Evan Schuman

About the Author Evan Schuman


Questionable strategy: Mobile sites that thwart ad blockers

In the world of online publishing, there are two enemies that must be respected: the unsubscribe button and the ad blocker. Although both can be circumvented or ignored, how wise is it to thwart the stated intentions and desires of your visitors?

On the other hand, is it bad if visitors don’t notice or seem to care? It’s a tricky question, and one company is getting clever in how it deploys what amount to mobile site ad-blocker countermeasures.

The company, Instart Logic, last week touted some $30 million in new funding, some of it directed toward supporting its ad-blocker blocker. To Instart Logic, it’s all about delivering what it would argue is the optimal visitor experience — which means ads even for those who say they don’t want them.

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With Amazon’s AR mobile app, you don’t need a depth-sensing camera to sense depth

When Amazon announced its new augmented reality (AR) mobile app for iOS last week, it stressed visual issues and said it allowed shoppers “to make sure [a desired product] fits their style and aesthetic.” But the much bigger news is that it also makes sure products fit in the space intended — and it doesn’t need a depth-sensing phone to do that. Sorry, iPhone X.

From one perspective, there is little new here in this app; the ability to take potential purchases and superimpose them on real-world images has been around for years, with home improvement chains taking the lead. But what Amazon is claiming goes well beyond what others have done, and it does it in an environment (the Amazon app) where the shopper is already comfortable.

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Target Pay’s holiday launch is good for shoppers, bad for retail

Target will ring in this year’s holiday season with its official mobile payment system, what has been referred to as Target Pay, though it doesn’t officially have that name yet. The good parts: It’s potentially faster than most mobile payment options, and it is available in far more phones than Apple Pay. The bad part: Because it’s only usable with one retailer, it will be less likely to become a habit with shoppers.

One element, though, bodes especially well for Target. Because its behavior mimics an existing popular Target program — a discount effort called Cartwheel — cashiers will not have much of a learning curve, which is a problem that almost every other mobile payment system had to initially overcome.

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Amazon wants to deliver groceries to your car trunk — not a good idea

In the minds of mobile shoppers, where is the line between convenience and personal space/privacy? We now have two retailers — Walmart and Amazon, the giants of in-store and online shopping, respectively — separately testing programs to deliver purchases directly into your home or your car trunk when the shopper is nowhere near. 

Both efforts rely on mobile devices connecting shoppers to the scene of the delivery, where customers can theoretically watch the delivery in real time. It isn’t practical or likely, but that’s the idea. Mobile is what justifies these attempts.

Walmart’s efforts, focused entirely on shoppers letting the retailer unlock a home’s front door and put away the groceries in the shopper’s kitchen and refrigerator/freezer, is an idea that begs for a privacy/security disaster to happen. A prudent executive looks at any cutting-edge plan and asks, “What could go wrong with this and how bad is it for our customers if it does?”

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MasterCard’s virtual reality purchases deliver not-so-virtual headaches

One of the most powerful attributes of e-commerce today is its relatively effortless due diligence, where a customer can easily see rival offerings, compare pricing based on the exact model number and/or specifications, and browse the comments left by customers (which may not always be valid, but that’s another issue).

That due diligence nicety was swept aside by a MasterCard move last week to integrate purchases within mobile virtual reality (VR) environments. To be fair, this mobile VR purchasing effort by MasterCard is one of the first industry efforts to allow anything other than “sit and watch” in a VR app, so the effort should be encouraged. They may intend to add due diligence capabilities later on — remember what Amazon’s initial homepage looked like — but such user-friendly efforts are not typical from MasterCard.

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CISO: Think about how your customers actually use your mobile apps

It’s not every day that a veteran chief information security officer (CISO) pens a book that blasts the mobile community for torpedoing enterprise security, so when I had a chance to read Barak Engel’s new book “Why CISOs Fail Security,” it seemed worthwhile. And it was.

The core argument in Engel’s book is that CISOs tend to not adequately think through mobile security, which results in them putting out seemingly secure systems that don’t work anywhere near as well as what was intended when deployed.

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And the award for worst mobile idea of the year goes to Walmart

For some reason, Walmart seems to go out of its way to find and embrace mobile ideas that are most likely to cause problems far worse than the one they are supposed to address.

This summer, the world’s largest retailer gave us store employees delivering items to customers as the employees drove home. Yes, indeed, that’s exactly what we need to help Walmart: more inexperienced and resentful delivery people.

A mobile app that lets Walmart employees into your home

But Walmart has now decided to leverage mobile and deliver any idea that is far more dangerous than grumpy cashiers: Walmart has struck a deal with a digital doorlock company to — I am not making this up — unlock your home frontdoor so they can get into your kitchen, when you’re not at home, and put away groceries for you. I swear that Walmart actually announced this. I doublechecked that it wasn’t an Onion video. (Although Onion has done some wonderful Walmart segments.)

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Can Amazon truly become a mobile payment power?

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Apple’s clever strategy for forcing partners to use Face ID

When Apple announced the iPhone X last week, the most sophisticated (and widely predicted) feature revealed was the facial recognition approach, called Face ID. But by choosing to go all or nothing with the iPhone X — it’s only Face ID, with no support for Touch ID — the big risk for Apple was that all the companies that support Touch ID in their apps wouldn’t quickly make the move to Face ID. So Apple made the decision for them.

As the recent healthcare debate in the U.S. demonstrated, it’s extremely hard to take back something people have grown to like. Apple’s choice of biometric authentication faced the same problem. If Amazon, Chase, Fidelity or any of the other major companies whose apps use Touch ID as a way to log in without a password had failed to make the move to Face ID, their customers would have been forced to go back to typing in long passwords. Apple, ever mindful of customer experience, chose to not permit that to happen. To make sure that companies use Face ID in their apps, Apple simply didn’t give them any practical choice.

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Is mobile killing the LAN?

I was talking with an industry CEO the other day and he offered an intriguing thought. He said that the LAN is dead — along with its associated routers and hubs and other network hardware — and that mobile has killed it. But the LAN isn’t dead, I resisted, noting that there are LANs within just about every corporate campus in the country.

And yet his argument can’t be dismissed. All of the data and security assumptions that existed when LANs came into being have gone away, courtesy of cloud and mobile. Still, I insisted, that’s an argument for why LANs should be dead, not that they are.

Let’s explore this a bit more. The CEO I was chatting with is Steven Sprague, from a cybersecurity vendor called Rivetz.

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NIST: In mobile authentication, think hardware, not software

Retail is in an awkward in-between stage when it comes to online security. In shifting their purchasing to online options, shoppers are using both desktop computers and mobile devices. Had they moved straight to mobile, authentication options would be numerous, including selfies and other biometric authentication such as fingerprints.

But the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) is trying to bolster security and authentication on desktops and mobile devices. It was spurred to tackle its Multifactor Authentication for e-Commerce project because of the realization that increased security in the physical world (with such steps as cards with EMV chips) means that thieves are going to start to focus more on card-not-present transactions.

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Retailers can go Google, or they can go mobile

One of the top marketing analytics goals for retailers has, for years, been the single view of the customer. That means being able to identify shoppers as they move from desktop to mobile to in-store and when they phone a call center. A mobile device that typically stays with a person at almost all times has been seen by many as the answer — and it is.

But Google has been pushing an alternative theory, which is to trust it blindly. It doesn’t quite phrase it that way, but that’s where it ends up. On Monday (July 31), a major privacy organization, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission asking federal officials to look into a Google program that extracts data from payment card records.

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What does Amazon Prime Day tell us about mobile app loyalty?

Amazon’s annual Prime Day sale once again gave it its “biggest day ever” last week. But Sense360, a digital research firm, wanting to see what impact Amazon’s big numbers had on the foot traffic in its rivals’ physical stores, decided to track shoppers who did and did not use the Amazon app.

The results showed a 7% drop in foot traffic during the Prime Day promotion among those who didn’t have the Amazon app and a 32% drop among those who did have the app. Sense360 tracked the behavior of 1.1 million shoppers who use a variety of apps from companies that partner with Sense360. Sense360 CEO Eli Portnoy wouldn’t identify those apps or say how many were used, beyond that it was “more than 50 and fewer than 100.”

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