Mobile Payments: A Developer’s Guide To Processing Money

This is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

Earlier this year, Forbes.com contributor Gene Marks asked a question that gets to the heart of commercial transactions in the digital age: “With all the advances in technology, and all the things our smartphones do, why aren’t we paying for everything using a mobile app?”

Mobile PaymentsMarks posed the question in the context of his prediction that Starbucks will be the “kingmaker” in the world of mobile payments, but until there is a king, app makers and companies that wish to leverage mobile devices to sell their products and services face many choices. They have to decide how to collect money, which operating systems to use, and which payment providers have the friendliest fee structures, best support and most security.

Xconomy Deputy Editor Gregory Huang captured the essence of the challenge. “There are so many players coming in from different angles and at different levels of the value chain,” he wrote. “Besides all the techies with apps and software platforms, you’ve got retailers, brands, banks, credit card companies, payment-processing firms, and a slew of loyalty and rewards programs, all vying for a piece of the pie.”

This guide will define the current state of the mobile payments landscape, which continues to evolve rapidly, and help players in the app industry explore their options.

The methods to mobile payment prosperity
The term mobile payments has many different meanings, from consumers using smartphones or tablets instead of their laptops to make purchases from their homes to merchants swiping credit cards on tablets or smartphones. But none of them are mainstream yet by any stretch.

The third annual Global Mobile Payments Index released in January found that such payments comprise only about 20 percent of global transactions. But that figure was up from 13 percent of transactions the previous year, a growth rate of 55 percent. The index is based on data for transactions made through Ayden, which processes payments for more than 3,500 medium, large and enterprise-sized organizations mainly operating multi-national businesses.

The realities of modern culture are certainly favorable toward even greater adoption of mobile payments. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 90 percent of Americans have cell phones, 58 percent have smartphones, 42 percent own tablet computers and 32 percent own e-readers. Research by BI Intelligence tells a similar global story, noting that consumers around the world have purchased 1.3 billion smartphones in just four years — and the penetration of tablet devices into the market is double what it has been for smartphones.

Read the full paper in PDF format.

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The Challenge Of Cross-platform Development

AppAlliance_Device Fragmentation This is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

You might think that in a perfect world, application developers would write code just once and it would run everywhere. But that mobile utopia doesn’t exist. Instead, developers practice their craft in a digital universe that includes multiple versions of competing operating systems and thousands of devices in various screen sizes.

This fragmentation forces developers and the companies that hire them to answer tough questions every time they imagine the next big thing: Should they build for one operating system over another? Should they develop only for the big two, Android and iOS? If so, should they build the apps simultaneously, and should they design one app for both or two different apps for the two platforms? Should they use tools designed to streamline cross-platform development? How should they test the app for the hundreds of Android options? Or should they go to the Web via HTML5?

All of those questions and more are behind the mobile industry’s pursuit of interoperability, the term that describes the ability of apps to work on numerous devices and platforms. “Right now it’s frustrating,” said Peter Braxton, the founder and CEO of Jump Rope Inc. “For someone who’s trying to build a business and presence on different platforms, it’s really hard because it’s additional investment in resources, both time and capital, each time you encounter a new platform.”

Pure interoperability is not technically possible. It also doesn’t consider the cultural, regional and language differences of customers, or their preferred user experiences or devices. Every market has its own peculiarities (try asking a Finnish person to fill in the “State” field in an address form); every device has its own style. In short, there are many reasons to have different versions of an app for different devices, markets and groups of users.

That being said, app makers have sound business reasons to maximize the available market for an app without technical constraints. This white paper defines the challenge, explains why it matters and discusses the options available to developers, including tools to help both developers and non-developers build interoperable products more quickly. The paper concludes with case studies based on the efforts of several experts in the app industry to achieve interoperability or help others do so.

Read the full paper and case studies.

Monetization: Picking The Path To App Profitability

Monetization White PaperThis is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

Developers get their motivation to build from a passion that is equal parts creativity and innovation, but to a certain extent, the bottom line to success is the bottom line. Those who make money on their applications get the resources they need to fund future creative projects. As CEO of HitFox Group Jan Beckers says, “Monetization is survival.” The best way to make sure that happens is to map a path to monetization for each app well before it hits the market.

One of the first questions to answer is whether to put a price on the app or rely on in-app purchases, advertising or other approaches to generate revenue. As AppMuse CEO Mark Stetler noted last year, “The mobile app ecosystem is steadily trending to a point where the free mobile app is the rule rather than the exception.” Developers also have to decide where to sell their products — exclusively in one of the top app stores, in third-party venues, in specialized markets, or a cross multiple platforms.

The advantages and disadvantages of each monetization strategy vary from app to app. This paper explores the many options to help app makers streamline the decision process.

The big decision — App Store, Google Play or both
Realtors love to say the three most important factors in marketing a property are “location, location, location.” Their mantra sounds a lot like the question app makers ponder every time they imagine a new product: “Locations, locations, locations — which ones will lure people to the revolutionary invention I’m about to build?”

The two most important locations are Apple’s App Store and Google Play, the top marketplaces for the iOS and Android systems. Most developers will build for one operating system or the other because of their dominance — 91 percent of the global smartphone market in 2012, according to International Data Corp. — and perhaps both.

Developers have more than 500 million reasons to consider the App Store. That’s how many iOS devices Apple had sold as of last December, including 75 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 alone. The operating system is limited to Apple devices, but app consumers can choose from an array of those — multiple generations of the iPad and new iPad Mini, the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and even Apple TV.

The App Store appeals to developers because of its size. At more than 800,000 apps as of January, it is the largest store. The 23 categories also give users the broadest selection of apps. They have downloaded more than 40 billion of them over the years, activity that has generated payouts of more than $7 billion to developers.

Some developers don’t like the App Store’s “walled garden,” which requires them to get Apple’s advance approval to market apps. But DLP Mobile CEO Zak Tanjeloff sees a money-making advantage in that approach. “The App Store has a higher proportion of quality apps, thanks to the approval process,” he said. “That means developers can, and have, charged more for their apps.” He added that consumers see the App Store as “a safe community” because of its connection to the iTunes payment process.

But developers definitely should consider the restrictive nature of the App Store when plotting their monetization strategies. To win Apple’s endorsement, app makers have to adhere to guidelines that cover user experience, functionality, content and the use of specific technologies. Companies that want to give their apps away for free and instead make their money on in-app purchases also may not make the App Store cut. Once apps are in the store, they face additional reviews for every update.

Read the full paper in PDF format.

Discoverability: How To Get Noticed In A Market Overflowing With Apps

Discoverability White PaperThis is an excerpt of a white paper I wrote for The Application Developers Alliance.

If an app drops in the store and no one is around to see it, does it make a profit? The answer is no, and therein lies one of the major challenges facing application developers today.

Developers can make the most innovative app of the year or perhaps the decade, but if consumers cannot find it because of marketing obstacles, all of the engineering prowess will be for naught. What good is an angry bird without gamers to fling it from a slingshot or an Instagram without amateur photographers to capture nostalgic memories and share them?

Discoverability matters. It is as central to successful app ventures as the creative genius behind great apps. This paper identifies the challenges that developers and companies face in getting their apps before the right audiences, explores the current options available to do so and proposes solutions for optimizing discoverability.

The discoverability challenge
The app marketplace is immense. The virtual shelves in the major app stores are flush with about 1.5 million products, with more on the way every day. The download data is even more intimidating to developers hoping to be discovered. Consumers downloaded more than 40 billion apps between 2008 and mid-2012, but experts estimate that half of the business goes to only 0.1 percent of the available apps.

When the analytics provider Distimo released new data about apps in December, it rightly concluded that the exploding growth in the marketplace makes it more difficult for new developers to have their work discovered. Last July, the new Apptrace tool found that 400,000 of the then-650,000 iOS apps were “zombies” that had not been downloaded even once.

But even overcoming the download hurdle does not ensure success. While nearly 1 billion apps get added to devices every month, one in four of them are never used again.

The challenge also is daunting because consumers head primarily to overstocked app stores to shop. David Gill, vice president of emerging media at Nielsen, said his firm’s research found that 53 percent of app shoppers learn about products in app stores, which favor existing apps that have been installed often and recently over new apps.Add to that reality the short attention span of app consumers — they typically spend just three to 10 minutes shopping for each product — and it’s clear that guiding consumers to any given app can be like drawing them a map to a needle in a haystack.

“Consumers have a hard time finding good apps,” Appsfire co-founder Ouriel Ohayon wrote last year at GigaOm. “But, paradoxically, they don’t care enough to read reviews, compare apps or even search for apps. On mobile people are lazy.”

Read the full paper in PDF format.

Beware The Allure Of Shale ‘Mailbox Money’

Originally published at EagleFordForum and GoHaynesvilleShale
Attorney Spotlight: Ben Elmore
By K. Daniel Glover

If a land man calls with an offer of “mailbox money” for the mineral rights on your property, read closely before signing on the dotted line. If you don’t, oil and gas lawyer Ben Elmore said the words above it may come back to haunt you.

Mailbox money is a slang term of the shale era. “You wake up one day and you get a call from a land man” promising $1,000 an acre and a 20 percent royalty on oil and gas production from your property, said Elmore, an attorney in the industry for 13 years who now works at WattBeckworth in Houston. “You don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to, and every month a check will come.”

A few years ago in Texas, he said, the average mineral owner was a 65-year-old widow – the kind of people who could use the money. But the fine print they didn’t read in their royalty deals back then may be making them miserable now.

“It’s a bad attitude to have,” Elmore said of people who sign for quick cash. “Mineral owners need to educate themselves about what they own. They need to educate themselves about the industry and how it works.”

Elmore, whose clients include both landowners and oil and gas companies, said understanding the law in Texas before signing is even more important now because the government is making it harder to bring lawsuits after the fact.

“They are streamlining the litigation process in the oil and gas context much like they have in the tort context,” he said, and mineral owners are feeling the brunt of it.

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A Law Practice Built On ‘All Things Marcellus’

Originally published at GoMarcellusShale
By K. Daniel Glover

For Pennsylvania attorney Douglas Clark, the Marcellus Shale is a family matter. His first clients in the oil and gas space were his in-laws and their neighbors in Wayne County, and he has built an entire business around representing rural landowners in the Keystone State who remind him of his parents and grandparents.

“It’s been a gift to represent them,” Clark told GoMarcellusShale in a telephone interview. “It’s unbelievably rewarding to work with these people and get them the benefits” of living on resource-rich land.

Clark, who also hosts the radio program “All Things Marcellus” on WTRW in Scranton, Pa., never planned to get into the shale legal business. After earning his law degree from the University of Akron in Ohio, he moved to northeastern Pennsylvania to practice civil defense law. Clark later worked for the Lackawanna County Public Defenders Office and then started his own firm, taking on a mix of cases.

But after representing his in-laws and neighbors for several months in 2007-2008, Clark sensed landowners were at a disadvantage in negotiating with oil and gas companies. Some landowners were signing leases for bonuses of $100 an acre, while others were getting as much as $750. This was before the boom ultimately drove the market price to $5,750 bonuses and royalties of 20-plus percent.

Clark believed he could help. He bought advertising space in the local PennySaver publication and was off to the shale leasing races. “It just took off,” he said of landowners lining up for expert advice.

Years later, Clark is still going strong as a solo attorney for landowners. He tackles well-site, storage and pipeline agreements across the state. Lately he is handling more royalty payments and estate plans. The latter includes issues such as transferring property and ensuring that gas companies calculate royalties appropriately.

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Sitting On Top Of The Shale World

Originally published at GoMarcellusShale
By K. Daniel Glover

Douglas Berkley Jr. was laboring in relative online marketing obscurity for a Pittsburgh newspaper when he discovered his passion for the shale business. Now he works for a company that is part of the shale space, and he runs a budding network of social media sites about it.

“I love everything about the industry,” Berkley told GoMarcellusShale. “I feel like I’m doing the country, the world, this area a service.”

Berkley is the marketing director at Somerset Regional Water Resources, a company that offers water and well-site support services and owes its existence to the Marcellus Shale. He has been at SRWR for two years, having transitioned into the shale business two years before that.

Berkley’s interest in the industry started as he read article after article about the shale boom while working at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “You could see that there was something big coming,” he said, so Berkley pursued and landed a job at a shale-related startup.

He also has personal connections to shale: Although no drilling is occurring there, Berkley’s family owns land near the Marcellus region, and his hometown of Somerset, Pa., has benefited from that shale play.

The biggest benefit is jobs that pay enough to support families. This includes jobs for truck drivers, in front offices and in business development, which is one of Berkley’s responsibilities at SWSR.
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The Essential Guide To Pinterest

With the interest in Pinterest at a fever pitch, brands around the globe see the virtual bulletin board as a new social forum for connecting with their fans. But first brands need to make sense of Pinterest. The best way to start is by downloading “The Essential Guide To Pinterest,” a brief storytelling guide to this hot social network.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Pinterest is a gold vein just waiting to be mined by brands. The network lets users “pin” images and videos from across the Web and organize them into themes that tell stories. The Pinterest interface is simple, and it offers boundless opportunities for companies to communicate their unique brand narratives in visual form.

The Social Customer Is Always Right

Originally published on the David All Group’s social marketing blog
By K. Daniel Glover

One evening last month, we started getting robocall after robocall from our insurance company on our home telephone. I tolerated a few of those interruptions from Allstate before I decided to take action. But what could I possibly do to halt recorded phone calls?

Then it hit me: Tweet!

So I did. I sent a couple of pointed but friendly tweets to @Allstatenews, specifically calling out Guy Hill, the executive vice president whose recorded voice kept disturbing our family time, and I included a link to Hill’s bio so the Twitter manager would know he was a real Allstate person.

Allstate promptly replied and the robocalls stopped. Even better, Hill sent me (and other customers) an apologetic note by snail mail a few days later and included a $25 gift card. “This is not typical of how Allstate operates, and we are taking the necessary steps to help ensure mistakes like this will not happen in the future,” the letter said.

My experience proves that the cardinal rule of commerce — the customer is always right — has never been more true than in today’s social media era.

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The Essential Guide To Twitter

Twitter is a great medium for promoting your products or information online — if you can get people’s attention. That’s no small feat, according to the research firm Sysomos. It found that nearly three-fourths of tweets are ignored, and the window of opportunity typically closes in less than an hour.

That reality gives you all the more reason to do Twitter right, and “The Essential Guide To Twitter” can help. The guide is chock-full of corporate case studies that cover everything from the Toyota recall and BP oil spill to the Twitter techniques of Major League Baseball and Zappos shoes. You’ll learn why Twitter matters, what makes a good tweeter and much more.

Essential Guide to Twitter