Monthly Archives: May 2014

Retail Monitoring – Is it Dystopian?

Consumer monitoring has been around for a while now to track inventory and occupancy. However, the focus has shifted to the customers themselves. Knowing their demographics and preferences helps retailers rapidly adjust to customer needs. Companies such as Walgreens and Walmart are starting to leverage a variety of different technology mediums, but the dust hasn’t settled yet – there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on which technologies provide the best ROI. There’s no doubt that foot traffic patterns, customer stay duration, return rate, and other related data are useful to marketers and strategists. But this may have finally crossed the line and make us feel like Big Brother has overstayed his welcome. Or, have we become so blasé with all the data that’s being collected about us, that it’s just another day in our Brave New World? Let’s examine a few of those data gathering methods for what is ostensibly being used to better serve the customer:


Cameras are not just for loss prevention. By observing customers, information can be extracted on how long they stayed, and which products they stayed for. This provides an additional layer of analysis in determining which products are purchased on impulse, with long consideration, or not at all. It can also apply to advertisements. Customers’ demographics such as age, ethnicity, gender, and even facial expressions are all taken into consideration. In fact, technology has become so advanced that we can now do a pretty good job of analyzing facial expressions and body language.


There’s no such thing as a free lunch, Internet access included. Modern stores offer complimentary Wi-Fi, but it usually comes with a catch. Oftentimes there is a terms of service agreement that consumers usually accept without much reading. In some cases, the legal acknowledge allows the store to view the users’ website history,  though that does not have to be the case. Egen’s newly designed Crowd Intelligence ™ app allows for a tiered approach to how much data is collected, in order to adapt to customer preference. It goes a long way in providing tangible data on customers in a retail environment.


Invented by Ericsson in 1994, the short distance wireless technology has been used for wireless headsets, keyboards, and file transmission. In mid 2013, Apple introduced iBeacon, a Bluetooth positioning feature built into the iOS operating system.  It allows devices called beacons to transmit signals that determine the proximity of any device with iBeacon installed. Then, businesses can send store-specific promotions, coupons, and notifications to users. However, iBeacon itself does not deliver content – that is done through websites or apps.  iBeacon is effective for malls and retail chains where there are many stores spread out geographically. While relatively new, the Walgreen’s drugstore chain Duane Reade has already installed iBeacons into 10 of its New York City stores.  Walmart is currently testing with iBeacon.


Even though the idea of tracking customers and their behavior might sound 1984-esque, a Cisco study shows that 52 percent of shoppers are willing to share information in return for discounts. It’s not so evil, since customers are agreeable to it and their personal data is not being exposed. The demand for monitoring technology will only increase, so it is a good idea to get into the game now. Egen’s Crowd Intelligence app uses GPS, crowd-sourcing, and Wi-Fi to provide invaluable consumer information for enterprise marketers and strategists – check it out!


Improving Your Product with Analytics

Your mobile app may have been released to the public, but the job is far from done.  Both technical and market performance needs to be continuously inspected to improve the app.  There are a number of tools to help you keep up with the changing market.

Google Analytics

Google has the most popular website statistics service, taking up 80.6 percent of online analysis market.  It provides very detailed reports which include visitor location, stay duration, referrer, and event tracking (such as clicking a button).  This type of tracking is enabled by inserting Google specified code segments in designated areas of the website, and the results are displayed in Google Analytic’s online dashboard.

In 2002 Google introduced support for Android and iOS.  The mobile implementation is straightforward and similar to that of websites.  Google has thorough guides for both Android and iOS.

The mobile domain has additional focuses.  Tracking the number of users, visit duration of each page, and geographic location remains relevant.  The installation referrer can be the Google Play Store/Apple App Store (search bar, top charts), the app’s website, or other websites, which can range from social networks to news articles.  There should be plenty of users coming from all sources, as more sources mean more users.  Google Analytics can also detect application crashes and in-app purchases.  The breadth and depth of data is astounding; below is a sample Google Analytics dashboard.


Sample Google Analytics Android Dashboard

There are many data categories other than the ones displayed here.


With Google dominating the analytics business, there is little room for other companies.  However, the company Optimizely brings a unique and fresh outlook to analytics:  A/B testing.  There is A, the control, and B, the treatment.  In the software context, A is the currently used product while B is a test version modified in some way.  Optimizely makes both versions live and randomly shows each user one of the two.  Then it tracks the same metrics as Google Analytics, but this time there are two versions, letting you know the better one.  The position or color of a single button can have significant impacts on user experience.  In effect, Optimizely is live and highly agile prototyping.  You can try a demo on its homepage.

The Optimizely team is still working on its mobile division.  In March, they released a beta platform for native iOS apps.  They are definitely an up-and-coming company that can compete with Google Analytics by enhancing analytics with A/B testing.  Coincidentally, both of its co-founders are former employees of Google.


There many different options out there, but Google Analytics and Optimizely are the most popular as of present.  Whichever you choose, analytics will provide the necessary feedback to close the loop in optimizing your product for public consumption.

The Three Building Blocks of Mobile Business

For companies just beginning to establish their mobile strategy, the process is an onerous one.   Each step must be carefully thought out to ensure the product’s full potential.  Here are three components that create the infrastructure of mobile business.


There are two main platforms for mobile: native and web.  Generally, native apps are more full-featured experiences, while mobile websites serve as lightened versions of the app to encourage users to download it.  Take for example Facebook.  Their mobile website has the standard Facebook experience.  However, for iOS and Android, the Facebook app lets users call each other and upload photos directly from the camera.

Native apps have more functionality since they have direct access to the device’s capabilities, allowing them to send notifications and access hardware such as the camera.  It is best to release an app for each of the Android and iOS operating systems, which make up 81.0 and 12.9 percent of market share, respectively.  You will likely wonder wait, what’s the point of investing in iOS then?  Because market share does not equal revenue share.  Although Android is responsible for 75 percent of all app downloads and iOS only 18, each earns 50 percent of all app revenue.  This reveals that iOS are willing to spend more on apps, and value quality or quantity.  Nevertheless, it is essential to deploy for both Android and iOS to ensure coverage of the whole consumer base.


Every aspect, from sending to storage, must be implemented carefully to protect user and company data.  SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is the main protocol for sending data.  It provides encryption for all communication sent over networks.  Most websites have a SSL certificate that can be purchased from hosting or security companies.  Security implementations are a bit different on native apps, but fortunately iOS and Android have official guides.

Coincidentally, earlier this month the technology industry was put into an uproar by the discovery of Heartbleed, the name given to security bug.  Heartbleed caused vulnerabilities in OpenSSL, an open source version of SSL that is wildly used.  It enabled hackers to steal transmitted data from any website that uses OpenSSL, including Yahoo!, Tumblr, and Wikipedia.  Though OpenSSL is now patched, it goes to show that companies need to pay close attention to the industry at all times.

Heartbleed may have been addressed too quickly for hackers to take advantage of, but a recent victim unrelated to Heartbleed was photo messaging app Snapchat, with 4 million active users.  It was hacked on December 31st, 2013 and 4.6 million Snapchat users had their phone numbers were leaked online.  Users and industry professionals reacted negatively, forcing Snapchat to give a public response and seek legal help.


In the end, a 5-star application will have no users if no one knows about it.  The first step is to focus on the mobile website.  It should be search engine optimized and have responsive designs to adapt to various screen sizes.  By using hints from visitors’ internet browsers, the website can detect if they are on mobile devices.  If so, the website can display messages about the existence of a native version and a direct link to the download.  The web and native components should complement each other.

Social networking is an increasingly popular and affordable method of advertising.  Since consumers are spending more time on internet and less on cable and print, marketing will be more effective on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  There are no fees for posting messages, and using contests to encourage users to share is an easy method of viral marketing.


An application is never completely developed.  Even if all desired features are implemented, there are always optimizations and updates to be made.  These three elements will lay out a strong foundation for your mobile project.