Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Aldi charges £0.49 for their store finder iPhone app

Friday, January 7th, 2011

Just to reiterate: Aldi charges £0.49 for their store finder iPhone app. Wonder if they have researched pay TV to show Aldi TV ads?

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Big brands have screwed up their retail channels

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Here is an experience which illustrates the future potential direction of physical retail and why big brands have borked channel integration & in-person CRM:

“I went shopping to see if there were any sales. I walked past JD Sports and saw the brightest pair of trainers I had seen for a while (oh yes) and thought I buy them. Full price – not in the sale. I went into the shop and then waited for 10 minutes before someone would attend me. I asked for the shoe in a 9. About another 10 minutes later they eventually arrived. They didn’t fit but it was clear that the next size up was going to be perfect. I asked for the next size up to be told that they didn’t have any in stock. K THX BAI.”

What should have happened? They process the transaction and have the next size up delivered. The shoe is available in that size on the website. I can even use a cash back service to get a 6% discount with free delivery. Is this hard? No – not at all but it indicates that physical retail is struggling to come to terms with it’s future.

The future of physical retail is about experience. It’s about shopping being a pleasure:

  • as I walk in store I treated well or even recognised and addressed
  • staff are friendly, knowledgeable, empathic and brand representatives
  • my loyalty (or lack of it) is recognised
  • my purchase history lets staff know where to direct me
  • I am asked of I want to take my purchases with me (instant gratification sated) or have my purchases delivered (because who really wants to continue shopping with bags of purchases not needed for days/weeks?)
  • I get a voucher for a local eatery as I leave

All of the above could be done today for a reasonably low tech investment. Being met with a blank stare when I ask for a different size is not an option.

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Microsoft is killing windows phone 7 before it lived

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Microsoft is dangerously close to killing the WinPho7 despite a pretty good product. Here’s some subjective opinion and experiences that tell you why

1. No devices in stock

In central London I found 1 in 5 shops that actually had the product a month after release

2. No demo devices

1 in 20 of these shops would let me play with the product. The others would only let me play with the product only if I bought it i.e. only 1 in 20 had a demo handset. Every single one of these shops had a demo iPhone 4.

3. No promotion in store

The WinPho7 is hidden amongst the other devices. iPhone has a nice promo booth.

4. No staff promotion

Not one member of staff was positive about the product. This despite the fact most of them admitted to not having used it.

5. No staff product knowledge

The 1 demo version I played with was shown to me by someone who didn’t know how to use the product.

6. Uncompetitive pricing

The product is priced higher than Android devices with the same tech spec. Microsoft may feel it offers more but in reality this is hard to communicate but pricing talks loudly.

7. No additional incentives

No incentives are being offered to mitigate more powerful app stores. Why don’t Microsoft offer me some free song downloads and some free apps? If I move platforms I will have to repurchase some key apps – make that switch cheaper.

8. No developer love

Not one developer I know was given a device. Huge numbers were given Android devices.

Sorry Microsoft but this launch is not working.

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Building mobile web sites: QA

Friday, December 10th, 2010

QA on mobile is a monumental headache. Think it was a pain to support IE6 and constantly have to make Microsoft-specific hacks in your CSS & HTML? Welcome to some real fragmentation.

I previously covered our methods and processes for device detection. Having done this we were left with very specific profiles and about 14,000 handsets which fitted these. Our first inclination was to test natively where we had the handsets and then emulate – this did not work.

My least favourite emulators are Blackberry (I couldn’t even get BREW to work in my environment although allegedly one of our developers achieved this feat). Blackberry emulators are massive. They suck up your CPU and manage to crash your machine on a regular basis but that’s not the worst bit. Installing all of the add ons, extensions, plug ins and other nefarious rubbish takes an age. Android was reasonably easy while Apple was very easy but you have to pay for the SDK and run it on a MAC box which is pricey if you are not that way inclined.

Once you have installed your emulator and have successfully pulled up your target test site you find your bugs, make your fixes and assume that life is good. Then you test it on a a real handset of the emulation and realise that you have just wasted a heap of time as the two do not resemble each other in any way.

So what do we do?

- We have at least two handset for each of our test profiles.

- We test in Chrome first. Chrome best matches Android mobile browser and iPhone’s native browser.

- We emulate sparingly – good use cases include device screen size queries in Android.

- Every opportunity we get we load our sites in other people’s handsets.

- We review historical activity and look for sessions with strange looking activity and try to spot handset patterns. This allowed us to spot a series of Android bugs.

- We update software versions on some phones but not all – running several versions of iOS and Android is safer.

- We try to design to minimise layout issues.

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Building mobile web sites: device detection

Friday, December 10th, 2010

I want to write a series of blog posts giving recognition and thanks to 3rd party and open source tool sets that allow the production and management of mobile web sites. The first topic is device detection.

One of the first problems we tackled in building our framework was device detection and how to do it. Initially we built our own detection grid – this was a mistake as it was very hard to scale and work out what we were going to be testing. In time we decided that WURFL was the better solution.

It is by no means perfect but has proved to be very robust bar the odd glaring exception e.g. classing the Blackberry 9800 as not being an advanced browser in the same class as the native Android browser.

WURFL stores profiles for ~14,000 devices. We use these device profiles to create 4 versions of our mobile microsites.  These range from supporting advanced CSS and AJAX through to not even supporting all HTML tags.

The basic mechanism when a user loads our page is:

1. Match the user agent against a device

2. Match the device against a profile

3. Serve up the site version that was designed to run for this profile

Having these profiles has also helped identify and simplify our testing requirements.

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Mobile microsites

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Recently we looked at the framework we have built and what kind of service we could provide to businesses for their own mobile site.

The following issues arise when you plan a mobile website for your business:

1. You have to recognise that a mobile handset is requesting your site

2. You have to serve up an appropriate web page because some handsets don’t recognise some HTML tags or javascript

3. The style sheet may need to be different for each handset

We have created a framework which addresses each of the above using tools we’ve build ourselves or 3rd party APIs. As we’re all about location we’ve also created a location detecting tool which is merged with a free-input location search tool.

Another additional piece of the mobile puzzle is reporting. Mobile user agents can be very varied and cryptic while the addition of location presents additional opportunities for data capture and analysis.

So what have we built? Here are some examples:




While these pages were designed to work best in iPhone and Android devices they should also look good in a Chrome browser.  We are in the process of rolling out a templated lowest common denominator stylesheet. For custom requests we have created a 4-version framework which we may in time roll out as default.

Ensuring that the Geocast mobile site is shown instead of your current site when a handset requests the page is done via a line of javascript dropped into your source code or via a server side redirection.

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Pay monthly, pay as you go or make a one off payment

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

A quick update to say we have created some new ways to ad budget to your Geocast account:

- Pay monthly – choose a monthly amount to manage your spending
- Pay as you go – make one off payment as an when you want
- Auto billing – ensure your business is always being advertised with auto billing

Of course, you can also manage your daily budget independently of how you pay ensuring you have total control of your ad spend.

Create a new account or login here

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Flook using Geocast for in app offers

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

We recently partnered with Flook, the local discovery mobile app, to supply   geo-relevant offers as part of the local discovery process. We love the iPhone app which has the most luscious of graphics and a  simple and yet inventive approach to finding local stuff (which is an eclectic mix of content).

TNW covered the integration better here while the Times Online blog waxes lyrical about Flook here.

You can download the iPhone app here.

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Local Sale Finder a nice layer on Layar

Friday, June 4th, 2010

The Geocast data and platform powers Local Sale Finder via the BView API so it was nice to read that Penny Mobiles has just voted this one of the best layers on Layar. One of our developers picked up this project in their development free time taking about 6 hours to get the layer developed, tested and designed.

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