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67 posts categorized "Tech"

July 31, 2014

Beyond Marketing: 4 Unexpected Uses for SMS

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SMS messaging has become a key component of any mobile marketing strategy. It’s use as an advertising tool has been well documented – not least on this very organ – but there are all sorts of weird, wonderful ways to leverage the power of text. Schools, community groups, churches and even emergency services have begun incorporating SMS into their processes. We’ve cherry picked our favorite unusual uses of SMS messaging outside of the mobile marketing realm…

Finding Lost Pets

Companies like MobiPet are helping pet owners locate lost furry friends. When notified of a lost animal, they send photo alerts by text message to registered vets, animal shelters and pet owners within a 30 mile radius. Animal lovers have rallied round the idea which, unlike microchip implants, is non-invasive and requires no equipment apart from a camera-enabled mobile phone with text message capability.

Donating to Good Causes

Text-to-donate has proven highly effective at engaging people who don’t donate to charity by other methods. In 2007, a Super Bowl commercial raised $10,000 within seconds for the victims of the recent tsunami in Asia. The Haiti earthquake relief effort also benefitted from a text campaign, with the Red Cross eventually pulling in $32 million for victims. The success of text-to-donate is owed to the simplicity of the process. People too busy to go through the hassle of visiting a website and uploading credit card information can simply reply to a text message and have their donation applied to their phone bill.

Emergency Alerts

Closer to home, Hurricane Sandy – the second costliest hurricane in the US since records began – had a devastating impact on local businesses, but SMS proved to be a true survivor in the face of infrastructural collapse. Businesses and emergency services used SMS to keep residents up to date on the weather and how the damage it caused would affect them. 

Talking to Home Appliances

‘Smart appliances’ allow their owners to control them remotely via text message. Appliances are programmed to respond to a series of commands, so if you have an unexpected guest coming to your house, and you don’t have time to go home and clean, you can send a text to your robotic vacuum cleaner or mop. Intelligent SMS systems are also being used in fridges to tell owners what they need to pick up from the store, and even suggest recipe ideas!

July 30, 2014

Microsoft Finally Takes It's Head From the Sand... and Into the Cloud

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After years of threatening to become a computing anachronism, Microsoft is transmogrifying into a cloud services provider with a strong focus on mobile marketing. 

Earlier this year, the tech giant put the finishing touches to its Windows Phone 8.1 OS, and promised delivery to consumers by ‘Summer 2014’. They’ve already begun integrating Nokia’s smartphone business, and shares have gone up by 25% since the appointment of new CEO Satya Nadella five months ago.

On the face of it, Microsoft is finally joining the cloud/mobile party that’s been in full swing since the turn of the decade. It’s been a long time coming, and competing with the likes of Google and Apple will be a tough road aho.

Critics have lambasted Microsoft for its reticence regarding the obvious consumer appeal of cloud computing, but their strategy has become more focused on Nadella’s watch, with the professed ‘cloud first, mobile first’ philosophy at last gaining credibility.

In particular, the firm has begun to recognize the need to give partners more control over the cloud services they resell. They recently announced the implementation of the Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider program, which grants affiliates who resell products like Office 365 and Windows Intune greater control of billing and customer service tools. Says Phil Sorgen, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Partnerships:

“It fundamentally enables our partners to own the customer relationship.”

The program will expand gradually until it covers all MS cloud services. It certainly appears that Microsoft is offering the right incentives to partners. They are waiving the first year fee for new registrants wanting to sell Azure and Office 365, and increasing the number of internal use rights licenses by anything from 25 to 200 percent. Even their traditional on-premise software products are getting a 10 percent price slash for partner programs.

The jury is still out on whether this cloud and mobile marketing strategy will pay off for Microsoft. With hundreds of thousands of partners out their, the challenge is to meet the needs of a vast, heterogeneous group with extremely diverse priorities. Not all of them are thrilled at the way the wind is blowing.

Many long-time resellers and integrators will find themselves struggling to adjust their models to cloud-based services after years spent building business around on-premises Microsoft software. For one thing, on-premises deals are usually made with a one-time payment, whilst cloud services are sold by subscription. The latter generates recurring revenue streams – but the size of the deal tends to be smaller.

But Microsoft have realized that focusing on the future is the only way to ensure long term prosperity. Their attentions are pointed at the ‘born in the cloud’ generation of entrepreneurs who have never used on-premises software. For them, Microsoft’s evolution can’t happen quickly enough.

July 24, 2014

Apple’s ‘Reuse and Recycle’ Prices Falling

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Earlier this month, Apple quietly made a few key changes to its ‘Reuse and Recycle’ program. The lack of ceremony surrounding the changes are easily explained: it’s not particularly good news for customers.

Customers in Canada and the United States will now get less money for trading in their iPhone. The new top value is $225, versus the former rate of $270. Go back two years and Apple were offering up to $345 for a pristine iPhone 4S (then the latest model). The new pricing plan is the lowest since the program was launched.

Even with the higher prices on offer, Apple’s recycling scheme was one of the least-trumpeted aspects of their business. Many iPhone users remain completely ignorant of its existence. It works like this:

  • An Apple customer goes to the Apple Store and asks to trade in their older phone for a new, on-contract model.
  • The Apple Store rep keys in the customer’s existing iPhone details using their EasyPay device (those neat mobile touch screen gizmos you see reps clutching).
  • Based on the information entered, a value for the old iPhone is given to the customer. Metrics include display quality, button quality, overall hardware damage, liquid damage and functionality.
  • The Apple Store rep lets the customer know they cannot get their original phone back, and they should back up any info they need.
  • The customer gets a new iPhone and a gift card with the agreed-upon value pre-loaded to go towards the new device.
  • The old phone is placed in a plastic bag, and the old SIM card is given to the customer while the employee sets up the new iPhone.

According to Apple, recycled iPhones are only re-sold in the United States, although they’ve not ruled out expanding the program to international markets. Despite launching the scheme to little fanfare, the tech giant did assert its commitment at the time, stating:

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.

 

 

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.