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Has Yahoo Missed The Mobile Boat?

Topic: Mobile Loyalty, Mobile Marketing | Author: Jeff Hasen | Date: September 9, 2011

missing the targetThis week Yahoo’s board fired CEO Carol Bartz, news that rocked the industry and has some debating if the company’s inability to choose between being a media company or a technology provider is to blame. I think we need to look elsewhere and ask: Would Yahoo’s shakeup at the top have happened if the company had been innovating in mobile instead of slipping further behind?

We’ll likely never know the answer. But it’s safe to say that Yahoo’s disjointed mobile strategy was largely responsible for the board’s decision to oust Bartz.

What were the missteps in mobile that cost Yahoo, a company once so close to expanding its prowess in search, social and technology to mobile, its competitive edge? News site mocoNews provides some worthwhile insights and analysis.

It argues that Yahoo made a series of bad moves:

  • Yahoo has not committed efforts and investments in the vital area of research and development, and has a lousy track record of starting and stopping initiatives.
  • Livestand, the company’s digital newsstand for tablets, is late to market. It was expected to be delivered in the first half of the year.
  • Yahoo has failed to grab a significant slice of the search advertising pie, and research firm IDC reports that Yahoo is losing share in mobile advertising.
  • There has been frequent and disruptive change at the top of Yahoo’s mobile units.

Ironically, Bartz – who didn’t steer Yahoo back on the mobile course  when the company lost the plot– sent her farewell email to employees via an iPad.

How I See It: I agree with Om Malik ‘s view that an acquisition would help Yahoo get back in the mobile game. Malik names Foursquare and Flipboard as possible candidates. (I’ll talk about Foursquare in the next item.) As for Flipboard, the social magazine for the iPad has been the leader of the pack since its launch in summer 2010, when it immediately could not keep up with demand. I still use Yahoo, but it is more about personal habit than a conscious choice to be with an innovator. Like everything else in mobile, the story has yet to be written. But this latest shakeup signals that Yahoo is running out of time to be included in the narrative.


Is LBS the big thing for marketers?

This week saw the release of a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, an essential source of data and insights about how average North Americans use the technologies and services available. Among the takeaways from the report is the observation that the category referred to as location-based services is broad and can’t be easily addressed by marketers.

According to the findings, 28 percent of all American adults use mobile or social location-based services of some kind. This includes those who do the following activities:

  • 28 percent of use phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location—that equals 23 percent of all adults.
  • A much smaller number (5 percent of mobile phone owners, or 4 percent of all adults) use their phones to check in to locations using geosocial services such as Foursquare. Smartphone owners are especially likely to use these services on their phones – coming in at 12 percent.

“Americans are not currently all that eager to share explicitly their location on social media sites, but they are taking advantage of their phones’ geolocation capabilities in other ways,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, Pew Internet Project research specialist and co-author of the report. “Smartphone owners are using their phones to get fast access to location-relevant information on-the-go.”

How I See it: Foursquare’s hype has always topped its ability to deliver a mass audience to marketers. Do the math, and the results are an eye-opener. Even if you are targeting U.S. smartphone users, the most you can hope to reach is about 14 million. In my view, there are other more effective ways to reach consumers with relevant local offers. At the top of my list is the creation of a mobile loyalty club where users willingly share preferences and location information in exchange for deals and information that matter to them. How big is that audience? The last Hipcricket survey on the subject indicated that more than 100 million would be interested in joining a mobile loyalty club — if only their favorite brands would offer one.

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