Category Archives: mobile apps

My In-The-Moment Fail with KUOW FM

image: KUOW logo

This morning I was up early and making breakfast for the boys before shuttling them off to school (daycare, really, but we call it school). They were eating and for the moment they were pretty quiet. In that moment of rare and relative silence I thought it might be nice to turn on Morning Edition on the local NPR station. I stopped for a second to think about that because we don’t have a radio in the house. Looking at my phone I decided to try the local station’s web site, KUOW.org, because I’m pretty sure they have a mobile app for listening to the station. So I tapped the url into my phone’s ever-present Google search bar on the phone’s home screen. Why I didn’t open the phone’s browser directly and type in the URL, which I know,  I’m not quite sure.

What I got was search results and KUOW was the first result, as expected:

image: KUOW Search Result

I then simply tapped the link to KUOW News and Information – the top search result – and was taken to their NON-mobile web site! What?? I was a confused as well as frustrated because I thought they had a mobile site.

image: KUOW Site

Grr.. Well, I was here so I zoomed in, panned around and didn’t see any sort of promotion for the mobile app. I did see a “Listen Now” link on the top of the page and tried that but the only options were to use iTunes, Real Player (!!?), or Windows. Out of time, I bailed out and just enjoyed the quiet kitchen.

FAIL

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What could have saved this campaign?

Before outlining a potential solution I want to point out that KUOW actually does have a mobile app and even has a mobile site, pictured below.

image: KUOW Mobile Site

In fact, the mobile site was EXACTLY WHAT I WAS LOOKING FOR. I just wanted to listen to what was playing on-air and the mobile site features that functionality front-and-center.

So what gives? Here’s what’s going on:

1) If you tap “www.kuow.org” directly into your phone’s browser (I use Chrome) their site automatically re-directs you to “m.kuow.org”. This is good. However if you search for ‘KUOW” using Google or Bing on your phone the top search result, which most would choose, points to “www.kuow.org/news”.  But if you go directly to that URL with your phone you don’t get re-directed to the mobile site. In other words, you only get their mobile site if you go to the very top-level of their site, “www.kuow.org”. But the search engines aren’t sending people there! They need to implement re-direction on all their non-mobile pages.

2) Give the mobile app a prominent home on the non-mobile site, preferably near the top of the page and not buried – as it is now – in the pile of footer links way down at the bottom of the page. And use the term “Mobile App” instead of just “Mobile”.

Target’s In-Store App Promotion Fail

For the longest time Target (the department store chain) has avoided mention in this blog. In fact, I’ve used some of their mobile efforts in presentations to show the way to win (vs. fail) in mobile. Both Target and their mobile partner Deloitte Digital have done fantastic work on their mobile app and mobile site. So I was surprised to find myself standing in a Target store looking at this sign.

image: target in store mobile fail

It’s a simple sign with a clear message but how do I get the app? Are they relying on me to go the app store on my phone (Google Play, in this case), do a search for “target” and download it that way? I guess they are because they’ve provided no more convenient alternative.

FAIL

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What could have saved this experience/campaign?

Well, it isn’t the most egregious fail. I guess the solution is pretty obvious but I’ll spell it out.

1) Give a Call-To-Action
This is what surprises me most about the Target sign. Sure, someone who is really motivated will figure it out. But when you are engaging people in-person tell them what to do. Give them a call-to-action. And in a purely mobile environment such as retail a call-to-action should be short and sweet. Don’t force people to think about how to do something, tell them. And make the process as short and quick as possible. There are some ways they could have made things easier for me:

  • A short URL – something like, “target.com/app”. This is easy to enter and easy to remember.
  • A code for me to send via text-message – something like “Text TARGET to 28594″. This has the added benefit of providing Target with an opportunity to get me to opt-in to receive their text-alerts.
  •  Maybe a QR code – They’re not dead (as some will claim) and are the fastest way for someone to get your app. Though plenty of people still don’t know what a QR code is or what to do with them, signs like this can be a good place to use them. However, I probably wouldn’t have put one on this sign as it was 8 or so feet off the ground; the code would have to be really big to be scan-able.

2) Put some smarts behind the URl/QR code.
To keep the sign clean and the call-to-action clear you need a QR code or URL that points to multiple app stores.  With a little device detection and redirection a single url can be used by any phone/device with a good resulting experience.

Interestingly, that same day I saw this sign at Home Depot. When you text to the code you get a url the directs your phone to the correct app store. Well done.

Home-Depot-in-store-mobile-promo

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Central Security Distributors Not So Secure – FAIL

Any smartphone owner who’s downloaded a handful of apps will acknowledge the advertising that is present on most free apps. They are very much like banner ads on regular (i.e. non-mobile) web sites. And my guess is that they get about the same amount of intentional clicks, if not fewer. My personal theory is that mobile ads receive clicks (taps on a touch screen) because:
1) they are tapped accidentally,
2) new smartphone owners are tapping on things just to see how they work
These clicks are not from people truly interested in the product or service being promoted. Again, only a personal theory.

So, like many smartphone owners I’ve downloaded a free alarm clock app, which has ads. And true to my theory, I accidentally tapped this ad from CSD (Central Security Distributors) who apparently sells security systems from Paradox:

image: Paradox Security Mobile Ad

Here’s what I got. Keep in mind this is an offer for security products.

image: Paradox Security Mobile Ad Fail

Whoa! Wait a minute. A security warning on a site that sells security products? Yikes.

Fail #1.

If you look behind the certificate you’ll see the other, more common problem: a non-mobile web site. Even if I did continue in spite of the warning I’d be in for a terrible experience at a full web site that has shrunk itself to the size of my phone screen. No way.

Fail #2.

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What could have saved this campaign?

The problems with this campaign stem from, I believe, a single point of failure. This is an Adwords campaign. You can tell by the Google+ “+1″ stuff off to the left of the ad and the arrow that points to the right indicating that you will be going somewhere, which is Google’s way of letting you know you’ll be ‘taken somewhere.’

Here’s what happened: whoever set up the Adwords campaign for CSD didn’t realize that Adwords will automatically put your ad on mobile phones unless you specify otherwise (generally a bad move on Google’s part). Here’s what that looks like in the Adwords system:

image: Adwords Devices Options

The default is “All available devices” and is unfortunately recommended by Google. The marketer at CSD just accepted the default not realizing that any clicks from a mobile device would be 100% wasted due to the issues described above.

Aside from the issue of why the ad was on a mobile device is why the site has an invalid security certificate associated with the content on the site. This is just bad web programming and particularly egregious for a firm selling security products.

Oddly, a similar thing happened with American Express.

The Bellevue Collection App Promotion Fail

I was recently at the Hyatt Hotel in Bellevue, WA and noticed the following sign as I walked through one of the many passageways and bridges that connect the hotel to the broader shopping experience that defines this shiny, affluent city.

image: Bellevue Collection Sign

It was the image of a mobile phone that caught my eye. (Side note: I feel like the iPhone is the ONLY phone image ever used in promotional materials. I can’t remember ever seeing an Android phone. Ever.) In fact, I actually had my phone in my hand – like a lot of people – and was preparing to try the Personal Concierge app that they were promoting.  Take a closer look at the picture. See if you can figure out how to get the app…..Waiting….

FAIL.

The sign has roughly two messages: one for Belle’s Vue, the fashionista blogger and the other for the mobile app. I see no clear path to downloading the app but there is a URL for the blog, thebellevuecollection.com/bellesvue. Determined, now, to see just how hard it is going to be to get this app I open the browser on my phone and tap in the not-so-short url. Here’s what I got:

image: Bellevue Collection Blog

Hmm. It’s a blog alright but it sure wasn’t meant for a mobile phone. I was using WiFi and not the mobile data network, fortunately, as the images are pretty high-quality. The links and navigation are far too tiny to tap on. I see nothing about the mobile app.

FAIL.

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What could have saved this campaign?

The problems embodied by this campaign really speak to the complexities of mobile as well as the inexperience most marketers have with the medium.

To address the complexity issue there’s no easy way for people to get the app in this case. Even if a QR code had been used – and one should have – it wouldn’t have gone to a site with the smarts to detect the device and re-route the person to the appropriate app market; that would be a sort of mobile nirvana. At best it might have pointed to a simple mobile landing page where the user could self-select their mobile phone type. But that would require building a mobile page, which adds complexity. At worst – and this is where inexperience shows – The Bellevue Collection could have made sure their desktop web page that promotes their app was at least serviceable (it isn’t) for someone dedicated to downloading the app and just point the QR code there. As is, the marketers at the Bellevue collection are relying on people to proactively go to their respective app market, search for the app, and download it. It won’t happen.

In addition to the missing mobile call-to-action there is nowhere on the blog that offers the app. (We’ll ignore the fact that the blog is not mobile-friendly) This is a case of not recognizing the mobile user. The Bellevue Collection is offering a mobile app but has presented only one clear option to anyone who is interested, a link to the blog. The mobile app should be prominently promoted on the blog.

A URL is being promoted to people who are walking by; they are mobile. Do they think someone will write down the url? On what? Well, probably their mobile phone, right? And maybe right into the browser for a quick check to see what’s there.

REI Fail #2 – Make It Stop

Someone please call REI. Whoever is running their mobile marketing is asleep.image: REI SKI Magazine ad

We’re coming up on ski season and skiers and boarders alike will be keeping a close eye on snow conditions.  REI is presumably here to help. In the new issue of SKI Magazine REI placed a full-page ad dedicated largely to their equipment servicing offer but for those with iPhone and Android-based phones they have a bonus: a free snow report app!

Using a nice, short URL, REI.com/apps, they successfully avoided the inherent challenges with QR codes (i.e., some people don’t know what they are and don’t have a reader installed on their phone). This tidy little URL can easily be typed into a phone browser, which is what I did. Soon the now-familiar REI image: REI Ad Copymobile site began loading. After a few seconds the site was loaded and – no app anywhere. I wasn’t even on a page that was supposed to have apps. I was just staring at the front door of their mobile site.

Fail.

Looking around, I didn’t even see where the apps might be. Under ‘SHOP’? Under ‘Find Out’? Checking….. nope. I don’t see it anywhere. On an off-chance I thought I’d try the URL from my computer and there – on the fixed Internet – is a page offering an iPhone app. Yay! But what about Android? Oop. In pretty orange letters the page says, “Android Version Coming Soon!” I could have swore the ad said for iPhone and Android. Wait! It did. Fail again. Sigh.

Credit: @daniel_phelps

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What might have saved this campaign?
At some risk of stating the obvious REI could have simply created a page on their mobile site where the app(s) could be downloaded. When their web servers detected that a mobile device was accessing REI.com/apps the user could be taken directly to that page. As far as promoting an app for Android when none exists? This bad idea could be mitigated by offering to alert me via SMS when the app is ready. Then send me the link to the download page.