Small Business

155 posts categorized

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.

August 01, 2014

Hospitality Industry Divided Over Mobile Marketing

 

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New research from Omnico indicates that UK consumers are less likely to use mobile devices to engage with hospitality service providers when compared with other industries. Just 13% of consumers said they would use mobile to interact with hoteliers and travel agents.

This reticence is understandable when examined from the consumer point of view. People ultimately want a better user experience, but with so many metrics to consider when booking a holiday, it’s possible that small screen devices are given short shrift. Filling in multiple fields – car rental, flights, hotels etc – is a hassle even on a desktop. Even on a mobile-optimized site or app, there’s simply too much information to divest for a quality user experience. 

Thankfully for the industry, the point of purchase is just one step in the process. There is still plenty of scope to create a compelling mobile marketing campaign that simply hands off to desktop at the point of sale. 

And despite the apparently-negative data collated in the UK, mobile usage has been steadily increasing in the world of hospitality. A Forrester survey from last year identified a 450% increase in mobile bookings since 2009. Some analysts predict mobile sales will be worth $26 billion by the year’s end. That’s one in five online travel dollars! 

The biggest mobile marketing strides have been made post-purchase, with 75% of travelers using a mobile device to shop and book activities while on holiday, according to Forrester. Clearly, this is where the hospitality industry is benefitting most: reaching consumers who are already on vacation and for whom smartphones and tablets are the only readily-available web-connected device.

If you’re trying to create a mobile marketing campaign that works, focus on enriching the entire experience, not just selling vacations. Offer portals for booking restaurants. Provide information on local tourist sites. Gather user reviews that could help future customers. Break your mobile marketing strategy down into three key practices:

  • Promotion. Offer last minute deals, hotel discounts or coupons. Mobile – and especially SMS messaging - is perfect for issuing time-sensitive information.
  • Loyalty Rewards. Offer loyalty points with personalized incentives attached. Track data to give reward customers with the things they like. If they’re clocking up thousands of miles, offer air miles. If they use the same hotel chain around the world, try to partner with that hotel to offer discounts.
  • User Experience. Keep customers up to date on new destinations. Send weather forecasts, or travel directions. Stay engaged throughout their trip and solicit feedback in the form of reviews.

A balanced mobile marketing strategy is of vital importance in an aggressively competitive industry. The beauty of mobile is the ease with which you can subdivide customers according to personal preference, so even if your primary booking platform is your desktop website, stay plugged in to mobile and you’ll reap the long term benefits.

July 29, 2014

How to Text From Your Laptop

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There are a variety of ways to send a text message from your laptop. Of course, you must have the recipient’s phone number and a connection to the internet. Now, once that’s established, start texting… And the best part is: there is no fee for you to send a single text message through the internet. (Standard messaging rates to apply to recipients though.)

Here are several ways that you can send a text message from your laptop:

1)    Send a text message from your email account.

If you know the recipient’s cell phone service provider, enter the recipient’s number the field where you would ordinarily enter a his or her email address. Next, you’ve got to couple the number with the proper domain name, depending upon the recipient’s mobile phone provider. The domain suffixes for various companies are as follows:

-        T-Mobile: @tmomail.net

-        AT&T: @text.att.net

-        Sprint: @messaging.sprintpcs.com

-        Verizon: @vtext.com

Verizon is especially versatile. If you use the suffix @vzwpix.com, you can also send photos and video over the internet. To recap: the recipient’s email address should read something like 9876543210@vzwpix.com, if you were sending a picture message to the phone number (987) 654-3210. If the recipient replies, the response will come back to your email address.

2)    Send a text message from a provider website.

Both Verizon and AT&T allow you to send texts to recipients, provided you have an account with them. Just sign in to your My Verizon Account (http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/myverizonlp) or your My AT&T account (https://www.att.com/olam/passthroughAction.myworld) and you will be able to send text messages from your laptop. T-Mobile also offers text messaging capabilities, but only to recipients that are T-Mobile customers (https://my.t-mobile.com/Login/). Check with your provider to see if they offer this, and be sure to note if you are restricted to their network.

3)    Send a text message through a free SMS website.

There are websites dedicated to sending text messages over the internet. It may be best for you to Google which websites you would prefer to use – there are a great deal of them to choose from. I recommend these three:

-        Send SMS now (www.sendsmsnow.com)

-        Ez Texting (www.EzTexting.com)

-        Txt2day (www.txt2day.com)

Many of the free SMS sites, however, may require you to sign up for service with them, and/or provide an email address with which to receive responses to your text messages. But this is a small price to pay for the ability to send free texts. Plus, these online SMS services will allow you to send bulk messages to thousands of recipients at once, after uploading a contact list.

Imagine the possibilities! You could send dozens and dozens of free text messages – right from your laptop. If you have a curated message to send to several recipients, you may want to consider one of these methods to reach out to customers. And if you can send them a text with a call to action worth responding to, those recipients will more than likely text you back.

July 25, 2014

Push Techniques & Your Mobile Marketing Strategy

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Cell phones are rarely out of reach of their owners. For mobile marketing campaign managers, the question isn’t ‘can we reach consumers via their smartphone’ – we already know the answer to that – but rather, ‘how can we best reach individual consumers via their smartphone.’

Most successful mobile marketing campaigns use push notifications, SMS messaging or a combination of both. Each has it’s own set of pros and cons, which vary according to industry. Deciding when to use push notifications versus SMS is one of the key decisions you’ll make when devising a mobile marketing strategy.

Push notifications can yield a decisive ROI when smartly executed. Data from tech startup Urban Airship indicates that push notifications can prompt a 540% increase in daily app opens and a 30% increase in social media sharing. If you’re looking to communicate information and updates about a product to existing app customers, push notifications are where it’s at.

According to data collated by Responsys, 68% of people who download a brand’s app opt in to receive push notifications, but their power goes beyond apps. It’s true that most push notifications are delivered to mobile devices, but they are expanding to reach desktops, e-readers – even car dashboards. Some analysts predict that by 2020, the number of web-connected devices will reach 75 billion. With an average of ten points-of-internet-access per person, champions of the push notification are salivating at the possibilities.

It’s not all wine and roses. Like SMS messaging, push notifications should be used sparingly for maximum impact. Remember, notifications can be switched off. And unlike SMS, users don’t even need to unsubscribe in order to stop receiving them. Diehard app lovers are notoriously fickle; once the number of apps they use reaches a critical mass, they become more inclined to demote their least favorite. Avoid bombarding customers with notifications and you’re less likely to fall prey to a push cull. To minimize the number of users switching off, the trick is to walk that fine line between remaining on someone’s radar, and simply irritating them.

Bear in mind too that smartphone penetration is deep but they’re not the only game in town. A third of Americans own cell phones that are not smartphones. That’s a significant market. Those consumers can’t use apps, ans SMS is the only way to reach them, so if the bulk of your target audience is yet to adopt a smartphone, forget about push notifications and concentrate your mobile marketing strategy on SMS.

An effective mobile marketing strategy is all about balance. Balance between push notifications and SMS messaging. Balance between apps and mobile friendly content. Walking that tightrope is the difference between getting noticed and shouting to an empty room.

 

July 22, 2014

3 Data Driven Tips for Your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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In 2013, mobile e-commerce was valued at $43 billion, and mobile traffic comprised nearly half of all website visits during the first quarter of 2014. It’s no wonder mobile marketing campaign managers are investing more and more in mobile marketing tactics that not only boosts their ROI, but also gathers data to help them create even better campaigns in the future.

Harrying all this impressive data into an effective mobile marketing strategy is no mean feat. There are a few things you can do to leverage the power of all the mobile usage data flying around into a positive marketing plan. Sticking to the numbers gathered by recent E-Commerce Pulse research, here are some truly data driven ideas for your next mobile marketing campaign:

Be Direct

Direct traffic is the most significant source of sales for mobile, with close to a third of all sales coming from shoppers converting while on their device. Increasingly, users are bypassing search and heading straight for the source – particularly on mobile devices with a wide range of helpful apps. To optimize this potential, be sure that your landing pages (at least) are all mobile friendly, and that the checkout process is as smooth as possible.

Don’t Forget SEM

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is thought to be responsible for 24.8% of tablet conversions during 2013. But it drives little more than half that amount on mobile – a reflection of the challenges inherent to small screen devices. On the one hand, you might think it’s not worth bothering with something that offers such a low conversion rate, but how about some blue sky thinking here? Why not up the ante: make your mobile user experience so easy that those conversions start hitting.

Social: Small but Significant

On mobile, social accounts for more orders than on desktop or tablet (68% of Facebook time and 86% of Twitter time is spent on mobile, according to the Wall Street Journal). Nevertheless, the overall sales earned, owned and paid via social media is still a small share of all mobile orders, so your mobile marketing campaign should take this into account. Social channels function more as an brand awareness generator, and a touchpoint for your business, rather than a primary point of sale, so choose your tracking metrics with this in mind. 

The mobile e-commerce market is poised to hit $50 billion in sales this year, so it’s increasingly important that retailers continue to invest in mobile marketing budgets. By gathering data from as many individual platforms as possible, you can create a single, ‘joined up’ brand experience across all platforms.

July 19, 2014

From Zero to Hero: How Mobile Revolutionized Planet Marketing

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Mobile marketing has gone stratospheric since the advent of the smartphone, but it’s been around in some form or another for more than 20 years. SMS messaging gave marketers a whole new channel to pursue during the 90s, when cell phone ownership first became widespread. Now, with text messages the most commonly read form of communication, advertisers are cautiously rediscovering the possibilities of SMS marketing.

But mobile marketing is about much more than SMS. The smartphone age has seen to that by putting the power and connectivity of a desktop computer into the palms, pockets and handbags of almost everyone in the western world. Some inroads were made into serious, non-SMS mobile marketing tactics during BlackBerry’s first flush of success in the early noughties, but when the first iPhone hit stores in 2007, marketing execs really sat up and began to take notice. 

As developers clamored to create apps to go along with Apple’s devices, the first wave of modern mobile marketing tactics began to take shape. The focus was very much on volume, and publishers relied largely on getting high app store chart rankings in order to gain visibility. Marketing efforts were all about short-term gains, with the main objective to generate as many downloads as early as possible in order to climb the charts. Quantity reigned supreme over quality.

These early years of app/mobile marketing were dominated by incentivized downloads – something Apple continued to allow until April 2011, despite the obvious credibility problems. Tracking performance was problematic. Platform regulations were loose, and developers took full advantage; it was essentially a land grab, the Old West of app and mobile marketing. 

By 2012, developers began thinking about the possibilities of quality and performance tracking. CPI-based campaigns gathered steam and, and better quality tracking was sought. For their part, Apple tightened its rules, clamping down on people accused of gaming the chart system by using bot farms to generate inauthentic downloads.

Around the same time, publishers became more data-focused, integrating in-app analytics software to collect metrics like usage, engagement, retention and monetization potential. There was a growing focus on high-quality user experience – but mostly with the objective of retaining customers for the medium-term.

That all began to change over the last 18 months, as a new climate took hold in the tech world. The shift is now overwhelmingly moving in the direction of stellar quality, as mobile marketing campaign managers realize that acquiring new users, even for a pittance, is not sensible unless they are retained, engaged, and monetized. Against that backdrop, some unlikely transactions have taken place – such as the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook – but there is no doubt that the app world has raised it’s game. With GPS technology and other location-based tools fast improving, the future of mobile marketing is unpredictable, but undeniably exciting.