Monthly Archives: March 2013

Starbucks US Takes 3m Mobile Payments Each Week

Starbucks chief digital officer, Adam Brotman, has revealed at the annual shareholder meeting that the company is now taking more than 3m mobile payments in the US every week. “We’re a leader and its accelerating. At this rate, about 10 per cent of all tender in US stores will be mobile payments by the end of this year,” he said.

Speaking to investors, Brotman said that the company now has 10m active monthly users on iOS and Android. “We’re adding another football stadium every week, about 100k downloads,” he added. The company’s mobile sites and apps combined reach 34.8m unique people every month, “more traffic than the amount of web visitors to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal combined.” Mobile app users will now be able to collect loyalty points and pay using their smartphones in Starbucks’ new Teavana stores.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz opened the annual event with news that the company is nearing its all-time high valuation, currently standing at $43bn. In the last three months, it has opened its first store in India, along with its first and 800th in China.

Despite recent scorn for tax avoidance, Starbucks was named the fifth most admired company in the world by Forbes.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here:

PayPal and Jadu Launch Weejot Charity Web Apps

Jadu has launched an app creation platform integrated with PayPal’s Express Checkout to help charities create web apps that can quickly process tablet and smartphone donations.

Weejot was launched with the Alzheimer’s Society by Suraj Kika, CEO at Jadu, who demonstrated the platform. “It allows non-technical people to build apps in real-time,” he said. “You can deliver to any device without app store approval. I’ve just built an app in one and a half minutes.”

The apps can help fundraising managers capture data on who is donating, where, using GPS, and why. They are responsive and adaptive to different screen sizes, including tablets, but don’t work on older handsets. If charities have developers in-house, they can build their own custom templates, but as the platform is free for a year, and negotiable thereafter, it is designed to be used by chairities without large budgets. The platform is cloud-based and open source so any updates made by developers can be shared with the whole community.

Cardless payments

PayPal currently has 123m users and enables people to pay on the platform without entering their card details. Using PayPal, charities can build in monthly donations so users can schedule payments like a DirectDebit. Although Kika said there were no plans to integrate with other payment sources, developers can wire in their own. The apps natively supports Giftaid.

John Lunn, global director of PayPal Developer, said that PayPal already has more than 300,000 not-for-profits collecting donations on its platform, processing $4.6bn every year, but only 3 per cent are currently coming from mobile.

He suggested that future applications could see charities have NFC tags or QR codes on street fundraisers’ clipboards to make it simpler and feel safer to sign-up in the street. He also highlighted that by using PayPal Now, charities could take on-the-spot chip and pin payments using a mobile device with the chip and pin reader. “We don’t want to interfere in someone’s decision to do something by putting too much in the middle. Weejot Donate makes simple impulse things easy.”

Download, tweet and like

Users can download the web apps to their phone, whether that is singly, or as an ‘app store’ from the relevant charity. The charities can add in Twitter and Facebook automation so users can either communicate to others that they have made a donation, or like the Facebook page. They can also ask users to tell them why they made the donation.

Liz Monks, director of fundraising at the Alzheimer’s Society, said that charities need to use technology in ways that suits the donor. She pointed out that during the recent Comic Relief campaign, more than 60 per cent of donations were made on mobile between 9 and 10pm.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and first published here:

AWARE Appoints Former News International Innovator

Ted Nash, a British entrepreneur who became the youngest person to get 1m downloads in the App Store back in 2008 when he was just 17, is leaving his role as head of digital product at News International to join lean start-up AWARE.

Joining the mobile agency as Director of Innovation, Nash will work alongside the company’s founders, Elina Hedman and Andy Bennett, on business development and strategy, as well as looking at emerging products and technology. Now 21, Nash already had a number of viral app hits, including Fit or Fugly and Rack Stare, before joining News International to work on mobile properties including The Sun and The Times.

“I joined News Int to get a better understanding of how start-up life differs from working in a corporate, the politics and bureaucracy that comes with the territory, but more importantly, to help one of the world’s biggest companies transitiion from a print business to a digital one.” Of his appointment, Nash said: “I truly believe we have the ingredients needed to create a unique and exciting business. On top of this, it just so happens they are lovely people.”

Although less than a year old itself, AWARE has just re-iterated its website. Elina Hedman, director, said: “Ted epitomises the same principles that we had when starting AWARE – working quickly, wasting little, releasing software as often as possible. We have an iOS based messaging service on its way – something that will really disrupt the traditional messaging paradigm.”

Here’s an interview we did with the company back in December.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

Level39 Tech Hub Opens at Canary Wharf

Occupying the 39th floor of Canary Wharf’s rather exclusive Canada One, Tech City’s newest accelerator is committed to transforming the financial sector that surrounds it, the shopping centres beneath and to enhancing the smart city technologies on which the area was first built.

This is not an attempt to “copy and paste” Shoreditch, said Eric Van Der Kleij, Head of Level39 and fintech entrepreneur, rather to be complementary to other tech hubs in the Capital and become the focal point for financial technology in London. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, marked the opening by unveiling a (rather suitable) digital plaque.

From meat shop to £1m pad

Canary Wharf already has some 7,000 people working in tech companies like Thomson Reuters and Ogilvy and Mather. Level39 has now welcomed its first businesses, which are competing in Accenture’s FinTech Innovation Lab start-up competition. This is sponsored by 14 of the overlooking banks, including Barclays and Capital One, and is backed by the Mayor’s office.

Digital Shadows, among the first tenants, is a cyber monitoring service created to help companies manage the ‘digital footprint’ left by social media, mobile and the cloud. Having started off as a two man band working above a meat shop in Farringdon, the company is completing its 10 week programme with mentoring from four banks in an office which is worth around £1.1m and used to be occupied by KPMG.

Government meets hackers

The accelerator space houses four sandboxes, including one called ‘Eastminster’, which has already been used by the Ministry of Justice to discover how they could use their procurement power to drive the economy, has event space for 250, the obligatory open plan eatery complete with iPad-controllled coffee machine and a board room. A hackday called ‘Hack (Make) the Bank’ to try and devise a new kind of banking was already underway.

A club lounge, with a membership fee to pay for the space, is half price for any business angels and VCs who are prepared to mentor the young companies. “They teach start-ups how to solve their problems faster. We focus every day on helping the companies get traction through mentoring – it is worth more than investment”, Van Der Kleij said. There are hotdesks available, along with more permanent work space. “If you ask us to build you a 2000 person facility – we would do that for companies rather than punishing them for growth.”

Cross-rail promise

Downstairs will be a “living lab for next generation retail technology” located in some of the “highest yielding shopping centres in the UK” he said. Level39’s future cities strategy will be unveiled later this year and much of it will be centred in the new Wood Wharf development. Van Der Kleij promised that Canary Wharf’s new cross rail station, with a 39 minute journey to Heathrow, would be completed by 2015, “years ahead of schedule”.

Canary Wharf Group has issued a call for companies and entrepreneurs to apply to be based at Level39. Click here for more info.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

Spotlight: Droplet Cardless Mobile Payments Startup

A mobile payments service is launching in London with a very different proposition to other solutions coming onto the market.

The Droplet iOS app enables its users to load money onto their phone by direct debit or using their bank card so they can ‘send’ payments to merchants or friends for free – paying anyone who has signed up to the service.

The service has been trialled in Birmingham with 60 merchants signing up so they can accept instant mobile payments and take advantage of the company’s ‘no transaction fees’ offer. Initially people could pay at participating retailers by scanning the unique merchant QR code in store, but the app now works with the phone’s GPS to identify who to make a payment to. Users can browse a map for Droplet merchants and see who is offering special deals.

Droplet is launching in London on Wednesday and the company says it is in negotations with several ‘national retailers with shops on every high street’, with the first partnership to be revealed at the event. There is a one-off £1 charge to make the link between the app and the bank account being used to make direct debits – which is then given back to you.

Monetisation will come from the company’s ‘tools marketplace’, which the company’s CTO, Will Grant, sees as becoming the ‘app store for payments’. Developers will have access to the company’s APIs so they can create and sell customised tools, including things like ticketing and loyalty funtionality.

“We know payments really well but we don’t know about things like tickets or car parking – the marketplace is going to be great for us and great for them,” said Grant. Merchants can add a Droplet key to their till and receive email or push notifications when payments to their Droplet account have been made. The company is also working with ePOS companies to integrate the technology directly and offer different solutions within the marketplace. Merchants can also use a smartphone or tablet to monitor their account and reconcile the Droplet balance with their till.

“We felt having a card reader was almost a generation of technology backwards, you’re still relying on people putting their card into the reader. Droplet is taking the friction out so hopefully people will need their card less. We’re really good for smaller retailers because there will be no monthly charge for a card reader but we’re also looking at bigger retailers too.”

The app will be launched in other major cities across the UK, including Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

Google Removes Ad Blocking Apps from Play Store

Google has removed all ad blocking apps for Android from its Play Store, including AdBlock Plus, which we reviewed and spoke to the creator of when it launched in November. AdBlock says that this ‘unilateral move threatens consumer choice’.

AdBlock Plus is a free tool created by an open-source community that its creators say helps users avoid misleading, malicious and distracting advertising. The app currently blocks all ads but the creators planned to have a ‘whitelist’ of acceptable ads – similar to its desktop version – along with ad filters for users.

Ad blocking software violates section 4.4 of Google’s Developer Distribution Agreement by disrupting the ad funding model which enables developers to offer free apps. “We remove apps from Google Play that violate our policies,” a Google spokesperson said.

“We believe that the user, not Google, should be in charge of what kind of content can be displayed on their device,” said Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus. “Of course it’s important that developers can still monetise but many overdo it or use ads that present a privacy invasion or promote malware. We encourage advertising that is done appropriately and conforms to an acceptable ads policy, which is debated and decided in an open public forum.

“By unilaterally removing these apps, Google is stepping all over the checks and balances that make the internet democratic. People should be really alarmed by this move.”

Android users can still install Adblock Plus from the AdBlock website.

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

John Lewis IT Head Talks "Filtering Out the Noise" in Mobile

John Lewis is held up as something of a model business in the retail sector, with its democratic structure and lean approach to bricks and mortar – it has just 35 stores serving the whole of the UK.

In his keynote at Retail Business Technology Expo, the company’s head of IT infrastructure, Julian Burnett, explained how the organisation approaches new technologies.

“There are endless new a novel ways to explore technology. The question is, how do companies differentiate themselves from competitors and create an interesting proposition for customers? There has been an explosion of new channels – many of them are relevant – so you have to decide how relevant they are to your business.”

The company trialled an augmented reality ‘magic mirror’ in its Oxford Street store – but Burnett admitted that it did not increase sales or “create something compelling and sustainable for the business”, so the retailer did not continue with their experiment.

He said John Lewis will be trialling RFID chips in its clothing departments soon, which could take the form of tagging clothes to monitor stock levels, automatically re-order items and help staff find things that have been ditched by customers.

“You have to get used to failing fast in innovation – you can waste a lot of time, money and energy if you don’t. You know when you’ve found a winner if it has a sustainable role to play in your organisation.”

Gathering data and mobile payments

The company is starting to use technology in stores, possibly a mobile wi-fi solution, to gather anonymous data about shopper behaviour to help maximise the spaces they own and rent.  Burnett said this was only “initially on a passive basis”, so will potentially lead to opted-in location-based loyalty programmes.

On mobile payments, he admitted that John Lewis isn’t certain on which way it is going to go. “For an organisation like ours – it’s a big bet to place on the technology in this space. Will we all be using mobile phones as digital wallets? We’re not sure. Are we going to get to a position in five years’ time where some of us have gone down a blind alley? We’re still hesitant on the whole topic of payments.”

Burnett was excited about the potential for new technologies to improve the back-end of the business. Last year, John Lewis invited 30 British businesses to tackle three real business challenges in its retail stores. The winners were Black Marble, a software consultancy firm who offered a tablet solution to the problem of stores being flooded with last-minute back-to-school shoe shoppers. This is now being trialled in three stores, and the competition will become an annual event.

The company has an innovation board that meets monthly to consider a whole range of challenges and opportunities. They recently asked the partners (that’s everyone in the company) to suggest their own business improvement ideas – and received 127. The eventual winning idea will be trialled and if it meets the business tests, it will go into full scale implementation.

Balancing innovation and investment

On big data, despite noting the “big hype”, he said all retailers and other industry players are trying to work out how to bring together the large amounts of structured and unstructured to gain insight. “Back office data is outlegging the level of data in the front office,” he said. He also praised the cloud. “We don’t need to own anything. The pace of change that we’re faced is so dram that our ability to respond as an IT function makes it all but impossible to run traditional data services.” He said they are also actively looking at how John Lewis can take advantage of app stores for corporate purposes.

“We have to balance innovation with 50 years of investment in IT infrastructure. My job is to filter out the noise and focus on the things that will give us the best advantage against competitors on behalf of customers and partners.”

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here:

Oxfam and Coldplay Ask Scoopshot Users to Help End Land Grabs

Oxfam and Coldplay are asking mobile photographers to help create a crowdsourced music video using Scoopshot to call for an end to land grabs by governments, banks and other investors.

Scoopshot has a network of photographers in 170 countries who have been asked to show displacement in their lives by moving a personal object or task done in their home to somewhere unfamiliar. Coldplay’s music video director, Mat Whitecross, will curate and stitch together the film and photography submitted via Scoopshot’s apps and Oxfam’s website to play alongside Coldplay’s ‘In My Place’.

The film will be launched in April as the World Bank convenes its annual Spring meetings. Campaigners say that the World Bank is in a unique position to change the situation as an investor in land and an adviser to companies on buying and selling land. This is the first time that Scoopshot’s crowdsourcing service has been used for this kind of campaign.

Oxfam’s Campaigns Director, Ben Philips said: “Campaigning is all about putting yourself in someone else’s place we know that when we unite and stand up against global injustice we can make a real difference”

Written for Mobile Marketing Magazine and published here: