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Pingup Blog

Pingup Supports Net Neutrality

September 10, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Internet Slowdown Sept 10

Slow lanes would change the Internet and free speech forever. Tell lawmakers: “Protect Internet freedom. Defend net neutrality.”

How APIs Foster Innovation

August 26, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

pingup-api-for-everything-illustrationWired thinks there should be an API for everything, and we agree. But what does this mean exactly? Keith Axline lays out how everything in our current world is programmable, in that

“just as you can build apps for your smartphones and new services for the internet, so can you shape and re-shape almost anything in this world, from landscapes and buildings to medicines and surgeries to, well, ideas — as long as you know the code.”

This makes sense from a logical standpoint, in that in order for a person to create any sort of meaningful change, he must first be well-versed in the specific syntax and structure of the problem at hand. For instance, NASA would never have been able to put a man on the moon without an extensive knowledge of physics. If we accept the concept that the universe is programmable, then the next conceptual leap we have to make is that there must be an API for everything in the universe that we wish to program. That is, there must be a readme file that explains which inputs will yield which outputs.

The article goes on to explain how, through open APIs, organizations and individuals can share and build upon the knowledge that they have collectively accumulated. The possibilities are endless for real-world applications of this framework. For example, by creating an API for a category such as teaching methods, teachers could theoretically crowd-source new techniques by building upon one anothers tried and tested approaches. The exciting thing about APIs is that through collaboration, disparate parties can come together to create something that provides more value than either could have created working alone. APIs are proof that the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

So how does this relate to what we are building at Pingup? By building an API for booking services, we are making it possible for a “book now” features to be integrated into any number of applications. The intriguing thing about this, is that there are possible utilizations of our API that we haven’t even conceived of yet. In leaving it up to developers who wish to access our API, we are allowing our product to be used in some potentially innovative and unique ways. In the spirit of encouraging this type of experimentation, we had an intern (Jack) work with us over the summer to see what sort of projects he could develop based on our platform. Jack’s time with us yielded a number of browser plugins to enable online booking directly on business directories, and an app a single business could deploy to its customer base.

In summary, we subscribe to the ethos that knowledge should be publicly available for others to ingest and build upon. We hope that by collaborating with individuals and organizations who have shared their value with us, we will be able to create innovation.

14 Aug

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Featured Businesses for August, Available on Pingup’s Booking API

August 14, 2014 | By |

When it comes to our monthly featured businesses, we generally give a lot of attention to the health and beauty industry. Although we certainly have a large number of salons and spas in our database, any establishment that requires a pre-booked appointment is a candidate to be included in our API. Check out our featured businesses for August, and have a look at the diversity of our inventory.

Reducing Friction in the Path to Purchase

August 11, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Mobile payments illustration

To merchants across all categories, it is no secret that decreasing the amount of friction experienced by consumers looking to make a purchase will have a positive effect on sales. This tenet has been evident since the introduction of the first credit card in 1950, as many business owners have since realized that the fees they pay in order to accept credit cards more than make up for themselves in increased revenue. As it follows, it should also come as no surprise that a large number of recent innovations in the commerce sector have focused on using mobile technology to decrease the amount of effort and time required for potential buyers to complete their purchase journey. It seems that many of these friction-decreasing innovations fall into one of two categories: They either simplify the payment step, or split up the payment step from the choosing of and the delivery of the good in order to streamline the buying process.

Splitting up the purchase process

The idea behind this innovation is relatively straightforward: A lot of time is wasted when the consumer has to complete the checkout process in the same place that they are both picking out and receiving the good they have paid for. By splitting up the choosing of the good, the receipt of the good, and the payment of the good, merchants are able to maximize their efficiency by serving as many paying customers as possible, without having to worry about declined credit cards and shoppers fumbling around in their purses slowing things down. Not only this, but consumers like the freedom of simply taking the item they are interested in acquiring and worrying about paying later.

A prime example of this payment system’s successful implementation is Uber, where riders simply walk out of the car when they have arrived at their destination and sort out the payment on their smartphones later on. If we carry the Uber example over to the foodservice industry, we see large companies such as OpenTable and Paypal beginning to offer apps that allow restaurant patrons to simply pay the check at their table, rather than having to wait for multiple trips back and forth from a server. On the takeout side of things, Starbucks and Chipotle have been getting involved in crafting both mobile ordering and order-ahead payment solutions. All of these features increase convenience for the customers and efficiency for the establishments, especially at peak hours when lines can become unmanageably large and wait staff can become overwhelmed.

In another interesting take on the efficiency-via-separation model, online clothing retailer Bonobos has launched a number of brick and mortar “guideshops” to help customers try on their clothes before buying them. Customers make a set appointment with a guideshop, and then are treated to one-on-one service while trying on a number of items before ultimately placing an order and having their purchase delivered to them at home. To find a good visual representation of some of the possibilities in the fragmented checkout model, take a look at the “commerce graph”, conceived of by Streetfight.

#commercegraph

Simplifying the payment step

We’ve likely all dealt with clunky and overly complicated online payment flows. Poorly designed checkout systems can result in a drag on sales for online retailers, as digital shoppers who encounter hardships (such as technical difficulties, or having to fill out multiple forms) become more likely to abandon their shopping carts. Recently, a number of large companies have been working on solutions to remedy this problem.

In aiming for the simplest checkout experience possible, Amazon and Apple (along with payments giant Paypal) have begun introducing biometric payments that allow users to make purchases on their mobile device simply by scanning their fingerprint. Not to be outdone, Twitter and Facebook have begun taking the necessary steps towards implementing ‘click to buy’ buttons on their sites, theoretically allowing users to make purchases directly from tweets and Facebook posts. These types of simplified payment systems are a boon to all parties involved: Consumers benefit from having a quicker and simpler payment experience, merchants benefit from seeing a higher conversion rate on their offerings, and the E-commerce marketplaces benefit by keeping buyers on their sites rather than sending them off to an affiliate.

It is clear that reducing friction in the path to purchase is a topic at the forefront of many minds in the commerce industry. As mobile devices become ever more ubiquitous, it will be interesting to see other ways in which companies look to leverage them in solving this problem.

Why ‘Book Now’ is Better than ‘Request an Appointment’

August 4, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

book-now-ipad-blogA while back we started to point out the huge difference between “Book Now” and “Request an Appointment”. This initial article highlighted some fundamental differences, using a fairly specific scenario of being able to book an appointment when a business is closed. This article will elaborate on some other key differences and benefits that our aggregated Booking API helps to facilitate.

What Does “Request an Appointment” Really Mean?

When an online service tells you that it will help you request an appointment, it typically means one of the two following scenarios are taking place:

  • You are really just filling out a form that’s being emailed to a business owner that will have to be manually reviewed and approved in order to secure your appointment.
  • A concierge style service is being deployed on your behalf, whereby a ‘call center’ worker will attempt to secure your desired appointment by getting in touch with the business (by phone, email, etc.). Again, this requires a response from a business that must be open to receive inquires.

With the approaches above, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the appointment that you want, and it may take anywhere from minutes to days to get a response. There’s some convenience to you, in that a concierge may be spending time on the phone that you don’t have to. However, these methods frequently result in customers not getting the appointment they wanted and potentially losing valuable time waiting for responses. Additionally, the communication schema very quickly drops to email – a highly sub-optimal user experience for most.

There are some businesses that are required to use what we call the “request-respond” method for good reason, the most salient example being those in the medical services vertical. We’ll talk more about this in a separate post, and as we move further down the road with integration partners that cover that field.

So How is “Book Now” Better?

Another term we use when talking about “Book Now” is “Live Booking”. When you tap or click a Book Now button, you are getting real-time access to the appointment scheduling software that the business uses. It’s as if you are looking at the same calendar the front-desk staff uses, in that any open appointment times that you see will be available for booking. Within just a few moments, you can book an appointment and know that it is confirmed – no humans required. Therefore, you can book with a business at any time of day or night, regardless if they are open or closed.

Why is this important? Well, you could be looking to book an appointment at the same time slot as someone else – so its critical that the booking software partner is able to control the booking schedule in real time. Any type of proxied approach – intermittent inventory ingestion for instance – runs the risk of creating duplicate booking problems that affect all of us within the value chain. Our publisher partners are seeking ONLY real-time booking access, and we agree this both provides for a better user experience and protects against breakage due to duplication.

How Syndication of Live Booking Takes Things to the Next Level

Online booking isn’t necessarily new; there are many businesses that provide online booking from their website. However, this process doesn’t always work so well in the context of mobile users and apps.

While some businesses already offer appointment booking via their own website, this often is not as easy to do on a mobile device. Pingup’s Booking API is being used to syndicate “Book Now” scheduling features out to a variety of services that present business profiles to mobile and web users. Syndicated live booking takes customer engagement to the next level, by allowing users to schedule appointments without leaving the app they are currently using.

The Pingup Booking API aggregates business inventory from many different software providers, allowing app publishers to add live-booking capabilities to the myriad of destinations where customers are trying to find businesses. For example, a customer browsing the profile of a business on their favorite “yellow pages” iPhone app, is now be able to book an appointment without ever leaving that app, making for a faster, smoother and more convenient user experience. No human intervention is required on the business side, so bookings can be secured by customers 24-7.

 

Featured Businesses for July, Available on Pingup’s Booking API

July 23, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

As the heat and humidity ramps up this summer, you may find yourself in need of an extra visit to the salon in order to keep your hair from getting out of control. Likewise, you may be looking for some nutrition advice in order to get yourself in beach-ready shape. Both of the above issues can be resolved through businesses on the Pingup API: Browse through our featured businesses for July, and have a look at a sampling of the many health and beauty businesses in our inventory.

iPad Meets the Pingup Booking API in Latest Showcase App Release

July 21, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

BookNow by Pingup for iPad - see our Booking API in action on a tablet

iPad Booking is here! We are excited to announce version 2.1 of our booking API showcase app, BookNow by Pingup for iOS.

This latest version adds full iPad support, enhancements to search & discovery for iPhone and iPad, as well as the usual bug fixes. BookNow has been designed to show the what’s possible for consumer-facing products that want to add appointment booking capabilities to their own mobile and web apps by using our API.

Download or update BooNow on the App Store

Booking API Showcase App, BookNow, gets Updated to Version 2.0

July 7, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

BookNow by Pingup for iOS

We recently released version 2.0 of our booking API showcase app, BookNow by Pingup for iOS. This latest version represents a major redesign, and was built from the ground up to show off the growing number of businesses available for booking in our API network.

This release features major UI enhancements and a streamlined booking process to act as a guidepost for consumer-facing products that may wish to use our API. BookNow is a universal app, with an iPad version coming soon!

Download on the App Store

Large Companies Getting Involved in Local

June 30, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

Prior to the internet age, consumers had to rely on unwieldy directory books in order to search for or discover local businesses. Local businesses were similarly constrained in their resources, as they had limited options for scheduling appointments with customers and placing ads in relevant, highly-trafficked locations. Today, both consumers and businesses have it much easier, as both parties have an increasingly large number of local commerce and discovery technologies at their disposal. Although the number of companies that provide digital tools for engaging in local commerce has been expanding for years, we have recently seen a number of large organizations paying particularly close attention to this segment:

  • Facebook has partnered with Single Platform and Yext in order to integrate up-to-date menus of services into their “Places” product. Facebook also recently formed a 12 person SMB council, which has in turn set up a 5 city tour designed to attract the ad dollars of small businesses. Although there are 30 million active business pages on the social media site, few of them generate any revenue, and Facebook is attempting to change this.
  • Google is also getting involved in the local game, recently announcing the introduction of its small business tools platform called “Google My Business”. Google My Business is meant to be an updated and more user-friendly version of Google Places, which many business owners complained was opaque and clumsy to use. From this platform SMB entrepreneurs will be able to manage their analytics, reviews, Google Plus information, and AdWords campaigns.
  • Priceline, mainly known for helping consumers in their quest to find travel deals, has dipped their toes in the local waters by acquiring OpenTable. Although this move was larger and more widely publicized, it is not Priceline’s first attempt at getting involved in local restaurant search, as they also acquired food discovery app Foodspotting for $10 million in early 2013.
  • In some potentially bad news for services such as Thumbtack and Angie’s List, ecommerce giant Amazon will look to launch a local services marketplace later this year. Amazon’s marketplace, which will benefit consumers looking for everything from dog-walkers to plumbers, is reportedly set to be rolled out on a city-by-city basis. Not only this, but Amazon is also purportedly launching a takeout delivery feature as part of their Amazon Local daily deals app. The aforementioned feature would be rolled out on a limited basis, and would be set up to directly compete with the likes of GrubHub and Seamless. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Amazon make more forays into the local sector in the future.
  • Lastly, Foursquare has made waves with the announcement that it is splitting its eponymous app in two, with each resulting new app providing completely separate functions. The check-in feature from the previous version will be spun off into an app called Swarm, while the main Foursquare app will focus solely on local search, discovery, and recommendations. This move is in line with the stated aspirations of CEO Dennis Crowley, who was quoted as saying that he wants Foursquare to be the “location layer for the internet.” With this uncoupling, Foursquare will seek to leverage their massive database of crowdsourced location and behavior information into ad dollars. Foursquare will reportedly attempt to lure marketers with the prospect of location-based and contextual advertisements, and they may be on to something with this agenda: According to internet sage Mary Meeker, mobile advertising is primed for massive growth in the upcoming years.

As the amount of mobile devices and mobile activity grows, we are seeing a symmetrical growth in the number of opportunities for innovation in the local discovery and commerce universe. Many large companies are paying attention to this fact, and are attempting to position themselves for future success in this realm.

Featured Businesses for June, Available on Pingup’s Booking API

June 18, 2014 | By | No Comments">No Comments

For the month of June, we bring you another sampling of the many businesses available on our booking API. Whether you’re looking for a stylish haircut, a waxing to prepare for beach season, or even a dog training school for your pooch, we’ve got you covered with our wide array of locations and business types.