a strong supporter of women’s networks in my career. I cut my networking teeth a long time ago at Digital Eve in London. It was a great place to learn about networking in what felt like a safe and non-competitive environment to do so. Mixed networks, or should I say, predominantly-male networks were just so unappealing with the sea of grey suits, the posturing, the competitiveness and the unwelcoming nature of them. And not long after that, I was a founder member of the Women in Mobile Data Association. Again to show that women had a voice in the male, mobile industry. I have met some amazing women in both those networks, and others I have participated in. No question. But there are limits. I soon realised that you can’t just do business with women. In fact, if you had any business development to do, you actually had to go and play with the big boys and hold your own. So I did. But I couldn’t have done that without testing the waters first in women’s networks.

And what about today? There’s a very high-level, high profile women’s networking event happening in Brussels right now organised by the GSMA. The aim of the event is to incorporate more mentoring and structures in place for women to better succeed in corporate life. Not a bad thing to be supporting at all and it complements their mWomen initiative for developing countries too. Women in Wireless is growing and the London chapter has held some interesting events and is attracting a steady stream of intelligent, capable, enthusiastic women – entrepreneurs to life-long corporate employees and everything in between. There are even a few men who come along (and they’re very welcome).

But. And yes, there’s a but. I know what Nancy means in her flippant comments about women-only events. They do tend to focus on ‘how I made it in a man’s world’ and other such-like women’s issues. And it’s easily done as there are still issues to address. The trouble is, we don’t want to be silo’d and be included on token women-only panels at an otherwise all-male event. Would you have the Chinese-only panel or Turkish-only panel at an event? No, you wouldn’t. Well, I wouldn’t anyway. We want to participate fully. We want to be included. We want to see other women included. We want to see some diversity dagnamit.

So, Nancy. I think your comments were flippant and not at all well-thought through. But I hear you. I don’t want to see token female panels. I don’t want to be limited to just talking about women’s issues or women’s careers in male dominated industries. I just want it to be normal for women to be included and seen in these things as a matter of course. And if having women’s networks and women-only events means that women can learn their craft better so they can better succeed in mixed gender public platforms, then let them continue. And if it means we get better representation at board level, even better. Because that will lead to growth and success. And that’s what businesses are after isn’t it?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hints & Tips for Winning Awards

I’m very lucky to judge many different awards ranging from mobile industry specific ones like the Meffys and the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards to ones that are not immersed in mobile like the Sony Radio Academy Awards and the Wirehive 100 to innovation awards like Vodafone Mobile Clicks and Vodafone Foundation Smart Accessibility Awards. As such, over the years, I’ve seen many awards entries and see what a winning entry looks like.

Since it’s the run up to the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards, David Murphy, Editor, Mobile Marketing Magazine, asked a selection of judges to join a Tweet Chat to discuss this year’s entries – what was good, what was lacking and what we’d like to see more of. It was a really interesting discussion with Rob Thurner, Russell Buckley, myself and James Cameron. You can see the collection of tweets over on Mobile Marketing Magazine

Some common mistakes creep in to these things. Often the task of filling in the form is delegated to someone junior or someone who has not been hands on with the campaign. I still see a lack of evidence. Saying something along the lines of ‘the client was really happy with the results’ just doesn’t cut it. You could have the coolest sounding concept, but if you can’t tell the judges what the results were, then we can’t judge you and your entry will be discarded. I also see entries that have not answered the questions and also have clearly been cut and pasted from a case study or press release which means it can be harder to discover the nuggets of information that you need to judge one entry over another. And I see entries for categories where I really can’t see the connection at all. So my advice is, keep it to the point, answer the questions and justify why you deserve to win the award with actual demonstration of innovation, originality, effectiveness etc. And include the numbers. The information is kept private and is not published. Be proud of your work and take the time to communicate why it’s so good with the judges. Make our jobs harder each time!

If you’re interested to see who made the shortlist (and there are some fab companies and campaigns on that list), you can find more information here and you can also book your tickets to the Award Ceremony on 29th November. I think there are a handful of tickets left. If the last two years are anything to go by, it should be a good night.

I recently talked about this stuff for the MEFFYs too on video which you also may find useful.

So for the next time you enter an award, best of luck and don’t let yours be the entry that gets discarded for not completing the entry form properly.