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January 03, 2016

The App That's Keeping Tour Operators in Touch with Tourists

 

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There’s a new app designed to keep tour operators in contact with tourists while on their way to local attractions. Recently launched in New Zealand, the app was developed by Auckland-based company Skoot in a joint effort with JUCY, Tourism Radio and Putti, a Spark Ventures company. The app allows businesses to cater to tourists planning the next leg of their vacations. 

 

A Plethora of Functions

Skoot is available as a smartphone app that may be mounted to a rental vehicle. It offers a variety of functions, including onboard GPS navigation, safety messages, information on local activities, WiFi hotspot, and accommodation options in real time. The app also allows tourists to make purchases through stored credit cards on their smartphones. 

Skoot CEO Hayden Braddock notes the app is a built-in audio tour guide that recognizes user location and automatically provides information on over 1,600 local tourist attractions.

“Throughout their journey, Skoot is designed to keep tourists engaged with both local information and relevant promotions - served by audio and digital display feeds,” says Braddock. “Each business on Skoot will effectively have control over their own application which is able to be accessed and used within the Skoot application or on its own in the APP Store. The retailer gets the benefit of being able to create and manage their own app and content in real time, update deals, products, info, branding etc. Tourists will only have to download the one app when they travel around.”

Braddock added that he and other company members believe this is the first time something like this has been done. He also noted that the app will be linked to its nationwide 4G network that allows up to five other devices to use the WiFi hotspot when installed in a rental vehicle. 

 

Future Uses and Safety Promotion

Future incarnations of the app will include a click-to-call function using VoIP. The feature makes it possible for tourists to call and book local attractions for free.

“Tourists are also able to redeem digital vouchers which appear as they close in on local attractions and purchase their tickets at discounted rates using a preloaded credit card,” says Braddock.

The app promotes road safety by helping tourists navigate New Zealand roads and deal with assorted conditions as they arise. Drivers will be alerted to safety hazards such as high crash areas and one-way bridges, as well as when to stay left or slow down. 

Braddock commented that the app will provide more opportunities for the company’s business partners in the future, such as payment methods that encourage tourists to purchase promotional tickets to events and attractions and subsequently expedite their entry. Businesses will also be able to tailor their offerings based on the season, proximity, and other factors. 

Whether the app will be usable in other countries is unknown at this time, however its benefits make the possibility very real. 

December 22, 2015

Google Brings App Streaming to Mobile Ads

 

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Google launched a new way to find information last month, even if such information is locked up tight within a mobile app. The search engine’s “Trial Run” gives consumers 60 seconds of playtime before deciding whether they want to make the app a member of their home screen. Google made it so advertisers pay only when a consumer installs the app rather than every time someone opts for a trial run. That way, advertisers are paying for those truly interested in the game, not consumers who download on a wing and a prayer. 

"The immersive demo increases the likelihood that an install is coming from someone who enjoys playing the game," according to the blog post written by Google director of mobile ads Sissie Hsiao and product manager Pasha Nahass. "Users get a taste of the game before going through the download process, and the app developer attracts better qualified users who've chosen the game based on their experiences in the app."

The format is designed to offset recent Google research that found one in four downloaded apps never gets used. Trial run ads are currently behind one third of all mobile app revenue, with advertisers very willing to pay more for them because they result in actual downloads. Of course, if the consumer downloads and ignores the app in question, it’s not worth much to advertisers. This new option subsequently offers the chance to increase brand awareness by ensuring the person will (probably) use the app. 

 

Changes to Interactive Ads

Google also announced an HTML5 ad for interactive interstitial ads. The idea is to create a customized user experience designed specifically for every advertiser’s app. The search engine touts the ads as providing creative freedom to advertisers who utilize HTML5 as opposed to a standard template. Interstitial ads give advertisers the chance to display products through galleries and point out personal branding options. Global fashion retailer Zalora, for example, is using the feature so consumers can swipe for exclusive offers. 

"We understand that experiences on mobile need to be made for mobile, and an ad is no different," Hsiao and Nahass said. "We're continually exploring new and better ways to build out interactive formats for the small screen."

Both of these possibilities are still in the beta testing stage and therefore available to a handful of advertisers. 

“You can buy ads, you can get apps installed. But a lot of apps are used once or they’re never used, even after they’re installed,” Hsiao noted, emphasizing that the formats are designed to pair app developers with the right users. “We found that 1 in 4 apps is never even used, and there’s often this ‘try once’ experience, and then [the app is] never used again,” Hsiao adds.

Google noted that app developers interested in joining the beta should contact their account managers. 

 

December 07, 2015

Holiday Party Calendar

Planning a holiday event is one thing. Making sure everyone shows up at the right time and place is another. To help you manage the party season more effectively, we've put together a Communications Calendar. Don't let anyone miss the memo. Or the fun. Happy Holidays!

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November 30, 2015

What Does the Mobile Messaging Boom Mean for the Customer Service Industry?

 

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When you need to get a hold of a customer service representative at your bank or another business, do you often feel your only choices are waiting forever on the phone or getting lost in a barrage of “press one for this” and “press two for that” options? Sometimes, these options don’t even get you to the person you need to speak with.

Instead of waiting around on the phone for hours, or getting a wrong department or being hung up on, consumers are finding mobile messaging an effective customer service solution. And, they’re loving the convenience of taking care of issues via mobile, so that they can go about their business while they wait for someone to solve their problem.

Is mobile messaging the way of the future for customer service? Let’s take a look at how SMS messaging might be the best way to communicate with companies going forward.

 

Customer Service and Changing Times

Traditionally, consumers have experienced many troubling scenarios with customer service reps, including phone calls that were never answered, dropped phone calls, poor connections to overseas call centers, and calls that did not get to where they were supposed to go after being led down a rabbit hole of “press” options. These customer service experiences are certainly not desirable service experiences for the customer. They’re nightmares that have the potential to turn off consumers from engaging with a brand.

Regardless of how much, or how well, a business markets its products or services, if its customers can’t get help when they need it, consumers likely turn away from the brand. Brand loyalty is only a possibility when a company can help a customer appreciate its products and services. To increase brand loyalty, many companies are turning to text messaging as a way to easily and effectively communicate with their customers.

 

Why Mobile Messaging?

Consumers have pretty much created the new wave of customer service communication for themselves. They are demanding mobile messaging as a customer service option because they feel more in control when they can simply leave a message as they would to a friend, and then have a person get back to them via text. There’s no hanging on the phone, no navigating customer service forms on websites, no hang-ups without having a question heard, and none of the other traditional customer service problems. Consumers like being able to use iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and other messaging apps to state their issue and go about their lives as the business looks into the problem and gets back to them.

Of course, this only works when a company puts structures into place to receive mobile messages and sets aside time to diligently reply to mobile messages—a task that many businesses have dedicated themselves to. As consumers show they don’t have the time, or the inclination, to deal with customer service issues of the past, companies are listening and making mobile messaging to customer service a reality to build brand loyalty.

November 01, 2015

Mobile Helps Propel UK Adspend to Record Highs

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According to the Advertising Association/Warc, UK ad spending hit a record high in 2015. Spending increased by 5.8% to reach £9.42bn in the first half of the year, and mobile is predicted to exceed the billion-pound barrier for the first time. Digital channels remain the force behind this growth, as Internet spending is up 13.3% for H1 to £3.9bn. Mobile makes up 79% of this growth, with ad spending increasing more than 52% to £1.08bn. 

Growth is noticeable throughout the industry, including both television and cinema forms. Only print has seen a decrease in revenue. 

“Advertising’s resilience points to the strength of the broader economy in the first half,” said Tim Lefroy, chief executive at the Advertising Association. “The UK leads the world in eCommerce and the trend to mobile means serving the public better ads in the right place at the right time.”

Ad spending is expected to demolish the £20bn barrier in 2016, with the Advertising Association’s media breakdown is as follows:  

  • Radio: Radio ad spending decreased by 2.2% to £116m in Q2, branded content excluded. Full-year growth is expected at 3.0% in 2015, and 2.3% with branded content included.
  • TV: Spot advertising “recorded solid YOY growth of 2.9% to £1,144m in Q2, compared to a quarter in which the FIFA World Cup was held last year.” TV spot advertising also enjoyed a fantastic Q1 via ad revenues rising to 11.5%. An “increase of 6.7% is forecast for 2015 as a whole.” 
  • Out of Home: YOY growth was strong at the beginning of 2015 with an increase of 9.7% in Q1, though it decreased 3.6% to £249m in Q2. 
  • Regional Newsbrands: These newsbrands saw a decline of 7.2% in ad spend in Q2 2015 compared to 2014. This “represents a 12.1% drop for print (to £246m) and a 24.0% increase for digital revenues (to £55m).” 
  • National Newsbrands: Print ad revenue decreased by a staggering 19.2% Q2 2015 to £239m. Digital ad spending, in comparison, increased 5.9% to £51m.
  • Magazine Brands: Ad spending declined by 6.8% in Q2. Print advertising saw a 11.0% decline to £168m, while digital saw an increase of 5.2% to £70m. 
  • Internet: Internet ad spending included a 12.8% increase in Q2 2015, which was followed by “revised growth of 13.9% in Q1 (+1.1pp).” Mobile made up 79% of total internet growth during H1, resulting in ad spending of £1,079m (up 52.1%). 

Cinema and direct mail ad spending saw increases as well. Separate Advertising Association research indicated the UK as the biggest mobile advertising spenders in Europe, and the third-highest spenders in the world following the United States and China. 

October 04, 2015

APUS and InMobi Team Up to Capture Chinese Mobile Market

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How does an already-huge company reach more mobile users? It teams up with another huge company in a quest to, together, dominate the Chinese mobile market, among others. 

Chinese start-up APUS and Indian mobile advertising firm InMobi are forming an alliance to reach a hoped-for 500 million new users in China, India, and other countries by 2016.

InMobi is the leader in customizing Android software. InMobi is India’s top mobile advertising firm. InMobi, in fact, competes with Facebook and Google in the $100 billion worldwide mobile advertising market. It’s one of the only Indian start-ups to make a profit and it already reaches about 1.4 billion devices.

 

What’s in It for APUS? 

The new partnership will help APUS earn advertising revenue from ads run on InMobi’s platform. APUS will likely see a boost in its user base and enjoy a share in the huge Indian smartphone market. 

APUS’ flagship product lets Android users customize the home screens on their smartphones. APUS hopes to gain more than 80 million users as a result of the deal with InMobi, which will lead to hefty profits.

 

What About InMobi?

InMobi will gain access to more than 200 million additional users by partnering with APUS. They’ll have exclusive access to all APUS users in India, which total more than 25 million. 

This partnership is the first of its kind between two of the fastest growing tech power companies from China and India. The time is right for APUS and InMobi to make this move, as the smartphone markets in China and India are growing rapidly.

APUS and InMobi’s deal comes after recent media reports that Google has plans to re-enter China. This partnership is important for InMobi if it wants to secure a stronghold in the country. Google pulled its services out of China five years ago, largely because it refused to self-sensor search results.

 

What’s Next? 

In an official press release, InMobi said, ““InMobi will share its vast expertise in India to help APUS establish a larger footprint in India, enabling an increased user base and market share. In return, APUS will engage in monetization partnership with InMobi….”

InMobi offered, ““InMobi will provide local expertise to APUS to help them understand the unique Indian app market and will aid in user acquisition programs including providing guidance localizing the APUS app experience and acquiring the right talent to help APUS India grow as APUS aims to make its app climb to the top five in the local Google Play store.” 

The big goal is APUS “becoming the leading Android user system in India by the end of 2015 and acquiring more than 80 million users in India by 2016.” 

However, this deal is not the only big thing on the horizon for InMobi. The company is placing heavy bets on its new mobile advertising product, Miip. Miip gives customers curated lists of products they might be interested in, based on their previous choices and their personalities.

InMobi is currently estimated to be worth about $2.5 billion.

 

 

 

 

September 30, 2015

Crammers Charged with Multi-Million Dollar SMS Scam

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Two men are facing charges of running a ‘cramming’ scam that netted them tens of millions of dollars by charging mobile users premium rates for unwanted text messages. 

Six defendants were charged in a New York federal court with an ‘auto-subscribe’ fraud. The scam involved sending text messages containing celebrity gossip, horoscopes and other trivia - and charging up to $10 per month to the unsuspecting recipients bill. The fraud charges were brought by a New York attorney, Preet Bharara, who had previously lodged charges against another six defendants connected with the scam, alleged to have taken place between 2011 and 2013. 

The case is just the tip of the cramming iceberg. So how do they work? And how can you stay vigilant for the signs of a scam? 

Crammers use local exchange carrier (LEC) billing to charge mobile users through their local telephone company accounts. By doing this (rather than charging through the providers of the product or service) the cost to the customer often goes unnoticed. Charges might be made for premium messaging services, special ringtones, apps or long-distance calling. Anything the crammers believe they can slip ‘under the radar’ on a phone bill is fair game. It won’t work on people who - as we all should - check their bills carefully, but, like all scams, the hit rate doesn’t need to be very high to make it worthwhile for the fraudsters. Add automation technology into the mix and crammers are able to target thousands of people in a short space of time, with minimal effort. 

The defendants at the center of the most recent cramming scandal were charging close to $10 a month for text messages sent without the users consent. Most users simply ignored the messages because the amounts were not big enough to ring any alarm bells. The scam is designed that way, which is why such schemes can levy huge amounts of money without being detected.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) offers some useful tips to prevent mobile users falling prey to scammers. Recommendation #1 is to cast a careful eye over your monthly statement to check for unusual charges. They may appear as a one-time charge or on a monthly auto-renewal basis. Be wary of generic-sounding fees, company names or services. Also look out for unsolicited text messages. If you receive text messages from a source you don’t recognize, relating to services you didn’t ask for, you should view this as a Big Red Flag. Knowing what’s going on with your phone bill, and contacting your service provider if you see anything suspicious, should keep you safe from being stung by crammers.

September 06, 2015

Mobile Spending to Increase 160% in Three Years

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The best place to be if you’re a CMO is at the forefront of a marketing trend. According to a recent survey published by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the trend ahead is more spending on mobile. 

The CMO Survey included more than 200 inquiries to top marketing agencies and professionals. Mobile spending currently floats around 6% of total marketing budgets, but is estimated to increase by 160% (to just less than 16%) over the next three years. Duke’s survey, conducted biannually, is one of the oldest dedicated exclusively to marketing. 

For CMOs across the country, the increase is easier said than done. Money can certainly buy mobile ad space, but it doesn’t guarantee returns on investment. Getting ahead of this trend means answering important questions about which mobile marketing tactics are most effective for your business.

 

Choosing the Best Marketing Methods 

For starters, CMOs should carefully consider the best options available to leverage both the consumer and the brand. This means assessing the target audience, developing content that articulates a benefit, maintaining continuity across all media channels, and figuring out when these targeted customers are most likely accessible and through what media channels. Master these goals and you’re headed for the promised lands; make a misstep and you might damage the brand, or worse, consumer relations. 

The survey found a large gap between the effectiveness of B2B and B2C mobile marketing, with the latter greatly outperforming the former. Both categories were addressed in various fronts including customer acquisition, engagement, retention, messaging, sales, and profits.  

Mobile marketing’s greatest strengths among these categories come as no surprise: engagement and messaging lead the pack. This makes sense as mobile marketing certainly compliments the way people intrinsically use their devices to communicate and engage with content in real time. 

Like all things that promise a big payoff, there are risks involved. One of the issues most noted in the survey is the difficulty involved in quantitatively assessing the success or failure of social media marketing. Currently, social media sites are among the most trafficked via mobile.

Today, much of the marketing done via social media is handled by a third party, so getting accurate data or analytics can be difficult, sometimes impossible depending on the platform.  

CMOs have the difficult task of weighing the risks of ambiguous social media campaigns, with pressures from board members and other higher-ups who have noted behavioral trends shifting increasingly towards mobile.

That being said, it looks like getting ahead of this mobile increase comes down to research and analysis before dollars and cents. 

 

September 03, 2015

Infographic: Tackling the Flu with Text Messaging

The flu virus costs our economy billions each year. By promoting vaccinations for workers and children, it's possible to reduce the number of sick days and alleviate the annual burden placed on the healthcare system. We've put together an infographic that highlights the scale of the problem and demonstrates the role text messaging can play in increasing vaccination rates...

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August 28, 2015

How to Reach Students with Your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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There’s a good reason marketers scramble to get the attention of college students. Sure, they’re increasingly hard to reach, but according to a new eMarketer report, college students are “poised to out-earn and outspend non-college millennials for decades to come.” 

There are 19 million college students in the US, and nearly all of them are mobile users engaged in multiple social networks. These networks have become the primary playground for creative marketers, as they bypass traditional media buys with shareable content. 

 

The Social Student 

College students aren’t just looking to be entertained. According to the report, students are influenced to buy by several factors including peer recommendations and money-saving discounts. While this may or may not be surprising, it does speak to the tech-savvy side of millennials—marketers can’t just throw money at targeted mobile displays or video. A student-targeted mobile marketing campaign needs to be cleverer than that.  

According to Michael Hanley, an advertising professor at Ball State University, “About 65 percent of students report receiving mobile ads, and 70 percent of them don’t like it.”

Social campaigns are the remedy to this marketing problem. Matt Britton, CEO of MRY, a creative and technology agency headquarter in New York, said, “The most effective form of social media marketing is always creating content that’s highly shareable.” 

 

Short and Sweet 

To keep marketers on their toes, the sharable content should also be compact—small enough to consume within the restrictive space of mobile screens and short attention span of the college user. 

“When you think about people on their phones,” Britton continued, “they’re scrolling so quickly that if you try to come up with long-form content, they’re not going to take time to read it.”

Some apps are built for this kind of content; SnapChat and Vine, for example, proliferate this kind of content with an emphasis on creativity and viralability. Marketers simply have to find ways to appeal to students from within these and other social networks to succeed in communicating new products and services. Explore what these apps can do for your next mobile marketing campaign.

 

Say Less, Show More 

Britton also advises the use of imagery as a means to communicate more effectively within the time and size constraints. Instagram is one app that has defined the practical use of creative imagery to build brand recognition and communicate sales and discounts. Moreover, GIFs have recently increased in popularity across nearly every social media channel, which really drives home Britton’s point.  

Does this mean the written word is doomed on the Internet? As far as marketers are concerned, it would seem so, with long-form content being replaced by hashtags and images that are presumably worth 1,000 words. As for the students, most of their reading must get done in textbooks.