Culture

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September 12, 2014

Facebook is Converting 100m Africans Per Month

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The African continent is signing up to Facebook in droves, with 100 million users joining the social network every month. Most exciting for mobile marketing campaign managers is the fact that 80% of those users are joining via smartphones. This is indicative of a rapidly expanding mobile marketplace in emerging economies, as smartphone adoption in many African nations outstrips desktop adoption.

In part, this explosion has been driven by a deal inked between Facebook and cellular networks which ‘zero rates’ the service. This means data used by accessing Facebook does not count towards bills or data limits. Despite drawing some criticism from net neutrality advocates, the move has undoubtedly helped emerging economies in countries like Nigeria and Kenya compete; companies across Africa are reaching new, global audiences that were hitherto tough to crack.

This is just the beginning of what looks set to be a connectivity revolution in a continent historically beset with infrastructural problems. Some researchers are predicting mobile web use will increase 20-fold over the next five years. That’s double the predicted rate of growth in the rest of the world.

The relative affordability of, say, an iPhone compared to an Apple desktop computer is allowing citizens of developing countries to engage with the online world, and businesses to grow more quickly as their local audience builds. The declining cost of data, alongside faster transmission speeds, is improving communication in some of the remotest parts of the world, with sub-Saharan Africa undergoing a mobile digital revolution. 

It’s not just the low cost of recent generations of smartphone that suits these markets. Smartphones don’t need to be physically connected - either to network or electricity cables – to the same degree as desktop computers. This convenience and portability is allowing a whole new kind of mobile consumer to take advantage of internet access. 

Recent research from mobile tech firm Ericsson predicts voice call traffic in the region will double over the next five years. By the end of this year, there are expected to be more than 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also says that 70% of users in the countries studies browse the web on mobile devices, compared with just 6% who use desktop computers.

Analysts say the Ericsson research confirms mobile’s dominance. In a recent TED talk on technology in Africa, the editor of South Africa’s Stuff magazine said:

"Africa is a mobile-only continent. There never was a landline infrastructure to begin with, apart from urban areas. Mobile has allowed anyone to have a phone in places that were previously impassable and uncontactable. It has also been enabled, from a business perspective, by prepaid payments that handily remove the equally widespread legacy problem in that very few people have banks accounts. It really is that technology leapfrog the industry likes to talk about."

 

September 11, 2014

Apple Tightens Consumer Privacy Regulations

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Much has been made in the media of consumer data gathered by search engines, and the potential breaches of privacy such activity entails. Less frequently discussed is the issue of what app developers should and shouldn’t do with users personal information, but Apple has preempted concerns by tightening its privacy rules regarding health apps. 

The new rules were announced ahead of the iOS 6 launch this month. Apple has told app developers using their new HealthKit software that they must not sell any personal data to advertisers. Apple hopes the move will keep concerns surrounding privacy at bay, as the tech giant moves into the health data industry.

Health data is not fully regulated by the law, which makes Apple’s unilateral decision to crack down on privacy breaches all the more interesting. Their revised iOS developer license agreement tells developers using the HealthKit interface that they “must not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit APIs to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers”.

In addition, the agreement states:

“Your application must not access the HealthKit APIs unless it is primarily designed to provide health and/or fitness services, and this usage is clearly evident in your marketing text and user interface.”

The launch of HealthKit was announced in June. The software, which gathers data on health metrics such as blood pressure and heart rate, reflects a growing market for health tech tools like wearables. Consumers can choose from a plethora of apps to track their vital signs, calorie intake and burn, diet and exercise, but despite the large amounts of biological and personal data collected by such tools, many users aren’t cognizant of how much information they are giving up.

Apple’s tightened regulations go as far as barring developers who violate the terms by selling health related consumer information to advertisers. The rules state that developers using HealthKit can collect data, but can’t sell it to “advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers.’ If user consent is obtained, developers are allowed to share data with third parties for medical research purposes only. 

The health industry has been trying all manner of ways to use mobile technology to the benefit of patients. In Scotland, SMS messaging is being used to help smokers quit and drinkers cut down, and app developers have flooded the market with variations of fitness trackers and calorie counters.

 

 

September 10, 2014

How Americans Use Text Messaging

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According to the most recent Pew research, 90% of adults have a cell phone of some kind, and 58% have a smartphone. Nearly a third of all cell phone owners describe their device as ‘something they can’t imagine living without.’

And the thing they can’t live without most of all is SMS. Texting is the most commonly used non-voice application of American mobile phones. Previous Pew research indicated that 73% of adult cell phone owners use the text messaging feature on their phone regularly. For under 30s, that percentage is closer to 100, with twentysomethings sending or receiving an average of 87.7 text messages per day. 

Go younger still – to the under-24 category – and you start to wonder how the ‘youth of today’ gets anything done. According to the research, 97% of 18-24 year olds use text messaging, and the number of daily SMS messages send or received by individuals in this group is, on average, 109.5 – twenty-three times that of the baby boomers. The median texter in the 18-24 demographic sends or receives 50 texts per day. A quarter of them report sending or receiving more than 100 texts per day, and 12% claim to send or receive more than 200 messages on an average day. 

Using the Data

Having a clearer understanding of texting habits will help you devise a more complete, rounded mobile marketing strategy. It’s essential to integrate your mobile and email campaigns so they benefit from one another. An email/text one-two punch can really drive home your message, and both channels provide users with a way to engage directly with your business. How can you achieve this?

Well, SMS is ideal for short, time-sensitive communications. We know most recipients read texts within minutes of receiving them, so there’s no better way to issue a limited time special offer, or notify people of last minute alteration to schedules. Email, on the other hand, is perfect for sending denser content with more detailed information.

Remember too that 43% of consumers access their emails via a mobile device, so both channels are easily cross-referenced. This single point of access promises to be a major driver of consumer engagement as smartphone penetration continues unabated. Don’t let your next mobile marketing campaign do without it.

 

September 09, 2014

Texting at the Movies

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Smartphones may have made our lives easier, but for screenwriters, the proliferation of mobile devices has made compelling, modern-day storytelling that little bit harder. Look around most public places in 2014 and a fair percentage of the ‘characters’ are completely immersed in their phone, heads bowed, the faint glow of the screen barely illuminating their frowning concentration. They’re getting a lot of work done, but it’s not exactly the stuff of nail-biting drama for anyone watching. 

This mass migration of human interaction from lips to touchscreens has thrown up some significant challenges for Hollywood. To gauge the impact this has on our daily lives, one only has to think about how many movies set before the 21st Century would be ruined by modern technology. It’s for precisely this reason that many filmmakers have turned their attentions to historical dramas, in which characters have to carry parchments on long, arduous journeys in order to get a message through. The dramatic possibilities are inherent. Will the letter make it? Will it be intercepted? Is it really from whom it purports to be from? None of these questions are an issue with SMS messaging.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t done it’s best to meet the challenge head on. For much of the noughties, movies took a literal approach to depicting SMS, opting for close ups of phone screens, often with comically large text, and cut with equally laughable reaction shots.

More recently, the modern revamp of Sherlock made some improvements to the depiction of SMS, with the content of text messages hovering around the senders and/or recipients. The typography bears no relation to any smartphone font we know of. By using this technique, the film has future-proofed itself, and will not date as badly as those mid-noughties, pre-smartphone movies filled with antiquated cell phones that tend to compromise the suspension of disbelief. 

Certainly, it's a lot better than most ceulloloid depictions of the internet. Copyright issues mean few movies can use Google (The Internship excepted), which leads to absurd inventions like 'Finder'Spyder', a made-up search engine used in lots of tv and big screen production. 

August 22, 2014

Germany Harnessing 'Silent Texts' to Locate Cell Phones

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In Germany, police and intelligence agencies have been using ‘silent’ SMS messages to locate cell phones without their owners’ knowledge. Details of the covert practice emerged after a parliamentarian expressed alarm at the escalation of secret text dispatches; the government responded with an admission that 125,000 such messages were sent during the first six months of 2013 alone. That number has increased this year, with 150,000 silent SMS messages sent between January and June. 

The text messages are not displayed on cell phones, but when sent en masse to a single device, can be used to precisely locate the user and observe their movements within a network. Parliamentary approval is required before each individual can be tracked.

But Andrej Hunko of the Left party raised alarm at what he termed ‘spy-SMS’ messages, prompting the government to reveal the number of German residents who had been targeted by the dispatches. According to the figures, domestic intelligence agency VfS had sent nearly 53,000 secret texts during the first half of 2014. Federal police had sent almost 69,000, and the Federal Criminal Office – Germany’s investigative police – had sent more than 34,000. The figures did not include silent text messages sent by foreign intelligence agents, customs officials or the army’s intelligence service.

However, the government did disclose details about surveillance, admitting that the Federal Criminal Office – or BKA – had eavesdropped on 704 separate calls, emails or text messages during 2014 so far.

The international community has expressed some surprise about the revelations, especially in light of the recent scandal regarding U.S. surveillance of world leaders. Surveillance is understandably a very sensitive issue in Germany, and many feel government has acted hypocritically with the use of clandestine SMS tracking technology. We await the full figures for 2014 with interest…

August 14, 2014

Is Beacon Technology Going to Change the Retail World?

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Beacon technology incorporates the power of consumer-targeted advertising with location-based mobile marketing by installing small pieces of low-cost hardware within the shelves of retail stores. When customers enter a store with Bluetooth-enabled mobiles or tablets, the business can send customized advertisements directly to their devices thereby enhancing their shopping experience. While Beacons have only recently begun to appear in shops, the technology itself is already part of Apple devices since the 3rd generation of their products. And reports from the tech blogs are starting to take notice of the Beacon technology’s capabilities.

Mass Potential

Apple’s beacon system, called iBeacon, is automatically installed in all devices that use their current operating system, iOS 7. This means that, even if a mobile user knows little about how the iPad or iPhone works, they still have the infrastructure in place to benefit from Beacon technology. There could be as many as 190 million iOS devices currently capable of accessing iBeacons. Undoubtedly, this number showcases the unbridled potential of Beacon technology.

Current Barriers

There is a bit of a curve to this technology, though. An almost equal amount of the mobile and tablet markets use non-Apple products, which are less integrated with the Beacon infrastructure. Because the operating systems of non-Apple products tend to require updated versions of their OS, mobile marketers cannot rely upon these technologies for their Beacon-based advertising strategies.

Furthermore, Beacon technology requires mobile users to “opt in,” in a manner of speaking. First of all, customers will need to download the appropriate app for the business in question, and then they will have to activate it before entering the store. In addition, Beacons require ranging technology to function, which works in proximity of the devices using a mobile’s Bluetooth. The mobile will not receive any pushes or notifications, however, if a phone’s location is cloaked – the customer must allow the appropriate app to access its location for the Beacon to function properly.

The Future

In truth, Beacon technology is only beginning to get a foothold in the physical advertising space, and once it gains some traction, it will be here to stay. The unrealized potential of mobile location-based marketing is burgeoning, just waiting to be deployed. In the near future, we will witness customers taking advantage of flash sales and contactless payment options, as well as living in automated homes where temperature and lighting may be adjusted directly from mobile devices. The rule books have yet to be written. We do know that the key to capitalizing on Beacon technology will rely on corporations’ creativity and connectedness: sharing real-time information with customers to a mutual end and appealing to the changing temperaments of these individuals, all the while motivating these loyal customers in a direction – according to when and where – they want them to be. 

August 09, 2014

Six of the Best: Reasons to Use SMS

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Despite the appeal of other emerging forms of communication, text messaging via SMS is still the most popular choice for mobile users. Four billion people around the globe use SMS, sending upwards of a trillion messages each year. Due to its popularity it’s no wonder that mobile marketers agree: pound for pound, SMS allows for the furthest reach to the widest audience. But why is SMS the best selection for a mobile marketing campaign? Here are several reasons:

1)Popularity

As mentioned above, SMS is the most popular form of mobile communication. At least 70% of the world’s populace uses a mobile phone, and of those subscribers, 80% of them use text. With reach like that, mobile marketers will want to incorporate SMS into their marketing strategy.

2)Permanence

First off, text messages can be sent at anytime to anyone. Even if the receiver is offline, they will receive the SMS once they are back online. Messages do not expire, and will be read as soon as the recipient is free to read it.

Furthermore, SMS users tend to remain SMS users. Many different communications platforms have been developed since the late 20th century: fax, email, IM, as well as the more recent platforms of apps, multimedia messaging, Facebook and Twitter. Consumers choose text messages due to their widespread availability and the low cost. Also, practically everyone knows how to send and receive text messages. For years, SMS shall go head-to-head with the mobile user’s other most common type of communication (voice calling).

3)Capability

SMS-style messages have numerous capabilities. They can include binary data, pictures, music, logos, animations, and coupons/vouchers. Information can be exchanged between applications. And in fairly recent news, SMS is able to utilize mWallet services – an invaluable asset to have in today’s mobile marketing landscape.

4)Dialogue

Text messages are a two-way street, allowing for back and forth communication between users. From a marketing standpoint, this paves the way for feedback, comments, and join-in promotions using SMS. Many marketing campaigns ask users to send them photos within messages. In one example, BBC radio ran a picture-messaging campaign for the MDA that was wildly successful – to the tune of over forty-thousand picture messages in a 24-hour period!

5)Payments

SMS promotes the use of reverse payments, where the recipient may opt to pay for the message. In the case of valuable mobile content, this is the most common method to receive payment. Also, charities have utilized SMS’ payment capabilities, providing a channel and a means for eager donors.

6)Economy

Certainly, bulk SMS messages can be costly, but they are cheaper than the Post Office. Also, since the messages are short, they are more likely to gain the attention of busy mobile users. And clever retailers can do a lot using only 160 characters.

Perhaps one day there will be a way for advertisers to break through the noise, creating targeted cross-platform advertisements that reach every mobile user available. Since SMS is the most widespread and powerful mobile marketing tool currently available, be sure to incorporate text messaging strategies into your marketing campai

August 06, 2014

The Future of mHealth Technology

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Every day the technology of our mobile devices continues to improve, and every day there are new applications for it. The healthcare industry is poised to take advantage of this technology by providing access and mobility to its customers around the world.

This particular market called the mobile health market, or mHealth, has yet to reach its full potential. Currently, doctors and patients can interact through texts, email, and apps, as well as through sharing pictures and video. But this is just the beginning. Mobile devices have given us opportunities for real-time communication and collaboration, which is a boon for the medical industry. Also, there are increasing opportunities for improving access to quality care through mobile access (as soon as the powers that be approve these mobile accessibility apps). In the meantime, healthcare organizers are looking for short term solutions.

With over 140 million smartphone users in the U.S. – and another 60 million projected users in the next five years – mobile marketers are looking to take advantage of the need for mHealth technology improvement and engagement.

So far, customer desire for mHealth technology has had a slow takeoff. Only about 10% of the U.S. population has ever used these technologies. In addition, there are many obstacles for mHealth to grow: the traditional channels of medicine include solutions for banking, insurance, and travel, whereas mHealth must find new solutions to these hurdles.

On the other hand, several new technologies have managed to appeal to the public. Digital hospital rooms, virtual medicine kiosks, and mobile e-health devices are providing physicians with crucial information on their patients, aiding them in the process of diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Remote monitoring of clients has proven to be very useful to both the medical industry and patients, as well. Also, mobile devices have access to Electronic Health Records and patient information from remote locations, offering call scheduling, training and education, as well as communication for appointments and reminders. Finally, as wearable technologies are beginning to catch on, new mHealth technologies may be incorporated into them, allowing the user and their doctor(s) to track their progress and recovery.

The lack of engagement in mHealth comes from the lack of standardization in these new technologies. There are currently too many types of mobile platforms to have a standard mobile app, and several of these competing apps provide many of the same functions for the consumer. Also, the legal ramifications of using the technology are dictated by HIPPA, so there must be new laws in place to ensure compliance. By developing real-time apps where patients and physicians can share information concurrently, consumers will more-than-likely see the value in adopting these new technologies.

In years to come, we will begin to see healthcare consumers embracing mHealth for the future of their own healthcare. They will likely expect more of their healthcare provider (since consumers are experiencing higher out-of-pocket payments for medical services). The key will be to provide high-quality, low-cost health care by eliminating as many middlemen as possible, thereby restoring the doctor-patient relationship. With mHealth, a consumer will have more access to medical professionals and, in turn, medical professionals will be more responsive to their patient’s needs. There will be a welcome competition in the medical industry in the future according to these factors, and the incorporation of mHealth technologies can give individual businesses an edge over their fellow medical practices.

August 03, 2014

Hispanic Market Growth Reaches New Heights

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Though we are still in the early days of mobile marketing, new technologies are allowing businesses to share their brand in revolutionary ways. Reports about new advertising techniques and ways to reach consumers on their mobile devices are flooding the blogosphere. But are advertisers paying attention to the changing face of the mobile marketplace? The real news flash: The Hispanic Market represents the fastest growing segment in the U.S.

This information from the Census Bureau and Nielsen is not really new. Marketers have been watching for years as this minority has grown into a significant force in the advertising world. Currently about 1 in 6 Americans are Hispanics. By the year 2050, however, Hispanics will represent one-third of the entire American populace.

These statistics are even more significant when we look at buying power. Hispanics command over $1 Trillion dollars in spending capital. The media have been aware of their buying power for a couple of years now: in 2012, the U.S. media spent $7.9 billion in advertising dollars that target Hispanic consumers.

Market analysts have been mining this data to find out what makes Hispanic consumers tick. The average age of Hispanics is 28 years old, and nearly 8% of Hispanics use their mobile devices to seek out content. Neilsen studies have shown that Hispanics outpace all other ethnic groups in mobile downloads of music and photos, and they are more likely than others to watch video on their mobile phones. Most Hispanics age 18 or older spend about 4.5 hours per day using social media. About half of Hispanics use social media during purchases, in the form of product reviews, the best deals, and to share their own shopping experiences. By incorporating this data into their strategies, mobile marketers have the opportunity to take advantage of how and where Hispanics spend their money.

Hispanics are also heavy phone users. On average, they send and receive more than 900 texts per month – more than any other ethnic group. Also, they make an average of thirteen calls per day, which is 40% more than the average U.S. consumer.

Hispanic consumers have a history of committing to certain brands. They are 25% more likely to follow a brand than the average U.S. adult. In a recent survey, 38% of Hispanics admitted that they generally select certain brands when they have customer loyalty programs. In a similar fashion: Hispanics are 18% more likely to follow a celebrity. 

According to Nielsen, Hispanic video viewers are 68% more likely than non-Hispanic White viewers to watch video on the Internet, and 20% more likely to watch video on their mobile phone. This may be due to the fact that Hispanics are less likely to have internet access at home than the average U.S. consumer (14% less likely, in fact).

There is a wealth of data available surrounding customers in today’s fast-paced world of mobile marketing. Knowing the ways that Hispanics choose to do business can give you a leg up against the competition. By approaching the Hispanic population with a mobile app, service, or direct mobile marketing, marketers can successfully target a consumer base that practice brand loyalty and constant engagement. It’s time for mobile marketers to wake up to the thriving Hispanic market.

August 01, 2014

Hospitality Industry Divided Over Mobile Marketing

 

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New research from Omnico indicates that UK consumers are less likely to use mobile devices to engage with hospitality service providers when compared with other industries. Just 13% of consumers said they would use mobile to interact with hoteliers and travel agents.

This reticence is understandable when examined from the consumer point of view. People ultimately want a better user experience, but with so many metrics to consider when booking a holiday, it’s possible that small screen devices are given short shrift. Filling in multiple fields – car rental, flights, hotels etc – is a hassle even on a desktop. Even on a mobile-optimized site or app, there’s simply too much information to divest for a quality user experience. 

Thankfully for the industry, the point of purchase is just one step in the process. There is still plenty of scope to create a compelling mobile marketing campaign that simply hands off to desktop at the point of sale. 

And despite the apparently-negative data collated in the UK, mobile usage has been steadily increasing in the world of hospitality. A Forrester survey from last year identified a 450% increase in mobile bookings since 2009. Some analysts predict mobile sales will be worth $26 billion by the year’s end. That’s one in five online travel dollars! 

The biggest mobile marketing strides have been made post-purchase, with 75% of travelers using a mobile device to shop and book activities while on holiday, according to Forrester. Clearly, this is where the hospitality industry is benefitting most: reaching consumers who are already on vacation and for whom smartphones and tablets are the only readily-available web-connected device.

If you’re trying to create a mobile marketing campaign that works, focus on enriching the entire experience, not just selling vacations. Offer portals for booking restaurants. Provide information on local tourist sites. Gather user reviews that could help future customers. Break your mobile marketing strategy down into three key practices:

  • Promotion. Offer last minute deals, hotel discounts or coupons. Mobile – and especially SMS messaging - is perfect for issuing time-sensitive information.
  • Loyalty Rewards. Offer loyalty points with personalized incentives attached. Track data to give reward customers with the things they like. If they’re clocking up thousands of miles, offer air miles. If they use the same hotel chain around the world, try to partner with that hotel to offer discounts.
  • User Experience. Keep customers up to date on new destinations. Send weather forecasts, or travel directions. Stay engaged throughout their trip and solicit feedback in the form of reviews.

A balanced mobile marketing strategy is of vital importance in an aggressively competitive industry. The beauty of mobile is the ease with which you can subdivide customers according to personal preference, so even if your primary booking platform is your desktop website, stay plugged in to mobile and you’ll reap the long term benefits.