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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.

 

Real Estate Tech Opens Market to Small Investors

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It was about one year ago that RealtyShares created a new way for investors to put small sums of money into real estate projects. The company is likened to a “LendingClub for Real Estate,” as it provides a platform for crowdfunding real estate development. They subsequently allow investors to put as little as $5,000 into single and multi-family homes, as well as commercial real estate projects. Project cost ranges from $100,000 to tens of millions. 

If you’re a developer looking for funding, RealtyShares makes the process pretty darn simple, as it offers an easy way to obtain said funding. The company funds between 10 and 20 projects per month, and it takes about four days for each RealtyShares investment to receive funding. Compare that to weeks or months for traditional funding and you’ve got a great way to develop real estate projects. 

RealtyShares eschews banks and big-time investors in favor of collecting larger volume on smaller investments. The total value of properties funded through the site is already more than 70 million, and projects are generally funded about 12 to 24 hours after they’re listed. Additionally, sponsors and borrowers don’t have to worry about managing their investors, as RealtyShares does all the paperwork and payment processing. 

Led by General Catalyst, the company recently raised $1.9 million to make their new offering available to more developers and investors. Additional investors include E*Trade COO Greg Framke and president of Gold Bullion International Savneet Singh. Investors can pool money--as little as $1,000--in equity investments where they own part of the property. This results in quarterly or monthly cash flows from rental income as well as sale profits, though investors may also become property lenders and receive a fixed monthly income. 

The company has pointed out five specific markets with growing tech and real estate sectors that offer the opportunity to invest. These markets include Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Dallas, and Miami; RealtyShares hopes to connect borrowers and investors in a more efficient manner.

Such market-specific products allow developers to find funding from local investors interested in developing in their cities. Investors also enjoy the benefit of profiting from “better yields” in markets--ones that have yet to be overdeveloped.

RealtyShares was part of the seventh 500 Startups Accelerator Class, where it received much praise for putting money into projects generating a quick return among other services. 

 

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. 

 

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. 

 

New App Puts Contacts in Context

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Last week saw the launch of an app that aims to to bring contextual information to existing messaging platforms. 

Rather than offering yet another variation on the seemingly endless array of messaging apps available, Blinq augments the apps people already have. Appearing as nothing more than a small white dot, Blinq subtly makes its presence felt within the interface of messaging apps like Facebook, Whatsapp and SMS. From there, it alerts you to incoming information on the person with whom you’re communicating by pulling data from a variety of social and business networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. The app prioritizes this information, only alerting you to the more important updates (favoring, say, the beginning of a new job over the latest Instagram snap of breakfast).

It’s a brilliant solution to the problems caused by the multi-platform, multi-site web presence that’s now standard for many individuals. It gives you quick access to information on a person, when you need it. If, for example, a potential business partner calls you and you can’t quite recall every detail needed to avoid embarrassment, Blinq throws you a few bones to help you construct a full skeleton of their online identity. 

The app has been launched primarily as a consumer product - but the potential as a CRM tool for businesses are obvious. Other aggregator software already performs similar tasks for email exchanges - Blinq simply brings mobile in line. As a mobile marketing tool for small businesses, Blink could provide an affordable, effective solution for keeping track of customers and providing the best, most personalized service possible. 

Only available on Android right now, the developers plan to bring Blinq to iOS in the future. To do that, they have to create a more standalone experience than the one available on Android. But with half a million already raised by investors, and the product now available for perusal, Blinq hopes to expand its operation and bring the security and reassurance of contextual communication to more people.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Net Neutrality Vote Happening on February 26th

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During a discussion at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the commission will vote on a proposal to reinstate Net neutrality rules. The vote will take place at an open commission meeting on February 26th. 

Wheeler also said the proposal will circulate among commissioners beginning February 5th, and while he didn’t delve into specifics, Wheeler alluded the new proposal will “reclassify broadband traffic” as part of Title II utility. Some supporters believe this reclassification will put new neutrality rules on “stronger legal footing.”  

In November 2014 President Obama encouraged the FCC to reclassify Internet traffic under Title II of the Communications Act, though Wheeler has not said whether he supports the president’s suggestion. 

Net neutrality is defined as the idea that all online traffic is subject to fair treatment by broadband providers, meaning no restrictions or preferential treatment is bestowed on certain types of traffic. The FCC is working on new rules that will replace those adopted in 2010.

The issue of broadband traffic reclassification has been one of the hotter issues regarding the net neutrality debate, with large broadband providers such as Verizon and AT&T noting reclassification will “stifle innovation” via imposed, antiquated telecommunications regulation for an industry they believe has evolved positively despite no government regulation. However, other consumer advocates and Internet companies such as Netflix say broadband service reclassification is the only option for ensuring new Net neutrality rules hold up in future court challenges.  

During his discussion with Consumer Electronics Association head Gary Shapiro, Wheeler made it quite clear that the FCC’s approach to the proposal will not include “all of the restrictions under Title II meant for traditional telephony networks to broadband.” Rather, the proposed rules would “forbear or exclude” broadband from clinging to Communications Act provisions that don’t apply to broadband service. 

He said the idea is to make certain that the agency can “provide a legal standing” for rules prohibiting broadband providers from “blocking content, throttling traffic, or offering a paid prioritization service.” The other idea is to ensure Internet service providers manage their wares in a way that is transparent to customers.

"The wireless industry has been wildly successful as a Title II regulated industry," he said. "So there is a way to do it right."

Wireless industry reps disagree with Wheeler in terms of Title II restrictions on broadband. 

"Comparisons to the regulatory framework for mobile voice are misplaced and irrelevant," Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CEO,CTIA-The Wireless Association, said in a statement. "Congress created a regulatory regime for mobile voice under Section 332 and Title II. Congress also created a separate regulatory regime - -explicitly outside Title II -- for other services like mobile broadband. The FCC cannot now rewrite Congress's intent to rewrite the Act or rewrite history."

Wheeler has also remarked that he has “no intention of allowing broadband providers to create a two-tiered Internet of haves and have nots." The vote later this month will hopefully settle some much debated issues around this topic. 

What's With the Round Smartwatch Craze?

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Round smartwatches are increasingly popular, and new offerings are providing consumers with an array of fun and practical features, including those designed to keep users healthy and fit. Let’s check out some of the smartwatches on the market today, as well as those in the soon-to-be-released file: 

 

Alcatel Onetouch Watch

Available in March on Amazon, the Alcatel Onetouch Watch comes in four style options, two metal and two micro-textured resin. It supports both iOS and Android devices, which sets it apart from just about every other smartwatch currently manufactured. Controlled through a companion iOS or Android app, the watch makes it easy to a) view all the health information it’s collected about you, b) pick which apps you want to notify you, and c) manage the various ways the watch communicates with your phone.  

While watch reviews indicate the device does not provide as appealing an interface as other Android Wear options, it makes up for it in battery life. The Alcatel watch is designed to last for two to five days, under the right circumstances. Plus, health features include a built-in heart rate monitor, gyroscope, accelerometer, altimeter and e-compass to measure metrics such as sleep cycles, steps, distance and calories burned. It’s also possible to make the watch ring if you misplace your phone, while tapping the screen brings up multimedia controls. The USB charging port is conveniently hidden...and small. 

The Alcatel Ontouch Watch will feature an entry price of $149, making it less expensive than some of the other options currently available. 

 

LG G Watch R 

Arguably one of the most popular round smartwatches on the market today, the LG G Watch R is a stylish option featuring “Ok Google” voice commands with Android wear, the “world’s first” full-circle P-OLED display, and fitness integration that includes a built-in heart rate monitor. The watch is compatible with most devices housing an Android 4.3 or later operating system. 

 

Samsung Smartwatch

Samsung is set to unveil a smartwatch around the time it launches its latest Android offering, the Samsung Galaxy S6. A round watch believed to be similar to the Moto 360, the Samsung S6 is currently known as  “SM-R720,” and is referred to by the codename “Orbis.” It will run the technology giant’s own Tizen OS system, and the device is expected to make a huge splash at the Mobile World Congress this March. 

Any of these round smartwatches appeal to your sensibilities?