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How Do You Connect?

Well, there’s always something getting in the way of updating the blog as often as I want to. Even the simple act of keeping up with what my friends and colleagues are producing can keep me from laying down my own thoughts. I say this not to ask pity or forgiveness (though I’m open to either) but to point out how much I love what I do. Much of my work day involves catching up with or checking in on people I like, because our work lives intersect.

First, some shameless plugs: The latest CRM Playaz podcast is live, starring me! Also Chris Bucholtz, and cohosts Brent Leary and Paul Greenberg. Actually, maybe they should all come before me, ‘coz they’re great. You’ll also find that the Playaz Blog is also live, with yours truly providing the inaugural post.

The joy of doing what I do as a business hit home for me the other day as I was taking a phone briefing with Christopher Carfi about his company’s (Cerado) new application, Scanaroo. I watched the first wave of coverage unfold and decided–being interested in mobile tech and social applications–that I needed to get some inside info. That, plus I really dig Chris and enjoy our conversations. Like I said, I love this job.

Scanaroo developed from a simple but insightful question: What does it mean if you (the customer) have a personal data store that’s under your control? The answer is that your data becomes more useful to you, and lets interact with businesses on your terms.

Check your wallet and you’ll probably find more plastic than paper–loyalty cards, membership cards, and insurance cards are the stuff of our daily lives. The problem is that there are so many of them, and we often find ourselves leaving a lot of them at home, thereby keeping us from using them when they’d be most convenient. Some businesses have tried to cut the clutter by issuing keychain-sized cards, but this just moves the clutter from one pocket to another.

scanaroo

Scanaroo puts the usefulness of these cards back in customers’ hands by digitizing them. This $0.99 iPhone app scans cards into your iPhone and provides a secure method of managing and displaying them as needed. Simple, and bloody clever to boot. By making the cards even more portable than they already were, and adding management and password access, Scanaroo removes the annoyance factor of loyalty/membership cards and ensures nobody will ever miss a deal they’re entitled to again. Mobile is the enabling factor.

I’d be able to talk about Scanaroo hands-on, but unfortunately I’m not currently an iPhone user. There are plans to expand Scanaroo to other mobile platforms, and possibly expand the utility in other ways. But Chris pretty much convinced me that I want an iPhone. I’ve been waffling over the idea for some time; the BlackBerry still holds an attraction for me, with its generous keyboard and track record of reliability, and the Palm Pre is the only multitasking mobile device out there, but the iPhone exudes cool. I came close to pulling the trigger a few times, but I found out I’d probably receive a free BlackBerry Storm at the end of August which made me hesitate. I’m back to wanting an iPhone, but I wish it wasn’t such an issue.

Scanaroo does something for the iPhone that smartphones have been doing in Japan for years–serving as a digital wallet (though Scanaroo doesn’t do transactions). I’ve been waiting for that sort of functionality for a long time, but always in vain. Maybe fear of wireless data theft via RFID sniffer has held us back. Maybe fear of losing a non-passsworded phone has. But rare horror stories aside, you’re still more likely to be an identity theft victim when you hand your card to a waiter or cashier than when some tech-ninja pulls your digits out of the ether. Gimme my digital wallet already.

The other cool thing about Scanaroo is that it’s an example of how capable the mobile device platforms are–there’s nothing but a little development work stopping Scanaroo from deploying on any device. Most devices have software development kits (SDK) available for free. Hence, anybody can make a cool app and sell it, or give it away. The app market is democratized (or socialized, if you look at it another way).

It’s not some new proprietary feature of a CRM system–it goes straight to the customers and gives them a tool that benefits them, and in turn benefits the companies that are trying so hard to get their loyalty programs to pay off. Carfi said “It means the power of the relationship is still firmly in the customer’s hands, but with a clear benefit for businesses as well,” and he’s right. That’s how you connect.