The rapidly expanding world of mobile e-commerce and In-app purchasing has received a few significant boosts in recent days.
Waze, a highly popular social traffic & navigation app based on the world's largest community of drivers announced today that it is working with leading brands such as Dunkin' Donuts (DNKN), Kum & Go, Wyndham Hotels, part of Wyndham Worldwide Corporation (WYN), Jamba Juice (JMBA) and Procter & Gamble (PG) to launch Waze Ads, a location-guided ad platform for national brands and local business owners that want to attract the attention of nearby drivers. Waze seeks to leverage its increasingly large user base of more than 30 million, which is highly engaged - spending an average of 440 minutes in the app each month. The company wants to reach these users through location-guided advertising to allow businesses to send messages and produce ads that reach those people who are already en route and searching for nearby restaurants, hotels and other services.
As we know ads on phones and tablets can be highly invasive, given the limited screen size, so brands have been looking for ways to make ads more effective and less disturbing. Waze believes that the key to this is targeting advertising to those actively demonstrating intent. The company is working with these national brands, as well as small businesses, by enabling them to access a self-serve platform where they can set-up, change and measure their mobile advertising campaigns. The platform also offers location-aware tools including local search advertising, advanced targeting as well as loyalty programs. These tools allow brands to add their locations to Waze's map and create offers tied to those locations.
Last week, Waze launched a redesign that brought a deeper level of social integration to its user experience. In addition to redesigned maps and a new interface, Waze added Facebook (FB) single sign-on and features that allow users to share their drives, pickups and meet up spots, communicate their status from the road and check-in at a destination without leaving the app.
In other e-commerce news, popular online designer shop Fab.com, which now claims some nine million users, has just bought its Indian technology partner True Sparrow Systems. The value of the deal was not disclosed. Over the past six months, Fab has expanded internationally, launched a major site redesign and raised over $100 million in funding.
Last week, the fast growing online retail platform revealed another $15 million investment from VTB Capital and Phenomen Ventures. And last month Fab introduced brand new, completely redesigned iPhone and iPad apps with social features, new navigation, search and more. The redesign, which took six months of development and design, is aimed at regenerating the Fab experience with the mobile shopper in mind. Fab took into account the touchscreen to make sure the experience was complementary for both iPhone and iPad users. The iPad app has been completely redesigned to give users a more touch-friendly experience for browsing. The iPhone app was designed for the smaller form factor, and has been optimized for the iPhone 5 in particular. Fab also added social feeds to allow users to see what's most popular right now on the site in terms of purchases, the latest arrivals, what friends are buying and sharing, and more.
One scenario involves using a mobile device to buy an item a shopper is looking at on their PC or tablet. A second scenario where shoppers might want a simple click-to-buy option when shopping online on their phone is also being considered. The technology utilizes the Secure Element on the phone to support "a comparable level of security" to in store purchases, according to the two companies. It builds upon MasterCard's existing NFC-based PayPass technology for mobile payments without using NFC to function. Instead, in one scenario, a shopper browsing for items on a PC or tablet could make a payment by scanning a QR code with their phone. This trial adds to the veritable plethora of mobile payment options and makes one wonder when this market will consolidate and mature.
Mobile e-commerce and in-app purchasing are both exploding. Companies that are early adopters in these markets will do well indeed. While both Waze (there have been reports that Facebook and Waze have held take-over talks) and Fab remain private, investing in companies such as Wyndham Hotels, Jamba Juice and P&G is one way to get into these explosive markets.