The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

Cuba Tackles Web Connectivity Deficit

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Last week, Cuban daily Juventud Rebelde announced government plans to expand the country’s underperforming web infrastructure by adding Wi-Fi capacity to dozens of internet centers and cutting the cost of access.

A spokesman for Cuba’s state communications company said that, as of next month, 35 government computer centers would have Wi-Fi at a cost of around $2 per hour - still unaffordable for many Cubans, but a significant step in the right direction (where Wi-Fi was available previously, it cost around $4.50 per hour to access).  

Until now, the only Wi-Fi availability in the country has been at tourist hotels. While critics say the lack of connectivity is down to fear of social unrest, the Cuban government insists the problem is a result of the U.S. embargo, and has publicly stated an intention to expand internet access across the island.  

The recent move is indicative of the government at least beginning to make good on its promise.   Another positive indicator of a shift towards the open internet access enjoyed by other countries was the government-approved Wi-Fi spot provided by Cuban artist Kcho. Established at Kcho’s Havana arts center, the spot has attracted praise from open internet advocates in Cuba and around the world who hope it is the thin end of the wedge for fairer web access in one of the world’s least-connected countries.

Cubans - and especially young people living in the capital - are as au fait with computer technology as their contemporaries in other, better-connected countries. Visitors might be surprised to see iPhones and Androids in use all over Havana; hundreds of mobile-phone stores number among Cuba’s private businesses, all of them offering ways to install offline apps, as well as providing the usual repairs. 

Things look less developed outside the capital, where there are far fewer cellphones per head, and smartphones are extremely thin on the ground. But at least, with the recent slashing of prices (by more than half) for web access, Cuba is moving slowly towards the inevitable future of a fully connected citizenry.

Mobile Marketing Tactics for July 4th

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Independence Day is around the corner, and that means a marked increase in consumer spending across a variety of industries. As per the overall trend away from desktop, the majority of online shoppers will search on their smartphones, so it’s important to target mobile device users if you want to make the most of the holiday. 

Whatever line of business you’re in, give your July 4th a boost with some of these mobile marketing tactics:

 

Social Media Photo Competition

Use the power of social media to drive user engagement. A photo competition relevant to your industry, with a Independence Day-themed hashtag, can start the all-important online conversation. Do it right and you may even go viral!

Give Free Stuff Away

People. Love. Free. Stuff. That’s unlikely to ever change, which makes freebies the evergreen classic of the marketing world. Start an text message marketing campaign to let the world know about your free offer. The bigger and better it is, the more people will share it, and the more sign ups you’ll generate. It’s going to be a loss leader anyway - so you may as well go all out. If you generate long-term mobile contacts from a free giveaway, it’ll be well worth it. 

Tweet

Tweeting about special offers can work magic. Twitter is capable of disseminating information at incredible speeds, if an idea catches the imagination of enough people. You can even use apps like Viral to hide discounts until they’ve been retweeted a certain number of time, allowing you to control that 50% discount so that it works for you, or not at all. 

Themed Games

July 4th is a time for fun and games. Why not run a trivia quiz relating to the holiday. Offer a big prize to the winner, and multiple smaller prizes for runners up.  

Partner Up

Creating partnerships is an essential part of any business. It could be with other local businesses, but with the proliferation of social media accounts and other online networks, there’s a striking new type of partnership on the marketing scene: your employees. Most employees will be willing to spread your July 4th mobile marketing campaign to their friends and family, especially if it’s a fun video or themed song. If you have 25 employees, each with a hundred friends on Facebook…well, you can do the math!

Uber Goes App-less With SMS Version

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Last month, Uber and Coding Dojo hosted a 48-hour hackathon competition in San Jose—a student and alumni challenge to generate ideas that would improve Uber’s impact on the community. The winner of the contest was TextBer, an SMS version of Uber’s popular smartphone app that will allow non-smartphone users to access the service using basic text messaging.  

The idea isn’t as passé as one might think. While it’s easy to take smartphones for granted in the age of instant-access, the TextBer team focused on people who are marginalized from services like Uber due to various circumstances.  

According to an April study by Pew Research Center, only 27% of adults over 65 have smartphones; half of all adults making less than $30,000 a year are without smart devices as well. However, many of these individuals have the ability to send text messages using their mobile devices, which is precisely what TextBer aims to capitalize on in their SMS version. 

“My grandfather has Alzheimer’s,” said Arash Namvar, one of TextBer’s developers. “…TextBer allows him to easily get an Uber ride from his house to my house. It makes me feel better because he’s safe.” 

Namvar and four other creators spent several hours brainstorming the dilemma before they decided to construct TextBer for the contest, which is currently in beta and utilizing UberX car—Uber’s lower-cost product. 

 

How it Works 

Using a desktop computer, users create an Uber account with a credit card and link their TextBer account with a specific cell phone number. To receive the service, users simply text a pickup and dropoff address to TextBer. A time estimate and quote will be texted back to the user’s cell phone, at which time they can approve the message and dispatch the driver. 

 

Going Forward

The current version of TextBer is limited to UberX vehicles and SMS messaging; however, the team of creators hopes to build more features that will benefit the visually impaired and those with disabilities.  

Other features discussed may include default home settings and common location identifiers so users wouldn’t have to type repetitive information.

SMS is an affordable alternative for service-based communications, which may grow in popularity as this SMS service moves forward through production. In addition to helping users without smartphones, this service will hopefully provide a service that makes life a little easier (and safer) for those in need of a driver; regardless of age, economic status or smartphone.  

 

 

Brand Awareness is Key Concern for Mobile Marketers, says Study

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Globally, the number of mobile phone users has surpassed the number of desktop users, which is why mobile marketing has become firmly established as the best way for businesses to reach large numbers of people. As more research is conducted into the true depth of mobile’s entrenchment in modern commercial life, the trend towards small-screen marketing becomes obvious.

A new Regalix report shows 67% of B2B marketers see spreading brand awareness via mobile as their top priority. Other high priorities for mobile marketing objectives include increasing customer engagement (62%) and boosting revenue (48%). Overall, more than half (51%) of businesses say they invest in mobile marketing tactics of some description.

That small and medium-sized businesses are turning to the affordability and convenience of mobile is hardly surprising. According to the latest research, 82% of B2B marketers report increased customer satisfaction as the principle benefit of mobile marketing. Customer engagement and improved customer service also rated highly on the participants list of benefits.  

What is so striking about this across-the-board satisfaction with mobile as a marketing channel is how rapidly it arose. More than half of those surveyed say they have been using mobile marketing for between one and two years. In this short period of time, mobile’s status within the business community has reflected its huge influence on the wider world. Marketers have seen which way the wind is blowing, and responded in kind. If you're still in doubt as to the efficiency of a good mobile marketing strategy, it's time to cast that doubt aside...

Mobile Tech & the Travel Industry: What's Hot and What's Not

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According to Euromonitor, by 2017 over 30% of online travel bookings by value will occur over mobile devices. This is thought to result from online travel companies making their apps more attractive via location services helping travelers find the nearest hotels and restaurants. Vacation booking habits have changed dramatically according to new research from BuzzCity, as there’s been a 50% increase in mobile usage by business and leisure travelers. Some 30% of these travelers use mobile devices for last-minute bookings. 

It subsequently follows that travel companies need to make certain their websites are mobile-friendly so navigation is straightforward and users can enjoy a personalized, engaging experience. Since mobile use is increasing “the norm,” travel companies that don’t capitalize on mobile friendliness will certainly lose out. Whether via mobile, laptop, or tablet, such companies must strive to create a personalized, streamlined user experience. 

Personalization is definitely key. Some 74% of online consumers admit frustration when dealing with irrelevant content, as “bringing personalization at the early stages of travel inspiration” influences browsing and subsequently purchasing decisions. 

Apps remain a vital part of the mobile device user experience, according to Google’s 2014 travel study. 

“Leisure travelers mostly book via mobile websites, while business travelers mostly book via apps – both types of booking method are still key,” the study noted. Concerning those who booked trips on a device in 2014, 45% were leisure travelers booking via a mobile site on a browser, and 55% were business travelers. 

“Getting the experience right” is also critical for travel companies in 2015 and beyond, as conversion optimization is another essential digital priority. Since so many travelers book their vacations and business trips online, there’s no room for error in regards to the booking and check out progress. Frustrating user experiences make innovative marketing strategies to drive website traffic a waste. 

Travelers increasingly want the inside scoop on a hotel or location, with the “mobile augmented reality market” expected to increase to $5.1 billion by 2016 according to e-strategy/Juniper. For example, Marriott Hotels is currently using Oculus Rift developer versions to sell honeymoon packages. It makes it possible for newly-hitched couples in New York to immediately fly to romantic destinations such as Hawaii and London. 

This year is looking to be an interesting one for the travel industry, with the “battle for bookings” comprised of much more than owning big data. It’s in the way companies interpret said data and use it to create highly-personalized, highly-convenient user experiences across all platforms.   

 

5 MMS Marketing Tactics

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MMS marketing has been around for a few years, but when it comes to launching a new product or promotion, most business still limit themselves to SMS messaging. Mobile coupons and other offers are usually plain text affairs, and the popularity of shortcodes and keywords has caused many businesses to lose sight of the bigger picture.

This is somewhat surprising given the wide availability of MMS, which allows brands to entice customers with images as well as words. If you’re interested in harnessing the power of rich media to give your mobile marketing campaign a shot in the arm, consider the following applications of MMS:

 

Show & Tell

The visual element that’s so important to advertising has taken a backseat in text message marketing. Sure, you can (and should) include a link to your website, but in the hyper-competitive world of modern marketing, the fewer steps the consumer needs to take, the better. The food industry is probably the most obvious beneficiary of image-based advertising; MMS allows you to send the 2-for-1 pizza promo deal and a tasty picture of the pie. Visual stimulus will get mouths watering far more than mere words.

 

Text to Win

Use your existing subscriber base to introduce loyal customers to new products with MMS. To generate interaction, run a competition with the product shown as the prize.

 

Text to Reserve

Again, mobile marketing tactics that use SMS messaging can be modified for MMS. If you run a restaurant, send picture messages of the latest meal specials and offer a time-limited promo deal to respondents.  

 

Text to Vote

Running a poll or survey can be more effective with MMS than with standard text messaging. Encourage subscribers to vote on which appetizer they would prefer, along with a picture of each dish. Set up keywords to represent each appetizer (WINGS/SOUP-DU-JOUR/etc) and allow respondents to vote on the nicest looking dish, or the dish they’d prefer to see on your menu. Not only will you encourage engagement by the vote, you’ll have created targeted lists of customers based on food preference.  

 

Text to Connect

Stay in touch with subscribers with the right MMS campaign and you’ll see interaction increase. As long as you offer something of value, the underlying impetus behind your campaign can simply be to remain connected with your customer base. Keep such messages to a minimum. A ‘text to connect’ picture message should only be used if you don’t have any current promos, you haven’t reached out to your contacts for a while and you can create a special offer to be included in the message.

Will Apple's Taptic Engine Make it to Mobile?

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Apple’s latest innovation is the Taptic Engine, a new feature for their smartwatch as well as the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Utilizing a research lab technique engineered 20 years ago, the technology features an electromagnetic motor that “tricks your fingers into feeling things that aren’t actually there.” This is due to the motor’s oscillation, which potentially promises a future full of smartphones and desktop trackpads where fingers are used to feel rather than touch interfaces.  

Named Force Touch, Apple has touted the technology as the "most significant new sensing capability since Multi-Touch," which foreshadows the idea of using the technology for the iPhone, etc. Its use in the MacBook trackpad, for example, presents something more sophisticated than the almost base motors used to make smartphones and game controllers vibrate.  

“Today’s Apple announcement made possible by Margaret Minsky’s lateral-force haptic texture synthesis research, 20 years ago,” former Apple designer Bret Victor wrote in a tweet. Minsky’s 1995 doctoral thesis focused on simulating texture with lateral force using a “custom software environment called Sandpaper.” Minksy discovered applying specific patterns of horizontal force to a joystick made it possible for users to “feel” assorted textures. Amplitude adjustment changed the effect, with a key point of Minksy’s work that sideways spring forces frequently feel like downward spring forces when touched by fingertips. 

 “It is, in the Apple way, very well engineered,” haptics pioneer Vincent Hayward of McGill University said of Apple’s Taptic Engine. “There’s a lot of attention to detail. It’s a very simple and very clever electromagnetic motor.” 

The potential to use the engine in a number of applications is somewhat outlined in Apple’s release notes: “When dragging a video clip to its maximum length, you’ll get feedback letting you know you’ve hit the end of the clip. Add a title and you’ll get feedback as the title snaps into position at the beginning or end of a clip. Subtle feedback is also provided with the alignment guides that appear in the Viewer when cropping clips.”

Does this mean “Bumpy Pixels” are the proverbial wave of the future? Hayward imagines a variety of possibilities. 

“It could make interaction more realistic, or useful, or entertaining, or pleasant,” he noted. “That becomes the job of the user experience designer.”

Should the Taptic Engine appear in the iPhone, the result could include keyboards where you feel the grooves in between the letters, or feel texture while skimming Instagram or playing a game. Hayward believes the iPhone potential is definitely there, it simply requires creating a motor that’s powerful and battery-efficient enough for such devices. 

“More interesting paradigms really are around the corner,” he said. “They already exist in labs. If you come to Paris, I can show you some things that you will have in phones in 10 years. Or maybe five years. Or two years, if we’re lucky.”

 

Are App Store Video Previews Worth the Investment?

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Trying to stand out from the rest of the apps for sale on the App Store presents a big challenge for app developers. The App Store currently features some 1.2 million iOS apps, with developers using screen shots and simple text to attract buyers. Videos were used to build momentum outside of the App Store, however Apple is changing that...or attempting to, anyway. 

The launch of iOS 8 meant app developers had the opportunity to upload 30-second videos to iTunes Connect, as well as other app updates and marketing materials. App Store visitors see video thumbnails, or what Apple calls poster frames, next to app screenshots. Store visitors simply have to hit ‘play’ buttons to launch a full-screen video showcasing what’s fantastic about the app.  

Videos are designed to provide visitors with a “realistic experience” regarding the app in question, and function more as demos than anything else. Music is important to the mood and theme of the video, though narrated videos and those featuring animated text and graphics are also accepted by Apple. The company does not allow personal data and real names to be used in the videos.  

This tool has been in use for nearly a year, but its effectiveness is up for debate. Creating a visually-pleasing video that really sells why an app rocks isn’t an inexpensive venture, with even basic productions very costly compared to screenshot designs. Video expense subsequently limits A/B testing for an app page, and the possibility of producing a variety of previews is limited as well. Screenshots, in comparison, are easy to create and allow app developers to experiment with different styles to determine what their target audience likes most.  

Another problem with app preview videos is the constantly-evolving nature of the industry. Even the coolest, most professionally-executed videos can become outdated in an instant, forcing developers to produce more general, less creative videos that “justify investment” and are essentially evergreen. This in combination with Apple’s video guidelines and rules presents a serious challenge to developers. 

Videos even spell a bit of doom in regard to app page conversion rates. The perfect “app page experience” is one that creates a “compelling user experience.” This means the longer a user takes to decide whether they want the app or not, the more the developer has to lose. Screenshots are subsequently the better marketing tool, as they simply provide users with specific app highlights rather than a “deep exploration” of the product. The idea is to quickly convince users to install the app, not compel them to think about it.  

If a developer does decide to create a video preview for an app, it helps to focus on two or three specific features the screenshot cannot convey, refrain from mentioning discounts or seasonal offers, and ensure content is rated 4+, or appropriate for all audiences.