Retail

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April 17, 2015

Apple Watch Pre-Orders Reach a Million

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Apple recently began pre-selling three versions of its new smart watch to the world, with orders now hitting the one million mark. And that’s just in the United States.  

Unsurprisingly called the Apple Watch, the device allows you to read emails, send messages, and answer iPhone calls, all from the convenience of your wrist. A Taptic Engine feature alerts you through—you guessed it—a tap, so no notifications are missed. The Digital Touch feature makes it easy to communicate by sending a tap, sketch, or heartbeat. There’s even health and fitness features, as well as Apple Pay.  

The watch is available in aforementioned three collections: Apple Watch Sport, priced at $349 and $399; Apple Watch, which costs between $549 to $1,099; and Apple Watch Edition, a watch created from custom rose or yellow 18-karat gold alloys. Prices for the Edition start at $10,000. 

"Apple users were waiting for the Apple watch, so when we saw this huge surge in demand, we were not surprised at all," Jaimee Minney, vice president of marketing and public relations for Slice Intelligence, told ABC News. 

The future of the Apple Watch looks good despite what Slice calls “ho-hum reviews, even by some of the most ardent Apple fans.” According to the company, the average Apple Watch buyer ordered 1.3 watches, spending $503.83 per watch. Consumers opting for the Apple Watch Sport edition spent $382.83 per device, while those ordering the Apple Watch edition spent $707.04. 

“Among those buying an Apple Watch, 72 percent purchased an Apple product in the past two years -- iPhone, Apple computer or iPad -- and 21 percent of them pre-ordered an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus mere months ago,” Minney wrote in a recent blog post. “Nearly one-third purchased two Apple products and 11 percent bought all three devices, in addition to their new watch.” 

Watch accessories are also popular, with Minney noting consumers who purchased the Apple Watch or the Sport edition choosing the larger 42mm case. The space gray aluminum case is a favorite as well, edging out the silver and space black cases. 

“The Black Sport Band was by far the most popular among both Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport buyers, with 49 percent overall pre-ordering one, followed by the White Sport Band at 16 percent and the more expensive Milanese Loop -- $149 versus $49 for the black Sport band -- rounding out the top three at around 10 percent,” Minney remarked.  

According to Roger Entner, principal analyst at Recon Analytics, should Apple continue to see one million units per quarter the company would easily become one of the most profitable watchmakers in the world. This means second to Swatch in regards to profitability and only just behind the legendary Rolex brand. 

“If you told people about a new Apple product that cost $400 and asked them if they would buy it, 1 million people would say yes," Entner said. "They don’t even need to know what it is -- and more often than not they wouldn’t be disappointed. Since the second coming of Steve Jobs, the missteps that Apple has taken are few and far between.” 

 

April 05, 2015

Mobile Messaging: The Ultimate Customer Service Helpdesk

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Mobile marketing has witnessed a decade of innovation during which thousands upon thousands of apps have flooded the marketplace, doing everything from fitness tracking to spread betting. But what if there was no need for a separate app for each task? What if you could use a single interface to request and receive goods and services? 

The rise of apps like Magic has brought ‘conversational commerce’ - in which customers can make specific requests via SMS messaging - to the forefront. Facebook is soon to launch it’s own Magic-like on-demand text service. Meanwhile, messaging app SnapChat is expanding to offer a commercial iteration of its service - SnapCash - which allows users to make transactions for products. 

This is all relatively new stuff in the United States, but Asia has been harnessing the full potential of SMS messaging as a catch-all service tool for some years. In China, WeChat gives its 440 million users a single portal through which they can pay bills, order taxis and shop; the app has generated more than $1.1 billion in revenue since launching in 2011. In Japan, LinePay provides a similar service. 

In the U.S., most of the recent buzz around ‘conversational commerce’ has focused on Magic, the app that allows you to request any service that exists in the real world, from dry cleaning to dry stonewalling. The so-called ‘concierge’ service uses a winning combination of human and artificial intelligence to meet the demands of its growing customer base.

Other start-ups have followed suit. Scratch, for instance, offers a ‘professional shopper’ to not only help facilitate purchases, but actually offer fashion advice along the way. Native pulls off a similar trick in the travel world, working as a personalized travel assistant to help you plan every part of your trip via SMS messaging. 

The implications of this development are significant for the future of mobile. The limitations of the mobile interface have always been down to the problems of shrinking a desktop internet onto small screens. Fiddly shopping carts and multiple apps make for a fractious, incomplete experience. But the text message was made for small screen devices. Now it is liberating us from the process of browsing, comparing and purchasing goods which, even on a mobile-friendly site or app, is a little unwieldy.

 

March 31, 2015

SMS vs. MMS

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Mobile marketing is nowhere near critical mass. For a variety of reasons, this marketing channel is not as widely used as experts predict for the future—many speculate the distinction between SMS and MMS messaging is not popularly understood, and as a result, has slowed growth. But it’s really not that complicated, and choosing the right tactic for a marketing campaign doesn’t have to be a painstaking process of trial and error. Before we jump into the unique traits and characteristics of each, let’s look at a few basic similarities.

 

Similarities

Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Message Service (MMS) are both mobile marketing tactics that are designed to complement a marketing strategy by providing content directly to consumers’ handsets or mobile devices. SMS and MMS work to instantaneously provide content directly to users, engaging consumers via their mobile device, the result of which is highly effective, reliable and progressive. 

 

Differences

The most obvious difference between the two is made clear by their names. SMS is a text-based service that does not provide users with rich media content. Conversely, MMS allows users to send a variety of media including images, animated .GIF, and short video or audio files. This is where the divergence really begins, as the latter may cost more money to produce but also delivers a substantially higher return on investment. 

 

MMS Advantages 

MMS messages can be sent peer-to-peer from mobile phones, a mobile messaging service provider, or a website. These multimedia messages enjoy higher customer engagement, and better click-through-rates. What’s more, MMS increases campaign opt-ins by 20% over SMS and subscribers are more likely to engage with the content on social media outlets. 

The quality of MMS content is perceived as much higher than SMS and has a well-maintained handset database. Real-time content transcoding makes sending media faster and with unlimited charters and device detection, the message is louder and goes further. Most phones already support MMS messages and don’t require further enablement. MMS does not require data from the end user. 

 

SMS Advantages 

 

While SMS doesn’t have the same branding opportunities as MMS, it does offer useful insight by providing user data that’s not so easily collected by MMS messages. 

Although the standard SMS message is limited to 160 characters, this may include a link that tracks back to a website where useful information can be collected, or further online engagement can occur. The drawback, of course, is that data is required by the end user and can sometimes have hidden costs for the user as well. This is one of the more debated issues surrounding SMS messaging today, as extraneous data usage can often cause more harm than good when trying to develop a loyal mobile audience. 

SMS can be sent peer-to-peer or through a mobile messaging service provider. SMS is incredibly fast, with 99.99% delivered in under 15 seconds. Currently, SMS delivers more than 3 billion messages a year, across most small US carriers. 

Hopefully by getting a better handle on what these two marketing tactics do, marketers will be ready to help further realize the advantages and disadvantages of using these highly effective marketing tools. 

 

 

March 30, 2015

Analytics App Raises $34 Million

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In search of the best analytics tool for your marketing app? Localytics might be the answer to your app-tastic prayers. A service app that offers “analytics, insights, and marketing solutions in one place,” Localytics has raised $34 million in Series D funding so far.  

The company initially focused on app analytics, but CEO Raj Aggarwal noted that customers also called for tools that made it easy to move forward with their newly-acquired data. This prompted the Localytics team to add push notifications, integration with sales and business intelligence software, email marketing, and in-app messaging. Aggarwal explained that businesses are in need of “all the insights and tools to engage users and meet their expectations for an amazing app experience, in one place.”  

He pointed out that apps are an essential component of the digital experience, and as such, businesses need their marketing and product teams to use the same tools. Disparate data sets are quickly becoming a thing of the past.  

Localytics offers real-time, granular data analytics that answer questions such as, “How frequently do consumers visit my app?”, “How long does the average user spend on my app per visit?”, “What are people doing in my app?” and “Why aren’t my app users converting?” among other relevant queries. The insights portion of Localytics shows which demographic your app targets, what features pique consumer interest the longest, how many purchases were made over the last 15 days, and what makes some users “more valuable” than others. 

As far as marketing services, Localytics offers push messaging that helps re-engage customers, in-app messaging that lets users know about new features, and features answers to attribution questions, such as where to invest in terms of advertising. A/B testing is also part of the app’s marketing services, and helps determine what drives the most conversions, and which call to actions are best for specific campaigns.  

Localytics is currently used by some 32,000 apps, including those for eBay, ESPN, Fox, The New York Times, and the upcoming HBO Now app. 

The company will soon introduce a new predictive marketing feature, which is designed to aid businesses in discovering which customers are most likely to abandon the app. Once such customers are identified, they’ll receive targeted messages convincing them to keep using it. This marketing feature also determines which customers are willing to spend more on the app, and subsequently tempts them with targeted deals.

Current Localytics investors include Sapphire Ventures, Foundation Capital, and Polaris Partners.

 

March 27, 2015

Mobile Marketing is Going Hyper-Local

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Mobile marketing has taken huge strides towards fulfilling the potential of geo-targeting technology, allowing local businesses to make the most of their sphere of influence. The only way for geo-location techniques to go is inward, reaching ever-more specific parts of the local economy.

Mobile marketing is doing just that, placing an increasing emphasis on attracting foot traffic to brick and mortar retail outlets. The industry is now able to service international brands with bespoke campaigns in multiple locations using region-specific methods capable of targeting users to a single square foot. 

This ultimate refinement of mobile marketing tactics is a real game changer. A heady cocktail of beacons, GPS, location information gathered from existing interactions and other geolocaters is ushering in a new era of hyper-local mobile marketing so precise it’s hard to imagine how it could improve further.

Having such devastatingly effective mobile marketing tactics available at the local level is helping small businesses maximize their efficiency on tight budgets. For a relatively low cost, small businesses can quickly, reliably reach the widest audience they can serve, via a combination of in-app messaging, web ads, text messages, MMS and push notifications. 

So what next? With such sophistication already on display, where targeted mobile marketing could go now is anybody’s guess. Some mobile marketers are considering adjusting their services to allow for weather, which would let marketers better judge the prime time to pitch discounts. It might not be relevant to every business, but purveyors of ice cream or rooftop cocktails could really use knowing if it’s about to rain the moment they’ve sent their 50% discount coupon to hundreds of people. Other local data like traffic conditions may also begin to play a part in geo-location technology. 

The tools at our disposal allows imaginative approaches to marketing to flourish, unencumbered by technological limits. Nobody can say for certain what the next few years hold for mobile marketing - that’s why it’s so exciting. But if the rapid rate of change we’ve seen take place over the past decade continues, we can be confident that the mobile landscape of 2025 will look very different to the one we see today.

March 24, 2015

Is MMS the Next Big Thing in Mobile Marketing?

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Mobile marketing has proven more viable than its email predecessor, as consumers become more detached from their email and clients like Gmail implement new sorting features. Today, mobile devices are in almost every hand and most already have the ability to read SMS and MMS messages—yet, one question remains: which one is better?

Short Message Service (SMS) works similarly to a regular text message in that it can be sent peer-to-peer or from a mobile service provider, and appears to the user in simple text. There’s a limit, however, of 160 characters and all click links require the use of data by the end user. The upside is that these messages are fast, reliable and less expensive than their multimedia counterpart.

Multimedia Message Service (MMS) allows the use of images, animated .GIF, or short video and audio clips. Thousands of characters can be fit in a single MMS message, which provides better branding opportunities and higher high consumer engagement—boasting a 15% average click-through-rate and increased campaign opt-ins by 20% over SMS. 

Both of these mobile marketing tactics increase ROI by creating a direct line of communication to the consumer, building brand awareness and loyalty literally from the palm of the user’s hand. But as Zach Zimmerman of ePrize, the mobile marketing team behind Starbucks’ promo success, pointes out, “MMS is a tactic, not a strategy.” 

While the seeming advantage of MMS is presented in beautiful images, video and sound, the use of this service can be a financial money-pit if paired with the wrong message, brand, product or campaign—a number of things that have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

One huge drawback to the allure of MMS is its inability to collect important space and tracking data, which is easily available through mobile web landing pages, assessable through a click link in basic SMS messages. Moreover, MMS is not enabled on all mobile devices—yet. 

Upgrades and increased sophistication of these mobile marketing tactics are already underway. Developing platforms will allow brands to reach any phone, anywhere, anytime, from the iPhone5S to the Lumia. These media marketing companies are pushing the mobile frontier, and with clients like Ikea, Kellogg, Bloomingdales, Starbucks and major TV networks buying what these companies are throwing down, it’s only a matter of time before answering the SMS vs. MMS question will need to be answered once and for all. 

 

 

March 20, 2015

Using Data to Improve Your Mobile Strategy

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Looking to enhance your mobile marketing strategy? Who isn’t these days? Thinking well beyond app downloads is the first step to fine-tuning your strategy, as a data-led, “moneyball” approach to mobile is a viable (and arguably the best) route to success. Check out a few moneyball indicators to help you rethink current mobile marketing strategies: 

 

Brand Reputation 

These days, mobile is the main source of interaction between you and your customers, so failing to treat it as such is not going to help pique consumer interest. Think about the overall perception of your apps, trending topics and wants in customer reviews, app reliability, and whether or not customers are using the app features you’ve designed. Gather this information and use it to craft a mobile-first marketing strategy. 

 

Competitive Intelligence

Knowing exactly where your brand falls on the competitive landscape is essential, as it helps you understand what is and is not working for you, and to make adjustments accordingly. Compare your brand to competitors in terms of mobile, especially in regards to marketing efforts, visibility, sentiment, and promotion. 

 

Customer Engagement 

The “holy grail” of mobile app engagement is the ability to give customers exactly what they want, when and where they want it. Today’s mobile analytics combined with intelligent marketing makes this possible, and studying the right KPIs is the best way to ensure proper engagement. KPIs include how different users engage the app, such as how often and how much time they actually spent on it. Also keep a close eye on push notification opt-outs, how often your users adhere to predefined conversion goals, and how many times the app is uninstalled. 

 

Mobile Moments

A fantastic mobile strategy goes beyond customer engagement, as the main point is monetizing “mobile moments.” Finding the balance between engagement and encouraging consumers to take action means using certain indicators to test marketing efforts, including whether customers are purchasing your products, if they’re becoming advocates of your brand, and whether they are currently part of your ongoing sales cycle. 

 

Investing

According to the Mobile Marketing Association, brands need to invest 25-30% of their marketing budget in mobile marketing if they truly want their brands to become household names. A strategic investment in mobile marketing is therefore necessary in order to ensure the aforementioned indicators happen. Invest wisely, use the above metrics, and take advantage of mobile moments, aka “game changers.” 

 

March 08, 2015

Is Magic, the Text Message Courier Service, actually Any Good?

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Magic is the new on-demand service based in text messages. It’s designed for really busy people….or really lazy people. Some 8,600 people are currently trying to gain access to this “magical” service, which promises the ability to purchase practically anything by “texting your desires.” 

It works (in the U.S., anyway) by sending a text message to a number on the official Magic site. Assuming there aren’t 9,000 people in front of you, you’ll then register your information. This includes name, address, credit card number...you get the idea. The company utilizes payment processing service Stripe to deal with credit card details, allowing such details to remain hidden from Magic employees.  

After all your details are registered, you can use Magic to order basically anything so long as it’s not illegal. Trained Magic operators “figure out the rest,” and all fees and tips are included in the final price. 

Originally a side project, Magic creator Mike Chen notes this is hardly the case anymore.  

“It topped 10,000 incoming messages on Sunday and was closing in on 18,000 Monday morning. Magic's team of magicians on call … grew from two or three at launch to 18 on Sunday,” Chen told Mashable.  

Likened to ChaCha’s text-a-question-and-receive-an-answer service, Magic has already been used to request a tiger (as in the actual jungle cat), as well as less-fangy items and services, such as those for bike wrenches and help in court.  

So how magical is Magic? Popular perhaps due to its simplicity, the service is receiving mixed reviews. It promises quick service that’s “like magic,” with couriers scurrying to your door ready to give you what you wanted, but some argue it’s more like Amazon in that you receive your requested item in a few days’ time. One reviewer notes that even a fairly simple request, such as a delicious chicken parmesan sandwich, took nearly half an hour for a response, which said the restaurant with the very best sandwich was closed.  

The supposedly-speedy courier service could just be experiencing growing pains, and Chen acknowledges the company let too many people sign up in too short a time. 

“We under-predicted how badly people wanted to use the service,” he said in an email. “If we let in a group of people, almost all of them start using it within a few minutes, which is not typical for wait lists with lower-demand services. As of now, I can say that we are letting people in at the correct rate, and that the number-one top focus of the company is quality.” 

Will Magic work out its kinks? Will it become the next big delivery service, bringing clients their hearts’ desires quickly and efficiently? Time will certainly tell.

March 02, 2015

Mobile Marketing is 'Next Big Thing' Says Mediacom Boss

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The fundamental differences between mobile marketing automation and web marketing automation must be thoroughly understood by marketers so they can provide a great user experience “across all touchpoints.” This is according to Ben Phillips, Medicom’s head of mobile.

While advertisers have pushed automated content on mobile devices for awhile now, an ambiguous view of how people switch between platforms has marred efforts. A form of mobile automated marketing that “goes beyond” the standard mobile app is set to become more ubiquitous as proximity triggers and push notifications increase in use.  

Phillips emphasizes the idea that mobile is no longer limited to phones, and that brands must take this into consideration. He notes the most successful advertisers are those who have designed creative mobile strategies first and “appreciate how their audience chooses to engage with them and provides the correct response.” In retail, for example, it’s a good idea to connect the experience with CRM, and personalize ads with relevant context rather than pushing random ads to shoppers as they browse aisles.  

The Mediacom boss also notes the role creativity will play in automated mobile marketing, “as many brands start to build 'mobile first' content that is relevant to the consumer regardless of point of engagement. Automated mobile marketing will enable deeper CRM learnings and processes that lead brands to a more personal one-to-one dialogue with their consumers.”

Audience data is essential to craft personalized dialogue with customers, and Phillips predicts “the race this year will be to obtain a persistent tracking identifier for an individual across platforms. By this I don’t just mean mobile and desktop, we need to be able to verify individuals against wearable devices, a smart TV a connected car and internet of things.”

Brands must step up their automated mobile marketing game and fully understand the wide spectrum that is mobile. Medicom is arguably ahead of the game, as the company is working on partnerships similar to its relationship with advertising technology platform Celtra. This means Medicom can create rich media ad units for both desktop and mobile.

“I believe [brands] aren’t doing enough because they aren’t being directed, taught or educated in the right way,” remarked Phillips. “Our industry will begin to consolidate and roll up into digital within the next year. The 'systems' lead thinking approach will win out as it becomes ever more apparent that mobile sits in every marketing and advertising discipline and not as a siloed specialist function.”

The consumer is at the heart of any mobile strategy, so focusing on a well-rounded marketing ploy that includes multiple platform and advertising options is key. Phillips is correct in recommending brands determine how their audience opts to engage them, and to build a mobile marketing strategy from there. The companies that take advantage of this idea are the ones who will figuratively blow competition out of the water in the next few years. 

 

February 23, 2015

6 Ways to Improve Your Mobile Marketing Strategy

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In-app push notifications and geo-targeting messaging platforms may be popular mobile marketing tools, but text message marketing still wins out as the choice advertising vehicle for small businesses. If looking to infuse fresh blood into your text message marketing campaign, check out the following tips: 

 

1) Encourage Customer Interaction

Today’s consumers have come to expect regular engagement, both at home and on the move. Try promoting brand awareness by using text to interact with digital signs. For instance, customers might send texts to a shared short code to receive an immediate, positive experience, such as seeing their name emblazoned on a billboard. Because this strategy doesn’t require downloading apps, it’s a quick and effective means of piquing customer interest. 

 

2) Implement a Multi-Channel Strategy

Today’s brands focus on multi-channel marketing strategies that takes full advantage of how consumers look for and process information. Almost every cell phone currently in use is SMS-capable, and as such all marketing campaigns should feature an SMS call-to-action. For example, an email offer that includes a way for consumers to sign up for mobile coupons is an excellent idea. Using SMS as a way to enter a Facebook competition also works. 

 

3) Keep Content Timely & Relevant

Delivering timely, valuable, and exclusive content to consumers is key in SMS marketing success. Promote existing campaigns, current coupons and discounts, and anything else that’s relevant to the “here and now” and for the “VIP text list” only. 

 

4) Create Actionable Local Advertising Campaigns

Local advertising should include an SMS shared shortcode and keyword that feature special discounts or offers. An ideal way to generate responses and track offline marketing channel effectiveness, this strategy is a much more streamlined, effective option than providing a phone number or a website and waiting for customers to call or click. 

 

5) Offer In-Store Recommendations

Improving consumers’ in-store experiences via easy access to product information, recommendations, and special discounts through SMS is yet another way to enhance your mobile marketing strategy. For example, a specialty store featuring a keyword that when texted provides customers with access to a special coupon, discount, or product recommendation, is an ideal way to attract new customers while satisfying current ones. 

 

6) Take Advantage of Opt-In Loyalty Lists

It’s essential that retailers have mobile opt-in loyalty lists that operate on a national scale as well as in individual store locations. “Even relatively small lists can drive significant sales, because they keep the store top-of-mind with their best customers,” notes Adam Lavine of FunMobility. 

So there you have it: a few tips for streamlining your mobile marketing strategy, with text marketing at the top of the list.