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Posts tagged ‘Applicaiton Programmming Interface’

How Cloud Computing Is Accelerating Context-Aware Coupons, Offers and Promotions

Retailers and marketers often face the challenge of getting coupons, offers and promotions delivered at the perfect time and in the right context to their customers.

The rapid advances in cyber foragingcontextual computing and cloud computing platforms are succeeding at revolutionizing this aspect of the retail shopping experience.  Context-aware advertising platforms and strategies can also provide precise audience and segment-based messaging directly to customers while they are in the store or retail outlet.

What makes context-aware advertising so unique and well adapted to the cloud is the real-time data integration and contextual intelligence they use for tailoring and transmitting offers to customers.  When a customer opts in to retailer’s contextually-based advertising system, they are periodically sent alerts, coupons, and offers on products of interest once they are in or near the store.  Real-time offer engines chose which alerts, coupons or offers to send, when, and in which context.  Cloud-based analytics and predictive modeling applications will be used for further fine-tuning of alerts, coupons and offers as well.  The ROI of each campaign, even to a very specific audience, will be measurable.  Companies investing in cloud-based contextual advertising systems include Apple, Google, Greystripe, Jumptap, Microsoft, Millennial Media, Velti and Yahoo.

Exploring the Framework of Me Marketing and Context-Aware Offers

A few years ago, a student in one of my MBA courses in international marketing did their dissertation on cyber foraging and contextual mobile applications’ potential use for streamlining business travel throughout Europe.  As a network engineer for Cisco at the time, he viewed the world very systemically; instead of getting frustrated with long waits he would dissect the problem and look at the challenges from a system-centric view.  The result was a great dissertation on cyber foraging and the potential use of Near Field Communications (NFC) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) as sensors to define contextual location and make business travel easier.  One of the greatest benefits of teaching, even part-time, is the opportunity to learn so much from students.

I’ve been following this area since, and when Gartner published Me Marketing: Get Ready for the Promise of Real-Time, Context-Aware Offers in Consumer Goods this month I immediately read it.  Gartner is defining Me Marketing as real-time, context-aware offers in grocery stores. Given the abundance of data on transactions that occur in grocery stores, Gartner is predicting this will be the most popular and fastest-growing area of context-aware offers.  The formula for Me Marketing is shown below:

The four steps of the Me Marketing formula are briefly described as follows:

Me marketing framework for contextual coupons

 

  • Consumer Insight and Permission – The first step of the framework and the most difficult from a change management standpoint, this requires customers to opt in to receiving alerts, coupons, offers and promotions.  The best retailers also have invested heavily in security and authentication technologies here too.
  • Delivery Mechanism and In-the-Moment Context – The real-time offer engine is used to determining which coupons, offers and promotions are best suited for a specific customer based on their shopping patterns, preferences and locations.
  • Select Best Offer – Next, the real-time offer engine next defines a very specific product or service offer based on location, previous purchase history, social media analysis, predictive and behavioral analysis, and previous learned patterns of purchasing.
  • Redemption – The purchase of the item offered.  Initial pilots have shown that less frequent yet highly relevant, targeted offers have a higher redemption rate.  It is encouraging to see that early tests of these systems show that spamming customers leads to immediate opt-outs and in some cases shopping competitors.

A Short Overview of Contextual Advertising and the Cloud

Cloud-based systems and applications are necessary for retailers to gain the full value that contextual advertising can provide.  This includes the social context, with specific focus on aggregation and analysis of Social CRM, CRM, and social media content, in addition to behavioral analytics and sentiment analysis.  It also includes the previous browsing, purchasing, returns and prices paid by product for each customer.  Cloud-based integration architectures are necessary for making contextual advertising a reality in several hundred or even thousands of retail stores at the same time.

Geographical data and analysis is also essential.  RFID has often been included in cyber foraging and contextual advertising pilots, in addition to NFC.  As Global Positioning System (GPS) chip sets have dropped in price and become more accurate, companies including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo are basing their contextual advertising platforms on them.  Finally the activity or task also needs to have a contextual definition.

Combining all three of these elements gives the context of the customer in the retail store.  The figure below is from Three-Dimensional Context-Aware Tailoring of Information.  This study also took into account how personas are used by companies building cloud-based contextual advertising systems.  The taxonomies shown in the figure are used for building personas of customers.

context aware technology

There are many pilot projects and enterprise-wide system tests going on right now in the area of cloud-based contextual advertising.  One of the more interesting is an application suite created entirely on Google App Engine, Android, and Cloud Services.  The pilot is explained in the study Exploring Solutions for Mobile Companionship: A Design Research Approach to Context-Aware Management.  The following figure shows a diagram of the suite.  This pilot uses Cloud to Device Messaging (C2DM) which is part of the Android API to link the Google App Engine server and Android client.  Google will most likely add more depth of support for C2DM as it plays a critical role in contextual system development.

context aware Google Ad Platform

Benefits of a Cloud-based Contextual Advertising Platform

For the customer, cloud-based advertising systems over time will learn their preferences and eventually impact the demand planning and forecasting systems of retailers.  This translates into the customer-centric benefits of products being out of stock less.  In addition, customers will receive more relevant offers.  The entire shopping experience will be more pleasant with expectations being met more often.

For the retailer, better management of product categories and more effective gross margin growth will be possible. Having real-time analytics of each coupon, offer and promotion will also give them immediate insights into which of their selling strategies are working or not.

For the manufacturer, the opportunity to finally understand how customers respond at the store level to promotions, programs including the results of co-op funds investment and pricing strategies will be known.  The manufacturers who partner with retailers using these systems will also have the chance at attaining greater product differentiation as their coupons, offers and promotions will only go to the most relevant customers.

References:

Me Marketing: Get Ready for the Promise of Real-Time, Context-Aware Offers in Consumer Goods Published: 24 December 2012 Analyst(s): Don Scheibenreif, Dale Hagemeyer

Tor-Morten Grønli, Ghinea, G., & Bygstad, B. (2013). Exploring Solutions for Mobile Companionship: A Design Research Approach to Context-Aware Management. International Journal of Information Management, 33(1), 227. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268401212001259

Tor-Morten Grønli, & Ghinea, G. (2010). Three-Dimensional Context-Aware Tailoring of Information. Online Information Review, 34(6), 892-906. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=1896452

Enterprise Software as a Service Market Forecast: The Future is Already Here – It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed

The prescient quote by William Gibson aptly describes the worldwide Software as a Service (SaaS) market today, especially in the enterprise.

Global adoption and growth of SaaS within enterprises is unevenly distributed yet growing rapidly.  One of the primary catalysts moving this forward are Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce and other platform providers lowering the barriers to creating new applications, continually investing in security technologies, and streamlining rapid prototyping, testing, and release of SaaS applications.

This week Salesforce showed how extensive the momentum is in their global base of developers during Dreamforce ’11.  The Developer Zone had the most innovation per square foot of any venue at this conference.  Insights gained from visiting the sessions at Dreamforce, speaking with Force evangelists and tech staff, and also with attendees form the basis of the following analysis and insights.  On Friday of last week Gartner also released the report, Forecast: Software as a Service, All Regions, 2010-2015 by Sharon A. Mertz, Chad Eschinger, Tom Eid, Yanna Dharmasthira, Chris Pang, Laurie F. Wurster, Tsuyoshi Ebina, Hai Hong Swinehart, which validated several of the trends seen in the Developer Zone at Dreamforce ’11.

Forecasting the Growth of SaaS in the Enterprise, 2015

In speaking with developers, vendors and after reviewing the Gartner report, here are several insights gained that illustrate how SaaS adoption will vary by region over the next four years:

  • APIs are getting more adept at managing multi-party transactions across all platforms.  Marc Benioff and Chuck Phillips alluded to this when Infor announced Inforce this week at Dreamforce.  It was also evident in how partners in the Developer Zone were demonstrating frameworks for supporting more advanced enterprise software application development.  These included supply chain management, the ability to manage complex project plans more effectively using apps based on these APIs, and greater control over collaboration development.  Gartner published their total software revenue forecast for SaaS delivery, 2007 – 2015 back in June, and a table from that analysis is shown below.  Their forecast reflects in large part depth of REST APIs which are part of Web Services.   This table is from the report, Forecast: Software as a Service, Worldwide, 2010-2015, 1H11 Update, 22 June 2011, ID:G00213816, Sharon A. Mertz, Chad Eschinger, Tom Eid, Chris Pang, Laurie F. Wurster.
  • Graphical interface flexibility, usability options, localization, and local language support dominate EMEA concerns about SaaS.  In Dreamforce sessions attended and in the Gartner report, it’s clear Salesforce is struggling to make localization work more effectively via their programming platforms and tools in EMEA.  This came out during many of the discussions in the Developer Zone as well.  All platform providers are facing this challenge, yet the pace of new API enhancements shows significant potential.  As a result the forecast for SaaS revenue in Western Europe is forecasted to be $2.66B in 2011 growing to $4.8B in 2015, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17% according to Gartner.
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is aggressively pushed by Salesforce in the U.S. yet is most effective in EMEA.  This became evident in discussions and presentations, and also was validated by the recent Gartner report.  Salesforce also has extensive TCO calculators on its Force developer sites for the U.S. yet ironically they are finding they are most effective in EMEA sales cycles.
  • Based on my informal poll 20% of iPad-to-Salesforce account demos failed at Dreamforce.    Dozens of companies were hyping their iPad clients at Dreamforce, yet I found nearly one in five failed to deliver reliable performance. While the sample is hardly scientific, it does show that the iPad to Salesforce integration so heavily hyped by so many vendors is still nascent.  It’s as if these companies invested so much on iPad clients they ran out of time to make the back-end integrations work reliably.  Gartner found that lack of integration is the single greatest inhibitor to SaaS growth in North America.
  • Ease of speed and deployment, limited capital expense, and lower TCO are the most critical factors driving SaaS growth in U.S. enterprises today.  This became evident from listening to customer testimonials during the many vendor sessions in Moscone West, in addition to discussions with developers.  The impact of these factors is also evident in the total software revenue forecast for SaaS delivery within enterprise application software markets by region, 2008 – 2015.   This is from the Gartner report, Forecast: Software as a Service, All Regions, 2010-2015. Sharon A. Mertz, Chad Eschinger, Tom Eid, Yanna Dharmasthira, Chris Pang, Laurie F. Wurster, Tsuyoshi Ebina, Hai Hong Swinehart.

  • CRM continues to dominate SaaS usage across all enterprise applications, closely followed by Web conferencing and e-learning in North America and Northern Europe.  Both North America and Northern Europe have comparable adoption trends regarding these SaaS applications, with Western and Southern Europe lagging in terms of adoption and spending.
  • Asia/Pacific continues to be the most fragmented of all regions when it comes to SaaS adoption in the enterprise.  Countries with greater stability of their Internet infrastructures including Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea are experiencing greater SaaS growth, and also contributing to Salesforce’s success in these regions.  Salesforce has 14.5% CRM share in this region, third behind SAP and Oracle. Emerging countries are the most rapid adopters of SaaS-based accounting, e-mail and collaboration-based apps.
  • China, India and Malaysia are experiencing the most rapid adoption of SaaS-based enterprise applications in the Asia/Pacific region.  WiPro’s decision to invest so heavily in Dreamforce as a promotional event is a case in point.  The Developer Zone had  several companies from this region offering their programming and system integration services as well.

Bottom line: SaaS adoption continues to accelerate globally across enterprise software, growing from $12B in 2011 to $21B in 2015, achieving a 16.3% CAGR annually. Platform providers are knocking down the barriers to market growth by using events including Dreamforce to educate, entertain and enable developers to quickly turn concepts into applications.

Building a High Performance Cluster with Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services has released the following video that provides a fascinating look at how straightforward it is to create, launch and monitor high performance cluster instances.

CPU utilization, disk I/O and network utilization are tracked as part of the metrics, and guidance on how to define hardware virtualization (HVM) is also defined.   Creating an 8-node, 64 core, ad hoc cluster is defined in the steps in this video with the intent of running a molecular dynamics simulation.

What is interesting about this video is how Amazon Web Services continues to show the practicality of its broad spectrum of server capacities on the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).   This is the first in a series of videos Amazon Web Services will be releasing on creating high performance clusters.  It’s worth checking out as the walk-through of steps shows how rapidly EC2 is maturing as an enterprise platform.

Implications for the Enterprise

EC2 has language-agnostic Web Services APIs that show potential for integrating legacy systems, databases, master data management (MDM), CRM and enterprise systems.  For enterprises that have data-centric operations and business models, EC2 could become the foundation of contextual search and role-based access of their legacy data.  Decades of data accessed via contextual search would provide insights that aren’t possible today using existing methods of data access, integration and analysis.

Bottom line: Creating high performance clusters in AWS EC2 shows potential to increase the accuracy and precision of business intelligence and analytics, and potentially solve the most complex data-driven challenges of social CRM.

Flickr attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vitroids/2586785504/

Video Explains Fundamentals of SaaS

Videos abound online explaining Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and its underlying concepts. Many however are written and produced to promote applications, services and platforms and certain key concepts are often not covered.

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