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March 05, 2015

SMS Alert System for Pregnant Cows is Up for Design of the Year

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There are some weird and wonderful uses for SMS messaging out there, but one of the innovations up for this year’s Design of the Year award is milking the technology for all its worth.

The 76 nominees were announced last week by London’s Design Museum; they will go on display from March 25 to August 23, with the winner announced in June. Designs range from new Norwegian banknotes to high-profile projects like Google’s self-driving car.

But the gadget that’s got us most excited is a new SMS-based monitoring system that tells farmers when their cows are going into labor. If you’ve never had any experience of dairy farming you’ve probably never even realized such a gizmo was necessary, but the brilliantly-named Moocall is a promising solution to a problem that’s largely invisible to the general public.

The gadget hooks onto the tail of a pregnant cow and sends a text message to the farmer when the animal is within an hour of giving birth. It uses 3-D motion sensors and a roaming M2M SIM card to ascertain when a cow is going into labor. Other birthing monitors exist, but they are notoriously invasive and uncomfortable for the cow. Most farmers simply opt to keep vigil over pregnant cows in order to maximize the chances of a live birth. Moocall promises a reliable alert system that causes minimal discomfort and frees up vital resources that would otherwise be spent on watching and waiting. 

Designer Niall Austin first conceived the device for use on his own farm in County Offaly, Ireland, and hopes to break into cattle markets in North and South America. He told Irish Tech News: “Losing a cow and calf during birthing process is heart-breaking and very often completely preventable.” 

Created with the help of Irish tech firms Motech Engineering and Dolmen, Austin’s innovation went through a long development process, with a series of prototypes - tried ‘in the field’ so to speak - helping them shape the design to withstand the elements and the animal’s clumsy heft (sorry, cows - no offence).

Moocall is another example of the diversity of SMS messaging. If it didn’t send a text message it would require some other pieces of hardware for farmers to receive the alerts. That would drive the cost up and give farmers more hassle. It would also make the gadget a much less marketable product. By combining sophisticated birthing monitor technology with the simplicity and near-universal availability of text messaging, Moocall seems to provide a solution to a major setback facing dairy farmers worldwide.

February 25, 2015

DEA Accepting Tip Offs Via SMS

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The McAllen, TX branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has turned to text messaging to simplify citizen reporting of potential drug trafficking. DEA Assistant Special Agent Steve Jenkins in the branch office remarked that text messaging is another way to help residents feel safe in their community. 

"We're trying to get the message out to the community that hey this is available and it’s a way for them to help keep the streets safe," Jenkins said. 

Entitled ‘TIP 411,’ the anonymous program makes it possible to text a tip after witnessing possible drug activity. Tipsters can simply type TIP 411 into the “To” line, then use the message box to type RGV with either an image or a description of the crime. Jenkins says the tip will be passed to the DEA office, who will act accordingly. The number of anyone who sends a tip will not be viewed by the DEA agent.  

Jenkins also noted the new system allows the office to keep in anonymous contact with tipsters, as opposed to phone call where the information flow ends once the person hangs up. Texting is also much less personal, and therefore makes it easy for someone to provide information without feeling uncomfortable.  

The DEA hopes younger people will use the program, as it was designed for youth interested in keeping the community safe.  

Other cities, such as New Orleans, El Paso, and Albuquerque, have enjoyed success implementing the program. Anyone who uses the program must be connected with a cell phone provider. 

“This is a way for (the public) to anonymously provide the information to us and communicate back and forth with a DEA agent, via text message,” Jenkins added. “Then, if at some point they no longer want to communicate with us, they can send the word STOP in the message and all communication will be cut off with the agent.” 

Once the tipster texts the word “Stop,” the DEA has no way of getting back in contact with the person. 

Reports of the program have been met with somewhat mixed responses from the public, with some in favor of the idea, and others very much against it, saying the program isn’t particularly safe and is yet another wasted effort in “the war on drugs.” 

Is the program a good idea? Time will certainly tell...

 

February 18, 2015

How Do My Customers Use Mobile?

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In order to develop a highly-effective mobile marketing campaign, you must first understand how audiences, specifically your audience, interacts with mobile technology. Ask yourself the following essential questions and gain invaluable insight into consumer mobile habits: 

How Are My Customers Using Mobile? 

Utilize analytics to determine how your target audience is using mobile. Are they using tablets or smartphones? Android or iOS? Are there certain times of day they shop the most, whether in store or online? Which mobile advertising tactic is therefore the best option? Once you discover exactly how your target customer base is using mobile, you can develop a customized marketing strategy to reach them through the most effective channel.  

Who Are My Competitors?

You and your entire team should download competitor apps and learn how they keep their customers engaged. This provides ideas, and otherwise helps you understand what’s working for other players in the space. Once you know what’s working (and what’s not), you’ll be better equipped to devise a plan that eclipses them. 

What is the Cost Per Download? 

Knowing the cost per download (or per customer acquisition) while launching your app is important when it comes to budgeting. Development is just one side of the coin. The financials also have to make sense when devising a proper price point.

Should I Use In-App Advertising? 

Popular apps such as Twitter allow in-app advertising and mobile advertising. This is an effective way to market your app or business to the masses, but it’s important to choose well-known and relevant apps that make sense for your consumer base.  

What About Social Media?

Mobile social media platforms are another efficient, effective marketing option, and one that offers near-immediate access to app downloads and web site conversions. 

Apps versus Mobile Sites?

At this juncture, consumers tend to favor apps over mobile sites, such as social media, email, and news apps. A mobile-friendly website is still a good idea, however, whether or not your company offers an app. 

Location-based Advertising?

If you haven’t jumped on the location-based advertising bandwagon yet, now is the time. With the massive proliferation of mobile phone use, location-based mobile marketing presents a highly-efficient way to attract new customers while keeping current ones engaged. Experiment with geo-fences and iBeacons, and craft marketing interactions with users as they enter or leave stores. Whether it’s sending suggestions, exclusive coupons, information about daily promotions, or anything else relevant to your brand and consumer base, it’s definitely a good idea to try location-based advertising via mobile web and text marketing. 

Do a little research through trial runs before committing to one or several mobile marketing strategies. Without knowing what your customers are after, you’ll be hard-pressed to create a mobile marketing campaign that works. 

 

February 17, 2015

Why Mobile Shopping Apps are Less Popular Than You Think

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Mobile shopping apps may be the latest buzz in the mobile marketing realm, but user behavior presents a different story. Consumers are all about convenience and exceptional customer service, and aren’t finding much help from mobile shopping apps at present. Apple is one company hoping to change that. 

The main reason these apps aren’t popular? Many of them take too long. Simply going to the store to make purchases is still considered the faster, more efficient option by many consumers. Users also believe in-app shopping doesn’t help “get past checkout” any quicker, so again speed is a huge factor.  

Having to “leave the app” to obtain shopping assistance also contributes to mobile shopping apps’ lack of popularity. One in four shoppers are likely to abandon their purchase and the brand entirely when this occurs, because the app is simply too complicated to deal with.

"You would never consider creating a shopping experience where a customer would have to completely leave the showroom floor to get assistance," says John Hibel, director of marketing at Contact Solutions. "That would be a horrible customer experience, and you know it would jeopardize sales. In the same way, you should never consider building a mobile shopping app that forces the customer to leave to app to get assistance."  

The lack of useful discounts and coupons is another mobile shopping app complaint, as 54% of shoppers in a recent survey noted such perks would significantly increase their interest in mobile shopping apps. 

So how to make mobile shopping apps more user-friendly? Apple might have the solution, at least in regards to the payment issue. The tech giant launched Apple Pay in the fall of 2014, and promised a secure, much faster digital platform for purchasing anything and everything, both in-store and online. Supposedly safer than checking out via debit and credit cards, the app is expected to have an “immediate impact” on mobile shopping. 

Consumers do the majority of their mobile shopping in the comfort of their homes, and are hankering for easier, more effective ways of shopping with various personal devices. 

"Mobile commerce is growing rapidly, and there’s an amazing race going on to win customer mindshare in the mobile moments that matter," Hibel notes. "Most consumers have a handful of apps they use frequently, and the rest get used rarely or just sit idle and forgotten. You want to do everything you can to be one of those frequently used, top- of -mind apps. To do that you’ve got to find ways to make your app sticky and get your customers to engage with it regularly."

February 11, 2015

South Africa's Mobile Future

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In Europe and North America, mobile marketing relies on an even-handed mixture of text messaging, mobile-optimized websites, apps, push notifications and targeted advertising. In the U.S., where smartphones comprise 70% of the mobile market and tens of thousands of new apps are launched each month, constant change is the name of the game.  

Not so in South Africa. An estimated 70.6% of the population use feature phones. Devising a mobile marketing campaign capable of reaching the masses requires a heavy reliance on SMS messaging, with less attention paid to the latest digital advertising buzzwords getting American execs in a tizzy. 

The beauty of text message marketing is you don’t have to worry about differentials between operating systems. It doesn’t discriminate by device. Ads necessarily have to follow the same format: concise messages with small images (or none at all). In developing economies like South Africa, mobile marketers must be as cost-sensitive as their audience if they want to synchronize. 

Despite the proliferation of feature phones - which have limited internet capabilities and can’t support apps - voice usage is declining in South Africa as much as everywhere else. Mobility 2014, a study conducted in association with the First National Bank, little more than half the money spent on mobile by Millennials goes towards voice (down from 66% in 2012). Data spend, however, has increased from 17% to 24% - an impressive rate of growth for a country with notoriously expensive data packages. 

Although it’s currently a supporting player, smartphone usage is growing in the region. According to the South African Social Media Landscape 2015 study, YouTube’s South African audience grew by a staggering 53% between 2013 and 2014. This audience will continue to grow as data costs become proportionate to the rest of the world.

Mobile evolution might be moving more slowly in South Africa, but it is moving. A forward-thinking mobile marketing campaign will cover both bases. It will recognize that diverse countries require diverse strategies. For most businesses, SMS messaging will be the fulcrum of a good mobile marketing campaign. 

That’s not to say that a text message marketing campaign in South Africa is a picnic. With 11 official languages and a wide social strata covering everyone from rural farmers to globally successful entrepreneurs (Elon Musk is a Pretoria native), mobile marketing in South Africa demands a wide-ranging approach. Keep one eye on the dominant feature phone and the other on the growing data economy and you won’t go far wrong.

February 10, 2015

5 Mobile Marketing Lovebombs for Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day might be harvest time for the jewelers, florists and chocolatiers of this world, but almost every industry can tweak its marketing strategy to take advantage of the holiday which, after Christmas, sees more spending than any other. 

According to recent research from the National Retail Foundation, Valentine spending will go up 13% from last year, and much of that revenue will come from smartphones and tablets, with mobile coupons and special offers playing a significant role. To give your mobile marketing strategy some heart-shaped oomph this year, try these six ideas to help your audience get engaged in more ways than one!

 

1) ‘Bring a Partner’ Discounts

For Valentine’s-themed mobile coupons, why not offer a 2-for-1 deal? Intuitively suitable for restaurants, spas, hotels, mobile coupons can drive traffic to virtually any type of business.

 

2) Social Media Makeover

In the run up to the big day, overhaul your social media presence to give off a hearts ’n’ flowers vibe. Facebook should be a primarily visual medium, so focus on creating strong images with a lovelorn bent (a themed variation of your logo is a good start). Humor is key, as it makes your posts more shareable, so if you can find a way to poke fun at the holiday whilst invoking its warm center, you’ve hit the Valentine’s mobile marketing jackpot. Whatever you do, social media should be front and center of your mobile marketing strategy.

 

3) Dedicated Microsite 

To reinforce your Valentine’s Day message, create a separate landing page or microsite. Forget about using it as a direct sales channel. Instead, hand it over to your most creative people to showcase their talents. Run a themed competition such as a Saint Valentine quiz with a romantic vacation as the prize. A separate site provides a chance to amplify the themed design elements and show your customers you’re serious about whatever Valentine offers you’re making. Plus, the SEO value of a dedicated holiday site is huge. If it works, use the same tactic for July 4, Thanksgiving and any other national holiday you can make use of.

 

4) Be Ready for ‘the Last Minute-men’

In 2013, Adobe found that spending on gifts steadily increased throughout January and early February, but spiked during the last five days before the 14th. Much like at Christmas, there’s a significant portion of consumers who leave their Valentine’s shopping until the last minute, so pushing last minute mobile coupons and other mobile marketing tactics can really pay off. And with Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday, the ‘last minute’ effect promises to be even greater this year.

 

5) Originality Breeds Attention

Ok, so this applies to all mobile marketing tactics, irrespective of the time of year, but if your strategy has been lacking in originality, Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity to try something fresh for Q1. Encourage user engagement by asking them to share love stories, or take a leaf out of Tiffany’s book and try something along the lines of their ‘Concierge of Love’ campaign. If you have the resources to create a Valentine’s app with your original idea, go for it - you can resurrect it every year to maximize your ROI.

Whichever mobile marketing strategy you adopt, be sure to combine your approaches in a creative, engaging fashion. Give your mobile marketing strategy some love this Valentine’s Day and your bottom line will come up smelling of roses.

 

February 08, 2015

Former Ad Tech Exec Investing Millions in Mobile

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Longtime mobile ad exec Nihal Mehta used to focus on ensuring advertisers invested in mobile ad platforms. Now he’s interested in assisting the new generation of mobile businesses. 

Mehta retired from mobile ad tech firm LocalResponse in 2013, now known as Qualia, where he served as CEO. He wanted to focus on mobile startup investment full-time via the firm he co-founded in 2009, Eniac Ventures. The firm raised $55 million to invest in the mobile tech landscape, and is looking to put the money into early-stage mobile startups. Mehta noted his firm is especially interested in companies who have not yet “raised a funding round,” are still in product development, and probably haven’t generated revenue. 

The areas that piqued the interest of Mehta and crew in regards to mobile startups include connected devices, personal utility, app development tools, messaging and communications, enterprise, marketplaces, and commerce. Mobile ad tech that “spans several categories” will also be high on the firm’s to-do list according to Mehta, who pointed out the increase of free ad-supported mobile apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, neither of which run standard display ads.

"The next big wave of mobile ad tech companies will be bigger than we've ever seen because they're going to be forced to deal with a supply of new inventory. It doesn't live anymore in banner ads; it lives in messaging, communications, interstitials, natively," Mehta remarked recently. He sold his mobile-marketing firm ipsh! to Omnicom in 2005.

Eniac Ventures was co-founded in 2009 with three fellow University of Pennsylvania graduates. It has stakes in Airbnb, Circa and SoundCloud, and also invested in several ad tech companies, including Mehta's former company Qualia, as well as Adtrib, mParticle, and Localytics.

As of now the company has made eight investments, including in password replacement tool LaunchKey, on-demand parking service Luxe Valet, and social commerce company Strut. Mehta and the Eniac Ventures team want to invest in at least 15 more companies by the year’s end. 

Eniac Ventures plans to initially invest $500,000 in each of the 35 startups, which equals more than the $250,000 per company. Mehta noted Eniac Ventures is setting aside two-thirds of the $55 million fund as “follow-up money”, which he plans to reinvest in the companies as they grow and become successful.

The follow-up money is essential because "in today's market you can get money from anybody," said Mehta.  "Funds that can't follow can create a negative signal to the marketplace. And oftentimes entrepreneurs want to know they're getting in bed with somebody who can support them all the way.” 

Companies Eniac Ventures invested in and have subsequently been acquired include Mobile ad-targeting specialist Metaresolver, which was sold to mobile ad-tech company Millennial Media in 2013. Ad-tech firm Beanstock Media bought mobile publishing technology company Onswipe in 2014, while Twitter acquired mobile retargeting firm TapCommerce the same year. 

 

February 05, 2015

Twitter Buys Indian Mobile Marketing Startup

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If you’re a mobile marketer, your marketing message might just be the next big thing in India, all thanks to a microblogging site’s ambitious investment abroad. Last week, Twitter purchased a startup corporation in India, called Zipdial.  

Indicative of the current ubiquitous nature of mobile phones and the decrease in their manufacturing costs, India has grown to one of the largest users of mobile phones worldwide. But the country has yet to get fully connected to the internet via mobile technology. Many people still use the mobile internet on a pay-per-site basis, with fewer than 40% of the populace having any kind of mobile internet access.

Zipdial, however, has revolutionized advertising for the burgeoning economy of the developing country. The startup allows its users to call a business’ phone number, then simply hang up. The business then registers the incoming phone number and responds with free text messages, app notifications, and even voice calls with advertisements.

This method of advertising has been dubbed “missed call” marketing. It allows users of Zipdial to receive advertisements from businesses they are interested in without having an internet connection. And best of all, there is no mobile cost to the consumer for receiving these ads. It's an effective way in, providing solutions in places many mobile marketing campaigns cannot reach.

So why is Twitter so interested in India? Because it is now one of the most rapidly growing mobile markets in the world. As cited last week in a Mobile Marketing Watch article, the Internet & Mobile Association of India and IMRB International report that the mobile internet industry of India has had unprecedented growth in 2014 – and 2015 is on par to surpass even that. Mobile internet growth increased over 25% in all of 2014, and is forecasted to grow another 23% in just the first half of 2015. Also reported in the article, rural use of mobile phones in India is expected to grow another 18%.

Zipdial boasts that its campaigns have reached nearly 60 million users, and the company is run by just over 50 employees. Mobile journalists have predicted that this technology will be effective in other countries as well, like Brazil and Indonesia. And according to reporters, these markets are key for Twitter, as 77% of Twitter’s monthly active users hail from outside the United States.

Twitter did not disclose how much they paid for the firm. But this purchase certainly exemplifies the notion that mobile technology and text marketing are proliferating immensely throughout the developing world. 

 

January 30, 2015

Is “Paidmium” Really the New Freemium?

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Mobile apps have been changing their business models right under our noses. The newest model is called “Paidmium,” which refers to a mobile app that one must purchase from iTunes or Google Play – immediately requiring the user to either spend more money on in-app purchases or perhaps look at ads within the application.

Yep, you read that right. First you pay for the app, and then you pay more.

The current debate in the mobile marketing sector is whether or not Paidmium is superior to the more common mobile business model, Freemium. The truth is, the mobile marketing crystal ball is still a bit murky, and it is hard to say which business model will come out on top.

Freemium is the tried and true way for app developers to make money. Programmers create an app, offering it free to potential customers in the marketplace. Then, once the customer begins to use the app and learn its value, in-app offers are made available for the customer to purchase at will. Whether they pay or not, they can still utilize the original app, but their access to some of the other features may be limited.

According to a study by App Annie and IDC, apps based on the Freemium business model dominated in 2013. What this means is that, by and large, mobile users downloaded more Freemium apps – and spent more money within them – than users spent on any other type of app (i.e. Paidmium, Paid apps, or apps with in-app advertising). For developers who want to make some money, Freemium appears to be the model of choice. 

Let’s change gears for a moment, though: suppose we consider the top fifty grossing apps for iPhones in the past year. Every single app was either a Paid app or a Paidmium app (save for two). That means that the biggest players in the business are charging for their apps to be downloaded in the first place. And perhaps you’ve guessed that top three highest grossing apps out of fifty were video game apps.

Mobile app gaming consumption may be the leader in time spent on mobile devices, but the success doesn’t stop there. In 2014, the mobile gaming app market was worth 17 billion dollars, and exactly half of the revenue from these games came from in-app purchases. When this kind of money is on the table, you can bet that a lot of developers are looking to get in on the Paidmium action. 

Only time will tell which way the app business model will go, and what will be the preferred choice for mobile marketing campaign managers. As of late, most developers certainly prefer the Freemium model for its simplicity coupled with a broad customer base. But the Paidmium model is gaining traction (particularly with gamers), and we’re bound to see more apps that flourish under the Paidmium model.

 

January 29, 2015

Behavioral Change Techniques Sorely Lacking in Most Fitness Apps

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Earlier this year, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine issued a report regarding the effectiveness of fitness applications. While their studies showed that apps provide much opportunity for social networking and feedback, most apps were seriously lacking in behavioral change techniques.

Behavioral change techniques, also known as BCTs, are techniques that directly help app users to modify their physical activity in significant ways. 

The study reviewed the 100 top-ranked physical activity apps and analyzed them for the existence of BCTs. Using a classification process according to 93 specific kinds of BCTs, the Journal reported that only 39 types of BCTs were present. On average, only six BCTs were present in any given app.

Now just about half of all American adults own a smartphone, and roughly half of those users access health information through their mobile phones. Also, about 50 percent of mobile users have at least one fitness app. These apps regularly provide certain types of BCTs: social support through online communities like Facebook, how to perform an exercise, exercise demonstrations and feedback, as well as information about others’ approval of a technique. While these are critical BCTs for self-improvement, the study found that most apps were lacking in the breadth of their BCTs.

Furthermore, the study found that app developers favored BCTs with a modest evidence base over others that had a more established effectiveness rate. David E. Conroy, PhD, the lead investigator, stated that “not all apps are created equal, and prospective users should consider their individual needs when selecting an app to increase physical activity.” In one example, he mentions that social media integration for providing social support is a very common BCT in apps, but he goes on to say that the BCT of active self-monitoring by users is much more effective in increasing activity.Perhaps the cause of the lack of self-monitoring BCTs is a result of development around mobile device capabilities. For example, accelerometers serve to passively monitor the movements of the mobile user, but they do not incite the user to participate in some form of exercise. Moreover, there is little evidence of retrospection or active self-reporting with these apps – BCTs that experts agree are most effective for changing behavioral activity.

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine didn’t suggest that Americans eschew fitness apps; the study simply showed where these apps are lacking. The potential of fitness apps in our society should, in fact, be lauded. Most apps do have many benefits, and exercise BCTs will most likely help a sedentary person to get moving. Since insufficient physical activity is the second-leading preventable cause of death in the United States, Americans should take advantage of fitness apps that can help them to increase their daily activity.