Small Business

160 posts categorized

August 31, 2014

Building an Effective Drip Campaign

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Connecting with customers can be difficult in an age of technology, when consumers are being bombarded by advertising from all directions. Due to such high spam rates, the effectiveness of email marketing and snail mail advertising has dropped significantly. That’s why marketing these days takes repetition, repetition, repetition. By creating a good drip campaign, you can raise the chances that a prospect will not only open your marketing message but ultimately invest in an ongoing relationship with the brand.

A drip campaign is a time-released set of automated messages via either email or text marketing. These messages are cued by certain triggers, from click-throughs and sign-ups, to a series of messages sent out according to a scheduled calendar. Drip campaigns are designed with one purpose in mind – to pique the interest of potential customers over continued engagement. Here are some great ideas when it comes to an effective drip campaign:

  • Be Clear on the Conversion

When setting up a drip campaign, always be clear on exactly what you would like from the customer. Is the end goal to receive a purchase, a sign-up, or a referral? Create a clear conversion goal for the campaign and an extremely coherent pathway for the customer to get there. Make sure the call-to-action is concise and simple, and the conversion process is as easy as can be. If customers don’t quickly understand what to do next and how to do it…they probably won’t do anything!

  • Strengthen the relationship

Think about how to build better relationships with customers. Personalized messages can go a long way when it comes to strengthening customer relations. Address clients by name, and send messages from a personal account whenever possible (rather than from an obviously automated one). In addition, be sure to send customer greetings on special holidays and birthdays. Consumers appreciate attention to detail and feel connected to brands that address them personally.

  • Provide value

Customers must see the benefit in engaging with a brand. Every email or text message should contain content that clients find useful. Include links to engaging articles and blogs, announce exciting events, comment on current trends, or offer them participation at upcoming webinars. Sending customers special or exclusive offers is perhaps the best way to provide value in a drip campaign.

  • Automate with excellence

Be choosy when it comes to message automation. Make sure the email or text marketing service you choose meets all of your brand’s needs. The auto-responder should have follow-up capabilities, exhaustive analysis of metrics, and matchless reliability. Don’t waste your time with second-rate services, as there are several reliable and affordable marketing companies to choose from.

With drip campaign best practices in your marketing arsenal, you are bound to gain some traction with current and prospective clients. Start planning and testing a drip campaign for your business to stand out above the milieu of advertising spam.

August 30, 2014

Are You Talking to Me? Tailoring Messages to Different Customers

 

When creating text messages for customer engagement, it is essential to create messages that will resonate with clients not just financially but emotionally. This can be a difficult task: nearly every customer wants something different, and they all want to feel special. By tailoring text messages to individuals, however, businesses have a better shot at attracting new customers while keeping existing clients satisfied.

The process of tailoring messages is called list segmentation. Basically, list segmentation entails dividing clients into separate groups based on any number of factors. Each group should will common elements by which they’re filtered, such as: age, location, behavior, or history with the company. All of these commonalities give companies an idea of how to market to these groups, thereby allowing marketers to create unique messages for each group in order to hit home with customers.

Here are a few ideas as to how to properly segment lists for more personalized engagement:

1)     Separate prospects from current customers

Current customers do not want to be treated as prospects, and with good reason. Existing customers may be upset if they see an introductory deal that is better than the one they were originally offered. The two groups should be addressed and rewarded differently. First-time offer deals go to new clients, while special VIP loyalty discounts go to existing customers.

2)     Cater to your biggest clients

Create a segment for the big spenders, particularly if they are purchasing ten times more than the average customer. Decide on particular metrics to determine at which point a customer becomes a “big spender” and be sure to add them to this segment. Develop messages that will reciprocate their loyalty: give them platinum status that includes perks like gifts or free shipping. Listen carefully to the needs of these clients, and show them special appreciation.

3)     Resurrect relationships with inactive clients

Be aware of which Customers have fallen off the grid and haven’t engaged with or purchased from the brand for at least 6 months. In this segment, create a special message to lure these one-time clients into a brand-new relationship. Invent a reactivation campaign that will incentivize these specific clients to reactivate their relationship with the company.

4)     Pay attention to demographics

Analyze zip codes, gender, age, occupation, and other important demographic factors. With this information, segment clients into specific groups (i.e. old versus young; high-income versus low-income; etc.). Utilize programs that can help to insert the right information into text messages, which adhere to the demographics of each segment. This is very important: a business who addresses a text to the wrong demographic could quickly start to lose some customers; while companies who target particular demographics with extremely relevant offers and information will increase engagement.

5)     Pay attention to habits and behavior

Segment clients by spending habits, and continue to offer them relevant follow-up deals or upsell items. Also, segment lists according to click-through habits, separating out clients by the particular messages and links that appeal to them. By segmenting customers according to purchasing and traffic data, businesses can convert sales more often and continue to track their successes.

Update your segments frequently, as user data continuously changes and brand messaging is always evolving. Consider which campaigns are superior to others, and track new ones to make sure your segmenting is valid and effective. In the end, list segmentation is critical for successful advertising through text or any other form of mass communication, and marketers can expect great returns from a well-segmented mass marketing strategy.

August 29, 2014

SMS Marketing for Web-Only Businesses

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The most traditional way to interact with customers is of course to talk with them face-to-face. Second is to communicate with them via voice phone calls. But what if you don’t maintain these capacities due to the nature of your business? Many online brands today simply don’t have the infrastructure for live agents, or a brick-and-mortar location where they can foster live customer engagement. Luckily, this age of technology has opened a lot of doors for small businesses in the form of SMS marketing.

By engaging customers over their text messaging apps, customers have absolute freedom. They aren’t bothered by telesales reps, nor do they have to visit a store to learn about the latest deal. They can choose to open and read text message at their leisure. And with more than a 97% open rate, smart business owners are taking advantage of text marketing—the simplest and most effective form of mobile communication for customer interaction.

Call-to-Action

When connecting with customers through SMS, remember to always emphasize a concise and appealing call-to-action. Letting them know who you are, why you’re contacting them, and what’s in it for the customer is tough to do in such a short message…and that’s why text message marketing is a bit of an art form. A/B test your messages; discover which words and phrases hit home and which ones don’t create traction.

VIP Treatment

Another critical piece is to make customers feel as though they are part of a special club or VIP group. Receiving exclusive offers will develop brand loyalty, as well as continued excitement around opting in to your text marketing list. Offering promotional codes and coupons can be very effective in converting mobile users into new and repeat customers, and loyalty programs are a good follow up to such promotions. Think of some free or discounted items loyal customers might enjoy as a reward for their participation.

Event Marketing

Reminding customers about upcoming events also works well via SMS messages. Oftentimes, readers will overlook an email with the exact same content as a text message. Due to the exorbitant amount of spam that customers find in their inboxes, they are less likely to open many of their emails. So next time, text them event invites, and you just might find turnout numbers increasing dramatically.

Surveys and Feedback

Finally, offering your customers a way to provide feedback is very effective in text messages. Surveys these days need to be kept short, and a text message survey is the perfect feedback tool. It’s cheaper and more effective than other forms of survey solicitation, as brands will often receive an immediate response to the message. Simply ask a couple question via text (instead of in a lofty email or phone call), and your customers may be happy to oblige. Surveys are especially effective when offering a reward for participation.

In utilizing these simple techniques for your web-based business, you’re likely to see the benefits of SMS marketing campaigns immediately. Everyone is using their phone to text these days – shouldn’t your business be taking advantage of a well-executed SMS campaign? Once you implement text message marketing into your overall customer engagement strategy, customers will be able to communicate more seamlessly with your company, and for a fraction of the cost of other marketing programs.

August 26, 2014

How to Say Sorry After a Text Fail

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Text message fails are so common in the business world there’s a website devoted to cataloguing them. Unlike other workplace errors, which usually don’t spread beyond the safe confines of the office, a mistake-laden text blast is sent to customers, with potentially disastrous consequences for your brand image. 

Luckily, members of the public are, for the most part, likely to see the funny side - as long as we’re talking about an unfortunate autocorrect or some other minor error, and not personal insults or sharing of sensitive data! In most cases, then, there is a way back.

A big part of your recovery lies in the apology you issue after an SMS marketing fail. The way you go about apologizing can cast you in a positive light. The best case scenario is that public opinion of your company will actually improve (although we wouldn’t suggest sending an error-strewn text message just to test this theory!). So you’ve messed up and sent an erroneous SMS to thousands of customers. Here’s how to apologize:

React Quickly

You know how it goes. You make a big mistake - one that everybody will soon know about – and you freeze. Except for the back of your neck, which burns. All you can do is close your eyes and pray that when you open them you’ll have travelled back in time. The paralysis brought about by guilt and fear is of no use to anybody, so instead of waiting around for stuff to hit the fan, you need to immediately own your error. Go directly to your boss and break the news before they find out about it from someone else.

Be Honest

Squirming around for a way to downplay a mistake is uncomfortable for everyone. Don’t do it. Admit exactly what happened so you can strategize the best plan of action. Don’t be tempted to drip feed your coworkers in the hope your mistake will seem less serious. It won’t – it’ll just look like you’ve made a series of errors and then tried to sweep them under the carpet. 

Face the Music

In most cases, you will need to issue an apology to the recipients of the erroneous text. Yes, this is embarrassing in itself, but it has to be done – and quickly. Have a creative meeting and craft a humble, humorous apology that will appeal to your audience’s better nature. Depending on the scale of the error, you may need to offer some kind of promo code or discount. This will usually do the trick of getting people back onside. Your budget will take a hit, but it’s worth it to retain those all important contacts. 

Have Faith

Don’t dwell on the mistake. If you allow it to distract you, it will only set you back. Don’t let one error define you.

Own It

That said, it’s worth following your apology SMS up with a reference to the mistake on Twitter or social media. If it was relatively funny, and threatens to be shared by outsiders, you should pre-empt this and talk about it yourself. Own It lest it Owns You.

Mistakes happen on the way to success. Learning how to deal with them via sincerity, humility, humor and efficiency will turn a stressful situation into a bona fide learning curve.

 

August 25, 2014

How to Create a Low Cost Loyalty Scheme with SMS

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Customer loyalty programs are one of the most effective drivers of sales. Few would disagree with that. But some businesses remain reticent to develop mobile marketing tactics that they believe – wrongly – are prohibitively expensive to set up.

This misconception is a hangover from the age of traditional advertising channels like television and radio, which have historically charged high premiums for ad space. Even with space bought and paid for, a compelling creative campaign from an agency could easily set you back $25,000. Add to that the hit taken by the loyalty promotion itself – be it coupons or other freebies – and a loyalty scheme could easily run into six figures. 

A mobile marketing campaign – and in particular an SMS messaging campaign – needn’t be in the same ballpark to be effective. In fact, small businesses on limited budgets can drive real growth with a modest, localized text message campaign. There are a few key steps to take if you’re looking to set up a low cost loyalty scheme. Let’s take a closer look…

Building a Database

One of the primary functions of a good mobile marketing campaign is to grow your user list. But you can make huge strides towards this goal before even engaging with the online world. Start in the right place by developing ads specifically for in-store visitors. Encourage them to sign up to receive future SMS messages (and the promise of rewards) – you might be surprised how many contacts you can build just from walk-in traffic.

Post-Click Experience

For a loyalty scheme to provide a decent ROI, you need to ensure it generates a healthy level of conversions. That means providing a great user experience from the moment they click on your ad. There are a number of ways to do this. You could direct users straight to a landing page or, if you have the budget, your mobile app. But if money is tight, there is still a lot you can do. Offer a survey or quiz, or another form of engaging content that will keep consumers’ eyes focused on you. Above all, offer an incentive for opting in. Sign-up discounts work well, and give new users the chance to sample your product without investing too much themselves. 

Ad Buys

There are basically two kinds of mobile ad networks: blind and premium. A blind network gives you little in the way of transparency in terms of where the ads appear – but that’s mitigated by the low cost of the campaign. Premium networks are more expensive, but they allow you to target your ads at apps more appropriate for your brand.

The key to executing a successful mobile marketing campaign is starting small but diverse in order to find out what works for your company. Try a few different approaches, track the success of each, and begin to focus only on the most rewarding strategies. True brand loyalty is a slow-burner: throw tonnes of cash and little thought at the task and your audience will see straight through it. It may well work for some, but others will be turned off. Start small, experiment, and you’ll soon carve out a space all of your own.

August 20, 2014

The Big Mobile Marketing Match: Email vs. SMS

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No doubt about it, email marketing has been king for many years in the new media advertising realm. The accessibility to potential clients, coupled with low-cost delivery has proven to be a boon for marketing campaigns across the board. Since spam filters have enhanced and email open rates have decreased, however, SMS text message marketing has taken a leading spot in digital advertising.

First off, there are a great deal more mobile users than email users. According to a study by Ericsson in 2014, there are reportedly 4.5 billion mobile users in the world. This number does not include users who own and use multiple devices. Each of these users has the capability of receiving a text message via SMS. The Radicati Group recently reported that there are a projected 2.5 billion email users around the globe. Essentially, that’s about 45% more people who can receive SMS versus email.

SMS, unlike email, has not yet been impacted by spam – at least not in the same fashion. Often emails that are completely legitimate are considered spam simply because inboxes are inundated with junk mail. This has driven down the possibility of connecting with readers of email, with only 22% of messages having the opportunity to be opened and read by email users. SMS, in contrast, has a 98% open rate by mobile users, with only 1% filtered by spam text messaging.

Think about how the average mobile user addresses a text message versus an email. For years, email users have complained about the content of their inboxes, scrutinizing the subject lines to determine if each email is worth opening. When mobile users receive texts, however, they choose to open virtually all of them. It is still natural for mobile users to assume a text is coming from a more trusted source, whereas email users are highly skeptical of the correspondence they receive – especially if they do not recognize the sender. Perhaps as text marketing is adopted by more companies, this trend will alter toward the high filtration rate of email filtering. On the other hand, with such strict guidelines set forth by the FCC when it comes to SMS marketing, the level of spam texting may stay significantly low for quite some time.

The real benefit of SMS marketing is the increased rate of return. It’s true that companies must still market via email, just as they must continue employing traditional advertising channels. But the open and click-through ratio for text messaging far surpasses that of email or traditional marketing methods. The numbers don’t lie – consider ramping up your marketing game by developing an effective SMS campaign today. You’ll be happy with the results.

August 14, 2014

Is Beacon Technology Going to Change the Retail World?

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Beacon technology incorporates the power of consumer-targeted advertising with location-based mobile marketing by installing small pieces of low-cost hardware within the shelves of retail stores. When customers enter a store with Bluetooth-enabled mobiles or tablets, the business can send customized advertisements directly to their devices thereby enhancing their shopping experience. While Beacons have only recently begun to appear in shops, the technology itself is already part of Apple devices since the 3rd generation of their products. And reports from the tech blogs are starting to take notice of the Beacon technology’s capabilities.

Mass Potential

Apple’s beacon system, called iBeacon, is automatically installed in all devices that use their current operating system, iOS 7. This means that, even if a mobile user knows little about how the iPad or iPhone works, they still have the infrastructure in place to benefit from Beacon technology. There could be as many as 190 million iOS devices currently capable of accessing iBeacons. Undoubtedly, this number showcases the unbridled potential of Beacon technology.

Current Barriers

There is a bit of a curve to this technology, though. An almost equal amount of the mobile and tablet markets use non-Apple products, which are less integrated with the Beacon infrastructure. Because the operating systems of non-Apple products tend to require updated versions of their OS, mobile marketers cannot rely upon these technologies for their Beacon-based advertising strategies.

Furthermore, Beacon technology requires mobile users to “opt in,” in a manner of speaking. First of all, customers will need to download the appropriate app for the business in question, and then they will have to activate it before entering the store. In addition, Beacons require ranging technology to function, which works in proximity of the devices using a mobile’s Bluetooth. The mobile will not receive any pushes or notifications, however, if a phone’s location is cloaked – the customer must allow the appropriate app to access its location for the Beacon to function properly.

The Future

In truth, Beacon technology is only beginning to get a foothold in the physical advertising space, and once it gains some traction, it will be here to stay. The unrealized potential of mobile location-based marketing is burgeoning, just waiting to be deployed. In the near future, we will witness customers taking advantage of flash sales and contactless payment options, as well as living in automated homes where temperature and lighting may be adjusted directly from mobile devices. The rule books have yet to be written. We do know that the key to capitalizing on Beacon technology will rely on corporations’ creativity and connectedness: sharing real-time information with customers to a mutual end and appealing to the changing temperaments of these individuals, all the while motivating these loyal customers in a direction – according to when and where – they want them to be. 

August 12, 2014

How to Devise a Mobile Marketing Strategy in the Hospitality and Travel Industries

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Nowadays, consumers expect a great deal from travel and hospitality companies, particularly when it comes to ease of access and information in utilizing their mobile devices. Travelers are using their mobiles for all of their needs: booking flights and accommodations, researching events and local hotspots, as well as restaurant reservations, of course. Mobile engagement is at an all-time high for these travelers, with an estimated three out of four people using devices while on a trip – that’s more than four times as many people using their mobiles to enhance their travel experience since 2009.

Corporations in the travel and tourism business have been at the forefront of keeping travelers connected via their mobile devices. The level of engagement is unparalleled. The mobile platforms in place can empower customers to find local, real-time information, and they allow these corporations to make recommendations for customers according to their preferences. Customers, in turn, can read reviews, compare prices and amenities, and score loyalty points. Best of all, customers may send and receive immediate feedback from their purchases and their experiences, increasing customer spend and attracting repeat business. And the best companies in this business are now rising to the top, managing to give the customer that “ideal experience” throughout their travels.

Creating a Mobile Marketing Strategy: Incentive, Experience, and Rewards

Devising a mobile marketing strategy requires an adherence of three specific best practices. First, a business must focus on incentives: travel deals, discounted fares and hotel stays, even parking coupons. Promotion codes are an excellent way to track advertising, offering free upgrades or deals on dining out. Second, businesses must enhance customers’ experience throughout their travels. In the age of Yelp, several bad reviews can spell disaster for a business. Cater to guests needs: update them on local events and when rooms are prepared, keep them apprised of new offers, and be sure to warn them of any potential trouble (i.e., bad weather, directions to locations, etc.). Finally, customers expect rewards for their loyalty. Give them points and coupons with detailed information about their membership: list their mileage balances, what they’ve purchased, their reservations and confirmation codes, as well. For repeat business, offer them discount codes and find out how their trip went by asking for their feedback.

Every aspect of a mobile device goes into this mobile marketing strategy. Marketers should incorporate all kinds of communications, from SMS, push, and email, to a good old-fashioned phone call. By carefully designing a targeted strategy according to your customer’s individual preferences, marketers can thereby properly execute the right level of customer engagement. The benefit to the consumer is right up-to-the-moment information and access, while travel and hospitality corporations may track customers and market to them directly in order to maximize their reservations and revenue. All in all, the key to a good mobile marketing strategy in the hospitality and travel industries is to increase and enhance customer engagement. The best in the business practice this and – with a little ingenuity and the right direction – your travel or hospitality business could also benefit from the latest in mobile technology.

August 11, 2014

Mobile Brings 1:1 Marketing Full Circle

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Mobile marketing is the modern face of advertising. Sophisticated tools like geo-location software and mobile apps are stripping away the barriers between business and consumer, affording even the most modestly-budgeted mobile marketing campaign to foster precise, personalized relationships with an audience that never stays still, but for whom smartphones are a constant companion.

If the technology is cutting edge, the concept of one-to-one marketing is anything but. It dominated the commercial landscape until the middle of the 20th Century. Before radio, television and print media were widely available, the romantic image of the door-to-door salesperson selling his wares directly to customers was very much a reality. ‘The user experience’ – as nobody called it then – was top notch: a sales rep came to your home, demonstrated the worthiness of their product and, perhaps most importantly of all, put a face to the brand.

This marketing strategy provided accountability, intimacy and transparency, but was ultimately put to bed by the rise of mass broadcasting technology. Instead of reaching a few thousand people by sending out a hundred reps to knock on doors, businesses could reach millions in one go via a television commercial. For much of the post-war 20th Century, big advertising meant big networks and big money. Corporate muscle (devoid of accountability, intimacy and transparency) ruled the roost and the little guy was out in the cold. Who could compete?

The advent of cable television dealt the first blow to this monolithic, monopolized marketing culture. By appealing to niche markets on specialized channels, the company message might reach fewer people, but the percentage of conversions would be higher. Slowly but surely, broadcasting was superseded by narrowcasting.

Narrowcasting allows marketers to:

  • Disseminate messages to different demographics and adjust each message accordingly
  • Make sure content is only available to specific groups
  • Provide high levels of relevance to the recipient

The trend started by cable television went stratospheric with the arrival of the internet, an ultra-targeted information portal that didn’t have to predict what people wanted; you could find exactly what you needed by filtering out everything else. Direct marketing wasn’t just back in business – it was business.

But the web solution also presented a problem: market fragmentation. One of the earliest constituents of the internet lexicon to take root in the public imagination was ‘SPAM’ – and it wasn’t because people liked it. In addition to filtering the information they wanted via search engines, people were ignoring the information they didn’t want by automatically trashing unsolicited emails from businesses. As soon as every business was shouting from the same platform, the public simply turned the volume down. By the mid-noughties, online marketing was threatening to become white noise for all but the richest of traders, who could afford to roll out costly SEO campaigns and buy space on premium web real estate. 

Just when it looked like marketing power would once again be predicated on deep pockets, SMS messaging stepped into the breach with a more refined approach. Ironically, commercial texting’s wilderness years were brought to an end with the rise of the smartphone. Mobile devices are no longer simply convenient portable versions of landline phones. They are indispensable hi-tech appendages, the use of which is beginning to overtake desktop as people’s primary point of access to the web.

This increased focus on handheld devices has done wonders for SMS messaging. While consumers continue to spam filter emails, more than 90% of text messages are opened and read within minutes. Long before the humble text became a mobile marketing strategy, it was used primarily for personal communication. As such, it is a trusted channel, and mobile marketing campaign managers have cleverly reciprocated that trust by building opt-in only contact lists. In 2014, the holy grail of mobile marketing tactics is to transmit a unique message to individuals who want it, tailored to their wants and needs.

This new, consent-driven iteration of 1:1 marketing is allowing companies to reach customers on their own terms, and to offer preference-based special offers. Personalized marketing is back – and you don’t even need to leave the office to do it.

August 03, 2014

Hispanic Market Growth Reaches New Heights

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Though we are still in the early days of mobile marketing, new technologies are allowing businesses to share their brand in revolutionary ways. Reports about new advertising techniques and ways to reach consumers on their mobile devices are flooding the blogosphere. But are advertisers paying attention to the changing face of the mobile marketplace? The real news flash: The Hispanic Market represents the fastest growing segment in the U.S.

This information from the Census Bureau and Nielsen is not really new. Marketers have been watching for years as this minority has grown into a significant force in the advertising world. Currently about 1 in 6 Americans are Hispanics. By the year 2050, however, Hispanics will represent one-third of the entire American populace.

These statistics are even more significant when we look at buying power. Hispanics command over $1 Trillion dollars in spending capital. The media have been aware of their buying power for a couple of years now: in 2012, the U.S. media spent $7.9 billion in advertising dollars that target Hispanic consumers.

Market analysts have been mining this data to find out what makes Hispanic consumers tick. The average age of Hispanics is 28 years old, and nearly 8% of Hispanics use their mobile devices to seek out content. Neilsen studies have shown that Hispanics outpace all other ethnic groups in mobile downloads of music and photos, and they are more likely than others to watch video on their mobile phones. Most Hispanics age 18 or older spend about 4.5 hours per day using social media. About half of Hispanics use social media during purchases, in the form of product reviews, the best deals, and to share their own shopping experiences. By incorporating this data into their strategies, mobile marketers have the opportunity to take advantage of how and where Hispanics spend their money.

Hispanics are also heavy phone users. On average, they send and receive more than 900 texts per month – more than any other ethnic group. Also, they make an average of thirteen calls per day, which is 40% more than the average U.S. consumer.

Hispanic consumers have a history of committing to certain brands. They are 25% more likely to follow a brand than the average U.S. adult. In a recent survey, 38% of Hispanics admitted that they generally select certain brands when they have customer loyalty programs. In a similar fashion: Hispanics are 18% more likely to follow a celebrity. 

According to Nielsen, Hispanic video viewers are 68% more likely than non-Hispanic White viewers to watch video on the Internet, and 20% more likely to watch video on their mobile phone. This may be due to the fact that Hispanics are less likely to have internet access at home than the average U.S. consumer (14% less likely, in fact).

There is a wealth of data available surrounding customers in today’s fast-paced world of mobile marketing. Knowing the ways that Hispanics choose to do business can give you a leg up against the competition. By approaching the Hispanic population with a mobile app, service, or direct mobile marketing, marketers can successfully target a consumer base that practice brand loyalty and constant engagement. It’s time for mobile marketers to wake up to the thriving Hispanic market.