Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Where's my in-flight internet?!

I was contemplating my upcoming short trip to London and what I am going to do with the 48 hours of flight time from/to Sydney besides watch films I've already seen, and eat over-salted plane grub. So comes the question... why do we still not have broadband available on board?! Or do we already, but I just haven't seen it / need to get out of cattle class?

It seems that from October last year, Qantas A380 Melbourne to Los Angeles has offered 'cached internet content along with accessing web-based email and chat services' but their prior plan for live internet has been put on hold while till later this year while they work out filtering systems to avoid 'questionnable' sites being accessed as happened at American Airlines, who offer access for US$12.95.

Apparently Qantas is also considering the Sydney - London A380 route for live internet access later this year. We don't know the costs to the traveller yet,but I for one would definitely pay for access! It sounds like it is only mobile internet available on A380 whereas the new Boeing Dreamliner 787 may be fitted to provide access for laptops later this year.

The airline for my flights, Virgin Atlantic, may be talking with Aircell about the Gogo Inflight Internet who provide internet via an air-to-ground (ATG) link. Aircell/Gogo is already the provider for Virgin America, American Airlines and soon United, Delta and Air Canada. This article suggests a trial by late 2010.

So it's all great if you live in the US, but it's probably not ready in time for SYD - LHR next Thursday then!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Word cloud

Thanks Lena for introducing me to Here is the word cloud of my blog! Interesting which words it's picked up on, and looks a lot nicer than the tag cloud I'm using.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Online shopping stats in UK

Just read this nma article about online shopping in the UK.

According to the Experian 'Engaging Online with the Empowered Customer' report, online shopping grew 31% in the past 12 months compared to 1% for off-line catalogues. 31%! Wow! Isn't that amazing with the UK recession?! Thinking about it a bit longer though, I don't have all the figures for this. Maybe it is a move from the high street into online because users feel they are getting a better price online?

It goes on to say that although there is this great increase, the report finds that 70% of the business is done by 30% of the customers, so not much repeat business... are people so price sensitive that they are just using search engines or comparison sites to check prices and are not loyal to an online brand?

Maybe it's a bit of that, but also the user experience is still frustrating customers or just not making enough of a positive impact, to make them remember the brand and return?

I like ecommera's 10P's of ecommerce methodology. This covers not only the usability and functionality of the website (point 3 - Place) but also everything you need around the platform, processes, order management systems and promotions to support the site. I like the analogy of the website being the tip of the iceberg visible to the customer, with all the processes and systems that must be considered for the site to be successful below.

As the nma article suggests, I also think the issue around online/offline channels needs to be addressed still. Too many retailers treat their website as a completely separate business. E.g. If I buy something from a site's online shop, and it's not right, I want the piece of mind to know that I can easily return it to my local high street store, and not have to queue up at the post office (that can be so annoying!).

Some stores are allowing this now (I think the Arcadia group?) and others are moving in the right direction by clearly stating returns policies and by having detailed product information pages so that users aren't as likely to need to return items.

Truly integrating these channels would also not only benefit the customer, but the marketing opportunities created by merging customer databases could be great.

I look forward to see what happens in this area over the next 12 months...

Friday, 30 January 2009

Thoughts about launching mobile internet sites in Australia

User demographics

Some of the research gives conflicting stats but according to the CCi Digital Futures Report - The internet in Australia approx 4.2 million Australians (out of the 21 million population) could access the internet through handheld devices. The number who actually do on a daily basis though could be lower.

The people using mobile internet are younger - A quarter of the mobile net audience is aged 15-24, compared to 16% for the PC [Nielsen Online] . These users will likely be using the internet on their phones as they are on the move so maybe time-poor and be very focused on a particular goal, they're not interested in browsing around so much. They have different motivations to users on their PC internet, so mobile site (msite) design shouldn't be treated as a 'mini-web'.

Data plan costs

Data plans are more expensive than in UK or US but tariffs are coming down. You can easily get 1Gb for ~$30/month

now, although this still isn't as good as the UK t-mobile 'web and walk' all you can eat for 7.50 GBP! Until Aus gets unlimited plans msites will still need to consider download costs in the design. I think this is really important when it comes to advertising. Who wants to waste their data plan downloading a big ad image?!


Handsets are becoming easier to use. AS well as the i-phone there are many smartphones and other web enabled phones available in Australia which can give a good user experience. When designing an msite there is a business decisions that needs to be made around which types of handsets you want to support.

It is possible to design sites which will 'fit' to the majority of handsets, and implement handset detection functionality on entering the site, but is the cost of this really justified? Will those with lower spec phones really be likely to use the msite or have a data plan anyway? Designing for i-phone definetly has marketing advantages because then you can get into providing iphone applications too and be listed on the iphone App Store.

Relevant site content

Customer data is not given out so freely by telcos. The MSISDN is the telephone number linked to a sim card in a mobile phone if you can get hold of this number you can identify who owns the phone and personalise the msite accordingly. In some countries (US and UK I think) you can get this number but in Aus the telcos won't due to privacy laws, although this may change in the future. You can however work out where is user is based on the location of the tower their mobile is using. This can be great for localising a site, making it
quicker to use and more relevant.


Premium sms channels are being used in Australia by some companies. For example the user can send a premium cost sms to recieve access to a certain site to enter a compeition or get information. The company then gets a share of the cost of the message with the telco provider. Proximity marketing can be used to promote sites by sending a message to bluetooth enabled phones which pass by. There are some legal issues around 'opt ins'.

Walled gardens

In Australia a lot of the telcos operate walled gardens where the user doesn't always have to use their data plan if they remain on sites within the 'garden'. In certain cases telcos may even pay the site for their content being available 'on-deck'within their walled garden.

Partnering with a telco in this way could initially help to raise the profile of the new msite, which is important as users do not necessarily access msites through search engines at the same level as they do on the internet.

Business benefits of launching a mobile site?

For certain companies having a mobile version of their website can give big advantages:
  • they have access to their customers while they are on the move, so increasing conversion opportunities (need to be careful that this isn't cannibalising traditional web traffic though)
  • they can earn additional revenue through premium sms charges
  • they can put ads on their mobile site (although this should be done with caution to avoid longer load times)
  • it is a good story for their brand if the site is done well and takes off

Aus mobile sites

The autralian based msites working well at the moment are either related to be on the move or very targeted towards a specific goal:
Where sites are becoming more transactional, to make the msite process easier some sites are requiring sign up through their internet site, then simply log in to the msite where your information is prepopulated. If the user is not already signed up, the msite can ask for the minimal amount of info necessary to complete the purchase.

So we need msites to...
  • Have a purpose which is useful to be able to access on the move / away from PC
  • Be relevant to user and quick to use through Personalisation, Customisation, Localisation
  • Be simple to navigate and have fast loading pages using the targeted handsets / platforms
  • Provide monetization opportunties for the site through advertsing or marketing

Friday, 23 January 2009

Google searchwiki

The Google search wiki is interesting, if you’re logged in to a Google account, it lets you rerank the results of your search and write comments against each link. The reranking is only logged to your personal account, but anyone logged into Google can see your comments.

E.g. if you search for ‘tickets’ then click ‘see all search wiki comments’ at the bottom of page, you can see what other people have been writing about ticketing sites.

I don't think Google would take notice of people’s personal re-rankings or comments within their algorithms right now but it is a cool feature and will be interesting to see how it grows. Could it learn your personal result preferences and start ranking results to be more relevant to the individual?