63 posts categorized "Tech"

June 30, 2014

How SMS is Revolutionizing Emerging Economies

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Since 2007, individual farmers in developing countries are estimated to have made up to $4000 in additional profits and saved twice as much – and it’s all thanks to SMS messaging.

First trialed in India, and now being rolled out in other emerging economies, Reuters Market Light (RML) has had a truly revolutionary impact on the lives of rural workers since being introduced. This noble scheme was designed to level the playing field for remote farmers operating in a globalized marketplace. The service acts as a watchdog-cum-information-hub for agricultural commerce, issuing crucial information to people who may not have internet access.

It’s a far cry from the sophisticated mobile marketing tactics employed in the western world, but RML has demonstrated just how powerful SMS messaging can be in the absence of smartphones and web connectivity. Thus far, millions of farmers all over the world have received vital updates throughout the season, with information tailored to the specific needs of an individual’s profile. Information like regional and global market rates for crops; local weather data and disaster alerts; advice on increasing productivity and reducing risk, and other information that could have an impact on operational costs.

The scheme is intended to safeguard vulnerable workers against exploitative middlemen who seek to undercut them. There’s no shortage of compelling testimony to the efficacy of the work being done by RML. One story tells of a grape farmer who began exporting produce to Russia after learning of the country’s higher prices. It’s estimated that a staggering 1.2 million farmers in India are using the program to improve their chances.

RML offers a moving demonstration of how the humble mobile phone can help some of the world’s poorest people without the bells and whistles of the smartphones which proliferate among the world’s richest. SMS messaging, it seems, is powerful enough to raise living standards and brings some semblance of equality to a globalized economy. Kenya has used SMS messaging payment programs to reduce robbery statistics, with an amazing 25% of the country’s GDP now flowing through the M-Pesa system.

Studies indicate that introducing ten cell phones per one hundred people in the developing world can boost economic growth by 1%. RML, M-Pesa, and others are truly improving the lot of some of the hardest-hit regions on earth, giving citizens cheaper services, better access to crucial economic data, and ultimately creating greater expectations about acceptable living standards.

 

June 24, 2014

Smartphone Use at Work on the Rise

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Whether at home or work – or even while on the commute between the two places – people carry their mobile devices with most of the time. In 2013, 132 million people around the world used their smartphones while at work, with that number expected to grow by nearly one third to 174 million people by the end of 2014. According to recent figures, as many as 328 million workers will be bringing their smartphones to work by 2017. The fact that people use these devices while on the job presents rich opportunity when it comes to SMS marketing. 

While B2C retailers have taken advantage of such widespread smartphone use in recent years, what may come as a surprise in the B2B arena is just how many workers today use their devices to complete work-related tasks. Therefore, the rise in smartphone use at work spells enormous opportunity for B2B SMS marketing as well. Thanks to the release of the 5S, a rise in iPhone use on the job has accounted for 54 percent of newly activated workplace mobile use. And more people are also, of course, using Androids at work.

Mobile Gains Popularity as a Business Tool

Companies have been increasingly adopting mobile apps for business use. The days when employers discouraged workers from using mobile devices at their desks have been on the decline. Enterprise app activations have been up 54 percent since 2013, which is an acceleration from the 42 percent growth rate from earlier that same year. VMware’s recent announcement that it would be spending $1.5 billion to acquire AirWatch, a rival mobile device management enterprise, says a lot about the many business opportunities a mobile presence at work has to offer.

Currently, the most popular business use of mobile devices is document editing, with business intelligence apps and cloud storage also rising. More and more enterprises today are even building their own business apps. However, the fact that people are already using their mobile devices while at work now means they are more likely to respond to B2B SMS text marketing while on the job.

Smartphone Use Means Convenience and Efficiency

Until recently, the widespread presence of mobile devices at the office only meant marketing to consumers as they scrambled to fit personal online shopping and other errands into the hectic work day. Now that more and more of the workforce uses mobile devices for business purposes, however, B2B SMS mobile marketing will experience enormous growth opportunities as well. 

SMS texting is an invaluable tool for communicating with B2B clients partly because SMS texting costs only a small fraction of what phone calls do. SMS also saves money, increasing efficiency through features like mass texting and automation.

At the end of the day, more than half of workers making business-to-business purchasing decisions for their companies now use their smartphones to gather product and service information before placing orders. That number is only growing. Therefore, B2B SMS marketing has become an absolutely essential part of any B2B marketing campaign.

June 16, 2014

Where Will SMS Marketing be in 2020?

 

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The mobile landscape has undoubtedly changed the future of marketing. Thanks to touchscreen keypads, more people are sending text messages now than ever, and marketing campaigns are capitalizing on that trend. However, as technology evolves, companies must understand not only how consumers use their smartphones today but also how they will use them in 2020. 

The Future: SMS Marketing, Plus More Mobile Apps

While the year 2020 will see increased mobile customer service and messaging app use, trends also indicate that SMS will remain an effective way to convey appointment reminders, sweepstakes, voting campaigns, and other services. Thanks to iPhone, Google’s G1, and the Blackberry Storm, it is true that thousands of user-friendly mobile applications are now available. At the same time, when rethinking SMS mobile marketing efforts between now and the year 2020, one should realize that 7 out of 10 apps are created for use on iOS, not Android. SMS marketing, by contrast, is and will continue to be effective across platforms.

Messaging Apps and Mobile Marketing

In deciding where to concentrate today's mobile marketing efforts, businesses know that Facebook is the most popular app, with Google Play, Google Search, YouTube, and Pandora Radio at a near tie for second place. In the near future, however, messaging apps will be taking the lead. 

Facebook's own messaging app has become a major topic of conversation in mobile marketing due to recent discoveries that user messages were being scanned for marketing purposes. However, the mere fact that the company has introduced a separate messaging app is worthy of buzz. Doing so falls right in line with the trend that has Twitter and Instagram introducing their own messaging apps as well.

The effects of these messaging apps and others like them on the future of marketing promise to be great as companies seek out innovative ways to monetize the services. Taco Bell, for instance, has begun sending coupons via Snapchat. Similarly, Absolut Vodka is using WhatsApp to engage with consumers. Several chat services, including Japanese-based LINE and Dutch-based Nimbuzz, are enabling in-app purchases, with LINE generating revenue by allowing users to buy oversized emoticon “stickers” that they can then paste into mobile conversations.

Continued Role of SMS Push / Pull Messaging

Today, SMS marketing mostly means advertiser-initiated “push messaging” and consumer-initiated “pull messaging.” On the one hand, interrupting consumers with push messaging has the potential to negatively affect a brand. On the other hand, SMS coupons, for example, are still exchanged eight times more than their email equivalents. One growing trend that will likely continue through 2020 has been the use of push messaging to win over customers by offering them something of value, whether that be a mobile coupon, doctor's appointment reminder, or golfing weather forecast.

Popular examples of pull messaging today, by contrast, include campaigns encouraging consumers to opt in by texting to a shortcode. For instance, in exchange for texting a question, the user receives not only an answer; s/he is also opted in to receive future sales notifications, coupons, etc.

The two most popular uses of pull messaging—sweepstakes and television viewer voting—are simple ways to generate revenue and thus unlikely to be replaced any time in the near future. In addition, QR codes will continue to be an important pull messaging strategy, since 40% of consumers who scan subsequently make purchases. 

While mobile app use is clearly growing – and while text marketing may be moving toward customer service applications – SMS will also likely continue to be a powerful marketing tool between now and the year 2020.

May 29, 2014

SEO Strategies to Avoid

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Three letters represent the primary focus of any mobile marketing campaign, and have done for around a decade now. SEO. It’s come a long way since then, adapting to an increasingly complex array of strictures and barriers imposed by search engines in order to prevent people gaming the system, but the objective is the same: improve visibility for relevant industry keywords.

The fast pace of change in SEO best practices means that well-intentioned tips published a year ago may actually harm your rankings today. This is not a dilettantes game. To do it right, you need to stay on top of the latest effective strategies and, even more importantly, those tactics that have fallen afoul of Bot Logic. Smart mobile marketing tactics – or ‘white hat’ techniques – will be rewarded for creativity in the shape of increased clicks, impressions and conversions. The ‘black hat’ SEOs that still haunt our online world are fighting a losing battle. When was the last time you saw a link farm on page one for a popular keyword? I’m guessing some time around the turn of the decade.

Trouble is, the misinformed or naïve SEO strategist will be punished as fully as the cynical black hatter. Even if you adopt a mobile marketing strategy in good faith, if Google frowns upon it, you’re done for. It could set your business back months. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ‘must-avoid’ SEO tactics so you know what not to do…

 

Reciprocal Links

There is much confusion surrounding the value of reciprocal links. Of course, links from friends, family and business associates are a natural part of entrepreneurship. This is where the ‘link as vote’ analogy is helpful. Think of your business as an election campaign. You can and should reach out to potential ‘voters’ and ask them to support your campaign for success. But if you receive an unsolicited email from someone you’ve never heard of, and they request a link exchange, accepting it would be like associating your ‘candidate’ with the wrong sort of voter. In most cases, such emails will come from sites weighed down by links already, and the greater the link:valuable content is, the lower the value of each additional link becomes. Chances are, if they’ve contacted you (usually via automated software) they stand to benefit from your link much more than you from theirs. Don’t be tempted by offers of dodgy links. Bide your time, and grow your backlinks in a more organic way, and Google will love you forever. 

Peak Keyword

Back in Web 1.0, you could happily stuff a page with keywords, safe in the knowledge that this unsophisticated metric was given credence by search engines. Those days are gone. Now, when Google bots crawl a page crammed with keywords, they will consign that page to the bottom of the results.

Link Overload

Placing relevant links in your article is a key part of creating useful content – but overdo it with extraneous links and you will be stung by the search engines.

Comments

Just as link building needs to be done slowly and with great care, commenting on others’ blogs as a way of boosting your online profile can be a positive organic approach. But as with all good SEO practices, you need a rich mixture of tactics to get real results. Even if you’re only leaving comments of value, blog commenting for the sole purpose of building links is nothing less than spam.

May 28, 2014

Mobile Tech Saving Small Businesses Billions

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A compelling survey commissioned by AT & T claims small and medium sized businesses in the US have saved $67.5 billion a year by adopting mobile marketing tactics like SMS messaging and mobile coupons. Smartphone targeting has almost achieved full market penetration, with 94% of small businesses using them, up from 85% last year. Smartphones are saving companies 1.24 billion hours and $32.3 billion annually, according to the report.

Other mobile devices are having a similar impact on commerce. Tablets purportedly save $19.6 billion, and a staggering 754.2 million hours annually. Mobile apps have given back close to 600 man hours to small businesses, and saved them $15.6 billion per year.

Clearly, these figures spell fantastic news for budget-conscious startups. Entrepreneurs can now pump that surplus time and cash back into their business to increase productivity and improve customer engagement. Cost-cutting measures are welcomed by any business, of whatever size – but it’s the time saving possibilities that are relished most by survey respondents: 9 out of 10 small businesses who use mobile applications said the principal benefit was reducing man hours, and most of those estimate annual savings of up to $6000. 

Cathy Martine, AT & T’s president of enterprise business solutions said in an accompanying statement:

"In the current economy, mobile technologies are critical to enabling small businesses to save tremendous amounts of time and money by helping them do more with less. As a result, we're seeing more and more small business owners and employees turning to mobile technologies to not only keep them connected but to put them ahead of the curve." 

As a mobile marketing strategy, well-designed apps put brand recognition and awareness firmly in the hands of business owners, allowing them to offer a proprietary tool capable of boosting ROIs without absorbing the long-term costs usually associated with traditional marketing campaigns. The use of mobile apps has increased by 65% in the last two years alone. Some 77% are using multiple apps, and a significant 5% uses 20 or more apps, with GPS and mapping programs comprising the lion’s share.

One of the most striking benefits of mobile apps is the ‘open all hours’ appeal. According to the survey, the average number of days on which business is conducted via smartphone exceeds the average number of days the company is open for business. While small and medium sized businesses are open for an average of 5.7 days per week, close to half of all respondents with smartphones are making deals seven days a week.

The lessons are clear: if you are a small business and you still don’t have a mobile marketing strategy, now is the time to join the party. The results are proven to be fast and affordable, so get with mobile marketing now, and you will feel the benefit before the year is out. 

May 02, 2014

Using Emojis in Text Marketing

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Remember the early days of Web 1.0? Every site had a garish color scheme. Pioneering html coders took a fast and loose approach to formatting. Most of all, those early developers were extremely limited in terms of the type of content they could provide. It was all huge blocks of text, presented in one of the seven or so fonts available at the time (none of them attractive).

 

Look how far we’ve come in twenty years. The inexorable rise of video and photo sharing apps like Instagram, Hulu, YouTube and SnapChat indicate an audience that overwhelmingly prefers visual content over plain text.

 

The evolution of an increasingly passive, content-hungry audience has thrown up some major challenges for mobile marketing campaign strategists. How do you keep visual content fresh? This is a particular challenge for small businesses who lack the budget to keep generating exciting new content.

 

Emojis are a fantastic method of adding some color and vim to your campaign without spending too much cash. Originally from Japan, these tiny pictographs represent emotions, objects, ideas and much more. In 2011, after Apple added them as a language option, their popularity had exploded.

 

Why are they so useful for mobile marketing campaigns? Well, even the very best writers can have their text misconstrued; not everything can be communicated through words. Emojis can convey certain emotions and tones of voice in a way that mere words cannot.

 

Emojis have been used with great success by a number of mobile marketing campaigns, including PETA’s Cruelty Beyond Words initiative. The target demographic was principally a young audience who tend to engage less with charitable causes. Realistic, vivid emojis have been used to encourage young people to share information about the initiative, with PETA supporters able to text a red heart emoji to 73822.

 

Branded emojis are helping companies and organizations of all stripes reach more of the 80%+ of US mobile users who send text messages. The ubiquity of texting makes it the perfect platform for mobile marketing managers to engage with audiences – especially younger people. And for important social movements, where images are often more powerful than words, emojis are becoming an essential part of the fabric of mobile communication.

 

April 29, 2014

HoverChat is Helping Mobile Users Multitask

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The modern web audience is an inattentive bunch. Creating an effective mobile marketing strategy means figuring out how to grab your share of their attention. One of the ways developers are meeting this challenge is with multitasking tools that enable users to send SMS messages at the same time as using other apps.

Android users might remember Google’s recently-scrapped SMS messaging app. App developers certainly remember it, and have rushed to fill the gap it’s departure left in the market. HelloSMS, EvolveSMS and Textra all went a long way towards giving mobile users a good multitask experience. Facebook brought out ChatHead, which assigned floating chat bubbles to contacts, allowing users to respond quickly, regardless of what else they were doing.

It’s along those lines that HoverChat has carved out a name for itself. Formerly known as Ninja SMS, HoverChat has re-emerged with a familiar list-based inbox, and a not-so-familiar way of handling incoming messages.

In this case, the floating bubbles are replaced with “HoverHeads”. You can choose which of your friends or favorite brands get the honor of their own chat bubble. You can make the chat window semi-transparent, so you can literally read between the lines. It even allows you to send encrypted messages to another HoverChat user.

Other customizable features include a fully-featured store serving themes, fonts and HoverHeads, The store is available in a free or premium version (the latter of which animates HoverHeads).

Apps like HoverHeads demonstrate that, even in this new age of WhatsApp and Snapchat, traditional SMS messaging has a place – it just needs innovative new ways of being applied. Opening SMS messaging up to users who love to multitask is one of the ways this is happening.

Oh, and HoverChat is available as a free download on Google Play, with the paid version costing $3.99. Happy multitasking!

 

April 28, 2014

How SMS Messaging is Cutting Patient Wait Times in the UK

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We’ve heard a lot about the health industry’s slowness in catching on to the benefits of SMS messaging and other useful technology. In part, this hesitance is down to entrenched ideas about patient security, but it’s also about restricted budgets and old-fashioned reluctance to change.

In Great Britain, healthcare professionals are slowly coming around to the potential benefits of using SMS messaging between staff and patients. Patient waiting times is one of the hottest issues for the NHS – and one of the most easily solved through the power of text.

An automated SMS messaging system is being trialed across the UK. It gives patients the option to change, accept or receive alternative appointment dates. Did-not-attend rates (DNA) – one of the biggest causes of waiting times – dropped 20% in two hospitals after the rollout.

The NHS made the move in response to a survey that indicated 91% of patients would accept last-minute appointments if a cancellation freed up time – even with only a day or two’s notice. The pilot scheme shows some 50% of cancelled appointments could be refilled using SMS messaging.

Such clear, indisputable successes bode well for the future of SMS in the healthcare setting, which is beholden to tight budget targets. Using extant technology capable of communicating with patients smartphones is the logical answer decreasing the burden on hospital infrastructure.

There’s also an indication that the ease of communication is transformative for the patient experience. Combining SMS with online services, hospitals can engage the difficult younger demographic who make up the majority of DNAs – and most of whom own a smartphone.

Such creative use of existing technology is contributing significantly to the fight to reduce missed appointments, late cancellations, and the failures to meet 18 week deadlines on waiting times. SMS messaging won't solve everything, but it’s freeing up time and resources that can focus on fixing other problems in the NHS.

And there’s no shortage of problems for a health system under increasing threat from spending cuts. Government figures from earlier this year show 2.9 million people were waiting for treatment in the first month of 2014 – up by 362,000 from January 2013. The number of patients who were not treated within 18 weeks also rose.

If these trends are to be reversed, SMS messaging could hold the key. If the pilot is expanded into a systemic policy implemented across all NHS hospitals, the British public will find out...

 

 

April 18, 2014

How to Create an Intuitive Interface

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When someone refers to an ‘intuitive interface’ they really mean a program that they intuit easily. Computer programs can’t intuit anything. The widespread use of the term reflects an appropriately anthropocentric view of the technology that we did, after all, design and build in the first place. So now we’ve thrown some grist into the pedants’ mill, let’s concede that ‘intuitive interface’ is the commonly understood expression. But what does it refer to, exactly? How can we measure which interfaces feel intuitive to users and which don’t?

The key questions to ask of the people using your interface are:

 

  • What do they already know?
  • What do they need to know?

Imagine someone comes to use your interface for the very first time. If what they already know is all they need to know – job done, your interface is intuitive. If a user doesn’t know all they need to know, but the design helps them without them being aware of receiving any guidance – congratulations, you too have an intuitive interface.

How to Do It

Developing your understanding of what users generally find most intuitive takes a methodical approach to testing. The easier an interface is to use, the more people will use it.

A good example of a popular intuitive interface is Ez Texting’s SMS marketing service. Ez operates on the notion that a mobile marketing campaign should not be difficult. The clue’s in the name, kids. Ez Texting’s software is incredibly simple to use, and avoids any industry jargon or technical language. The choices available will be familiar to anyone who’s ever had an email account; choices like ‘send text message’ and ‘scheduled and sent texts’. 

What Ez Texting have done right is foster a sense of knowing what you need to do as soon as you see the screen. Want to add a new group? Guess what – click the link that says ‘add a new group.’ That’s intuition. It works wonders in terms of keeping people on your site.

How Not to Do It

There are plenty of examples online of decidedly unintuitive interfaces. You’ve probably used one – or at least started to use one before giving up. For an all-time classic intuition fail, we must turn to one of the oldest electronic communication tools there is: the hotel phone.

I’m sure you’ve been there. Sitting in a hotel room, you go to make an outside call and hit ‘9’. Only this hotel felt that ‘5’ would be a much better choice. More original, perhaps, but not the intuitive choice.

The most intuitive interfaces favor familiarity over originality. Just because you have discovered an impeccable logic in doing things in a new way doesn’t mean your users will prefer it. Intuition doesn’t work that way. Improve your understanding of what the majority of people prefer and you are close to creating a truly intuitive interface.

April 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Notification
  • Input and response
  • Instant action

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

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