Shoppers, Please Don’t’ Fight At The Mall. Play Mallopoly Instead!

The holidays are coming in full swing and that can only mean one thing – Malls.  If you are like me, you’re not overly excited to brave this crazy world for hours on end.  Crying babies, screaming kids, frustrated shoppers and too much perfume can give anyone a headache.   Also like me, you might get a bit disturbed by the fighting that seems to have become a Black (eye) Friday tradition.

Have no fear…. Point Inside is here to calm your nerves and bring a little more fun to the holiday shopping experience.  They are adding to the holiday spirit with the upcoming launch of a new in-app game, Mallopoly, inside the Point Inside Shopping & Travel app.  Players can win a $100 American Express Gift Card through a daily random drawing between now and Dec. 31, 2011. Players can also win the $1000 Grand Prize gift card to be drawn on Jan. 2, 2012.

Point Inside helps retailers increase sales and profits by engaging customers in real-time using micro-location, indoor mapping, personalized content and apps.  They must have the right idea, Google seems to be thinking the same thing, although I doubt Google has created a cool game of Mallopoly for holiday shoppers.  The game play is pretty simple. Players gain entries into the drawing for the following:

• By claiming a place in the app, such as a store or restaurant (one place per day)

• When your place page is viewed (one view per place page per person per day)

• By sharing the app with a friend (one share is counted per day)

Playing the game requires updating to version 3.1 of the Point Inside Shopping & Travel app. The Android version will be live Tuesday; iPhone app should be live by the end of the week.  Press release is below.

Mallopoly Game to Launch within Point Inside Shopping & Travel App

Players can claim places within the app to be eligible to win daily $100 prizes and $1000 Grand Prize

 

Bellevue, WA — November 30, 2011 —Point Inside, Inc. (www.pointinside.com) today announced the launch of the Holiday Edition of its new in-app game, Mallopoly™. By “claiming” places in the app, such as Nordstrom in Bellevue Square Mall, players become eligible to win the Daily Prize of $100 and the Grand Prize of $1000. Players receive additional entries in the random drawing when another person visits their place inside the app or the player shares the app with another person.

“This is an exciting step forward in evolution of our shopping and travel app,” says Josh Marti, CEO at Point Inside. “We’ve had a tremendously positive response when we launched the latest version of Point Inside Shopping & Travel app with hundreds of thousands of deals. Now we’re creating a completely new level of shopper engagement by adding a very rewarding game to the app.”

The gameplay and rules are simple. A player gets an entry into the daily drawing when they “claim” one of the millions of places in the Point Inside app. Additional entries are gained from people visiting that place and sharing the app with friends. Winners for the daily $100 American Express Gift Card are randomly drawn from the previous day’s entries. All entries through December 31, 2011, are eligible for the Grand Drawing of a $1000 American Express Gift Card. Mallopoly starts Monday, November 28, and is available immediately for Android platforms; iPhone will be available shortly following iTunes App Store approval.

“This Holiday Edition of Mallopoly is the first of many for the game. We see it as another way to make more shoppers aware of great deals in both their local areas and in the stores they like,” says Marti.

The Point Inside Shopping & Travel app features include:

  • Hundreds of thousands of deals by location and venue, such as a specific mall or selected geographic areas
  • Special offers from national brands and local retailers
  • Listings of millions of retailers searchable by location and category including clothing and electronics
  • In-venue navigation features with routing
  • Maps of over 1300 shopping malls, airports, theme parks and other points of interest.
  • Store and shop directory information including store hours, contact information 
and special events
  • Complete list of services including restaurants, restrooms, ATMs, parking, elevators, escalators, rental cars, gates and ticketing counters.
  • Driving directions to locations (available for Android)

About Point Inside, Inc.

Point Inside has transformed the shopping experience by enabling retailers to engage proactively with customers through their smartphones at every point along the purchase path. Mobile apps driven by the Point Inside Interact™ platform increase sales, loyalty and customer satisfaction from initial research and product discovery to the creation of shopping lists and in-store activities. This new level of customer engagement is made possible through Point Inside’s patent-pending technologies in indoor mapping, micro-location services and customer engagement.

Point Inside also offers consumers a free mobile application, Point Inside for Shopping and Travel., on iOS and Android devices. Users can quickly find stores, gates, kiosks, restrooms, elevators, escalators, and other guest services in over 1300 malls, airports, theme parks and other venues.

Founded in 2009 and based just outside of Seattle, the company is led by a team of executives with decades of experience developing mobile and location-based services (LBS) applications for companies such as Amazon, AT&T, Boeing, and Qualcomm.  Additional details can be found at: www.pointinside.com; Facebook: www.facebook.com/PointInside; Twitter: www.twitter.com/PointInside.

@jnickhughes

Innovate Around “Deadly Sins” And Other Golden Nuggets from StartupDay In Seattle

According to Wikipedia, the lean startup is defined as:

the method advocates the creation of rapid prototypes designed to test market assumptions, and uses customer feedback to evolve them much faster than via more traditional product development practices, such as the Waterfall model. It is not uncommon to see Lean Startups release new code to production multiple times a day[2], often using a practice known as Continuous Deployment[3].

According to Eric Ries, this might be satisfactory.  But he believes the Lean Startup is defined as:

An experiment.

I recently attended StartupDay in Seattle, where speakers touched on a variety of subjects to help early stage founders and would be entrepreneurs along their startup path.  As the keynote speaker, Reis explained how the process of building a startup is evolving from the waterfall ideology to a more agile and lean approach.

“Your goal is to determine if there is a cheaper way to test and validate your assumptions.”

Ries hammered home the idea that a startup really is just an experiment, where you are testing a set of assumptions as cheap as possible.  If proven wrong, you “pivot” towards a new set of assumptions and continue down the path of establishing a scalable and repeatable business model.

“The goal is to Reduce the time between pivots, increase odds and runway so your company can survive until you find a repeatable and scalable model.”

He also noted the new approach to The startup Way, focusing on four areas of the company.

  • people
  • culture
  • process
  • accountability

Among a number of new terms, Validated Learning jumps out at me as something to internalize.  It is a process on determining value and waste… Then optimize accordingly.  Find the value (what is working) and do more of it.  Find the waste (what is not) and put it aside, leave it behind.  Sounds pretty simple, right?  Well yes.  Yet it is funny how so many startups fail because they did not get to the point of repeatable value creation.  What Reis is saying is “get to this point as fast as you can”.  So measure everything.  Study it and validate your learning.

To sum it up, here are 3 things to focus on if you are a founder:

  • Establish the baseline MVP
  • Tune the engine
  • Pivot or persevere

Other notable speakers include:

Brian Wong
Kiip – As a young founder, Wong laid out six thoughts to help first time entrepreneurs on their journey.

1. Set the direction
2. Law of serendipity
3. You = motivator
4. Won’t have a clue
5. No time to spend
6. Crazy things

Rand Fishkin

SEOmoz – Rand spoke on the challenging topic of Failure, noting that it happens to all of us and how we approach it will determine our success.

  • Fail early
  • Have metrics
  • Fail survivably

Ask yourself the hard questions

  • do we have wrong assumptions?
  • do we have the wrong people?
  • odds we screw up again?
Glenn Kelmann
Redfin -Glenn had some great advice on how best to approach the initial stages of your product, everything from focusing on “problems in your life” to “deadly sins”.
  • Build off of others ideas
  • Delight the first user
  • Focus on Seven deadly sins

Good Lord, All I Need Is Another Darn App In My Life…

I think I am like most other people.  I use a few apps daily… like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, the weather app, email, maps, texting, and some various other ones I can’t remember their names but I do remember what they look like and where they sit on my phone.

I flip through 6 or so “screens” of apps each day just to find the one I need. This is too much in my opinion.  It feels as if we are drowning in a sea of apps.

So do we really need more apps in our life?  And should you rest your company’s future on thinking people will want to download another one to their device?

Here are some stats:

  • The most used Android apps in the US are Google Maps, Gmail and Facebook, according to research from Nielsen.
  • More than 500,000 apps have been approved in the Apple App store.
  • Total App Store revenue before the break-down is almost $3.6 billion in aggregate.

There’s half a billion apps are available for me to download… and how many will actually end up on my device?  Very little.  And once some have made it to  my iPhone, will I even use it after the first time?  I fear not…

The message here is :

1) if you are a mobile phone user, you have to dig through so much clutter to find useful apps today.  This is inconvenient and it sucks, so we will remain with our “tried and true” apps and not venture to download many more.

2) if you are a business, maybe the app store approach is not such a good idea.  Fighting for shelf space is getting more difficult as they days go by because I think most people think similar to me.  Why put such barriers to everyday usage for your web service?  My opinion is if you are  solely depending on a app store positioning, the odds are you will get lost in the clutter.

Does anyone else have this problem?

The Mechanics Of A Sustainable Business Model

I am just going to say it: I don’t buy it – Groupon’s decision to postpone their IPO has little to do with market conditions and more to do with recent missteps and investor doubts on the sustainability of their business.What do I mean?

Everyone has their own opinions, and here is mine – Groupon rushed an IPO as fast as they could knowing their current model was unsustainable, and is in need of an influx of cash before the bricks started falling off the building.  It seems the beginning of the end is already upon them.

We can speculate how the story will end but in reality I don’t know any more than you do.  This might be a good time to back up a bit and get a grasp of how an early stage company can sidestep this mess all together.

The Startup:

The purpose of a startup is to find a repeatable and sustainable business model.

Repeatable.  Sustainable.  Business.  Model.  Scalable.  Period.

It is easy to get jealous of stratospheric growth companies such as Groupon.  I mean who wouldn’t want to be a major shareholder of such a hot web startup.  Yet let’s get something straight: Groupon’s daily deals model is not sustainable.  It’s repeatable, yes.  But sustainable?  No.  When you are paying off past customer debt with today’s customer revenue and never seeing black ink, the model is broken.  When the majority of your “customers” (read businesses) aren’t coming back in troves to frequently repeat their experience, the model is broken.

I doubted the validity of the mass discount daily deals concept from the beginning.  Over the last few years I have kept a keen eye on the emergence of this entire “deals” market, and have been pleasantly proven correct.  Like a miser with my palms together and a snarky smile, I have watched as everyone jumped in the fray only to realize they are chasing after the pot of gold at the end of a seemingly never-ending rainbow.

Incidentally, I am not alone in thinking about daily deals un-sustainability.  Here’s one.  And another oneAnd here’s another one.  (search “daily deals not sustainable” and see what pops up.)

I wonder if any of these deal companies ever sat down to draw out their model, expand their business model canvas, if you will, and determine who is involved, where value is created and how it can be sustained?

My guess is no.

Groupon stumbled upon an anomaly when it was still called ThePoint.  All the other’s observed Groupon’s rapidly growth and rather than doing the hard work of critical thinking, they just determined it was a solid business.  They figured copying was they best idea.  Until it wasn’t…

The Business Model

A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers and captures value.

So how do you figure out a sustainable model to orient your business around?

As the CEO of Order SM, it is my job to figure out how to strategically grow and sustain our business.  Here’s how we approaching it.

When building out a startup one of the most important pieces to the puzzle is revenue generation, or the business model.  Using the Business Model Canvas, Order SM has been able to lay out all the components of the business and visually illustrate where value is created.  We have adopted much from the book Business Model Generation: A Handbook For Visionaries, Game Changers and Challengers, including using the canvas to extrapolate various business models within Order SM.  (This book is a MUST for any early stage startup.  Don’t be so cocky as to think you know exactly what your business models are when you design and launch your product.  Do yourself a favor and use this book)

Below are the various sections of the canvas, with associated questions we are evaluating as we move forward developing our business model(s).  I have laid it out to help you get a better mental perspective as you start to approach your business model canvas.  Adapted from the book, I hope this is enough to nudge you in purchasing it – it’s awesome!

Customer Segments

The customer segments building block defines the different groups of people or organizations an enterprise aims to reach and serve.  Without paying (and profitable) customers, a business cannot survive for long.

For whom are we creating value?  What are our most important customers?

Value Propositions

The value propositions building block describes the bundle of products and services that create value for a specific customer segment.  The value proposition is the reason why customers will turn to one company over the other.  It solves a customer problem or satisfies a customer need.

What value do we deliver to the customer?  Which one of our customers problems are we helping to solve?  Which customer needs are we satisfying?

Channels

The channels building block describes how a company communicates with and reaches its customer segments to deliver a value proposition.  Communication, distribution and sales channels comprise a companies interface with customers.

Through which channels do our customer segments want to be reached?  How are we reaching them now?  How are our channels integrated?  Which ones work best?  Which ones are most cost efficient?

Customer Relationships

The customer relationships building block describes the types of relationships a company establishes with specific customer segments.  A company should clarify the type of relationship it wants to establish with each customer segment.

What type of relationships does each of our customer segments expect us to establish and maintain with them?  Which ones have we established?  How costly are they?  How are they integrated with the rest of our business model?

Revenue Streams

The revenue streams building block represents the cash a company generates from each customer segment.  If customers comprise the heart of the business, revenue streams are it’s arteries.

For what value are our customers really willing to pay?  For what do they currently pay?  How are they currently paying?  How would they prefer to pay?  How much does each revenue stream contribute to overall revenues?

Key Resources

The key resources building block describes the most important assets required to make a business model work.  These key resources allow an enterprise to create and offer a value proposition, reach markets, maintain relationships with customer segments and earn revenues.

What key resources do our value propositions require?  Our distribution channels?  Customer relationships?  Revenue streams?

Key Activities

The key activities building block describes the most important things a company must do to make its business model work.  These activities are the most important actions a company must take to operate successfully.

What key activities do our value propositions require?  Our distribution channels?  Customer relationships?  Revenue streams? 

Key Partnerships

The key partnerships building block describes the network of suppliers and partners that make the business model work.  Companies forge partnerships for many reasons, and partnerships are becoming the cornerstone of many business models.

Who are our key partners?  Who are our key suppliers?  Which key resources are we acquiring from partners?  Which key activities do partners perform?

Cost Structure

The cost structure describes all the costs incurred to operate a business model.  These are the most important costs incurred while operating under a particular business model.

What are the most important costs inherent in our business model?  Which key resources are most expensive?  Which key activities are most expensive?

The building blocks above are essential to mapping out your areas of value creation and value extraction.  Paramount to any startup is the ability to identify the main components of their business.  Once visualized, it becomes much easier to identify where value is created, whom is involved, what direction the equation is flowing, which parties are involved, what partners your business depends on, which partners your business must depend on, etc…  You get the point.

I am not sure Groupon actually took these critical steps from the onset to determine proper business model generation, and now they are feeling the affects.  Here’s to you not making the same mistake.

@jnickhughes

 

Employees Want More Recognition Over More Money. Here’s How With Facebook

I think we we can all admit: corporate life can be at times, just plain boring.  That might be the main reason a large number of employees tend to meander over to social sites such as Facebook or Twitter to see what is going on outside the firewall.

But are social technologies really a distraction?  Or can they be used to actually enhance the morale and engagement of the workforce?

The Taraci Social MediaMgr™, from Taraci Motivation, is an incentive marketing application that allows organizations to host and run employee incentive marketing programs entirely through Facebook.  It allows an organization to integrate the social and communications tools of Facebook into traditional incentive marketing programs.  Their vision is to transform how organizations run incentive programs by helping them fully integrate the power of social media.

“According to Gallop , about 10% of employees are highly engaged and since profitability is tied to employee attitude and moral, it’s more important than ever to motivate employees,” says Tom Taraci.

Basically, they help corporations leverage Facebook to offer employee incentives to keep them happy.

Well, if you can’t beat em, join em!

It’s an intelligent move, leveraging Facebook to get more from your work force rather than just firewall it.  The underlying message sent to employees when blocking a site like Facebook is one of distrust.  Using Taraci Social MediaMgr let’s your employees know “you get it” and “you understand.”

For example, the ‘like’ feature can be used to show friends and family a product users like within the catalog. Opinions can be posted to the wall. Participants can also ‘send’ messages to friends, family and co-workers to get feedback on their product selection or to let them know about their achievements in the workplace.

Current Incentives can include:

  • Length of service — Rewards employees on their employment anniversary date
  • Sale incentives — Rewards salespeople for reaching their goals
  • Wellness programs — Rewards employees for achieving health & fitness goals
  • Safety programs — Rewards workers for reducing workplace accidents, reducing absenteeism
  • Recognition programs — Rewards employees for accomplishing a specific task, or tasks, over a period of time
  • Referral programs — Rewards employees or customers for recommending a new client
  • Loyalty Programs – Rewards employees for length of service to an organization
  • Casino Players Clubs – Rewards casino players with points for dollars wagered which can be redeemed for merchandise.

Incentive 2.o?

In the past, incentive programs were hosted on a standalone web site or simply through a printed catalog.  For corporations, it’s now possible to communicate real-time incentive marketing program updates, from adding rewards to celebrating winners.  Program administrators can also engage in a daily two-way dialogue with participants, not feasible with traditional online or print incentive programs.

It’s not a secret employees are spending more and more time on Facebook throughout the work day.   Corporations are realizing they need to join them in their environment, not just block the site.  The application is designed to improve corporations’ presence in social media by building their corporate communities and increasing the number of their followers on Facebook. By hosting the incentive program on corporate Facebook pages, there’s finally a way for corporations to connect with employees in an effective way through Facebook.

How it works

1 – A branded incentive marketing catalog is created for the corporation’s Facebook page by Taraci Motivation

2 – Once the program is officially launched, participants are directed to the corporation’s official Facebook Page

3 – By entering their username and password, employees can see their point totals and redeem rewards.

Recognition Over Money?

During this tough economic climate it’s more important than ever to motivate employees who are frustrated due to many factors, including constant downsizing, lack of promotions and salaries being frozen.   A simple  “Good Job” or public employee appreciation in front of other employees on a social application will go a long way to keep employees happy.    Looks like Taraci Motivation understands how employees actually feel, here is an interesting list of what employees say they want compared to what employers think employees want.  Quite the disconnect if you ask me.

Employees just want to be recognized.  They want it over more money, more interesting work, job security, or good working conditions.

Seriously, just telling your employees they are doing a good job, more publicly and more often will greatly increase your company morale.  I wish my last employer knew that.  Oh well…

According to Taraci, the response to the Taraci Social Media Mgr has been tremendous.  The Taraci Motivation Mgr was first released in May 2011 and enhancements are continually being added to the application. “We’re  set to launch a number of new programs on Facebook in Q4 and continue to be in active discussions with a variety of category leaders in travel, shipping, entertainment, finance, marketing, consumer products and services, and more.”

From the looks of it, maybe more corporations should look into Taraci Motivation.  I hope so… with 10% of the workforce highly engaged, companies need to do whatever it takes to keep their best employees happy.  I know I am.

@jnickhughes

Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook or Google+ Which Provides More Value?

Social applications have taken our world by storm the last few years and have indeed proven they are important utilities in our lives. I think it is safe to say some are mere vanity and fun; some are valuable resources to help us move forward in our life pursuits.

The question is: which is which?

I have to say LinkedIn – with the ability to keep me connected with important people in my industry, help distribute my writing as well as bring me updated with relevant industry articles and information each day – has positioned itself as the most valuable network in my life.  Consumer Privacy concerns aside, the future looks HUGE for LinkedIn.  I use LinkedIn pretty much every day, somehow someway.

Twitter is a close second.  It has helped distribute information as well as loosely connect me with thousands of people.  It’s potential to change the world is still largely untapped.  I check Twitter every day.

Facebook does not provide $100 billion worth of value in my life… do I really care about what all my old high school friends and other acquaintances are doing?  Harsh, yes.  But apparently it’s not very valuable to me.  It’s just something of a courtesy check every day or day to see the what’s going on in my friends lives.  But the problem is – I’m really not engaged with the network.  Will this change?

Google+ just seems to be skidding along right now with no real value proposition above and beyond all the others mentioned.  It is worthless to me at this point.  What say you?

I don’t care the valuation of each as a company; I am wondering which provides the most value to you as a user – every day.  I have a feeling the one with the highest valuation is not providing the most value… do you agree?   Answer why you feel the way you do in the comments.

@jnickhughes

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