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January 28, 2015

Apps vs. Mobile Sites: Which is Best for Your Business

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If you’re a small business owner looking to develop your mobile marketing strategy, you might be wondering whether to engage the services of an app developer or optimize your website for mobile users. Both have distinct advantages depending on industry, audience and budget. The problem is, there’s so much conflicting advice out there, it can be tough to know which route to take. 

A 2013 Compuware survey found that 85% of consumers prefer apps to mobile websites. That’s a bit like saying diners prefer a steak to a burger. Sure, it’s more exclusive and tastier, but it’s also more expensive and not appropriate for every occasion. The proliferation of burger chains should tell you all you need to know: just because something’s ‘preferable’ doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge market for the alternative.

Deciding whether to opt for a mobile app or mobile friendly website depends on what mobile marketing tactics you plan to use, and how these feed into the rest of your strategy. Let’s hear the case for apps first:

Apps

The principal advantage of having your own mobile app is the ability to embrace the hardware and native functionality of the phone or tablet. Gyroscopes, GPS, speedometers, cameras - all these incredibly useful bits of technology are included in most modern mobile devices, and can be incorporated into the operation of your app.

Plus, apps don’t necessarily require an internet connection to run. Many apps are capable of storing data locally on the phone’s hard drive, enabling users to continue interacting with the app even when not connected to the web. Some news sites, for instance, will download all current content when there is a wifi connection, effectively storing that day’s events onto mobile devices. This content is what users will see until the app is able to reconnect.

Because of the high demand for developers, the available infrastructure and development tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and user-friendly. The major operating systems offer a huge selection of frameworks - often free to use - for developers to get started.

Mobile Friendly Sites

It’s easier than it used to be to get your own app - but it’s still prohibitively expensive for many small businesses. The maintenance and development costs go up with every platform you want your app to work on. With a mobile-optimized website, there is only one version of the content you need to maintain. This makes managing your mobile marketing strategy a lot easier.

Your ultimate goal is to drive more traffic. In some cases, a mobile site will do this more effectively than an app. Think about whether you want to use mobile to open up new revenue streams or improve loyalty initiatives. Depending on your objectives, a cross-channel site may be more appropriate for you mobile marketing strategy.

January 22, 2015

The SMS Modification Craze

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Remember flying in the 80s? Long haul flights seemed to take days. There was only one movie and three screens in the entire cabin, so if you were wheezing a bit too much at Shanghai Surprise for the fifth time, everyone knew about it. To hear the audio you had to shell out $4 for those stethoscopic ‘headsets’ that were barely-glorified tin-cans-on-strings (no really, kids – they were nothing more than hollow tubes that plugged into two tiny speakers in the armrest). You could smoke.  

The funny thing was, nobody complained. It was as if flying through the air incredibly and winding up thousands of miles away in a few hours was enough for people. They didn’t need anything else. 

Like aviation in the 80s, SMS in the 90s was a primitive affair by today’s standards – if by ‘primitive’ you mean ‘the sudden ability to instantly transmit the written word to people around the world.’ 

For much of the 90s and 00s, text messaging was impressive enough to flourish without extra bells and whistles. Rapid advances in technology allied with free market forces soon put paid to that. These days, the new normal is modified, souped up, pimped out text messages adorned with fancy new skins and non-QWERTY keyboards capable of sending anything from emojis to rap lyrics.  

It should be noted at this point that SMS is SMS; the protocol hasn’t changed a jot in twenty years, only the window dressing. In many cases, ‘SMS modification’ really means ‘SMS replacement’ in the form of messaging apps. The appeal of these apps lies largely in their ability to provide users with a bespoke messaging experience.

Among the most popular of these is Chomp SMS, an easy-to-use, customizable app that lets users create their own themes and download custom font packs as they tire of their current look. 

GoSMS Pro is a similar idea but with a much bigger palette from which to work. It allows users to completely overhaul their visuals with new icons, fonts, animations, backgrounds and text bubbles. It also comes with a raft of non-visual features, including a private storage space for storing locked conversations and a text message backup service. 

Not all messaging apps are designed for purely aesthetic reasons. Some, like TextSecure, prevent screenshots of messages being taken and uses end-to-end encryption, thwarting prying eyes (whether criminal or federal!). 

The trouble with these apps is that both parties have to be using them in order to reap the full benefits. Unlike standard SMS messaging, which everyone in the world with a phone has access to, the playing field is not level. For instance, Strings - the app that lets you recall text messages you regret sending - is of no use unless both parties are running the app; two people agreeing to send messages with the app is a tacit acknowledgement that there is a lack of trust in the relationship. This will be the major stumbling block for Strings (and others) as they try to grow.

Our favorite SMS messaging apps are those with objectives no loftier than bringing a smile to the face. There are a plethora of text messaging apps designed to add some levity to your conversations with friends and family. Here are some of the very best:

Crumbles. Sends messages in the form of cut-ups from famous movies, one word at a time. You type the message, hit send and the recipient sees an array of great characters - from Doc Brown to Darth Vader - deliver each word. Hard to describe, but loads of fun once you try it.

PopKey. Leverages the power of Apple’s GIF-supporting Messages app to send any number of GIFS from a huge library of possibilities. Also enormous fun!

RapKey. Far and away our favorite messaging app right now, RapKey sends hip hop lyrics instead of boring prose. With a cool, 8-bit influenced retro interface, it works by giving you a series of categories to choose from - talking to your spouse, griping about money etc - and a list of couplets to scroll through. Find the most appropriate rhymes for your situation and make text messaging more fun!

 

 

 

January 05, 2015

Mobile Marketing for Finance Products and Services

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It’s near impossible to argue the benefits mobile marketing offers a wide variety of industries, including finance. Over a third of major U.S. bank customers regularly turn to mobile banking, and as such it’s essential that marketers take full advantage of what this ever-evolving channel provides. Chase has some 12 million customers moving an astounding $6.5 billion through mobile platforms each month, and that’s just one example. 

“For us, mobile is a critical channel, the fastest growing channel we have, and one that uniquely makes banking a lot more convenient,” says Robert Tas, Managing Director, Head of Digital Marketing at JP Morgan Chase. Tas understands full well the convenience mobile offers customers. “If I don’t have to get into my car and drive to an ATM to deposit a check, you could have saved me 30 minutes to an hour,” he says. 

Let’s take a deeper look at the many benefits mobile marketing offers the finance industry: 

Customer Loyalty

Mobile marketing functions as a true gift to finance, as late-arriving low-balance alerts are just one of the ways to create seriously unhappy customers. A simple text message notification warning customers of their account situation, however? The loyalty such messages provide banks is invaluable. 

And that’s just one way mobile ensures bank customer loyalty. SMS notifications regarding shady transactions is yet another way, as fraud and low-balance notifications are highly time-sensitive. Text also wins over email like nobody’s business, as send-to-open time for texts is 14 minutes, and email 6.4 hours. That’s one enormous difference. 

Increased Communication

Nearly 90% of American adults own mobile phones, and 75% of those send and receive text messages quite regularly. And unlike apps, text messages are compatible with every mobile device under our sun, and most open and read every single text that comes their way—95% of incoming texts are read, compared to 10% of emails. It’s therefore not a stretch to say text messaging is the best and most reliable form of mass communication currently in existence. 

Return on Investment

For companies still on the proverbial fence in regards to mobile marketing, take note: texting equals profit. The technology’s cheap and easy to use, and the average SMS user makes more transactions, has bigger “basket size,” and revolves balances, resulting in that much more income for card issuers. As a bonus, the cost of sending promotions via text is much lower than other marketing means. 

As Tracy Weber, the managing director for Consumer Interest and Mobile Banking in North America for Citi Bank notes, “To be able to delight them [customers] and provide things that really add value to their lives absolutely can go a long way in how they feel about this [mobile] category.” 

It follows that the only question left to bankers who haven’t utilized this strategy is, “Why ever not?” 

 

 

December 30, 2014

What Will Happen to Mobile Marketing in 2015?

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Change is inevitable (with the possible exception of vending machines), so what will become of mobile marketing in the coming year? Let’s take a look at what continues to dominate, what will change, and perhaps make a prediction or two: 

The Visual is Essential

One thing’s for darn certain: visuals aren’t going anywhere. The competition for consumer attention continues to gain momentum, and as such photos, videos and infographics are necessary to every piece of content created. A recent survey by the Nonprofit Times found nonprofits rank higher than for-profit organizations in content marketing strategies, with some 63 percent reporting current work on visual content as a big part of strategy. 

Personalization Increases

In-the-know marketers utilize analytics to create successful marketing campaigns, and in 2015 businesses will no doubt study customer behavior and interests in depth to craft customized content marketing strategies to stay ahead of the competition. Businesses are learning how to make adjustments with each new social media update, blog, etc. Measuring efforts will be easier than ever before in 2015 thanks to a number of new analytics tools. 

Consumers served content tailored to personal tastes will prevail in 2015 over marketing efforts that barely rings any bells. This includes blogs, guest blogs, articles and tweets, as brands have realized the value of personalizing content so as to reach different demographics rather than posting the same blog or tweet across all social media platforms. 

Mobile Friendliness: A Must

The mobile device surpassed the PC in usage for the first time in 2014, and brands are making adjustments to ensure content marketing efforts work for smaller screens…and shorter attention spans. Content designed for mobile devices, including location-based search terms, will be incredibly important in 2015. 

“Marketers have been advised to create and tailor different formats of content with customized copy for highly-fragmented marketing channels from TV to print to various social media platforms in order to reach their target audience,” says Pam Didner, a global integrated marketing strategist for the Intel Corporation. “It’s the right thing to do.” 

Interactive Applications for Product Storytelling Becomes Integral

Interactive storytelling will become an “integral part” of product demonstration in 2015, particularly at events such as conferences and expos. Brands are finding ways to use interactive 3D product models among other meticulously-crafted content to attract customers and give them a proverbial taste of the product without having said product on premise. 

These are just some of the ways mobile marketing will grow and change in the new year….

 

 

December 25, 2014

Amex Takes Mobile to Another Level

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It’s no secret that people are “addicted” to their smartphones, and that mobile advertising has eclipsed many traditional ad forms as a way to reach consumers. American Express believed the “quality and content” of ads was “not keeping pace,” resulting in a partnership with Zumobi that began in 2012. 

Zumobi offers “the very best mobile apps and advertising experiences through an array of advanced platforms for media companies.” The company’s mobile campaigns have aimed to “shake up the mobile platform norm,” and create wondrous experiences for smartphone users customized to interests and spending habits. This was accomplished via social media, video, and user-generated content. Campaigns also created “tailored timelines” of images for each user, who may also put together personalized panoramas geared towards interests such as dining, electronics, shopping, and travel. 

“We are thrilled to be tapping into Zumobi’s incredible creativity and expertise in developing innovative mobile ads that make full use of smartphones’ native capabilities across their Brand Integration (ZBi) ad platform,” Louis Paskalis, Vice President of Global Media, Content Development and Mobile Marketing, American Express, remarked at the time of the partnership.  “They are enabling us to truly bring The Membership Effect campaign to life by creating a highly interactive and personalized brand experience for card members.”

Zumobi CEO Ken Willner also noted that “this campaign is really about creating personalized and meaningful connections between American Express and its card members.”

Another appealing aspect of the AMEX-Zumobi partnership is providing cardholders with exclusive discounts and deals to restaurants and retail stores when they sync their cards with their Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare accounts. The companies elected comedian Aziz Ansari to star in their television ads, which likely enticed young people. 

American Express made a smart decision by harnessing the power of mobile ads and offering members the chance to enjoy even more discounts and opportunities when using their cards on mobile platforms. Marketing Land predicted a mobile advertising spike of between $2.5 and $3.0 billion dollars in 2012, and that number has only increased.

AMEX, Zumobi and similar companies continue to find new ways of attracting consumers through mobile means, something that will undoubtedly reap serious rewards. If in doubt, simply look around—how many people are immersed in their smartphones? Phones are no longer simply for calling and texting; smartphone use now shapes how consumers shop and how credit card companies, retailers, and other businesses appeal to their target audiences.

 

 

December 24, 2014

Stocking-Sized Gadgets for Less Than $200

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There’s nothing better than finding an unexpected electronic item in your Christmas stocking. You had no idea you’d been so good this year. If you still haven’t sent your wish list to the North Pole, cast your eye over these little beauties. They’re smart, they’re affordable, and they won’t test the seams of a small stocking:

 

AAXA P2 Jr. Pico Projector ($198)

This pocket-sized projector hasn’t sacrificed a thing in the name of portability or affordability. Simply plug in a USB or microSD card with the content you want to project and the 55-lumen light output will deliver compelling, vibrant 720p videos to your wall. Battery life is around 90 minutes, and it’s compatible with all major brands of smartphone and popular file formats.

 

Cogito Classic Smartwatch ($180)

The Cogito Classic connects via bluetoth to both Android and Apple devices. It brings notifications – whether email, social media, text or phone call - straight to your wrist. But what’s even better is the Cogito’s ability to control your music, trigger your camera and find your phone. For anyone who carries their phone in a bag or hard-to-reach pocket, it’s the perfect quick-glance solution. Unlike many smartwatches, this doesn’t require a daily recharge - the batteries last for months. And it tells the time.

Orbotix Sphero 2.0 Smart Ball ($130)

The Sphero is a plastic ball full of electronics and sensors. Using a smartphone or tablet, you can make the ball spin, swim, dance, chase the cat – anything fun-sounding that you would ordinarily have to physically move the ball to achieve. It comes with a couple of jump ramps which are pretty thrilling to hit at top speed.

NuForce Mobile Music Pump ($60)

The amp in your smartphone isn’t powerful enough to support the highest quality headphones available. For audiophiles, this portable headphone amplifier is the perfect solution. The size of a matchbox, NuForce’s Mobile Music Pump gives you clarity and increased volume, whilst limiting distortion and noise.

There you have it. The best in cute, affordable, stocking-sized gadgets for the last minute Christmas shopper. So what are you waiting for? It’s Christmas Eve! Get out there and find some of these bits of kit! And Happy Holidays!

December 16, 2014

Here’s the Big Brand Proof that Mobile Marketing Tactics Really Work

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In recent years, mobile marketing has grown in its influence upon corporate marketing spend. It is currently only about 1% of the total amount spent on advertising, but times are changing. Studies performed by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch have predicted that mobile advertising spend in the United States will increase from $3.6 billion in 2011 to $18.3 billion in 2015. The reason: several Big Brands have jumped into the mobile marketing game, and these businesses are seeing some terrific ROI.

 

  • BMW. In early 2014, BMW began an MMS campaign to send pictures and video, as well as text messages to their customers, inviting them to purchase customized snow tires. Their conversion rate increased over 30%.

 

  • American Express. AMEX developed an interactive user experience for customers using smartphones. American Express members can create a customized “panorama,” relating their lifestyle interests from dining and travel to shopping and sports. The company then utilized the data they gathered not only find special offers for their customers, but they deepened their relationship with customers in the process.

 

  • Dunkin Donuts. This well-known pastry provider started to use SMS texts to drive sales, offering coupons to the customers through their mobile phones. Store traffic increased 20%.

 

  • Harley Davidson. Late last year, Harley Davidson used a mobile marketing campaign to promote their version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” through Route 66’s mobile club and a mobile social media campaign. Holiday dealer traffic swelled, and sale of helmets increased two and a half times.

 

  • Nissan. With the mobile ads they created for their Nissan Leaf model, Nissan showed customers “how far you can drive on a dollar.” This effective strategy caused mobile users to share the mobile ads, and drove up customer awareness about their products.

 

  • McDonald’s. Invented the “Restaurant Finder” app to help their customers find late-night locations. Mobile users responded by downloading the app more than 1.3 million times, with an estimated ROI of two to one.

 

  • Samsung. By sending targeted messages to people who have purchased the latest iPhone, Samsung Mobile has found an excellent way to reach savvy mobile users. They offered these individuals $300 to trade in their iPhone for a new Samsung device.

 

  • Verizon. Using QR codes and Facebook, Verizon enacted a competition to win a smartphone. If the customer who shared the Facebook post had a friend who bought their own Verizon phone, the original customer would get a free phone. The promotion generated $35,000 in sales for an ad campaign that only cost about a thousand dollars.

With a well-planned, well-timed strategy, any business can improve their bottom line with a good mobile marketing campaign. And while mobile marketing has a great deal of room to grow, this will not always be the case. The time is now to get a foothold in the mobile advertising market: take a page from the playbook of these Big Brands. Develop a simple mobile marketing campaign and track how effective the ROI in this realm can be. 

December 15, 2014

The Ten Best Mobile Marketing Campaigns of 2014

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2014 has seen some terrific mobile marketing campaigns. By utilizing both social media sites and all of the functionality of mobile phones, we’ve seen some innovative ways that advertisers have increased their reach with mobile users. Here are the ten best campaigns of 2014:

1. NASA’s #GlobalSelfie engages users to create a worldwide mosaic of photos.

Nominated for its use of multiplatform social media for engagement, NASA invited users to take selfies that they would organize and compile into a global mosaic on Earth Day 2014. Using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Google+, NASA urged users to include the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. Users could also access the event directly on Facebook, Flickr and Google+.

2. White House’s #getcovered spreads the word about Obamacare.

The social media campaign from the White House received a huge response from users, even in 2014. #Getcovered allowed users to tweet their personal stories regarding securing health insurance, and utilized a Storify slideshow to enhance their website.

3. NPR’s company page on LinkedIn provides rich content for workers.

By offering LinkedIn users exactly what they’re there to receive, NPR increased its brand awareness. Users can access NPR’s company page right from their mobile phones to get information about how to improve their career and to increase their knowledge of their industry. Many of their posts are educational and inspiring, and have tremendous reach.

4. Nissan launches a multiplatform B2B campaign with comedy and celebrity.

Nissan’s digital and social marketing campaign promoted its rugged commercial vans, and achieved a wonderful response from the companies it reached. The ads, entitled “Tough Love,” featured rock-and-roller Bret Michaels getting in touch with his softer side. The juxtaposition proved a hit, and garnered terrific ROI for the car company.

5. Nivea’s Bluetooth-enabled print ad helps to track your children at the beach.

Nivea launched an innovative print campaign that featured a removable protector strip that can be placed on a child’s wrist. An app called Protégé then allows parents to track where their kids are by locating the protector strip using Bluetooth 4.0 technology. Very handy for beach trips, indeed.

6. Hershey’s unveils a sponsored mobile data opportunity with a video campaign.

In an astoundingly simple way to get mobile users engaged, Hershey offers to pay for part of your mobile data when you watch their Scharffen Berger brand commercial. The sponsored content, offered by AT&T and partners through advertisements on apps like Pandora, has been well-received by mobile users.

7. Movie theatres incorporate mobile-enabled interactive ads into their lobbies and on screen.

Thousands of movie theatres have enabled moviegoers to interact using the camera on their mobile phones. The visual search platform Slyce teamed up with Screenvision to enhance the audience experience when going to the movies. Consumers have eaten up the ads, downloading games and purchasing film-inspired merchandise due to these effective interactive advertisements.

8. Pepsi – London #LiveForNow turns a bus stop into a wild and weird space.

PepsiMax created a bus shelter ad that made it appear as though crazy events were taking place. The entire experience was recorded and converted into an advertisement (that consequently went viral). Watch the advertisement here: http://youtu.be/Go9rf9GmYpM.

9. Red Cross collects donations after Hurricane Sandy with an SMS short code.

In an unprecedented example of human kindness, people around the world donated money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy through the Red Cross’ donation efforts. Donors texted “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10, which billed mobile users directly through their cell providers. 20% of all of the donations received by the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief came through text message donations.

10. Samsung’s #Oscars Celebri-tweet dominates Twitter.

Everyone who is anyone heard about Ellen’s celebri-tweet during the Oscars. Very few knew that it was a ploy, created by Samsung, to increase brand awareness among the viewers of the awards program. Probably the most brilliant mobile marketing stroke to date, the famous photo was shared and shared – causing viewers to create their own selfies and engage with the brand as well. 

The key to good mobile marketing is to consider all of the ways that you can roll out your campaign: the capabilities of devices, the variability, and how to incorporate every platform available. Then, keep it as simple as possible. All of the above examples do just that, by simplifying the strategy while increasing customers’ awareness of the brand.

December 10, 2014

Why Are Mobile Marketing Budgets Increasing?

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We see a lot in these pages about the growth of mobile marketing. But just how fast is that growth happening? And are the same trends expected in future? 

The more the industry swells its ranks and revenues, the more data we have to go on. A recent Tatango survey looked at mobile budget trends and forecasts and compared the results with previous mobile marketing metrics. So, are budgets going up in accordance with the mobile explosion? 

The answer is yes. Very much so. Some 44% of marketers said they were increasing their mobile budgets during 2014 – up from a little over 42% in 2013. Mobile is proving particularly popular with startups, who can devise creative mobile marketing campaigns on relatively few dollars.

Other surveys report similar upward trends. According to Gartner, digital marketing budgets are expected to increase by 8% in 2015. Exactly half of all respondents stated an intention to increase digital spending next year.

The message from businesses remains remarkably consistent. Gartner’s research was conducted with the participation of 315 companies located in the United States, Canada and the UK. They represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue, working in six disparate industries: hospitality, tech, manufacturing, financial services, retail and media. The bigger the firm, the greater the marketing budget as a percentage of revenue; companies with revenues in excess of $5 billion report spending, on average, 11% of revenue on marketing. For companies generating between $500 million and $1 billion, marketing spend was 9.2%. 

And really, those dollars are what it all comes down to. Understanding how to exploit capital to it’s fullest potential is the primary challenge for cash-strapped startups. That’s why having an effective CFO is so important, and it goes a long way towards explaining the huge popularity of mobile marketing tactics like coupons and time-limited discounts, which are easily and affordably disseminated via text message.

The modern marketer is performing a delicate balancing act. Each strand of their campaign must be woven together into a satisfying whole. Integration is everything. The resultant consumer experience is nudging users towards a more self-service buying model, which means businesses can reduce traditional sales-led budgets without sacrificing quality. Marketing budgets in general – and mobile marketing budgets in particular – are the primary beneficiaries of this new model. If you’re yet to move ad spend into a coherent mobile marketing strategy, it might be time to start…

December 09, 2014

Ethiopian Airlines Goes Mobile

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Ethiopian Airlines happens to be the largest and most profitable airline company on the African continent, and recently announced plans to become a mobile-only operation. The company’s Mobile Short Message Service (SMS) information system launched at the end of November 2014, and provides customers with easy access to flight information and cargo tracking.

Customers simply send a mobile short code SMS text to the 8611 messaging number to receive cargo information and check flight status. Part of Ethiopian Airlines’ ‘Mobility’ project, customers can access vital information instantly while on the road. The Mobility project is designed so customers can perform transactions directly from their mobile devices, whether booking flights, checking in, choosing seats and more.

The Mobility campaign also makes it possible for those welcoming passengers on Ethiopian flights to to check exact arrival times of flights by texting  8611 with “f” followed by the flight number or “r” followed by the expected route. Cargo customers may track shipments by texting  “c” followed by their Air Way Bill number of shipment. Such customers no longer have to visit the Ethiopian Airlines Cargo terminal before the shipment arrives, and texting “i” or “help” accesses system guidelines. 

The airline is also working to further streamline their customer service experience by adding more features to their mobile SMS service. 

“Ethiopian is first and foremost a customer service organization,” says Tewolde Gebremariam, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines. “We are continuously looking at ways and means of availing to our customers the best possible travel experience both on the ground and on- board. In today’s digital era, customers want to have access to real-time and personalized information at the tip of their fingers using mobile devices. The launching of this SMS service is only the beginning of a grandiose plan to use a new system called “Mobility” which is mobile digital channels for enhancing customer experience.” 

Ethiopian Airlines received the Passenger Choice award for the Best Airline in Africa in August 2014 following a highly-extensive survey of passengers in the industry. A global Pan-African carrier, Ethiopian currently serves 84 international destinations on five continents. Current aircraft technology, including B777s and B787s, is used on the airline’s some 200 daily flights.

Will Ethiopian succeed in becoming a mobile-only operation? And if so, will other airlines follow suit? In today’s increasingly mobile-driven market, it’s entirely possible, and could up the customer service convenience factor considerably.