Retail

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May 01, 2016

Apps vs. Mobile Site

 

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As a small business owner, you’ve probably wondered whether to focus on making your website mobile friendly or utilizing the skills of a talented app developer. Both offer mobile marketing strategy advantages in light of industry, budget, and target audience, yet considering the amount of conflicting advice floating around, deciding which one to go with is often challenging. 

In 2013 a Compuware survey found that 85 percent of consumers enjoy apps over mobile websites. However, this hardly means one is better than the other, or that there isn’t just as huge a market for mobile sites. It’s like saying a percentage of people prefer the beach to the mountains—there’s still plenty of reasons to market mountain-based attractions. 

The decision to go with apps over a mobile website or vice versa depends on your mobile marketing strategy and related tactics.

 

Mobile-Friendly Websites

A mobile-optimized website is essentially a responsive design that recognizes when a visitor is using a mobile device and then converts the site to a version that’s easy to read via mobile. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to produce different or additional content for a mobile site, as you would have to for an app. This makes mobile marketing management a much more streamlined process, and allows you to focus on other aspects of your business, rather than concerning yourself with content all the time. 

Mobile websites arguably drive more traffic than apps, so consider your ultimate goals behind site use: are you looking to improve consumer loyalty, or increase revenue by expanding your customer base? A cross-channel site may be your best option depending on what you wish to accomplish. 

 

Apps

The main advantage of having an app for your business is that it lets you make excellent use of a tablet or smartphone’s hardware and native functionalities. Cameras, GPS, speedometers, gyroscopes, and other useful pieces of technology found on the vast majority of modern devices are easily worked into your app’s operation. 

Another advantage of apps is that they rarely require an internet connection to run. Most apps store data locally on a phone or tablet’s hard drive, so users may enjoy them even if no internet connection is available. For example, some news apps download and store content through a Wi-Fi connection so users may read about current events until the app is able to sync with another connection. 

App infrastructure and development tools are more sophisticated and user friendly than ever thanks to demand for app developers, with major operating systems offering a serious selection of frameworks for developers to work with. Most frameworks are free. 

 

Wrapping Up

Again, which one you decide to go with depends on what your ultimate marketing goals are, how big your budget is, and more factors. If you have the means and the employees to handle a mobile-friendly site and an app, why not try both and see if one offers more benefits to your company than the other. You also might find that your team is efficient enough to provide content to each channel, thus increasing brand awareness and reach. Whatever you decide, remember that it’s a very good idea to offer at least one of the two options to your target audience. 

April 29, 2016

Mobile Shopping Poised for Growth in Kenya

 

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Kenyan retailers might not have fully adopted mobile communications to fuel their business activity, but they are embracing it, and technology is on the rise when it comes to their marketing campaigns. A recent Nielson study conducted on Kenyan retailers and their use of technology reveals that mobile usage in the past has been significant. Moreover, companies are slowly turning to mobile marketing concepts.

 

The Study

The Neilson research group conducted face-to-face interviews with 300 retailers across many spectrums and service channels throughout Kenya. The results show that, right now, most retail business is done in the country through direct communication and transactions. In fact, 96 percent of consumers in Kenya prefer to pay retailers with cash, and 88 percent of them prefer in-person communication. They also like to see new products firsthand. 

 

The Promise of the Mobile Market

Even though retail businesses in Kenya today seem to under-utilize mobile technology—just 12 percent of customers use mobile money to pay for goods—Nielson East Africa MD Jacqueline Nyanjom, says, “In a country with 96 percent mobile penetration, the findings are somewhat surprising – but they do point to enormous potential for growth.”

Kenya’s mobile money market is perfect for growth because of how easy it is for people already utilizing mobile technology to make the jump to purchasing goods online. In other parts of the world, mobile money has already been embraced or made great strides. In Kenya, Safaricom’s M-Pesa currently dominates the mobile money market, as small as it is. M-Pesa launched in 2007 and has more than 25-million subscribers, and about 130,000 retail agents use the technology. Countrywide, 43 percent of the Gross National Product flowed through this channel in 2013.

 

The Future of Mobile Shopping

One of the main reasons that Kenyans rely on cash for purchases is that it doesn’t carry transaction fees. Some shoppers and retailers, however, have expressed concern about the safety of using cash for purchases. Aside from fees, there are few reasons not to convert to the use of mobile money in the retail sector. About 25 percent of retail businesses say that they have not been approached with an offer to use mobile money for purchases, a fact that implies that there is an untapped group of business owners in this market.

Additionally, it seems that the time is ripe to encourage both businesses and consumers to accept mobile advertising and marketing as part of the mix. Companies need to focus on adopting retail apps, mobile coupons, promotions, geo-location deals and ads, and other mobile marketing tools in order to bring exciting new growth to the industry.

 

April 24, 2016

The Global Reach of SMS Messaging

 

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SMS has carved out a place as one of the key marketing tools for the modern business. With affordable, effective application for both B2C and B2B marketing, text messaging is also being used as an internal communication method. If there’s one remote communication technology you can be sure everyone has access to, it’s text messaging.

Therein lies the principal appeal of SMS: it’s universality. Not only do people across the globe have access to SMS, the majority of them carry a phone everywhere, which means that access is readily available, often within minutes of a message being sent. Let’s take a look at the reasons why text messaging is the surest way to reach the largest number of people:

 

  1. Global Reach. There are phone carriers in almost every country in the world, and because SMS works on 2G networks (as well as 3G and 4G), it can be used to communicate with an active mobile phone anywhere in the world
  2. Classless. Unlike other mobile technologies such as apps and geo-location, text messaging doesn’t require a smartphone. Indeed, the SMS protocol predates the advent of the smartphone by more than a decade, which meant it was so widespread by the time everyone started carrying miniature computers in their pocket that it was beyond reproach. No phone manufacturer has even considered not including this simple feature on their phones. The smartest smartphone can communicate with any active cell phone built in the last 20 years in two ways: a phone call or a text message. That’s a pretty level playing field for global communication.
  3. More likely to be read. Than any other form of digital communication. Conservative estimates reckon at least 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of receipt, and unlike emails, they won’t get spam filtered or routinely ignored.
  4. It’s economical. Not just in terms of financial cost, but because of the 160 character limit - a major part of the appeal when it comes to actually reading messages - it requires an economy of language that all marketers should be seeking to use anyway. Your brand message will be clear, concise and direct. It has to be!
  5. It’s permission based. Because consent is required, you know your messages won’t form just another part of the digital white noise we’ve all become used to tuning out on a daily basis. Anyone who receives your SMS messages has requested them, making them much more likely to engage.
  6. It plays well with others. SMS messaging works in harmony with other forms of digital marketing, allowing you to create a truly ‘joined up’ mobile marketing campaign. If, for instance, you have details of an upcoming event on your website, SMS messaging is the perfect way to alert customers to it and include a link to the full story. By incorporating SMS messaging into your overall mobile marketing strategy, you will maximize your reach.

April 17, 2016

Mobile Marketing and the Emoji Question

 

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New research indicates that mobile marketing campaigns are increasingly turning to emojis to make their messages pop. Marketing automation company Appboy surveyed close to 9,400 campaigns on Android and iOS platforms, and found emoji usage had increased more than seven-fold year-on-year, as of March 2016. The report found e-commerce marketers and retailers were the most likely businesses to use emojis in mobile marketing campaigns.

Why are mobile marketing managers using emojis? Simply put, it’s because the rest of us do, and it’s seen as an easy way to add some color and individuality to a campaign. With so much activity happening in the world of mobile marketing, it’s highly competitive and volatile; some 800 million users got their first smartphone last year alone. Another 600 million will join them this year.

With such vast numbers, it’s crucial for e-marketers to understand who they’re trying to reach, and with what kind of message. In this context, emojis become one contributing factor to the success of a mobile marketing campaign. Used well, they set the right tone for a brand image. 

 

Using Emojis

So how do you use them in the most effective way? One of the most common mistakes brands make is to use emojis in place of text, where text would communicate more effectively. Emojis should complement your written message, not replace it, so for your first campaign, try incorporating one or two relevant emojis. This will give you a chance to feel out your audience to see if they respond well to emojis. Not everyone does!

Remember too that a constant stream of unhelpful, if fun, messages will result in irritated customers opting out of your contact list or deleting your app. Don’t get over-excited with the new plaything and start barraging your user base. Stick to the mobile marketing strategy of only issuing messages when you have a special offer to promote, or other information that will be of genuine interest. Incorporate emojis into these, rather than trying to build a new mobile marketing campaign around emojis.

A recent BI Intelligence report takes a look at mobile marketing tactics such as emojis. One of the key findings was the importance of marketers leveraging different tactics according to demographic and audience size. It’s vital to respect the personal nature of mobile messaging, and be highly vigilant for over doing it. Emojis are a good example of mobile marketing tactics that can go wrong if misapplied, but work wonders when done right.

April 08, 2016

Samsung Has Launched Its Mobile Wallet in China

 

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Samsung’s mobile wallet is making its way to China, no tunneling required. The international tech firm recently announced Chinese shoppers can now use their smartphones to pay for in-store purchases, and are therefore joining the Asian country’s trillion-dollar mobile wallet market. 

 

Partnership With UnionPay

SamsungPay was launched in partnership With UnionPay, the same bankcard company that helped bring ApplePay to life. UnionPay credit and debit cards are currently the only cards linked with local Samsung phones at this time, with up to 10 cards allowed per device. SamsungPay is available in China on the Samsung Galaxy S7, Galaxy S7 Edge, Galaxy S6 Edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5 smartphones. 

 

Positive Reception

Injong Rhee, EVP and Head of R&D, Software, and Services of Mobile Communications Business at Samsung Electronics, said the company is pleased to partner with CUP in order to bring SamsungPay to Chinese consumers. Rhee said SamsungPay reception has so far been very positive, and the service has found success in both consumer adoption and availability. 

The EVP also stated that Samsung hopes to make the payment option available to as many Chinese consumers as possible so that “everyone can have the opportunity to enjoy the simplicity, safety and convenience of this mobile payment solution."

 

Participating Institutions

Banking institutions currently participating in SamsungPay include the largest bank in the country, ICBC, as well as China Construction Bank and China Merchants Bank. Other major institutions such as Bank of Communications and Bank of China are said to follow suit. 

 

Additional Phones

In addition to the Samsung phones listed above, the Korean tech giant noted the possibility of adding more devices, including the Galaxy A5, A7, and A9, as they were also tested in public beta. Rooted devices do not support SamsungPay. 

 

The Challenge

China’s mobile wallet industry is quite well established, making Samsung’s foray into the market a challenging one. Local services such as WeChat and AliPay are used for online shopping and transportation services among other things, and are now available for brick-and-mortar store use. Analysts recently remarked that AliPay and WeChat are so ingrained among Chinese consumers that introducing new mobile wallet options will be an “uphill battle.” However, Samsung has previously noted one essential factor working for them: the technology is applicable to a larger number of existing payment terminals. 

 

“Simple and Safe”

Samsung also believes its mobile wallet option will work because it’s “simple, safe, and easy to use,” and that it works “virtually anywhere” in China that allows consumers to swipe or tap their cards. There’s no need to unlock phones or use special apps to access Samsung’s mobile wallet, which makes it arguably more appealing than earlier incarnations requiring these steps, such as Google Wallet. 

The mobile wallet is similar to ApplePay in that it utilizes near field communication technology (NFC). Samsung’s version will also support the magnetic secure transmission technology used on standard credit card machines. 

As of the fourth quarter of last year, Samsung was No. 6 in China’s smartphone market with a 7 percent share compared to Apple’s 15 percent. It will be interesting to see how the new mobile wallet option fares. SamsungPay is currently available in the U.S. and South Korea, and should enter the UK market later this year. 

March 23, 2016

Do Good Week: Maintaining a Positive Company Culture

 

As part of this year's 'Do Good Week' we take a look at how you can inspire and maintain a positive company culture. 

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In order to do well in business, you need to maintain a positive company culture. What is a company culture and how do you create one that positively impacts your business, and therefore your customers? Company culture is a shared set of visions and values for the betterment of the company and those it serves, and it’s a collective effort to uphold those visions and values through every business decision and action.

 

Examples of a Positive Company Culture

A positive company culture is seen in the way leadership communicates with employees, in the enthusiasm employees have when performing their jobs, and in the effectiveness of the company to better the lives of its customers. Companies like The Disney Store have created a positive company culture by taking into consideration all of the above-mentioned points, and companies that are successful in creating a positive culture tend to experience enormous success.

 

The Importance of Positive Company Culture

It’s important that a company’s founder set the tone for a positive culture from day one. His or her visions and values can then be passed on to first-hire leadership, employee teams that are built subsequently, and any vendors or merchants that are representative of the company. It’s crucial that anyone who joins the company, in any capacity, is aware of the positive company culture that has been built and prepared to help maintain it. 

A positive company culture must be practiced and on display at all times in order to keep the business thriving. This means that anyone who is not on board with the culture that the company has created needs to decide to adopt a new attitude or face the consequences. Culture is that dire for a business’ success. 

 

How to Create and Maintain a Positive Company Culture

The culture a company creates for employees, and for customers, will be slightly different from one business to the next because of factors like the nature of business, the business’ target audience, and business location, among others. However, in the end, a positive company culture will be focused on a few things, including clear communication, fair dealing, and the happiness of employees and customers. The following are some goals a business can focus on to create a company culture that benefits management, shareholders, employees, and customers:

 

Recruit the Right People

To create a positive company culture, start with a leadership team that understands and embraces the business’ vision and values, and then make sure everyone who comes on board in any other capacity is clear and accepting of the culture. When you screen employees, hold willingness to uphold your company’s culture as a “must.” This will help your business by getting the right people into your company from day one, which means less turnover later. 

 

Commit to Orientations and Ongoing Training

Make it a requirement that every person who comes to work for your company go through an orientation that specifically addresses the company culture you’ve created. Also, make periodic training classes a requirement so that employees can receive updates to your visions and values (as they might change according to the state of an evolving business) and reminders about your company’s ultimate goals. 

In addition to these methods of maintaining a positive company culture, it’s a good idea to foster company-wide communication at every level, consider recognition and awards programs for those who go above and beyond in upholding your business’ values, and generate an atmosphere of caring in which employees feel connected and comfortable with each other, like a family. 

 

March 21, 2016

Chinese Mobile Companies Muscle in on Apple and Samsung's Territory

 

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Do you like the idea of a cell phone that has all the latest technology at a cheap price? A lot of people in China do, which is why Chinese brands like OPPO and TCL are closing in on the mobile market that Apple and Samsung have dominated for years.

It’s likely that the European and United States markets will appreciate an all-the-frills cell phone for a steal, too. 

Little-known tech companies in China are hoping that consumers will find their low-cost Android mobile devices attractive and turn to them over the now-more-popular competition. Even small Chinese brands, such as Xiaomi and Huawei, are giving the front-runners in the industry a bit to think about in terms of product cost.

 

What Does the Future Hold for Chinese Mobile Brands?

At the recent Mobile World Congress, a wireless show that was held in Barcelona this year, TCL, Hauwei, and Xiaomi revealed high-end cell phones that are part of an ambitious plan to take over the market. Xiaomi usually launches its phones in China, but the company was compelled to announce its new Mi 5 at the Mobile World Congress and steal the show from its well-established competitors. 

Will there be an audience for this new type of Chinese smartphone? Probably, considering what AndroidPIT editor Shu On Kwok implies when he says, “The Chinese smartphone vendors have a very unique feature - it is the price.” 

In today’s market, it’s common to get a standard collection of features from one Android device to the other. With a large group of consumers not needing functionality beyond what’s typical and necessary, innovation might take a backseat to price.

With the new Chinese phones coming on to the market, cell phone buyers get nearly the same features as high-end Apple and Samsung model phones for a much lower price. 

 

What Do Consumers Really Want?

During 2015, Samsung’s market share declined, and Apple forecasted its first decline in revenue in more than 12 years. These companies are going to need to prove that their products are worth the significant difference in price if they’re going to succeed and keep dominating the market.

Apple has tried to keep a stronghold on the smartphone market by positioning itself as a company with many exclusive hardware and software offerings. However, consumers have often been able to get features on Android devices that are similar to the brilliance that Apple is touting, and these buyers are completely okay with that “close enough” ideology.

So, if “close enough” is good enough to keep people from buying Apple products, it may be all that’s needed to make them opt for Chinese brands that offer similar features and functions. Samsung has all but stated that it’s not concerned about the Chinese mobile companies. Its mobile chief, D.J. Koh, said, "We have other ideas,” meaning that Samsung is depending on technology beyond mobile phone features, such as a virtual-reality headset that offers a 360-degree camera and is compatible with the company’s Galaxy phones. 

It seems that Apple and Samsung might need to keep reaching beyond their mobile phone markets to stay dominant in the future, and they might need to adjust their attention to include the needs of gamers and other tech enthusiasts.  

February 19, 2016

SMS and the Customer Experience

 

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Did you know texting has been around for nearly 20 years? It’s hard to imagine life without it, and yet only recently have big businesses started to pay close attention to text and SMS messaging. Which makes you wonder, why now? What are they up to?

 

Texting Tipping Point 

The Pew Research Center reports that texting is the most frequently used app on a cell phone—97 percent of Americans use texting at least once a day. When compared to average email open rates (20 percent), text messages score significantly higher at 98 percent.

The numbers all point toward mobile, which is no surprise in 2016; the difference between what marketers know today versus 5 years ago is that the customer experience now begins is the palm of the hand. 

There are several reasons that businesses are more inclined to entertain SMS messaging. First, 15 years ago, a basic SMS plan was expensive: 10 – 20 cents a message. Thanks to unlimited text messaging, texting is more affordable. 

Additionally, the devices we use to text now are much more sophisticated. Remember typing messages using the number pad and T9? Today, most cell phones are equipped with full keyboards that make texting faster and more efficient. These factors have made it much more cost efficient for businesses to utilize texting in a meaningful way. 

 

Big Business Learns to Text 

So, what exactly are companies planning to do with texting? 

Big businesses are focusing on existing customer behavior, which in this case means texting. Based on statistical data, businesses view texting as the preferred form of communication. Instead of asking customers to call a 1-800 number, they’re going to meet customers where they already are—via text.  

There are three ways texting will be integrated into big business to ensure the customer experience is managed from this new mobile point. 

First, contact centers will incorporate SMS messaging with traditional voice calls to help customers solve problems faster, reduce wait times, and follow up. Normally, an agent handles calls one at a time; with texting, an agent can take multiple inquires simultaneously, effectively reducing wait times and increasing productivity. 

Second, smart notifications will be used as reminders and to set up appointments. 

Finally, desk phone messaging will bridge SMS messaging and MMS into a regular desk telephone, giving mobile employees access to multiple text sessions at the same time. 

 

Text to Buy 

Ironically, the social behavior of texting hasn’t chanced the customer’s experience; rather it has changed customer’s expectations about what that experience should be. In this case, texting is the path of least resistance to settle all kinds of customer issues. However, it’s also open season for innovation and integration of new technologies that will allow customers to buy things via text—something I predict we’ll see a lot more of in the near future. 

 

 

 

February 17, 2016

Victoria's Secret Sued Over Unsolicited Texts

 

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What is it with these class action lawsuits lately? It seems like companies are having a hard time complying with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Last September, Yahoo was back in court challenging the legitimacy of a class action lawsuit filed early 2014. Now, Victoria Secret appears to want a piece of the action; the lingerie company faces litigation for excessive text messaging. 

The plaintiff, Michael Hannegan, willingly signed up for the company’s SMS notifications under the contract condition the company would send no more than six messages per day. Something went wrong in November last year, because according to Hannegan, Victoria’s Secret sent almost 100 unwanted text messages in a single day.

 

Seeking Class Action 

According to the pending class action suit: “Victoria's Secret undertook a misguided effort to increase sales by causing the mass transmission of spam text message advertisements in the form of mobile alerts.”

Hannegan is currently seeking class action status; the law says he (and potentially others harmed in this case) may be eligible for damages up to $1,500 per text message. 

Aside from wondering what Mr. Hannegan wanted from “generic advertisements for various products and sales,” most people are wondering if the case will even go to trial. 

At first glance, the excessive texts that occurred in November seem covered by the TCPA. What’s not clear at this point is whether the messages were all the same, perhaps duplicated, or sent by mistake. 

A judge will have to decide whether or not to grant Hannegan class action status on behalf of other cell phone users who may have also been victims. Based on past cases, the odds seem to be in Hannegan’s favor.

 

Similar TCPA Cases 

In January of 2014, Reuters reported that the U.S. District Judge Manish Shah “rejected Yahoo's arguments that a class action could subject it to damages that were disproportionate to the alleged harm…” Shah also allowed multiple plaintiffs to sue as a group. Yahoo is still battling it out in court and trying to deny the legitimacy of the class action altogether. 

In 2013, a similar case filed against well-known shoe brand, Steve Madden, was settled for $10 million.

Steve Madden had been accused of sending thousands of unsolicited texts through third-party advertisers, defending its actions with these two principles: 1) “That consumers had implicitly consented to receive text message solicitations by providing their cell phone numbers while visiting Steve Madden stores; and alternatively, that a third party advertiser sent the text messages and should be responsible, not Steve Madden.”

These defenses were both covered under the TCPA, and the cobbler didn’t have a leg to stand on. 

These kinds of lawsuits will become more popular as people become more aware of these legal protections. In fact, some legal firms are soliciting people who may have legal claim in similar scenarios.

 

February 15, 2016

Most People Prefer Mobile Money Transfers Over Their Banks, Says Survey

 

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Is mobile technology the key to alleviating money transfer frustration? It certainly seems so. A new Amdocs survey noted that 83 percent of the 3,000 respondents were displeased with current international money transfer services available through banks and money transfer operators (MTOs), while almost half of respondents said the speed at which their money is transferred is the biggest issue. These respondents also said they’d be very willing to use their mobile devices to send money internationally. 

 

Seven Remittance Corridors

The study centered around seven main remittance corridors and their users: US-Mexico, US-Rest of CALA, US-Philippines, UK-Nigeria, US-Vietnam, US-India, and Germany-Turkey. These corridors make up $78.6 billion in annual remittances.

 

Mobile’s Opportunity

According to Sharath Dorbala, the vice president and head of products, sales, and marketing for mobile financial services at Amdocs, mobile technology has a fantastic opportunity to overtake other money transfer possibilities and become the dominant option. Dorbala further remarked to eWeek that mobile devices provide the ultimate convenience regarding transfer accessibility, ease of use, and availability. Mobile is making over the money transfer business the same way Uber changed the transportation business. 

 

The Right Time

Dorbala also cited people’s serious dissatisfaction with current money transfer options as another reason that mobile is poised to become the dominant choice. Convenience, cost, and security are among the top features people look for when sending money internationally, and mobile offers all of these things. Survey respondents even said they’d be willing to pay as much as $4 or $5 per transaction. 

 

Security Issue

Security is unsurprisingly a huge issue with international money transfers, and while MTOs aren’t the most convenient option, they have proven secure. Mobile money solutions are subsequently raising security standards to provide users with the reassurance they need. Biometrics such as facial recognition, fingerprinting, two-factor authentications, encryption technologies, and mobile network security are receiving adjustments to create the high standard of security associated with more traditional options. 

According to Dorbala, sending money internationally using a mobile device is just as secure if not more so than a credit transaction. 

Consultancy firm Juniper Research conducted the money transfer study on behalf of Amdocs. Dr. Windsor Holden, head of forecasting and consultancy at Juniper Research, echoes Dorbala’s comments about mobile’s position to take over as the main international money transfer option. He noted that mobile provides banks and MTOs with much-needed competition, and that its affordability lends itself to further evolution and efficiency. 

 

Yet Another Application

Mobile technology’s emerging role as a viable money transfer option is yet another way the technology is changing how people pay for goods and services. There are already numerous apps dedicated to bill-splitting and similar practices, including Google Wallet and Lovely, which take the headaches out of determining who owes what. Mobile is increasingly the popular way to pay for anything and everything, and there are suggestions it might overtake credit cards and cash as the favorite way to pay. 

Transferring money overseas, paying bills, splitting costs...mobile is arguably making these processes much, much easier.