Tech

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September 19, 2014

Five of the Best: Strategies for SMS Marketing

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As we move through this ever-changing era of new media marketing, many businesses are innovating with the latest and greatest of tech strategies to reach their customer bases. Certainly geo-targeting and push notifications are significant mobile marketing tactics. Smart business owners, however, maintain that SMS marketing is still at the top when it comes to affordability and ubiquity. Here are five of the best techniques for maximizing your returns with mobile text marketing.

1)     Create Timely Content

Reach your customers when they’re open to hearing from you, and hence more likely to respond. Find out what your clients value at any given time, and deliver offers to them that are relevant and time-sensitive. Existing campaigns that work should not be halted, but it’s always important to find new opportunities to grab hold of both potential and loyal customers based on current trends.

2)     Invest in Loyalty

Business owners that provide loyalty programs for long-term customers augment customer relationships while targeting a group that values the company’s products. Not only do companies increase repeat customer sales, they’re also able to analyze repeat customers’ buying habits, making it easier to create targeted product promotions. Create exclusive VIP clubs and promotions to make loyal customers feel special. Loyalty lists don’t have to be that large to be profitable either: many businesses make their bread and butter off of a relatively small group of people. Recent studies show that twenty percent of customers drive eighty percent of sales. Target your repeat and long-time customers to make sure they feel appreciated and valued.

3)     Contests & Sweepstakes

Make it simple for customers to enter into contests and sweepstakes through a text message. These days no one wants to hassle with filling out a form when a simple message will suffice. SMS accessed contests make the process easier on your clientele, while offering potentially valuable opportunities for customers to engage with your brand. Contests and sweepstakes are great incentives for opting in to a marketing list.

4)     SMS in Multi-Channel Campaign

Multi-channel campaigns often overlook the opportunities available through the SMS channel. Mobile marketers know the truth: since SMS is a built-in feature of every mobile device, and everyone has cellphones nowadays, why not take advantage of this channel? User data can be accessed seamlessly, and 95% of text messages are opened by mobile users. Include a call-to-action in the SMS-arm of your campaign, and provide ways for users to sign up for other offers to maximize the value of your advertising. Offer text messaging opt-in opportunities through other platforms, with special incentives for opting-in.

5)     Foster Interaction

If consumers agree to allow texts and calls to their personal phone, they expect something valuable in return. Think of exclusive offers, easy ways to purchase or ask questions, customer surveys to improve overall products and services, and other valuable information relevant to the consumers. The more positive interaction with customers, the more brand loyalty and potential sales your company will foster.

Follow these five strategies in your next text marketing campaign, and discover which work best for your consumer base. And remember, setting up a text message campaign is extremely easy, but reaching customers via text messaging is even easier.

 

September 17, 2014

What to Expect from the iPhone 6

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This week Apple unveiled a triad of new devices: the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 plus, and the iWatch. The anticipation mounting over the new technology has the blogging world abuzz, but most of the talk is about the oversized iPhone 6 plus (which many iPhone users scoff at), or the iWatch (which nobody seems to take seriously). Unfortunately for the iPhone 6, the blogosphere seems to have failed to represent what she has to offer.

LARGER

The iPhone 6 has undergone a major revision in its latest release. Perhaps the most interesting thing we noticed about the new iPhone – it is a little larger than the last generation, the iPhone 5S, by about a half an inch. It appears that the designers of the latest iPhone have been interpreting the data about the competition: a little more than one-third of mobile users prefer to use a smartphone that has a larger screen. The smartphone is also heavier than its previous incarnation, weighing in at about 4.5 ounces.

SLEEKER DESIGN

The design of the body has been altered as well. The iPhone 6 has veered away from square edges, and now has a more rounded yet significantly slimmer shape (a little bit thicker than a quarter inch). This makes it one of the thinnest devices on the market. The power button has also been moved from the top of the phone to the right edge.

In the weeks leading up to the unveiling, Apple claimed that the glass in their screens will be upgraded to handle many more bumps and scrapes before shattering – good news for any mobile user who’s dropped their iPhone before. Also with the new Retina HD screen, the iPhone 6 has received a significant upgrade from its cousin, the iPhone 5S. When compared to other models though (like those of Samsung’s line of phones), many would argue that the screen designers could have gone further in creating a better display.

UPDATED HARDWARE & SOFTWARE

The camera has been upgraded in the new iPhone 6 to one with a wide-angle lens. Called the iSight lens, it incorporates a 2.2 aperture with noise reduction and an autofocus that’s twice as fast. The rear camera also has a slo-mo video mode to enhance slow motion recording. The front facing camera is much better too, now an HD camera with a 2.2 aperture that allows in more than 80% more light.

But there’s one big question about the operating system. Will Apple update its iOS – yet again – for the newer available iPhones? The answer is no. Apple is running the new iPhone 6 on the same platform it unveiled earlier this year, the iOS 8.

All in all, the new iPhone 6 will be exciting to see in action, due to the attention the designers have paid to the model. It may not be exactly what the critics would’ve asked for, but it will certainly prove to be an excellent addition to the Apple line of products. Due to hit the shelves on September 19th, the price will be comparable to previous versions (about $650).

(More Than) Texting From Your Computer

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As many iPhone users know, it can be a breeze to respond to iMessages whether you have your phone or not. Due to the fact that Apple has designed the iMessage platform to run on Mac, tablet, and smartphones alike, users have the benefit of sending and receiving messages from a computer if they want to. But what if you don’t have this luxury? Perhaps you are using another type of smartphone or you prefer PCs. Well, now you have an answer.

A new platform called Pushbullet serves to mirror all of the content on your android device, sending it to the computer of your choice. And yes, this includes text messages.

Many will argue that they don’t need to send or receive texts from their computer, but note all of the powerful benefits. First of all, mobile phones have much smaller interfaces with tiny on-screen keyboards that can be difficult to navigate. When you attempt to type on them, they autocorrect your every word. Were you to type the text message from your computer, you could type the whole text message on your regular keyboard – some without even looking at the screen.

When you work on a computer all day long (as most people do these days), isn’t it easier to send and receive text messages without having to look down at your phone every few seconds. Sending and receiving SMS messages from your computer is easier on the eyes and the neck. Also, you can turn off the loud text alert in the office without worrying about missing texts due to silent mode.

The Pushbullet platform also provides messaging history. If you have more than one mobile device, you can review all of your messages at once, along with any documents currently on the mobile device.

Pushbullet technology allows users to send a variety of items from their computers to their phones, save SMS attachments on a computer’s hard drive, and seamlessly transfer links between computer and phone. Essentially, Pushbullet has a variety of options for Android/PC users that can increase productivity immensely, which is arguably even more significant than sending a text messages from a computer.

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 11, 2014

Apple Tightens Consumer Privacy Regulations

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Much has been made in the media of consumer data gathered by search engines, and the potential breaches of privacy such activity entails. Less frequently discussed is the issue of what app developers should and shouldn’t do with users personal information, but Apple has preempted concerns by tightening its privacy rules regarding health apps. 

The new rules were announced ahead of the iOS 6 launch this month. Apple has told app developers using their new HealthKit software that they must not sell any personal data to advertisers. Apple hopes the move will keep concerns surrounding privacy at bay, as the tech giant moves into the health data industry.

Health data is not fully regulated by the law, which makes Apple’s unilateral decision to crack down on privacy breaches all the more interesting. Their revised iOS developer license agreement tells developers using the HealthKit interface that they “must not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit APIs to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers”.

In addition, the agreement states:

“Your application must not access the HealthKit APIs unless it is primarily designed to provide health and/or fitness services, and this usage is clearly evident in your marketing text and user interface.”

The launch of HealthKit was announced in June. The software, which gathers data on health metrics such as blood pressure and heart rate, reflects a growing market for health tech tools like wearables. Consumers can choose from a plethora of apps to track their vital signs, calorie intake and burn, diet and exercise, but despite the large amounts of biological and personal data collected by such tools, many users aren’t cognizant of how much information they are giving up.

Apple’s tightened regulations go as far as barring developers who violate the terms by selling health related consumer information to advertisers. The rules state that developers using HealthKit can collect data, but can’t sell it to “advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers.’ If user consent is obtained, developers are allowed to share data with third parties for medical research purposes only. 

The health industry has been trying all manner of ways to use mobile technology to the benefit of patients. In Scotland, SMS messaging is being used to help smokers quit and drinkers cut down, and app developers have flooded the market with variations of fitness trackers and calorie counters.

 

 

September 02, 2014

What to Do with Your Data: Analytics, Insights, and the Ez Texting Edge

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Remember the days when market research announced its presence? Whether it was asking questions on the street, organizing focus groups, or taking surveys by mail or in-store, mining consumer information used to be an explicit activity. It was an industry all of its own; it had to be – commercial transactions used to take place between two people, and there was scant record of the purchase, other than the bare minimum of information contained in a receipt.

One of the best things about SMS messaging as a marketing tool is that it functions as its own research center. Not only is it highly effective at engaging consumer spending power, it allows businesses to harvest crucial data on personal preference, location, demographic, and all sorts of other useful metrics. If you’re conducting a mobile marketing campaign, don’t make the mistake of thinking your job is done once your SMS blasts have been scheduled. This is only the beginning.

Analytics help you make sense of all that written data. A recent Wharton School Customer Analytics Initiative claims American companies spend $10 billion dollars annually just to find out what consumers think of their products. And yet, access to public attitudes has never been easier, with scores of user reviews and consumer blogs available online, for free.

Between web content and data mined via SMS messaging, you can practically eliminate whatever ‘market research’ budget you once had. Ez Texting’s reports and analytics features are a good example of a text service with built-in research tools. It gives you the ability to:

  • Track incoming and outgoing messages
  • Track how and when new contacts join your list
  • See opt-in spikes to ascertain which campaigns are the most effective
  • Track reasons for opting out
  • Gather detailed information on the status of messages sent

Of course, it’s not simply a numbers game. Having automated data collection capabilities is pretty exciting stuff (at least for number-crunching geeks) but understanding what to do with the information is less intuitive. With that in mind, Ez Texting gives you three top tips for making the most out of your analytics:

1) Identify Actionable Insights

The flipside of all this easily available data is that you end up with a lot of information that’s of no real value to your business. Developing a knack for separating actionable insights from white noise is one of the marks of a good business head. What is ‘useful’ will differ from industry to industry. Decide what information you are looking for before you even examine your raw data, and ruthlessly discard everything else.

2) Assume Mobile

Always assume the customer is going to engage with your business on a mobile device. You’ll have a desktop site with analytics anyway, so there’s no downside to focusing on measuring what the mobile audience is saying.

3) Embrace the Negative

Too often, businesses regard customer complaints as a crisis management situation. A situation that you hope goes away as quietly as possible. But ignoring the negative conversation surrounding your brand is a missed opportunity. Study complaint data closely and find out what the common thread is – there’s bound to be one, and understanding properly it will improve future retention rates.

August 22, 2014

Germany Harnessing 'Silent Texts' to Locate Cell Phones

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In Germany, police and intelligence agencies have been using ‘silent’ SMS messages to locate cell phones without their owners’ knowledge. Details of the covert practice emerged after a parliamentarian expressed alarm at the escalation of secret text dispatches; the government responded with an admission that 125,000 such messages were sent during the first six months of 2013 alone. That number has increased this year, with 150,000 silent SMS messages sent between January and June. 

The text messages are not displayed on cell phones, but when sent en masse to a single device, can be used to precisely locate the user and observe their movements within a network. Parliamentary approval is required before each individual can be tracked.

But Andrej Hunko of the Left party raised alarm at what he termed ‘spy-SMS’ messages, prompting the government to reveal the number of German residents who had been targeted by the dispatches. According to the figures, domestic intelligence agency VfS had sent nearly 53,000 secret texts during the first half of 2014. Federal police had sent almost 69,000, and the Federal Criminal Office – Germany’s investigative police – had sent more than 34,000. The figures did not include silent text messages sent by foreign intelligence agents, customs officials or the army’s intelligence service.

However, the government did disclose details about surveillance, admitting that the Federal Criminal Office – or BKA – had eavesdropped on 704 separate calls, emails or text messages during 2014 so far.

The international community has expressed some surprise about the revelations, especially in light of the recent scandal regarding U.S. surveillance of world leaders. Surveillance is understandably a very sensitive issue in Germany, and many feel government has acted hypocritically with the use of clandestine SMS tracking technology. We await the full figures for 2014 with interest…

August 20, 2014

The Big Mobile Marketing Match: Email vs. SMS

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No doubt about it, email marketing has been king for many years in the new media advertising realm. The accessibility to potential clients, coupled with low-cost delivery has proven to be a boon for marketing campaigns across the board. Since spam filters have enhanced and email open rates have decreased, however, SMS text message marketing has taken a leading spot in digital advertising.

First off, there are a great deal more mobile users than email users. According to a study by Ericsson in 2014, there are reportedly 4.5 billion mobile users in the world. This number does not include users who own and use multiple devices. Each of these users has the capability of receiving a text message via SMS. The Radicati Group recently reported that there are a projected 2.5 billion email users around the globe. Essentially, that’s about 45% more people who can receive SMS versus email.

SMS, unlike email, has not yet been impacted by spam – at least not in the same fashion. Often emails that are completely legitimate are considered spam simply because inboxes are inundated with junk mail. This has driven down the possibility of connecting with readers of email, with only 22% of messages having the opportunity to be opened and read by email users. SMS, in contrast, has a 98% open rate by mobile users, with only 1% filtered by spam text messaging.

Think about how the average mobile user addresses a text message versus an email. For years, email users have complained about the content of their inboxes, scrutinizing the subject lines to determine if each email is worth opening. When mobile users receive texts, however, they choose to open virtually all of them. It is still natural for mobile users to assume a text is coming from a more trusted source, whereas email users are highly skeptical of the correspondence they receive – especially if they do not recognize the sender. Perhaps as text marketing is adopted by more companies, this trend will alter toward the high filtration rate of email filtering. On the other hand, with such strict guidelines set forth by the FCC when it comes to SMS marketing, the level of spam texting may stay significantly low for quite some time.

The real benefit of SMS marketing is the increased rate of return. It’s true that companies must still market via email, just as they must continue employing traditional advertising channels. But the open and click-through ratio for text messaging far surpasses that of email or traditional marketing methods. The numbers don’t lie – consider ramping up your marketing game by developing an effective SMS campaign today. You’ll be happy with the results.

August 14, 2014

Is Beacon Technology Going to Change the Retail World?

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Beacon technology incorporates the power of consumer-targeted advertising with location-based mobile marketing by installing small pieces of low-cost hardware within the shelves of retail stores. When customers enter a store with Bluetooth-enabled mobiles or tablets, the business can send customized advertisements directly to their devices thereby enhancing their shopping experience. While Beacons have only recently begun to appear in shops, the technology itself is already part of Apple devices since the 3rd generation of their products. And reports from the tech blogs are starting to take notice of the Beacon technology’s capabilities.

Mass Potential

Apple’s beacon system, called iBeacon, is automatically installed in all devices that use their current operating system, iOS 7. This means that, even if a mobile user knows little about how the iPad or iPhone works, they still have the infrastructure in place to benefit from Beacon technology. There could be as many as 190 million iOS devices currently capable of accessing iBeacons. Undoubtedly, this number showcases the unbridled potential of Beacon technology.

Current Barriers

There is a bit of a curve to this technology, though. An almost equal amount of the mobile and tablet markets use non-Apple products, which are less integrated with the Beacon infrastructure. Because the operating systems of non-Apple products tend to require updated versions of their OS, mobile marketers cannot rely upon these technologies for their Beacon-based advertising strategies.

Furthermore, Beacon technology requires mobile users to “opt in,” in a manner of speaking. First of all, customers will need to download the appropriate app for the business in question, and then they will have to activate it before entering the store. In addition, Beacons require ranging technology to function, which works in proximity of the devices using a mobile’s Bluetooth. The mobile will not receive any pushes or notifications, however, if a phone’s location is cloaked – the customer must allow the appropriate app to access its location for the Beacon to function properly.

The Future

In truth, Beacon technology is only beginning to get a foothold in the physical advertising space, and once it gains some traction, it will be here to stay. The unrealized potential of mobile location-based marketing is burgeoning, just waiting to be deployed. In the near future, we will witness customers taking advantage of flash sales and contactless payment options, as well as living in automated homes where temperature and lighting may be adjusted directly from mobile devices. The rule books have yet to be written. We do know that the key to capitalizing on Beacon technology will rely on corporations’ creativity and connectedness: sharing real-time information with customers to a mutual end and appealing to the changing temperaments of these individuals, all the while motivating these loyal customers in a direction – according to when and where – they want them to be. 

August 06, 2014

The Future of mHealth Technology

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Every day the technology of our mobile devices continues to improve, and every day there are new applications for it. The healthcare industry is poised to take advantage of this technology by providing access and mobility to its customers around the world.

This particular market called the mobile health market, or mHealth, has yet to reach its full potential. Currently, doctors and patients can interact through texts, email, and apps, as well as through sharing pictures and video. But this is just the beginning. Mobile devices have given us opportunities for real-time communication and collaboration, which is a boon for the medical industry. Also, there are increasing opportunities for improving access to quality care through mobile access (as soon as the powers that be approve these mobile accessibility apps). In the meantime, healthcare organizers are looking for short term solutions.

With over 140 million smartphone users in the U.S. – and another 60 million projected users in the next five years – mobile marketers are looking to take advantage of the need for mHealth technology improvement and engagement.

So far, customer desire for mHealth technology has had a slow takeoff. Only about 10% of the U.S. population has ever used these technologies. In addition, there are many obstacles for mHealth to grow: the traditional channels of medicine include solutions for banking, insurance, and travel, whereas mHealth must find new solutions to these hurdles.

On the other hand, several new technologies have managed to appeal to the public. Digital hospital rooms, virtual medicine kiosks, and mobile e-health devices are providing physicians with crucial information on their patients, aiding them in the process of diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment. Remote monitoring of clients has proven to be very useful to both the medical industry and patients, as well. Also, mobile devices have access to Electronic Health Records and patient information from remote locations, offering call scheduling, training and education, as well as communication for appointments and reminders. Finally, as wearable technologies are beginning to catch on, new mHealth technologies may be incorporated into them, allowing the user and their doctor(s) to track their progress and recovery.

The lack of engagement in mHealth comes from the lack of standardization in these new technologies. There are currently too many types of mobile platforms to have a standard mobile app, and several of these competing apps provide many of the same functions for the consumer. Also, the legal ramifications of using the technology are dictated by HIPPA, so there must be new laws in place to ensure compliance. By developing real-time apps where patients and physicians can share information concurrently, consumers will more-than-likely see the value in adopting these new technologies.

In years to come, we will begin to see healthcare consumers embracing mHealth for the future of their own healthcare. They will likely expect more of their healthcare provider (since consumers are experiencing higher out-of-pocket payments for medical services). The key will be to provide high-quality, low-cost health care by eliminating as many middlemen as possible, thereby restoring the doctor-patient relationship. With mHealth, a consumer will have more access to medical professionals and, in turn, medical professionals will be more responsive to their patient’s needs. There will be a welcome competition in the medical industry in the future according to these factors, and the incorporation of mHealth technologies can give individual businesses an edge over their fellow medical practices.