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Offline browsing can drive online sales

Posted by Monica Tailor, 12 April 2011

If you have an iPhone or an Android you may already have an app called Redlaser. If you haven't seen it yet it's worth taking a look. Redlaser allows you scan a standard barcode to identify the product and then goes online to find prices for that product.

Great, but so what?

For potential customers it means they can price compare online while standing in a shop. If you're a retailer with a bricks and mortar shop you could use it to make the sale. By scanning and showing customers the price comparison there and then you could stop them walking out of the door to price check by reassuring them that they are getting a good deal.

If you're an online only retailer then taking advantage of shoppers browsing in the shops is a good idea, if you're listed on a Redlaser search then you could make that sale either then or later.

So hopefully I've convinced you that you should be appearing for a Redlaser search. So how do you make sure you appear? Well you need to be appearing in Google Shopping to start with ... it's free, all you need to do is send Google a feed of your products formatted correctly. If you don't list there already you really should.

Google Shopping is able to price compare (1) if you give it a manufacturer and manufacturers part number (aka sku) but that's not enough to get your products listed in Redlaser. Redlaser needs the feed to include the EAN number (Google can match on just EAN or Manufacturer and MPN). In my experience not all retailers provide Google with an EAN, especially smaller ecommerce retailers who are largely missing in all the Redlaser searches I've done. This is disappointing because the smaller ecommerce retailers are often competitively priced.

So firstly make sure you've got your Google Shopping feed set up and secondly include an EAN number. The EAN number can be taken from barcodes on products or you can check Google Shopping, the EAN is usually listed at the bottom of the page.

With Android and iPhone making up 59.4% (2) of the UK mobile phone market there are a potential 47.5 million (3) handsets able to run Redlaser. There's no doubt that mobile use is growing and apps like Redlaser (which currently estimates 9 million users worldwide) will help that to grow.

(1) If the products you sell aren't price compared they might soon be with Google forcing all Google Shopping feeds to include unique identifiers (manufacturer and mpn at minimum) from 3rd May.

(2) Android rules the UK with a market share streets ahead of BlackBerry and Apple http://www.wirefresh.com/android-rules...

(3) There are over 80million active mobile's in the UK, that's over 1.2 phones per person. Calculated from two Wikipedia articles:
List of mobile operators
Population of the UK


HTML5 Web Sockets Experiment

Posted by Matt Seward, 21 March 2011

We have been getting a bit giddy about HTML5 Web Sockets. If you didn't know, HTML5 Web Sockets allow browsers to establish an "always on" (full-duplex) connection to a web server, which is a big deal for anyone using or creating real-time data, event-driven applications.

Until now, if we wanted to update a screen with some new information, without requiring our users to click somewhere to trigger a full page reload, we had to use Javascript to communicate with the server in the background (AJAX). This simply creates content requests on behalf of the user which still involves waiting for the niceties of an http transaction to be performed.

The always-on, nature of HTML5 Web Sockets makes for a better (faster) User Experience (UX), creates all sorts of possibilities for some really nice User Interface (UI) elements and it also reduces network load.

We agree with the industry commentators who reckon that this is a big deal. Even though at this moment in time HTML5 Web Sockets is not perfectly implemented across all modern browsers we wanted to play around a bit to see what we could do with it, so we came up with the Twitter Happiness Meter.

The Twitter Happiness Meter

A moving gauge displaying the collective happiness of Tweets in real-time.

Twitter Happiness Gauge
How Happy Is Twitter? (Currently requires a Webkit browser, Chrome or Safari).

The Twitter Streaming API allows us to obtain public tweets in near-realtime, based on criteria that we define. In our case we are filtering status messages to only obtain those containing emoticons, e.g. :) :( :D ;) :-)

Using Node.js we can create a simple TCP Server which listens on a specified port for the stream of tweets. We then perform some very simple post-processing of the data received in order to generate a 'happiness' rating which we can then use with The Google Visualization API to display the Gauge.


  • The filtering we are doing is very very lo-fi, plus there exists more positive emoticons than negative which will effect the results. We'd like to process the data in ways that can produce a more meaningful assessment of 'mood'. We haven't even began to look at this but if anyone could point us to some useful resources we'd appreciate it.
  • Overall the Gauge hovers around the 'fine' (50%) mark, which is to be expected as overall the good and bad should even each other out. This renders this particular visualization fairly dull.
  • We wanted to experiment with other sources of large amounts of data (replacing the Twitter data) but struggled to find good sources of streaming data. Please comment below if you can suggest any.

Finally we'd be really interested in any ideas you might have for projects, gadgets, user interface elements that could really benefit from being hooked up to real-time data sources.

Further Reading

HTML5 Web Sockets: A Quantum Leap in Scalability for the Web


Twitter Streaming API

Google Visualization API

The Gauge can be found in the gallery