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October 20, 2014

Baltimore Maps Addiction with Text Messaging

SMS Messaging has had a major impact on healthcare processes. Everything from appointment reminders to internal communications in hospitals are being achieved more effectively than ever, and it’s all down to the humble text message.

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In recent years, one of the most powerful applications of this technology has taken place in Baltimore, where it’s being used to help addicts in recovery. A National Institutes of Health lab located in East Baltimore provides methadone and testing to the addicts who attend. Unlike many other rehab programs, addicts don’t get thrown out if they relapse. Why? Because the data they can provide is far too valuable to researchers investigating the causes of relapses.

This data is being gathered via smartphones specifically programmed to help struggling drug users track their cravings and relapse episodes. The phones beep randomly throughout the course of the day with a text message asking questions like: Where are you? How are you feeling? What are you doing? Who are you with?

The scheme aims to identify the events and situations surrounding relapses. What are the events, places and people that trigger drug use? What happens in the precise moment an addict decides to use? 

In addition to cell phones, addicts carry GPS loggers to track their movements. Researchers can see the whereabouts of participants, identifying particular blocks or parts of town that precipitate a relapse. Knowing the location of an addict when they use – or think about reusing – is helping the team better understand the patterns of behavior that lead to a relapse.

The scheme is not the first SMS-based solution to treating addiction. Problem drinkers have been helped by a text message program that monitors their alcohol intake. Participants took weekly surveys and, depending on their responses, received automated text messages containing words of encouragement or recommendations for limiting alcohol consumption. The results showed that, on average, heavy drinkers can cut their intake by up to half by using such a scheme.

The nature of the platform is well-suited to self-monitoring and the setting of short term goals. People generally carry their phones everywhere, making them the perfect tool for reminding people to stay aware of unhealthy behaviors. Even just being told to ‘hang in there’ can work wonders for problem drinkers who are trying to keep on top of their alcohol intake. Mobile technology gives addicts a pocket clinician-cum-counselor that won’t let them down.

October 15, 2014

Mobile Marketing Mushroom in Ireland

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Mobile marketing campaign managers in Ireland are flush with success right now. The country is undergoing a mobile device boom, as consumers increasingly turn their attentions away from desktop and towards smartphones and tablets.

A study compiled by marketing company ZinMobi looked at some of the country’s leading retail, restaurant and fast food brands and found mobile marketing tactics were the most effective way of delivering the biggest ROI. ZinMobi’s boss, Brian Stephenson, said the results were indicative of a growing awareness of mobile marketing tactics, and a concurrent drop off in use of conventional methods. Says Stephenson:

“What excites me about these results is the way that brands have recognised mobile as the instant marketing channel with campaigns quicker to deploy, and delivering instant results.

“We believe that every business knows enough about its customers... to deliver highly-targeted and trackable campaigns,” he added.

The study also found that mobile marketing tactics were regarded as the quickest to set-up, and 61% of respondents said they delivered the fastest results. The research found only 10% of companies did not plan to be using some form of mobile marketing campaign by this time next year; right now, 26% of Irish companies do not use some kind of mobile marketing strategy. These figures clearly show a growing awareness of mobile marketing among firms who are late to the party.

Companies with a well-established mobile marketing strategy are expanding their current campaigns in order to better engage with consumers. Mobile coupons and special offers are proving highly effective methods of retaining and nurturing existing customers.

These trends reflect an overall swing towards mobile in Ireland. Mobile web access is up 59% on last year according to a report from StatCounter. The more consumers move towards mobile devices, the more we’re likely to see marketers follow suit and creating mobile-specific campaigns. Ireland, like the rest of the world, knows which way the wind is blowing.

 

October 08, 2014

Mobile Marketing Budgets are Smaller Than They Should Be

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Mobile devices have quickly become powerful marketing tools, yet brands are still not investing in mobile advertising as they probably should. Despite practically “everyone” owning a mobile device, mobile marketing accounts for a mere 5 percent of the average brand’s budget. Why? Usual reasons include difficulty tracking performance and gauging ROI.

According to recent Forrester research, 62 percent of marketers surveyed felt “confident” about measuring mobile ad campaign ROI, yet only 18 percent felt “very confident” in their ability measure ROI. Marketers want to see hard numbers if heavily investing in mobile, which many experts find “counter-intuitive.” 

“Consumers now spend over half of their leisure time on mobile devices,” says Gal Oppenheimer, senior product manager of built.io, a mobile back-end and application development platform. “Mobile advertising is clearly important, but it needs to get easier to track brand awareness and consumer spending.”

Other experts say marketers are too busy comparing mobile and desktop metrics, which is essentially a waste considering how different the mediums are. Marketers are used to cookie-based tracking, but such tracking doesn’t really work in the mobile world. A single cookie isn’t capable of tracking consumer actions as they go back and forth between mobile browsers and apps, nor can they follow consumers who click on mobile app download ads. The latter is a common mobile ad unit that encourages consumers to download a brand’s app. 

Mobile marketing is definitely a work in progress, yet current efforts are encouraging. Groupon, for example, works with at least three different mobile ad networks, and places ads on a wide range of publishers’ mobile sites and apps. The online retailer works with mobile advertising vendor Fiksu Inc. to discover which mobile attribution methods are best for tracking ad effectiveness.

Facebook is also working on a solution to the “mobile puzzle.” The social media giant introduced a mobile ad unit in April of this year, Audience Network, which allows marketers to target and place ads across an assortment of mobile apps utilizing what Facebook knows about its sizable user base. The network is designed to result in more relevant ads on apps, which leads to improved click-through rates, and subsequently a better ROI for the advertiser and more revenue for app developers.

Marketers are still hesitant, but if tracking abilities improve, more money will go into mobile ad efforts. “Forrester found that if marketers could track more reliably, 86 percent would allocate more of their budgets to mobile,” wrote Mike O’Brien in a recent post for ClickZ. “And 93 percent would run more cross-channel campaigns, something only 13 percent said they felt confident measuring.”

 

October 02, 2014

How Smartphones Are Helping the Fight Against Drug Addiction

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Can smartphones help users overcome drug addiction? 

Research says Yes! Back in 2011, an 80-person study by the National Institutes of Health found smartphones highly beneficial to those overcoming drug addiction. The study was based out of East Baltimore, Maryland and featured smartphones programmed to let addicts track when they craved and used drugs. Phones were set up to beep randomly three times each day, and ask questions such as “Where are you?”, “What are you doing?”, and “How are you feeling?”.

"We want to know the events surrounding that," lead researcher Dr. Kenzie Preston said at the time. "We're really interested what's triggering drug use, relapse."

Phones were partially disabled to lower their street value; however, associate scientist David Epstein noted no issues with phones becoming lost or getting stolen.

"We tell them, if you lose or break one of these, we'll replace it and that's fine," he said. "But if you lose or break a second one, we're going to detox you from the methadone and you can't be in the study anymore. And we hardly ever have to do that. People know that they'd rather stay with us."

The study was meant to pinpoint the precise moments addicts decided to use, as Epstein remarked on the difficulty addicts have recalling the specifics of their relapses. This isn’t to say addicts lie about their relapses; rather it’s more about how the brain functions.

"People, whether it's someone who's addicted to drugs or anyone else in the world, make up stories that sort of explain their behavior," he said during the study. "But if you could've been monitoring them in real time, you would see that things didn't happen quite the way they remembered."

Smartphones allowed researchers to obtain data in real time. The study also included addicts carrying pager-sized GPS monitors to track their movements, which made it easy to log where addicts go. For example, an addict could be sober for weeks, then visit a certain block or neighborhood and have a relapse. Knowing where addicts were hanging out helped researchers understand what type of environments encouraged drug use.

Epstein said the study could lead to new smartphone-based treatments.

"A sort of clinician in your pocket," he said. "You can give them on the spot feedback... and that does seem helpful."

 

 

September 30, 2014

SMS: Crime Fighter

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Text messaging as a mobile marketing tool is standard practice across most industries, but the public sector is also harnessing the power of SMS. Healthcare, emergency services, schools - all are benefitting from the possibilities opened up by the speed, affordability and convenience of mass texting.

One of the most significant applications of text messaging is in the fight against crime. Earlier this year, the four major wireless carriers began offering free text-to-911 services. Police departments across the country are realizing what mobile marketing campaign managers have long understood: there’s no greater guarantee of effective communication than SMS. Victims of crime can surreptitiously send text messages in dangerous situations where making a phone call may be impossible, and law enforcers can use SMS to streamline their processes and thus become more effective. Let’s take a look at some of the most innovative uses of SMS messaging in the fight against crime.

Tip Offs

A number of local police departments have set up shortcodes allowing members of the public to anonymously tip the police about a crime they have witnessed. In Bakersfield, CA, citizens have been providing law enforcers with valuable tips for some years; Kern County runs a similar program. In both cases, police stress that these channels are not intended for emergency situations requiring immediate attention, but for anonymous tip offs from people who may not otherwise feel comfortable reporting crime.

Campus Crime

In Tennessee, local authorities are encouraging students to report crimes anonymously. When the scheme was rolled out in 2009, Sgt. Charles Warner from the Franklin Police Department said that young people “don’t want to be labeled as ‘snitches’... they don’t want to be retaliated against and they’re fearful of that.” But many young people are happy to report, say, a student who brings a gun to school, or is dealing drugs on campus. The first police department in the state to launch a text message tip program, other precincts soon followed suit, and similar programs are now widespread all over the United States.

Human Trafficking

Based in Washington, D.C., the Polaris Project runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, which accepts calls and texts 24/7. A Washington Post story recounted the plight of one 18-year-old sex-trade worker who alerted the authorities via text message from her pimp’s phone. Police arrested the man shortly after. An app called Redlight Traffic goes further still, with an educational component designed to teach citizens how to identify tell-tale signs of human trafficking and give them a way to combat it.

Law enforcers believe such programs can improve public understanding of potentially criminal situations, even when no actual crime has been witnessed. Citizens can report suspicious behaviour to the app, upload photos and GPS locations, and provide information on vehicle registrations and personal descriptions. Officers can review individual reports and map suspicious activities to improve their chances of being there when a crime is committed. It’s an ideal solution for members of the public who are unsure whether to call 911, but believe they have witnessed potential wrongdoing.

Misdemeanors

It’s not just serious offences like trafficking and gun crime that are being tackled by SMS messaging. Minor misdeeds which clog up law enforcement processes can be prevented by improved communication between the police and the public. In Moscow, drivers can sign up to receive a text alert 20 minutes before their car is about to be towed. When the program launched in June, officials predicted monthly savings of up to $2.6 million.

September 29, 2014

Record Growth for India's Mobile Marketing Industry

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Mobile marketing tactics such as SMS coupons and geo-targeted ads are being used in practically every global economy, but one part of the world has taken to it more rapidly than any other. In India, the mobile marketing industry has grown by 260% in the past year. Compare that to the 70% growth in the Asia Pacific region and you start to get a clear picture of just how big the strides taken in India are.

The cause for such rapid growth is undoubtedly the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, which in some parts of the world are becoming the primary point of access for web users.

The expansion of the mobile advertising marketplace in India was studied in detail by Opera Mediaworks, a San Mateo ad platform. The analysis was published in a report called “State of Mobile Advertising.”

In addition to the overall growth figures, the report compared various mobile devices and their success in India. Android has the largest share of the market, with 41.7%. Apple devices, meanwhile, are trailing significantly, with less than a 1% share. 

The face of mobile marketing in India bears some striking differences to its American and European counterparts. This is largely because people living in remote regions often don’t have smartphones, and can’t experience the kind of rich content we’ve become used to seeing on handheld devices in the West. 

According to a Business Week article from earlier in the year, Unilever is issuing 15-minute recorded programs that can be listened to on old-fashioned cell phones. The shows include popular Bollywood songs, comedy routines and product commercials. The free service has proved popular, gaining 2 million subscribers when it first rolled out.

Original, bespoke mobile marketing tactics like this are the only way for businesses to get a foothold in new territories. As of the beginning of the year, there were 364 million rural mobile phone users in India. In January 2014, the pace of mobile adoption in villages was faster than in cities for four consecutive months. In 2013, Indian businesses spent 3 billion rupees ($49.9 million) on mobile ads, and the market is expected grow by nearly 45% by the end of the year (according to the Mobile Marketing Association).

The key, as Unilever has discovered, is to develop a mobile marketing strategy targeted at basic-feature phones. That means voice-based and SMS messaging services. Understand this, and your mobile marketing campaign in India will reach more people.

September 22, 2014

Gauging Morality via Text Message

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Psychologists have long argued that moral behaviour is a zero sum game. Commit an act of kindness today and you’re more likely to be rude tomorrow, goes the theory. In other words, do-gooders and do-badders are the same people – it’s simply a matter of timing. 

Researchers have now attempted to test that theory in the real world by tracking moral judgments via text message. The study – published in Science earlier this month – measured the frequency of moral and immoral behaviours during a typical day. Thus far peer reviews advise caution but broadly accept the findings of the research.

A team of scientists from the University of Cologne recruited 1,252 people to respond to text messages asking about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ incidents that happened to them or were witnessed by them. An SMS message was send to each participant five times a day for three days. The text asked recipients to gauge the morality of an event that just occurred in their lives. The results were striking.

On average, participants reported one moral incident a day, with ‘good’ and ‘bad’ judgments being attributed in roughly equal measure. Categories included: 

  • Care/harm. Eg, opening a door for somebody versus letting it slam in their face.
  • Fairness/unfairness. Eg, tipping generously or not.
  • Loyalty/disloyalty. Eg, having dinner with your wife versus your mistress.

According to one researcher, the responses provided ‘a sense of the moral baseline of a typical day… and the slice of the moral pie occupied by each of these categories. 

The findings apparently corroborate the long-held moral credit theory, where no good deed goes unpunished. It also supports other historical lab experiments that suggest good deeds are contagious. But while those on the receiving end of an act of kindness were around 10% more likely than the average person to do something nice later in the day, the person granting that kindness was around 3% more likely than average to be rude or dismissive later that today.

It appears that committing an act of kindness really does imbue us with a sense of moral license to behave less well in future. This modest SMS experiment is the first tentative step towards a greater understanding of our moral makeup, and though we may not like what we see, it’s undeniably fascinating.

September 12, 2014

Facebook is Converting 100m Africans Per Month

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The African continent is signing up to Facebook in droves, with 100 million users joining the social network every month. Most exciting for mobile marketing campaign managers is the fact that 80% of those users are joining via smartphones. This is indicative of a rapidly expanding mobile marketplace in emerging economies, as smartphone adoption in many African nations outstrips desktop adoption.

In part, this explosion has been driven by a deal inked between Facebook and cellular networks which ‘zero rates’ the service. This means data used by accessing Facebook does not count towards bills or data limits. Despite drawing some criticism from net neutrality advocates, the move has undoubtedly helped emerging economies in countries like Nigeria and Kenya compete; companies across Africa are reaching new, global audiences that were hitherto tough to crack.

This is just the beginning of what looks set to be a connectivity revolution in a continent historically beset with infrastructural problems. Some researchers are predicting mobile web use will increase 20-fold over the next five years. That’s double the predicted rate of growth in the rest of the world.

The relative affordability of, say, an iPhone compared to an Apple desktop computer is allowing citizens of developing countries to engage with the online world, and businesses to grow more quickly as their local audience builds. The declining cost of data, alongside faster transmission speeds, is improving communication in some of the remotest parts of the world, with sub-Saharan Africa undergoing a mobile digital revolution. 

It’s not just the low cost of recent generations of smartphone that suits these markets. Smartphones don’t need to be physically connected - either to network or electricity cables – to the same degree as desktop computers. This convenience and portability is allowing a whole new kind of mobile consumer to take advantage of internet access. 

Recent research from mobile tech firm Ericsson predicts voice call traffic in the region will double over the next five years. By the end of this year, there are expected to be more than 635 million mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa. The report also says that 70% of users in the countries studies browse the web on mobile devices, compared with just 6% who use desktop computers.

Analysts say the Ericsson research confirms mobile’s dominance. In a recent TED talk on technology in Africa, the editor of South Africa’s Stuff magazine said:

"Africa is a mobile-only continent. There never was a landline infrastructure to begin with, apart from urban areas. Mobile has allowed anyone to have a phone in places that were previously impassable and uncontactable. It has also been enabled, from a business perspective, by prepaid payments that handily remove the equally widespread legacy problem in that very few people have banks accounts. It really is that technology leapfrog the industry likes to talk about."

 

September 10, 2014

How Americans Use Text Messaging

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According to the most recent Pew research, 90% of adults have a cell phone of some kind, and 58% have a smartphone. Nearly a third of all cell phone owners describe their device as ‘something they can’t imagine living without.’

And the thing they can’t live without most of all is SMS. Texting is the most commonly used non-voice application of American mobile phones. Previous Pew research indicated that 73% of adult cell phone owners use the text messaging feature on their phone regularly. For under 30s, that percentage is closer to 100, with twentysomethings sending or receiving an average of 87.7 text messages per day. 

Go younger still – to the under-24 category – and you start to wonder how the ‘youth of today’ gets anything done. According to the research, 97% of 18-24 year olds use text messaging, and the number of daily SMS messages send or received by individuals in this group is, on average, 109.5 – twenty-three times that of the baby boomers. The median texter in the 18-24 demographic sends or receives 50 texts per day. A quarter of them report sending or receiving more than 100 texts per day, and 12% claim to send or receive more than 200 messages on an average day. 

Using the Data

Having a clearer understanding of texting habits will help you devise a more complete, rounded mobile marketing strategy. It’s essential to integrate your mobile and email campaigns so they benefit from one another. An email/text one-two punch can really drive home your message, and both channels provide users with a way to engage directly with your business. How can you achieve this?

Well, SMS is ideal for short, time-sensitive communications. We know most recipients read texts within minutes of receiving them, so there’s no better way to issue a limited time special offer, or notify people of last minute alteration to schedules. Email, on the other hand, is perfect for sending denser content with more detailed information.

Remember too that 43% of consumers access their emails via a mobile device, so both channels are easily cross-referenced. This single point of access promises to be a major driver of consumer engagement as smartphone penetration continues unabated. Don’t let your next mobile marketing campaign do without 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.