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116 posts categorized "Small Business"

April 15, 2014

Mobile Apps: The Lifeblood of the ‘Always On’ Employee

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Back in January, Frost & Sullivan published their analysis of the state of mobile enterprise in 2013. The results bore great news for mobile marketing managers, forward-thinking businesses and, most of all, developers of mobile applications. 

The data showed that 48% of decision makers reported their companies used between one and ten mobile apps for employees. Compare that to ten years ago when hardly any workers even had company phones and you start to get a perspective on the exhilarating pace of change in the workplace.

In the year 2014 – or 7AS (After Smartphone) – nearly every white collar job is geographically flexible, and companies expect their staff to be constantly ‘on’. Likewise, most employees prefer to be kept in the loop, and those that are constantly incommunicado are considered a hindrance to getting things done.

For this geo-flexible omni-availability to work, a range of mobile apps are absolutely essential. Mobile workers are, by definition, constantly on the move, which is why mobile devices are chipping away at tasks once reserved for desktop and laptops. From the economic perspective, app-centric devices increase in value as the number or useful apps installed rises. The smarter the phone, the more productive the person holding that phone becomes. 

It’s not just fancy new apps that make mobile workers more efficient. SMS messaging is playing a huge role in the interaction between company and staff. After all, it’s far easier to respond from any location with a text.

The growth of mobility in business has only been possible since the technology has grown more sophisticated. Today, there are three main app functions helping companies work smarter:

  • Notification
  • Input and response
  • Instant action

With mobile, these attributes are more streamlined, more efficient, less glitch and just… well, better than their desktop counterparts. Businesses, employees, customers, mobile marketing managers – they all want to get stuff done more quickly and easily. If they can have an enjoyable experience at the same time, all the better. 

Eliminating steps from both sides – customer and business – is the key to succeeding. Well-designed apps achieve this step-elimination So do workers who can do their job whether they’re at home, in the office or on a plane. The message of an increasingly app-centric workforce is clear. If you’re looking at ways to pare down your operation, trim the fat and boost ROIs: go mobile.

 

 

April 14, 2014

Text Marketing: Short Codes Vs. Long Codes

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When employing mobile marketing tactics, one must choose between using long codes and short codes. There are “pro”s and “con”s for each, regardless of which you use for your mobile marketing campaign:

Benefits of Long Codes (Some Questionable)

While long code per message fees are higher, the set-up and monthly costs make them ultimately more affordable. Messages can be sent internationally, and messages and calls can come from the same number. Their most appealing features, though, are also their biggest downfall: because no customer opt-in is required and set-up is quick and easy (due to the lack of a vetting process), abuse of long codes for spamming purposes runs rampant. Long code use over a U.S. carrier network is actually considered stealing because carriers are paid for the right to send texts via their networks.

Drawbacks of Long Codes

In addition to the problems already named above, long codes are hard to remember, don't support video or picture messaging, can't be used for billing, and are limited in speed to the number of messages per second that can be sent. There's also no option to make these free to end users. While short codes include an option to pay the cost up front instead of charging the consumer for use, this is yet another thorny issue that makes long codes problematic. 

However …

What it comes down to it, any message sent to a U.S. long code requires that the parties must be actual people. In theory, therefore, it's conceivable how, in an age when mobile devices are employed in ways once seemingly unimaginable, long codes could be used legitimately for applications involving more personal business exchanges, such as for financial, gaming and dating sites.

Short Code Drawbacks

This is not to say that short codes don't carry their own sets of problems. First, short codes, for some companies, are prohibitively expensive, with set monthly costs hovering around $500. Short codes must be individually activated for each country, as well as approved by each carrier. Short codes also cannot be called.

Short Code Advantages

Just as the assets making long codes convenient also make them problematic, the features making short codes a hassle are simultaneously what they have going for them. First, they require a vetting process that can take weeks – which also means they are less susceptible to spam and thus offer consumers better protection. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and other regulatory bodies have put consumer protection rules into place requiring companies using short codes to ask permission before making contact. They must provide, in exchange, a certain amount of value. This benefits not only consumers but also businesses, since it establishes a much better rapport with consumers. It also doesn't hurt that businesses can – and do – make this exchange free to end users. Short codes are also more memorable, allow for thousands of messages to be sent per second, and can be used for billing.

The full advantages and disadvantages of short and long codes is a complicated issue, further complicated by the fact that carriers often change their capabilities and rules (as well as the fact that companies lack resources to keep track of – and test – each update).  Short codes, with a few noted exceptions, are the way to go in the U.S., however; and the very miniscule amount of text spam that most of us receive is a true testament to their efficacy.

April 08, 2014

Neglect Text, Neglect Success: The Benefits of Mobile Marketing

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If you keep your eye on the latest mobile marketing solutions and SMS messaging strategies, you’ll be familiar with the statistic that’s often bandied around, but for the benefit of the uninitiated: 95% of all mobile users open and read SMS messages within three minutes of the text being sent.

It’s certainly a compelling piece of data. And yet, so many businesses are still failing to employ SMS marketing as part of their overall strategy. Some are afraid of anything relatively new and stick to what they know, others have never bothered to give it a good go. But the advantages of text marketing are manifold, and you ignore them at the peril of your business. Here are a few of the key benefits to creating a comprehensive mobile marketing strategy:

  • Speed. At 160 characters or less, your average text doesn’t take long to create (or to read). Use this fact to your advantage by turning your mobile marketing campaign into a masterclass in brevity.
  • Directness. Most email inboxes are checked once or twice a day, and commercial messages are filtered out automatically, manually or just mentally. Compare that to an SMS inbox, which is frequently checked multiple times in a single day – often as and when each message is received.
  • Affordability. For small businesses, the sheer affordability of text marketing is one of its key assets. Far cheaper than real-world billboards or television ads, you can usually buy in bulk to get an even better deal on an SMS package.
  • Eco-friendliness. More and more businesses are adopting greener practices. Apart from being ethical, it makes good business sense – most customers want to know the brand they’re dealing with has at least some environmentally-friendly credentials. In the world of advertising, SMS marketing is as green as it gets.
  • Interactivity. Engaging with your customer base is easy with SMS. Issue polls, surveys and questionnaires. Not only will they encourage consumers to visit your social media pages and website, they can provide invaluable data on personal preferences and buying habits.
  • Trackability. Monitoring metrics is crucial to understanding the success of any advertising campaign. With text, it’s a lot easier to track these metrics. Some companies offer a tracking service as part of their SMS messaging package. Use such services to review a detailed analysis of each text and you will start to understand more about how your business is functioning as a user experience.

As you can see, there are huge potential sources of untapped business out there, just waiting at the end of a cellphone to receive your latest offer – so climb on board with the text revolution!

 

 

 

April 07, 2014

50% of Workers Will Be Required to Use their Own Smartphones by 2017

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Employees across America will be required to use their own mobile devices for work within three years, according to a new study. Data from research company Gartner indicates that the current practice of employers offering their workforce smartphones, tablets and fully paid-up network contracts will soon become a thing of a past.

The study claims that 38% of all companies will cease providing mobile devices to workers by 2016. Instead, workers will be expected to use their own phones and tablets.

‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) policies have increasingly found favor among business owners looking to reduce costs. Another upside is the ability to leverage the power of employees’ social media networks and unaffiliated connectivity. 

As a mobile marketing strategy, disseminating information from personal accounts not associated with a brand name is a lot more trustworthy to an increasingly sophisticated web audience with a knack for spotting corporate shills and charlatans online.

But there is a great deal of confusion among employees regarding their company’s stance on personal device usage. A survey conducted by GLOBO suggests companies that do have a BYOD policy often fail to communicate this to their employees. The report claimed 68% of people used their own mobile device for work purposes, but only 29% of them knew whether their employer even had a BYOD policy in place. More than 90% of people said they didn’t know if their company planned to instigate a BYOD policy.

Furthermore, cutting costs on cellular data, SMS messaging and mobile devices may be a false economy in the long run. Although initial savings may impress Financial Directors, the long-term implications of employees using their own devices in and out of work can be expensive. One of the biggest pitfalls is security breaches – although these can be mitigated by imposing VPN, remote lock and cloud computing software on devices.

But therein lies another problem. Can employers really ask their workforce to not only use there own devices for work, but to use up space with a multitude of security software and applications? After all, recent research shows that 48% of decision makers use between one and ten mobile apps as part of their infrastructure. The use of mobile apps is increasing, and whether that will be compatible with a demand for BYOD policies remains to be seen.

 

 

 

April 02, 2014

UK Experiencing Mobile Marketing Boom

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While companies continue to use mobile marketing tactics to promote and expand their businesses in the U.S. and in the U.K., the mobile marketing industry across the pond continues to trail its U.S. counterpart.  It seems everyone in the U.S. has a smartphone attached to their hand, which they use to send texts, make calls, look up information, browse social media and make purchases among many other activities. Smartphones and tablets are even surpassing laptops in popularity, as U.S. citizens are increasingly turning to mobile devices to retrieve necessary information. This frequent use of smartphones does not appear to be mimicked in the U.K. 

Recently O2 Media and the Marketing Institute surveyed 252 marketers in the U.K., finding two-thirds of marketers dedicating portions of their budgets to mobile rather than traditional media. Of these marketers, 14 percent obtained additional money for SMS marketing campaigns, and 7 percent redirected funds used in online / desktop marketing.

Despite these efforts, the idea that “marketing spend hasn’t followed where the eyeballs have gone” remains a concern, notes Fintan Lonergan, O2 Media’s managing director. The company works with clients such as Heineken, Aer Lingus, Ikea and Nissan, helping them connect to consumers.

In 2013, a mere 19 percent of U.K. businesses had dedicated 10 percent or more of their advertising budget to mobile marketing. “This is very low compared to the central role that mobile plays in consumers lives,” Lonergan adds. Only 7 percent of surveyed marketers said they worked for “a mobile-first organization,” with “lack of strategy” considered the biggest challenge Ireland faces in regards to mobile marketing. 

Progress is being made, however. Lonergan cites location-based targeting as a “really encouraging” development in the U.K., with more and more marketers focusing on mobile marketing strategy. In 2013, the most popular mobile marketing tactics were social media, SMS messaging, apps, mobile displays and  mobile-optimized websites.

“There is a lot of media attention on mobile and the growth of mobile and yet very little has been known about what marketers are doing within mobile,” says Lonergan. 

In the UK, Lonergan says mobile marketing has gone on “a hockey stick curve in the last 24 months,” noting a recent eMarketer study that found mobile advertising in the U.K. will likely surpass print advertising in 2014.

“Our marketing industry is lagging behind a bit, and that’s not a criticism, it’s just a fact,” he notes.

So why this “lag”? Perhaps it’s simply a matter of company funds, or maybe there just aren’t as many smartphone users in the U.K. Companies are provided with numerous other options in terms of advertising, such as email and social media, and success in those areas may prompt businesses to look at SMS marketing campaigns as unnecessary. Whatever the reason, it will be interesting to see how fast the U.K. catches up with the U.S. regarding this expanding form of advertising!

 

April 01, 2014

6 Mobile Marketing Tactics That Won’t Get You Sued

 

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Crafting a quality SMS mobile marketing campaign requires ensuring none of the tactics you use will get you sued. Mobile data collection practices, political spam, patent infringement and scam subscriptions are just some examples of the many mobile marketing issues that result in legal trouble. Let’s look at a few surefire ways to avoid such trouble and keep your mobile marketing strategy on the right side of the law:

Get the Permission You Need 

Not everyone has unlimited text messaging, meaning unsolicited text messages can cost up to $0.20 per message. Since this practice results in seriously unhappy potential customers, always obtain formal permission before launching an SMS mobile marketing campaign. Creating a list based off of invoices, contracts and “fish bowls” is not considered “permission.” Opt-in lists are your best bets, and allow customers to subscribe to your company’s alerts, updates and exclusive deals as they wish. The “call to action” must be very clear so customers know exacting what they will be receiving when the sign up.

Remember, Full Disclosure is Key

Full disclosure is highly recommended, as companies often find themselves in proverbial hot water for failing to clearly describe offer terms. Your customers should have a strong sense of what they’re agreeing to when they sign up rather than being surprised by fees and similar issues.

Maintain Records

Maintain detailed records of mobile marketing lists so you know exactly who has opted in...and who has opted out. Keep such lists for at least six months if not more, and update them frequently to avoid getting sued by one or more customers looking to make easy money.

Stop Sending Messages When Customers Opt Out!

When a customer unsubscribes or otherwise opts out of an SMS mobile marketing campaign, it is imperative that you stop sending them messages. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled companies may send one follow-up text verifying customers no longer wish to receive texts, but that is all. This message must be sent within five minutes of the opt-out. Continuing to send marketing and promotional materials can easily result in lawsuits and other legal trouble.

Keep Customer Data Secure

Hackers looking to use your mobile marketing lists can result in a significant number of lawsuits, making it essential that all customer information is protected from unauthorized use. Choosing the right platform and using every available security measure reassures customers that their information is safe, and upholds your reputation as a company who cares about client privacy and security.

Be Careful When Choosing SMS Mobile Marketing Campaign Wording

Another cornerstone to an effective SMS mobile marketing strategy is the right wording. For example, the word “free” should mean just that--the message is free to the end-user (FTEU) with all supported carriers. If this is not the case, this word can result in legal trouble, as unhappy customers will be billed for something they thought wouldn’t cost anything. Avoid misleading customers by using phrases such as “Msg & data rates may apply.”

It makes logical sense that people are going to buy from a company they can trust rather than one that slams them with unsolicited text messages and hidden fees! Keep these tips in mind as part your SMS mobile marketing strategy! Use these and similar mobile marketing tactics to avoid legal issues, maintain relationships with current clients and attract new customers. And remember to always consult an attorney when making final campaign decisions.

 

March 21, 2014

In-Store Browsing the In-Thing in UK

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A growing number of British consumers are adopting the practice sometimes known as showrooming: comparing online prices with real-world prices while browsing in stores, and buying the cheapest version of a particular product (hint: it’s never from the bricks and mortar store).

A report published in February by OnePoll looked at a range of consumer behaviors involving smartphones during the last quarter of 2013. The results showed that using smartphones to conduct research is the new normal. Seven out of ten respondents had used their mobile device to investigate potential purchases and compare prices. Over a third used mobile price comparison sites, and 17% had visited the mobile sites of individual retailers.

Retail apps are also growing in popularity, with users accessing them from multiple locations. Around 42% of respondents used retail apps at home, and a quarter did so at work or on their way to work.

But the most compelling results relate to the use of smartphones in physical stores. Some 55% of people admitted to ‘showrooming’ during shopping trips. Out of those, more than half said they compared prices online using their mobile device, and just under half used them to gather more information on products. Around 41% used their phones to take pictures of potential purchases. Despite all the browsing activity, only 17% of smartphone owners admitted to showrooming itself.

The research threw up some interesting data relevant to mobile marketing campaigns. More than two thirds of respondents said they would be more likely to revisit a store if it sent bespoke promotions to their smartphone.

Mobile browsing-to-buy remains less common than direct mobile shopping. Only 17% of people using their smartphone to conduct research also bought with the device, and just over one in ten people who browsed in-store went on to buy from the same retailer.

For anyone devising a mobile marketing strategy in the UK, the implications are clear: if you can reach people who are already in a physical store that pertains to your business, you have a good chance of converting them into customers. Bricks and mortar-only retailers have their own mobile marketing tactics – such as apps and SMS coupons – but, short of deliberately operating from a location with no wi-fi or network coverage, there’s little they can do to stem the tide of online activity conducted from their premises.

These behaviors are now endemic – not just across the ocean, but here in the US too. Smartphone adoption rates are soaring, and the fear for offline businesses is that consumers will one day come to their store to browse online and find it closed.

March 14, 2014

Weekend CTRs Significantly Higher

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Recent research comparing click-through rates (CTRs)  found mobile device users much less likely to click on ads during the week as opposed to the weekend. Findings published on AppFlood claims click-through rates are 30% higher on weekends after analyzing some 300 millionmobile ad impressions in the United States between August and September 2013.

Click volume is reportedly the same on Saturdays and Sundays, beginning around 8am and continuing at a steady rate until about 6pm. Weekday clicks go up once the workday is over, or around 6pm. Click rates on weekdays tend to decrease throughout the evening, but pick back up around 11pm, indicating people are looking at their mobile device screens before bedtime. Differences in mobile and desktop/laptop usage were also evident, with mobile use remaining fairly steady throughout the week and weekend, particularly around 7pm to 9pm on weekdays. Desktop/laptop use is less frequent on weekends, and after 5pm, or commute time, on weekdays.

So why the dip in CTR on weekends with laptops/desktops, but not mobile devices? A possible explanation is people use their laptops all day at work, and can’t even think of going near one on weekends. This eschewing of laptops doesn’t necessarily translate to smartphones, as people generally have their phones on them at all times and use them to look up any number of things, from show times to restaurant directions to answers to common questions. A mobile phone is usually on and ready to use at all times, whereas people have to sit down and turn on a laptop or desktop, which can seem arduous when trying to enjoy the weekend.

An effective mobile marketing strategy is one that researches and utilizes underlying motivators that cause people to click on an ad, read a blog or follow a link. Marketing strategists can therefore use CTR patterns to create engaging campaigns that cater to specific audiences. For example, do people appear to click on a travel company’s vacation ads on Saturdays during the day? Create mobile marketing solutions that cater to such prospective clients. What about those who click on local attraction ads when browsing for fun weekend ideas on a Thursday or Friday night? No matter what the product or service, a mobile marketing strategy must pinpoint its target audience and how best to cater to it.

If you’re a mobile marketing strategist looking to maximize campaign output, review your company’s CTR numbers and create solutions that target your audience at certain times on specific days. Understanding when and why your audience is most active is one of the cornerstones of a successful mobile marketing strategy! Good luck!

 

 

March 10, 2014

iOS vs. Android Users: Who Should Mobile Marketers Target?

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There’s nothing mobile marketers love more than a good scrap about the best operating system. Ever since the first generation Androids and iPhones emerged in 2007, their relative merits have been hotly disputed; you can usually tell which side of the debate a person will be on by the phone in their hand.

Of course, there is no easy answer to the ‘which is best?’ question. So much is subjective, and some Android (or iOS!) devotees will never be persuaded to change their personal preference, no matter how compelling the arguments for doing so are. Broadly speaking, iOS generates more revenue, but Android has a greater market share. Neither of these truths are going to help you create the right mobile marketing strategy.

The very fact that this debate has raged continuously since the smartphone boom took hold is indicative of the complexity of both operating systems. Deciding which device your mobile marketing strategy should focus on requires careful consideration of a whole range of metrics. Let’s take a close look at some of the factors at play:

US Performance

comScore report revealed 133.7 million people in the United States owned a smartphone during the first quarter of 2013. Android was ranked as the top smartphone platform, with 51.7% market share next to Apple’s 38.9%.

Similar results were gleaned from a Kantar Worldpanel Comtech report, which showed Android beating the iPhone by a 9% margin. It’s important to note, however, that the cut and thrust of the smartphone market means these figures are bouncing around on a daily basis.

Plus, device ownership is far from the full story when it comes to iOS vs. Android. Whilst the latter enjoys a greater number of customers, the former generates more money from online commerce. A Black Friday report conducted by IBM showed iOS users spent an average of $127.92 per order, compared to $105.20 spent by Android users. Android users accounted for 11% of ecommerce traffic, next to iPhone and iPad users’ 28.2%. These facts are of more relevance to your mobile marketing strategy than pure ownership.

Worldwide Performance

Phones supporting Android sell significantly better than iPhones in global markets. During the fourth quarter of 2012, Android had a 70% share, compared with 21% for iOS. If your business is global, you should adjust your mobile marketing strategy accordingly as such a marked difference in ownership levels undoubtedly supersedes the greater online spending conducted on Apple’s devices (which remains true internationally).

Tablets

Mobile marketing solutions targeting tablets should always differ from those targeting smartphones, because people use them in different ways. Apple’s iPad outperforms Android tablets and, again, ecommerce revenues are greater for the former.

Apps

According to data collected by Canalys, just over 50% of all app downloads in the first quarter of 2013 were for Android, with iOS taking the lion’s share (40%) of the remainder. What this means for your mobile marketing strategy depends on the type of business you run, so study your market closely. Find out which apps your customers regularly use and, if building your own app, create one for both operating systems.

Web Use

Apple rules the roost in terms of web use, with a 60.1 % share (according to NetMarketShare). Android lags with 24.9%, which, considering there are more Android devices out there, corroborates the evidence for iOS users being significantly more active online.

Overall, it’s important not to draw too many conclusions from the wealth of data on which device performs the best. When devising mobile marketing tactics, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. We’re talking Apples and oranges (or rather, Apples and Androids) – so come up with a separate mobile marketing strategy for each, especially if your business has a global reach.

 

February 27, 2014

4 Reasons Coupons are an Effective Mobile Marketing Tactic

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According to a recent study conducted by ABI Research, 52% of consumers would definitely use mobile coupons for obtaining discounts at local stores. This evidence tallies with the rapid upsurge in smartphone adoption, as consumers become increasingly reliant on mobile devices to help them with every area of their lives.

As smartphone penetration deepens, mobile coupons and other mobile marketing tactics move to the forefront of any well-planned marketing strategy. Some analysts estimate mobile coupons are redeemed ten times as often as traditional paper coupons.

So why are mobile marketing coupons proving so popular with the general public? The answer to that is largely self-evident: paper coupons have been a mainstay of commercial promotion since Coca Cola pioneered their use in the 19th Century – why wouldn’t consumers want all the benefits of a paper coupon stored on their smartphone?

Search guru Gerald Murphy has expanded this idea on his blog, identifying four key reasons why mobile marketing coupons are infinitely preferable to their old paper counterparts:

  1. Convenience. Clearly, mobile coupons serve the convenience of consumers far better than paper coupons, which require consumers to fiddle about with a pair of scissors, diligently chasing those broken lines around 90 degree angles before pocketing the fragile voucher and trundling down to the store. Seriously – who can be bothered? From a marketer’s perspective, digital coupons are much likelier to be redeemed.
  2. Locality. With the emergence of geo-targeting, smartphone owners can be reached only when a coupon is of use to them. They enter a pre-determined zone within a short distance of the store and are immediately hit with an irresistible 50% off coupon. And when you cut out that hit-and-miss bombardment of special offers, focusing only on customer preference, they are much more likely to engage.
  3. Relevancy. Mobile marketing solutions are becoming increasingly sophisticated in terms of identifying personal preferences. Again, this reduces unwanted, spammy offers that are simply tuned out. When consumers are predisposed to ignore ads, they are prone to throwing the baby out with the bathwater, skimming past offers that might actually be of use to them. Coupons geared towards personal preference are now de rigeur for canny businesses with an eye on effective mobile marketing solutions.
  4. Timeliness. Unlike flicking through a magazine for cut-out vouchers, mobile coupons can be timed to reach their audience at a moment when they are most likely to respond and redeem the offer. For customers on the move, it might mean the moment they have entered the locale of a particular store, but it can work just as well for those sitting at home – issue a special offer on pizzas, say, just before lunchtime, and you can capture people in the throes of midday hunger pangs. But timeliness also refers to an awareness of when not to send text and email coupons. The art of maximizing redemption rates for mobile marketing coupons requires a measured, staggered approach.