Tag Archives: mobile

Mobile Year in Review: Lessons Learned in Mobile in 2012

31 Dec

As 2012 draws to a close, many of us will be reflecting on what we’ve learned over the past year. While perhaps some reflections will be personal or professional, here at TourSphere, we want to take a minute to review the year in mobile. So we’ve tapped our team to present to you the lessons we’ve learned in the mobile space this year.

Mobile must be a part of your strategy.
– Juliet Devries, VP of Community Relations

2012 was the year that a mobile component to your marketing strategy went from being “nice to have” to “necessary.” Even Facebook learned that the lack of a solid mobile strategy can do a number on your company’s value.

A Nielsen study released in February 2012 revealed that nearly half of the cell phones in the US are smartphones, up 38% over the same statistic for 2011. Microsoft Tag predicts that mobile usage will overtake desktop usage by 2014.

These statistics confirm what all of us already knew from our own day-to-day usage: if you don’t have a mobile presence and if that presence doesn’t make it easy for a user to access your information on their device, you’re losing out on a huge chunk of your audience.

The mobile market will become increasingly fragmented, with more choices for consumers.
– Rob Pyles, CEO


In the beginning, mobile developers had only to worry about Apple and Android.

Today, the options for mobile devices expand on what feels like a daily basis. From smartphones to tablets, new technology like the Microsoft Surface gives consumers the power of choice and gives developers the headache of having to add yet another platform to their list. A recent Nielsen study showed that Android,  which “dominates” the market, still has less than a 50% market share when it comes to smartphones.

Developing across multiple platforms is going to be increasingly important as we enter 2013. Web apps like those created on TourSphere Builder will provide a flexible, more nimble and more economical option than developing native apps.

You need a long-term mobile strategy, not just an app.
– Clayton Jones, TourSphere Mobile Advisor

In 2011, companies were building apps like crazy. In 2012, we started thinking about other aspects of the mobile strategy. Because so many people are accessing your company or organization’s information by mobile device, it’s essential that an entire strategy take place around the mobile medium, not just a single app, and that that strategy is as flexible as the rest of your marketing plan. We began to see companies turn to TourSphere to help with this flexibility, because web apps can be easily managed and changed unlike native apps.

We began to see that mobile goes beyond simply an app, into location-based services that help with targeted marketing, to websites optimized for mobile devices to coupons delivered by mobile device. An entire strategy around how your audience uses mobile is essential for 2013.  Analytics and data on how visitors are using your app is critical to evaluating, developing and adjusting your mobile strategy.
Tell us: What do you think was the biggest lesson about mobile in 2012, or the biggest mobile story of the year?

No Cell Service or Wi-Fi? No Problem.

26 Nov

TourSphere apps are web-based, which means that they require either cell service or wi-fi so that the user can download and use the app live at the site of the tour. We have many clients, like parks or sites with bad cell phone service, who ask us if there are any options for them to use a TourSphere app. Our answer? Of course! When your site has no cell service or wi-fi, there are three options to consider.

Create a Native iPhone and/or Android App

The advantage of native iPhone and Android apps is that they are downloaded onto a mobile device as bundled content, and don’t require the streaming that a web app requires. This means once they’re downloaded onto the user’s phone, he or she can utilize the full-featured app no matter what type of service or wi-fi is available. In fact, we can actually convert your TourSphere app into an Android or iPhone app to accommodate sites with no wi-fi or cell service.

While this seems like the perfect solution for our clients without cell service or wi-fi, there are a few disadvantages to this option. Apps with audio and video can take up a lot of space on a mobile device. Plus, they require the user to plan ahead, which is a gamble. If the visitor doesn’t check your website to discover you have an app available, they may miss the opportunity to use it, because it won’t be accessible on-site. Finally, choosing either an iPhone or Android app can make your app unavailable to those users without that particular device, where a web app is accessible to all users with web-enabled devices.

Provide On-Site Devices for Users

Many museums and tourist sites provide iPod Touches or iPads for their visitors and pre-load their iPhone app onto the device. These devices are then either loaned or rented to visitors. Providing pre-loaded devices solves the planning issue for visitors, since they can arrive on site with nothing on their phone and still access the app via a borrowed device. This can also provide a stream of revenue for your site, if you choose to charge for the rentals. By providing the pre-loaded app on a device, you can enhance the visitor experience for every visitor instead of just those with access to your app via their own device.

However, providing hardware has its cons as well. There is a significant up-front cost to buying hardware to lend to your museum visitors. There’s also a staff burden in keeping the devices maintained and updated, as well as keeping track of the devices once they’re loaned out. Finally, the staff needs to make sure that they update each device individually when there is any update to the iPhone app, which can be time-consuming.

In 2013, TourSphere will be introducing a solution to this issue by providing a new native app publishing method for on-site devices. This solution will allow for remote and automatic app updates, reducing staff time spent maintaining the apps.

iPad Kiosks

The third option for museums and tourism sites that don’t have wi-fi or cell service is to put the tour directly into exhibits and on-site with iPad Kiosks. Traditionally, kiosks are extremely expensive pieces of hardware, but by building a TourSphere app for an iPad and mounting it directly into the exhibit, you’ve created the same opportunity for learning and information as an app on the user’s mobile device, but don’t require the user to access the information on their own phone.

iPad Kiosks basically provide a touch-screen display at a minimal price as compared to a traditional kiosk. The app can also be locked so that users can only view what’s available to them and not surf the Internet or access other programs. While the tour is not in the hand of the user, it provides an excellent and low-maintenance way of providing interactive, engaging information for your exhibit.

If you’re interested in web apps but don’t have wi-fi or cell service on site, contact the TourSphere team for additional information about your options.


The App “Made in Hollywood”

8 Nov

The use of TourSphere’s technology is just about endless in our imagination – we see an unlimited number of uses for our mobile app technology. From different venues and tours, additional features, and a multitude of uses, we believe that technology is always evolving just like TourSphere. It’s exciting to us when we see our clients have a similar vision and utilize their customized mobile app in a new and different way!

Today, we are very excited to present a unique use of a museum app. The Toledo Museum of Art has built their mobile app through TourSphere, and are showcasing the app in kiosks throughout the museum. As visitors walk from display to display, they are greeted by mounted iPads, providing more insight around the collection.

Currently used in the “Made in Hollywood: Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation” exhibit, running through January 2013, the TourSphere app welcomes visitors as they enter the gallery and presents context around the photos of Hollywood. This exhibit includes over 90 prints from the most important photographers of the Golden Age. As you walk through the images of people like Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable and others, you can almost hear them speaking fromt he past through iPads.

Bringing together old world Hollywood with the latest cutting edge technology, visitors get the chance to experience history at its finest. We applaud The Toledo Museum of Art on their clever use of their mobile app and look forward to visiting to see technology in action, at it’s best.  It’s clear that this exhibit was meant for the silver screen!

All photos courtesy of Andrew Weber.

New Study Shows Museums Offering More Mobile Experiences

5 Nov

“His house is like a museum. It’s very beautiful and very cold, and you’re not allowed to touch anything.” – Matthew Broderick, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

People sometimes think of museums the way Ferris Bueller described them. But as you and I know, that’s changing! Especially when museums adopt mobile technology to create interactive apps that enhance the visitor experience.

Check out the recent survey by the American Alliance of Museums in the U.S. and Museums Association in the U.K. It’s predicted that by 2013, there will be two billion smartphones worldwide. Many smartphone users, of course, will visit museums – and they want a way to interact with exhibits on their devices.

The survey found the biggest motivation for most “mobile museums” is visitor engagement. That might mean guiding the visitor though the museum via a custom map or providing them with an interactive tour with multimedia features like photos, videos and audio.

Many museums may have shied away from creating a mobile experience for their visitors because:

1. They thought it would be too expensive

2. They thought it would require serious technological expertise

In the past, yep – those two reasons were true. But not anymore. With do-it-yourself app platforms now available like TourSphere, museums can build custom mobile apps that work on any smartphone or tablet (iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.).

Many museums have already employed this technology with great results. New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art teamed up with TourSphere and Green Door Labs to create an interactive mobile game that leads visitors on a murder mystery through the museum. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s mobile app is an emotional journey through the museum and the struggle for freedom. And the Boston-area based Museum of Bad Art is using its new TourSphere mobile app to showcase its pieces for its tens of thousands of Facebook fans who are based around the world.

As museums continue to adopt mobile technology and create interesting, and sometimes unexpected, visitor experiences, Ferris Bueller’s hilarious statement will itself seem like a thing of the past.

Budget Travelers Explore Boston with a Mobile Concierge

2 Nov

As you know from our last blog post, hotels and resorts find it extremely beneficial to create and utilize a TourSphere app to highlight their own property and services. Today, we want to introduce you to 40Berkeley, the hippest and most affordable place to stay right  in the heart of Boston!

40Berkely created a mobile app for potential tourists and current visitors, to help introduce them to the property and navigate their way around the city. Their app provides visitors with contact information, maps, event listings as well as a link to their blog for more ideas and suggestions for what to do around the city. They even provide virtual tours to many of Boston’s local attractions, so visitors can view places before they even arrive at their destination! And, they highlight restaurants and attractions that provide a discount specifically for 40Berkeley guests. Guests can even provide on-the-spot feedback through their survey right on their mobile phone!

We compliment 40Berkeley on their great mobile app and think they did a great job providing potential and current guests all of the information they would need for planning a trip to Boston! Check it out!

To view the Mobile Tour of 40Berkeley visit http://40berkeley.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the Mobile Tour of 40Berkeley visit http://40berkeley.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Got a Hankering for Bad Art? Look No Further Than Your Mobile Phone

12 Oct

Art museums are easily accessible for art enthusiasts in every major US city. But, where do you look when you need to get your fix of bad art? Massachusetts’s own Museum of Bad Art is located in the basement of Somerville’s Davis Square Theater, but thanks to their new TourSphere mobile app, their tens of thousands of Facebook fans and email subscribers will now be able to view the bad works of art from their mobile device.

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) has three brick and mortar galleries in the Boston area as well as an online gallery. Visitors can peruse the world’s only museum dedicated to celebrating bad art. But, for those that can’t make the trip, the TourSphere app allows visitors visibility into the worst that art has to offer. Along with the peculiar images, the mobile  app provides short and humorous narrations of each of the pieces of art.

MOBA and TourSphere will launch the mobile app and MOBA’s latest exhibit, “99% Inspiration + 1% Perspiration = No Sweat” at a special event on October 17 at 7pm, in the Museum of Bad Art’s Somerville Theater location. For more information about this event, which is open to the public, visit: http://www.museumofbadart.org/99inspiration.php.

To view the mobile tour of the Museum of Bad Art exhibit, visit http://moba.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the mobile tour of the Museum of Bad Art exhibit, visit http://moba.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Local Publishers: Selling Ads for Mobile

9 Oct

Publishing isn’t an easy road in 2012. At TourSphere, we speak to lots of publishers looking to diversify their revenue streams, provide more robust advertising options and provide different products for their  readership. In fact, eMarket predicts that mobile ad spending for 2012 will hit $2.6 billion — 80% more than the spend in 2011.

One area that local publishers are finding cost-effective is creating mobile tours that align with the content of their local newspapers, magazines or tourism publications. By providing this accompanying mobile tour, publishers can highlight advertisers, special events or locations around town — and can be appealing to both regular readers and tourists, depending on the content in the app.

But how to best monetize this type of app? With advertising, of course. A mobile tour app that accompanies a newspaper or magazine has the advantage of having a built-in stable of advertisers, but how do you convince those advertisers that adding to their package with mobile makes sense?

If you’re putting together your mobile advertising media kit, we’ve got some great statistics and ideas for you to include.

  • Mobile offers multimedia opportunities. Because TourSphere is equipped to include photos, audio and video, you can create a multimedia ad for your advertiser. Promoting a local restaurant? Geo-locate them directly on your interactive map and do a one-minute video interview with the chef. That is powerful advertising.
  • Mobile offers measurability and feedback. Through a TourSphere app, your advertiser can get customer feedback, or just check out the analytics of the app to see exactly who is utilizing it and from where. The visibility and measurability is a standout trait of mobile advertising.
  • Mobile puts you where the customer is. According to TMP Marketing and Comscore, 75% of mobile searches have local intent, and 37% of local mobile searchers visit the advertiser. A Texterity study showed that 40% of mobile users have made a purchase as a result of a mobile ad, and XAd shows that 52% of mobile ads result in a phone call.
  • Mobile demands immediate action. Mobile Marketer recently found that mobile coupons get 10 times the redemption rate of traditional coupons. And while 70% of online searchers will take action on an ad within a month, 70% of mobile searchers will take action within an hour.

Are you selling mobile advertising? What are your selling secrets?

Virtual Visitors vs. On-Site Visitors: Which Should Your App Cater To?

2 Oct

Thanks to mobile apps and virtual tours, armchair tourism has become an increasingly appealing option for many. Whether it’s a matter of checking out something that we might not have the time, inclination or money to visit in person or previewing a possible tourist attraction, museum, hotel, or city before we visit, the virtual tours allow us inside access to make decisions or even have a virtual experience without ever setting foot on-site.

But which type of visitor are you serving, and how can you make your mobile app most appealing to that sector? When deciding whether to gear your tour towards virtual or on-site visitors, consider your mission:

  • Access Far & Wide: Are you a museum looking to give access to a specific exhibit to the largest number of people possible? Then perhaps gear your mobile app towards a tour of your site that can also be easily understood and appreciated by the virtual visitor.
  • Education for Visitors: If your site doesn’t have live tour guides or you are looking to give people alternatives while still engaging and educating them, gear your tour towards those who will be on-site, creating a guide that will draw them into the physical aspects of your location.
  • Information at a Distance: So much information is available online to help potential students to decide which college campuses to tour, for example. If your goal is to provide the information people need to assess your property or offerings without forcing them to buy a plane ticket and stay in a hotel, gear your tour towards virtual visitors and give them a complete view of what you have to offer that will make them feel as though they’ve been there.
  • Marketing: For many hotels or tourism boards, drawing visitors on-site is the main goal. It’s about getting the booking or bringing a visitor to the city, and what better way than to provide a virtual tour that allows access to your top attractions or features? Provide a tour that’s geared towards a virtual visitor with an eye for them wanting to learn more or visit for themselves.

There are a few features you may want to consider when designing your mobile app, depending on whether you’re gearing it towards on-site or virtual visitors.

For On-Site Visitors:

  • GPS-Enabled Maps: Orient visitors quickly and clearly by creating a custom map of your site. The GPS feature on their phones will allow them to get around and find the features they want to visit most.
  • Surveys: An on-site visitor is a valuable opportunity to collect data. Integrate surveys into your app to provide your staff with feedback and ideas for improvement.
  • Audio Guides: Your visitors are lucky in that by being on-site, they can see your exhibit, sites, and more. But they may be missing out on the personalized overview that a live tour guide would offer. Fill the void by providing audio guidance directly through their phones.

virtual tourist


For Virtual Visitors:

  • Multimedia: One of the great options within a TourSphere app is the ability to add photos, videos and audio. This provides the virtual visitor with an immediate connection to your site and the experience of being there.
  • Visitor Information: If you’re using the app to draw people to your location, include easy to access visitor information that allows them to plan their trip or visit while they’re excited about your content within the app.
  • Analytics: Web-based apps like TourSphere’s allow you to access valuable analytics on those visiting your app so you can see where your virtual visitor base is and what types of marketing steps you might be able to take to further expand and engage your base.

Exploring the Trees of the Milliken Arboretum with a Mobile App

25 Sep

With more than 150 acres of greenery, plants and wildlife to explore, the Milliken Arboretum is a hidden jewel at Wofford University in Spartanburg, SC. With more than 4,500 trees, the world-class horticultural display aims to promote environmental consciousness, educate the community and heighten awareness of the importance of trees in a rapidly developing urban world.

While visitors could choose to wander around campus to discover the Arboretum for themselves, the merging of nature and technology allows for the most robust visitor experience. Visitors to the campus can immerse themselves in the grounds by viewing photos of the trees not only as they are on the day of the visit, but throughout the seasons. An introduction provides a historical backdrop to the arboretum and stunning photos of the trees throughout the season. And to ensure that no one misses a thing, the Arboretum’s interactive map orientates the visitor while providing them with stops and tree identification along the way.

Whether you’re visiting the Milliken Arboretum or simply want to view colorful photographs of its gems throughout the seasons, the TourSphere app can transport you to the campus.

To view the mobile tour of the Milliken Arboretum, visit http://milliken.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

To view the mobile tour of the Milliken Arboretum, visit http://milliken.toursphere.com or scan this QR code with your smartphone.

Apps 101: Native apps vs. Mobile Web apps

1 Aug

I spend a lot of time talking to people and organizations – museums, hotels, universities – about mobile apps. One of the first things I like to point out is that there are different kinds of mobile apps. There are native apps like iPhone and Android apps, and there are Mobile Web apps. It’s important to understand both in order to decide what’s best for you.

What’s the Difference Between Native Apps and Web Apps?

Native apps are built to work on to work on one platform (like the iPhone), not multiple platforms. To download a native app, you need to:

1. Go to the appropriate app store

2. Search for and locate the app

3. Download the app to your device.

By contrast, Mobile Web apps are built to work across different platforms, allowing you to have one app that works on all smartphones and tablet devices. Rather than needing to go to an app store, you simply access the app through the Internet browser on your phone. No downloads needed. To access a web app, you need to:

1. Type in the app’s URL in your browser (or scan a QR code). That’s it. No downloads. No waiting.

To expand a little more on this concept: native iPhone apps only work on iPhones (and iPod Touches). Native Android apps only work on Android phones and tablets.  If you want to reach multiple platforms, you need to build multiple native apps. Additionally, native apps in most cases require a submission process which can take several days or weeks to get approval. It’s not fun giving a third-party veto power over your content.

Alternatively, you can think of a Mobile Web app as a super-slick website optimized for mobile devices. So any smartphone, tablet or even desktop computer can use web apps. Plus with advancements in HTML5 and some other programming languages, a nicely designed Mobile Web app can now be almost indistinguishable from a native app.  Mobile Web Apps now include location-aware maps, touchscreen keypads, and all sorts of snazzy buttons and footers which look just like a native app.

Here are some screen shots of Web apps which have been built on TourSphere:


Web Apps can look and function much like native apps.

Here’s a quick comparison of Native Apps vs. Mobile Web apps:


To summarize? Obviously, the right choice for your organization depends on your specific goals and connectivity situation. The goal of this post is to let you know that there are different kind of apps, so you can make the best choice for your organization.

At TourSphere, we offer both options (native and mobile web apps). We even have clients that do both: the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has a Mobile Web app for visitors that own smartphones, and they also have 300 iPod Touches loaded with a Native iOS app that they loan out to non-smartphone owners.

Having said that, here at TourSphere we are big believers in Web Apps.  In our experience they often provide the most bang for your buck when budgets are tight – allowing you to build one app and reach the maximum number of visitors.  Plus updates are quick and easy, there is no approval process with an app store, and web apps can launch instantly with no download time.

Do you have strong feelings about native apps or mobile web apps? Do you have one, or both, or neither? Jump in and join the conversation!

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