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October 30, 2014

Want a Personal Shopper? You Probably Already Have One

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Always dreamed of having a personal shopper? You probably already have one...in the palm of your hand.

A new survey by Perception Research Services International, a company that specializes in shopper

research, found 76% of smartphone owners use their devices for shopping purposes.

The survey notes “53% of smartphone owners rely on their devices to compare prices, 49%

to read customer reviews, 48% to search for product information, 48% to check for sales or

coupons, 37% to get product information from a manufacturer’s site, 34% to get a friend or

family member’s opinion, 31% to make a purchase, 31% to enter a contest, and 17% to view

a product demonstration.” Out of the 1,450 American adults surveyed, over half owned a

smartphone.

 

Consumers use their smartphones when shopping for a range of products, including electronics,

clothing, computers/software, groceries, cosmetics, furniture and appliances, cosmetics and

personal care products, office supplies, home decor, and pet supplies among other items. QR

codes are among the most popular mobile commerce options, with consumers using codes to

learn more about products and promotions, participate in loyalty programs and receive rewards,

read customer reviews, and obtain store addresses.

 

“Retailers and manufacturers need to adapt to a world in which shoppers are armed with a

tremendous amount of information at their fingertips—about the brand to choose, the price

to pay and the place to buy,” notes Jonathan Asher, executive vice president at Perception

Research Services International. “Retailers know they will continue to lose a certain amount of

sales to online purchases, and they must accept that some showrooming will occur. The key is

to find ways to capitalize on those opportunities in which shoppers are in their store examining

products, and make it compelling for them to make purchases there rather than go online—or to

some other retailer—to do so.”

 

Marketers are therefore encouraging shoppers to buy new products or services based on

previous purchases and shopping patterns. Companies such as shopkick and Paypal are

utilizing Bluetooth-enabled beacons to link consumer in-store data to mobile marketing. Taking

advantage of location-based technologies and tracking buyer history has subsequently made

recommending products and services to consumers easy and efficient. Even third-party

manufacturers can benefit.

 

Beacon hardware manufacturer Roximity is developing marketing technology that leverages

beacons. For instance, a supermarket using Roximity’s technology could allow a third-party

brand, such as Dole, to utilize its beacon network for a particular promotion.

Startup companies are quickly getting on board with location-based technology, using mobile

not only to help consumers find their businesses, but to add understand what products

customers like and how to incentivize greater purchases.

October 26, 2014

Why is the Hospitality Industry so Slow to Embrace Mobile?

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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.

October 21, 2014

Five Telltale Signs of a Text Scam

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Email and snail mail scammers have added a new, very personal communication medium to their fraud arsenal: SMS. Text messaging scams are unfortunately becoming more commonplace, and as such it’s important to know what the indicators of such scams are. Check out five surefire signs of a text scam and know what to look out for should you receive strange messages: 

 

1) 11-Digit Numbers

Text messages from legitimate businesses are actually sent from the company’s number and do not come from unidentified mobile numbers. This is true even if the text body includes the name of the company, so don’t be fooled if a strange number claims to be a particular company.

 

2) “Winning” Raffle Prizes

Plenty of text scams begin by saying the user has “won” a raffle and includes steps on how to claim the supposed prize. Designed to trick users into handing over money or load credits in exchange for the prize, these fake winnings certainly spell scam. Remember that unless you entered into a specific contest, there’s no real prize at the end of the text message tunnel. Never, ever offer bank or similar information to “raffles” you did not enter.

 

3) “Share-A-Load”

Another way text scams extort user money or load credits is via “Share-A-Load” transactions. This scam accuses the subscriber of racking up additional charges. It gives the victim a message format to send to a mobile number for a “refund.” The message often looks as follows: [Company Name] LTE Advisory: Your postpaid account has been charged P500 for LTE use. Is this a wrong charge? Text 500 send to 2936XXXXXXX for REFUND.” Additionally, adding the ‘2’ in front of the 10-digit cell number turns the message into a “Share-A-Load” transaction.

 

4) Problems With Relatives 

Text messages claiming trouble with relatives who live abroad is one of the most common text messaging scams in existence. The “relative” has an issue while living or traveling abroad and requests monetary assistance through load credits or money transfer services using a “new” prepaid number. This new number is another way to trick users into Share-A-Load transactions.

 

5) Government “Messages”

Government agencies do not, repeat, DO NOT perform transactions through text messages. Any text message claiming to be from any government agency is a definite scam, including those that note raffle prize wins. The “agency” may not even exist.

Instead of responding to text message scams, inform your service provider of suspicious activity. Report all mobile numbers used, and never provide bank information or send money. The more informed you are, the better off you’ll be should you encounter a text message scam. 

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.