Mobile Gift Cards: Taking advantage of the rise of mobile ecommerce

American Eagle’s website currently highlights gift cards as a great holiday gift idea. One of the three giving options is a mobile gift card. I figured that this would be an interesting test of mobile technology, mobile user experience and mobile ecommerce, so I decided to send myself a $25 gift card and give it a whirl.

The first step in the process was to customize the look of the card. There are many styles to choose from, many with AE branding or holiday themes. Next, I chose my gift amount and wrote a message. Finally I entered my billing information and submitted my payment. Setting up the mobile gift card was a breeze. It let me know that the recipient would also receive an email confirmation for their records. It didn’t let me know that the transactions takse a day or two to complete. So although I set up the card on Wednesday night, I didn’t actually receive it until mid-day on Friday. There are obviously reasons for the delay, like ensuring that the payment clears, but it would be logical to call this out to the user so that they don’t expect the recipient to get the card immediately.

The text notification was clear in it’s copy: “Congratulations! You have received an American Eagle gift card. You can view it at What are you waiting for?!” The URL worked fine, so no complaints there. I would suggest that the copy include the name of the gift giver so that there is no confusion in regards to whether this is a legitimate message or if it is spam.

Upon clicking the link, the browser took me right to a mobile card with my message (“Testing a mobile coupon for MCDMMOB!”) with an account number and pin number. It explains that the card can be renewed in-store or online. I decided to try to do the entire shopping experience on my mobile phone so that I could also gauge the usability of their mobile optimized site.

From the gift card, the navigation options are:

  1. Wish List
  2. Store Locator
  3. AE Gift Cards
  4. Help

They should absolutely incorporate a clear CTA to start shopping. There was no direct link to go to the website, which seems to be the most reasonable next step. I entered in the browser and was pleased that it detected my mobile phone and redirected me to the mobile site. The site was laid out nicely, with clean navigation through the shopping experience. I found a couple items, filled my basket and went to check out.

Completing my transaction from the mobile device was seamless. There are a lot of forms to fill out (billing and shipping address, method of payment etc), but American Eagle thought through the forms and made sure that they were logical and well laid out, optimized for touch and had auto fill options.

Ultimately, I thought this was a great mobile execution. I don’t know that I would necessarily browse for clothes on their mobile site again, mainly because I like to compare more than one thing at once. Also, I am more likely to take my time on a stationary site, where as the use-case for mobile sites typically incorporates a short engagement time. That being said, the mobile gift card was a cool experience and would be a fun way to surprise a friend.

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Breitling: A Luxury Brand Nails Mobile Marketing

Many luxury brands have been hesitant to include mobile in their marketing mix. Their business model is often centered upon the philosophy of selling few units to a highly targeted demographic in order to maintain an aspirational brand identity. However, iPhone and iPad users are increasingly viewed as the luxury brand’s “sweet spot”, so there are an increasing number of luxury bands entering the mobile space. One of the brands that made this transition is Breitling, the high-end watch originally designed for aviation use but is more commonly worn as a status symbol.

One of the most important factors for Luxury Brands to consider to ensure mobile marketing success is  the importance of properly identifying the target demographic. I found Brietling’s iPhone app advertised in this week’s Time Magazine. Advertising in Time is a logical fit for Breitling. The demographics of Time Magazine readers and iPhone owners are well aligned. According to research published by State of the Media in 2009, Time’s median reader is 46.2 years old and makes $70,260 a year ( By comparison, 78% of iPhone users make above $50,000. In addition, of the roughly 6.4 million active iPhone users in the U.S., the majority (53 percent) are over 35 years old. There are even more users over the age of 55 (17 percent) than in the 18-24 year-old age bracket (13 percent). (  There are not Breitling approved, published figures of their brand’s target demographic. However, it is safe to assume that they target mid to high-income, GenX males, which would align perfectly with Time readers.

In the app store, Breitling claims, “The app offers a precise description, technical data, a portfolio, a video and 360° views give an extremely clear idea of the exceptional nature of the new Chronomat B01” ( The app met that description perfectly. It was easy to find, and offered up a simple content hierarchy, with three main categories: product description, view in 360 and a customization tool. The product description covers 9 features including movement, performance and technical data. The 360 view allows the viewer to see every angle of the watch up close. The customization tool allows you to select your ideal case, dial and bracelet. After customizing the watch you can email a picture of the final product to yourself (or someone else if you are hinting at a gift).

The one area of the app that could have been optimized was the location-based search. Upon downloading the app, it asks if it can access your current location. However, if you want to find a retailer it doesn’t utilize that information. Instead the user has to manually input their country, state and city to select a jeweler. This is a pretty easy fix, so I would suggest incorporating it to ensure a polished experience, which is important for a luxury brand.

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Redfin’s Real Estate App

Due to the rapid advancement of technology over the last decade, the real estate industry has experienced an unprecedented shift in power from the real estate professionals to the homebuyer. In the past, consumers had limited access to market information and relied on the resources and information provided to them by their Real Estate agent. However, now that homebuyers have access to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and can begin researching the housing market on their own, there has been an increase in public demand for services that assist in filtering through the overwhelming amount of market information available on the Internet.  Redfin, a Seattle based real estate company, has capitalized on the consumer demand for knowledge by developing a consumer-focused business model that offers online tools, which allow the consumer access to the necessary information to search for the perfect home, choose an agent, schedule tours and assemble offers. More recently, the surges in mobile Internet combined with the advancement in location-based tools have created the perfect scenario for real estate mobile sites and applications.

Redfin established a clear strategy and list of objectives prior to entering the mobile space. In speaking with Matt Goyer, Director of Online Marketing, I learned that the primary business objectives were to increase customer retention, increase loyalty, increase page views, improve branding and provide an exceptional user experience. According to the POST Method, developed by Julie Ask and Charles Golvin, it is evident that the strategy was to increase revenue as opposed to reducing costs. It is safe to assume that Redfin’s target consumers are users who are gathering data on home buying with intent to purchase and/or sell a home in the next year.

Taking the target consumer and business objectives into consideration, Redfin’s app was developed to provide the best possible user experience. The design is clean with clear call to actions. The navigation is laid out in a clear list that includes:

  1. Nearest Home for Sale (Location Based)
  2. Nearby Homes for Sale (Location Based)
  3. Nearby Open Houses (Location Based)
  4. Find Homes for Sale (Location Based)
  5. Find by Address or MLS#
  6. My Redfin
    1. Favorites
    2. Notes and Photos
    3. Home Tours
    4. Agents

In order to have an accurate understanding of the user experience, it was important that I use the app around town and not just at my desk. The seamless integration with iPhone’s version of Google Maps was impressive. The map interface includes icons that represent the type of dwelling including home, condo, and townhome. I was also able to easy access more detailed information like the number of bedrooms, the home price, and days the home has been on the market. The logical search functions, clear call to actions and clean user interface made for a positive and focused user experience. I preferred the app user experience to the website experience because the website can be somewhat convoluted with navigation choices. In addition, the comment and photo upload function was intuitive and synched with my profile as promised. In fact, I spoke with Matt Goyer about the functionality and he said that Redfin has been surprised that this functionality isn’t used more frequently by consumers. Redfin expected this to be the most popular functionality of the app. According to Goyer, it is used by only a very small percentage of users due to the misconception that the photos/comments will be viewable by other users. The only functionality that seems to be missing is push notifications. It may be beneficial to send users notifications if there has been a price change to their favorite homes.

Redfin’s user friendly website and mobile application make the home-search engaging and interactive by providing users with a wealth of organized information, location-based searches and providing a platform for users to customize the content on their profile with their own pictures and notes. While there is still improvements and advancements to be made, the organization understands the importance of mobile as a primary information source. CEO Glenn Kelman recently acknowledged the increasingly important role of mobile. In an interview with he said, “If I started a real estate company today and I wanted to beat Redfin I would make the best real estate application on a mobile device that you could. I think that’s where the market is going”. Keller is correct in speculating that the mobile space is necessary for growth. Redfin is off to a phenomenal start with their iPhone application, but in order to maximize the potential of mobile marketing they will need to continue to develop a robust set of offerings to ensure the best experience for mobile users in search of their perfect home.

Note: This is an abbreviated post modified from an in depth analysis of Redfin’s overall Mobile Media Presence. For additional information on the app development, competitive analysis and broader mobile approach please reach out to me directly.

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Bing FTW.

Today I was playing Words With Friends, a scrabble app, with my friend in San Francisco. In between plays I was served a rich media ad from Bing. The message was an invitation to play Bing’s Memory game. I thought this would be a great opportunity to review Microsoft’s version of rich media in comparison with the iAd platform. In fact, it also allowed user engagement without leaving the app, just like the iAd. By clicking on the ad I was invited to play a Bing branded game of Memory. Microsoft choose the engagement well because I was in the midst of playing a game, so it was nice that the engagement was also a game.

The game worked just like the traditional Memory game. There was a series of tiles that were “upside down” so that I couldn’t see the picture. I would turn over two at a time to try to find a match. There were no time restrictions or points associated with the game; it was just for fun. When a match was found the picture on the tile would enlarge and include an interesting fact, at which point the user could decide whether they wanted to keep playing, download the Bing app, or return to their Scrabble game. After matching all the tiles, I downloaded the free app from iTunes.

The next part of my engagement with Bing was with the actual app that the ad had been promoting. I was pleased with the user experience. Upon starting the app, I opted in to allow location tracking. I was then given the option of typing in a search or using the voice activated search. I used the voice search and just simply said “flower shop”. It took the app about five seconds to process the information and then served me with flower shops in Bellingham, ordered according to proximity.

I noticed that I could also choose to share my search on Facebook or Twitter. I chose to share it on Twitter. I had to allow Bing access to my account, but after that it shared the search without any difficulties. My only suggestion would be to make the shared tweet more interactive. I tried to edit the verbage but I couldn’t do much. The tweet only read “Searched for “Flower Shop” using Bing.” I believe that a link to the search would have been much more interesting.

How does it compare to other mobile media campaigns I’ve experienced over the last few months? It worked, which is always a good start. Joking aside, I thought this was a great mobile media strategy. The ad didn’t pull me out of my game plus the game experience was relevant to what I was currently doing before the ad. I also thought the app was user friendly and enjoyed the logical incorporation of location services for my search as well as the voice search.

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Recorder – The App

This week I interviewed Matt Goyer, Director of Online Marketing at Redfin for my Mobile Marketing analysis paper. I thought that it would be helpful to record our conversation so that I could focus on the conversation rather than focusing on taking notes.

The iPhone doesn’t come preloaded with a phone recorder, probably due to privacy concerns, so I went in search of one in the iTunes app store. I did a basic search for “recorder” and the first app that was listed was “Recorder the App”. I researched it online and was excited to see that it had great reviews from The New York Times and MacWorld.  In fact, an app reviewer even said, “This is, by far, the BEST dollar I have ever spent! It’s easy to record, preview, rename, and E-MAIL.” Sold.

After downloading the app I realized there were additional costs to the recorder. In addition to the $.99 to buy the app, the user must also purchase recording time. I bought an hour for $1.99. Still affordable, but I think that it should have been clear prior to the initial download.

The recording process was relatively seamless. Initiating the recording was intuitive and it didn’t affect the quality of the call whatsoever. However, I did have some challenges with the app after the call. The website does not explain how to edit the recording unfortunately I ended up cutting about 20 minutes worth of conversation in a single touch. Also, the email functionality didn’t work. In theory, a user can send the recording in an email so that it can me easily shared. Since that didn’t work, I used the wifi sync and followed instruction to a webshare site. The URL was not a hotlink, so I couldn’t go to it directly from my phone. This seems to defeat the purpose of using a mobile device in the first place. So, I went to my computer and manually entered the long URL ( and downloaded the recording to my laptop.

Overall, it served the purpose of recording the conversation. However it would definitely be a better user experience to have clear editing instructions, clear pricing information and a working email share functionality.

Matt Goyer Interview

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Another one Bites the Dust

Stand Up To Cancer, an initiative to accelerate cancer research, sponsored the opening game of the MLB World Series tonight. They bought major ad time during the game that encouraged viewers to join in the movement and take a stand by launching a star in honor of someone you love who has been affected by cancer. “For as little as a dollar you can make a difference.”  

The URL,, is short and sweet. It is perfect for a captured audience. They are at the game… with their phones. They are sitting at their local bar… with their phones. They are sitting on their couch… with their phones. Will someone PLEASE tell me why this website was not optimized for mobile devices? No one from MLB or Stand Up To Cancer realized that this website would crash every phone that tried to access it while watching the game. Seriously?

A word of advice to all the marketers out there: Talk to your IT department before shelling out millions of dollars on a media buy that will FAIL.

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Rally To Restore (Mobile Marketing) Sanity

If I see ONE more political ad… argh!

I am totally burned out on the political ads that seem to have taken over media for the last month. Regardless of where I stand on the issues, I feel like all of the politicians are out of touch with the real issues that challenge us in day-to-day life. That is exactly why I became a fan of Rally To Restore Sanity, sponsored by The Daily Show.  John Stewart sums up the purpose of the rally with the following quote:

“We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it’s appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles…

Ours is a rally for the people who’ve been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) — not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence… we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point.”

Rally to Restore Sanity has done a brilliant job creating an integrated campaign that includes on-air mentions, a website, a mobile website, Facebook fan page, twitter feed, twitter hashtag, SMS notifications and even an ecommerce integration for selling rally merchandise.  Every component of the campaign ties to the other components seamlessly.

I started by becoming a fan on Facebook so that I could get updates in my newsfeed. The next day I was browsing through Facebook on my phone and saw the following update: “Text RALLY to 44686 to receive updates about the Rally”.

Facebook Fan

I text RALLY to the shortcode and received a thank you/confirmation text that set my expectation as well as included a URL driving me to the mobile site.

SMS Campaign

I was automatically redircted to a mobile optimized WAP page ( – assuming the cclol stands for Comedy Central LOL – nice) for the rally. The website was easy to navigate with options to read more about the rally, news, a submission site for SANE OR NOT (which I will discuss more in a moment), videos, Twitter and Facebook page info and directions for opting into the SMS campaign.

Mobile Page

To my delight, every portion of the site worked. By the way, the use of the word delight here is not an overstatement. More often than not these mobile campaigns are a total technology and marketing failure. The videos played in Quicktime , so there was no issue with the fact that iPhones don’t always play Youtube videos.


My favorite part of the site was a section called SANE OR NOT. People love to kill time on play on their phone while when they have a few minutes to kill. This section featured interactive user-generated content, where people can vote on which sign is more “sane” than the other. All of the signs are user submitted, which may incent a user to go home and spend some time in front of their laptop creating their own submission, thus increasing their engagement time with the campaign.

Top Sane Signs

All in all, this was a great campaign. It was obvious that the digital marketers thought this through. They didn’t use technology for technology’s sake (no unnecessary QR coding), they planned for mobile integration from the start, they engaged users by including an interactive portion and they made the most of mobile by leveraging SMS, mobile site, twitter and Facebook.

The Rally campaign may not have restored my faith in politics, but it definitely restored my faith in mobile marketing.