Tech

167 posts categorized

July 29, 2015

Marketing Has Gone Hyper Local

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When geo-targeting technology first began to emerge a few years ago, small regional businesses of all kinds were given the opportunity to market themselves to larger numbers of potential customers than ever before.

As a mobile marketing tool, geo-location was a gift to retailers looking to attract more walk-in business. It enabled businesses to target users to within a square foot, sending time limited discounts and special offers only to those people most likely to take advantage.

As region-specific mobile marketing tactics become more sophisticated, SMB owners have a dizzying array of options: beacons, GPS, location information garnered from previous interactions - they’ve all ushered in a new era of hyper-localized marketing. 

Such accurate technology is helping local businesses maximize efficiency on tight budgets. Even without geo-location, mobile marketing tactics are already the most cost-effective way to reach more people. With it, that cost-efficiency improves further still, granting small companies a way to reach the widest customer base they can realistically serve. 

It looks like an exciting future for targeted mobile marketing. The technology has already reached lofty levels of sophistication, but there are a few places it can go. Some mobile marketing analysts are looking towards pitching discounts according to what the weather’s doing. It’s certainly not relevant for every type of business, but bars serving cold drinks on an outside patio would love to know if it’s about to rain just before they’ve sent half-off mobile coupons. Other local data like traffic conditions could begin to play a role in geo-targeted advertising. 

One thing’s for sure: these tools are allowing creative, imaginative marketers to realize their wildest dreams without being thwarted by technological limitations. If the rapid rate of development continues at the same pace, mobile marketing tactics will look very different in a decade - exactly how different is anybody’s guess.

July 27, 2015

Truecaller is Making Android SMS Messaging Smarter

 

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It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw a parallel between email and SMS messaging on a mobile device. Both collect messages from familiar and unfamiliar sources, gather spam, and offer instantaneous communication with countless people from around the world. 

At least, that’s what Truecaller noticed when it decided to launch Truemessenger, an alternative SMS messenger app for Android. The Swedish-based company recently raised $80 million in funding to further perfect this new line of communication powered by Google Inc.

 

New But Familiar Design

By connecting the proverbial dots, Truecaller is introducing a familiar system to the SMS world of communication. We’re all accustomed to filtering our emails, assigning spam when necessary and prioritizing mail in personal categories; now, Android users can operate their SMS inboxes the exact same way, making it easier to avoid unwanted spam, by verifying the identity of those who send messages. Customizable spam filters are another unique feature, as they allow inboxes to remain free of clutter and help streamline the experience for users.  

But that’s not all; what makes the app ‘smarter’ is the integration of familiar social aspects with the user’s interface. The app draws photos and nicknames from popular social media sites and adds them to contacts when they message you. The app also allows users to customize color themes. What’s more, the Swedish EDM artist Avicii created a custom ringtone for the app, as a ‘friendly favor’ to the company. 

Alan Mamedi, co-founder of True Software doesn’t believe we’ve seen the end of SMS messaging though. In fact, he believes some markets like the US and India have a long future of SMS usage ahead.

“The volumes are still huge, and no-one is tackling the problems,” he explained.

Currently, 15% of all SMS messages are reported as spam—this amounts to almost 1.3 billion unwanted messages every year.

By focusing on the user’s experience, Mamedi hopes that solving some of the basic communication problems with SMS will keep it viable in the future. 

 

SMS Competition 

But what about the competition? Unlike most app founders, Mamedi believes the company is headed in the right direction because a number of larger corporations have taken notice of the work it’s already accomplished with Truecaller and now Truemessenger. Companies like Facebook were so inspired by the company’s work that they created their own caller ID app earlier this year. Since Facebook’s Hello and similar apps have launched, Truemessenger has actually received more users by proxy. 

Currently, the app is only available in India and for Android users in the Google Play Store. Google’s operating system allows for third party SMS/messaging apps, whereas Apple’s iOS platform doesn’t—yet. 

The good news is that SMS messaging is wising up to problems faced by its users, as advertising becomes more sophisticated and deliverable on mobile devices. How long will ‘smarter’ be ‘smart enough’? We’ll all just have to wait and see. 

 

July 23, 2015

How to Design a Mobile-Friendly Website

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Creating a mobile-friendly website boils down to simplicity and elegance. You may already have a terrific website that you love, but you’re going to have to overhaul it if it doesn’t play nicely with mobile users. Essentially, a frustrated mobile website visitor is a soon-to-be former customer. Here at EzTexting, we want to help you take the guesswork out of mobile design. With that in mind, we’ve outlined several key design concepts for your new mobile website:

  • Simplicity is Key. Don’t bury your mobile website visitor in banner ads, images, and other content. On a desktop monitor, there is room to spare for descriptions and bios, but on a mobile device, you have to streamline your content. Keep your info in the form of short and easy-to-read blurbs. Additionally, you should make all calls to action more available with finger-sized buttons, and limit the number of fields that a mobile user might have to fill out.
  • Concision Within Context. Keeping your mobile website tight requires a foreknowledge of how your customers intend to use your site. Pay attention to mobile users’ needs, which are often quite different from the needs of desktop users. Take the time to determine why they are visiting: Are they booking reservations? Looking for a phone number to click-to-call? Or are they gathering information about your company? Whatever the case, make the options your customers desire easily available, and eliminate images (or even entire pages) that are extraneous to your mobile website.
  • Responsive Design. Likely a familiar concept, responsive design allows a programmer to adjust style sheets to behave differently when a mobile user accesses your site. This is the perfect solution for businesses that want to tweak their existing design for mobile usage.
  • Design for Screen Size, and Beta Test. To ensure a seamless mobile experience, design your website with the typical mobile screen size in mind. Buttons (and spaces between buttons) must be large enough for the average user to tap effectively. Create copy that is clear for each blurb, and again, don’t overcrowd pages with content or images. Finally, test and test and test again. Beta test your mobile website across all types of devices: Androids, iPhones, and tablets of all sorts. Each kind of phone will have a different filter with which to view your website; be sure to troubleshoot all of those bugs that pop up before unveiling your new site. 
  • Don’t Forget Your Brand! Sometimes mobile website designers are altogether too concise, forgetting to include branding images, slogans, and other elements of your company’s identity. If your page is getting a little overcrowded, don’t fret; with a little creativity, you can incorporate your logos and style concepts into your design without negatively affecting the mobile user’s experience.

The above suggestions should help you get the ball rolling on improving your mobile user experience. When you are ready to take your business a step further into the mobile universe, give us a call at EzTexting. We’re at the ready to enhance your mobile capabilities, and we’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

July 20, 2015

Android Leads the U.S. Market but Trails in Europe

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According to a recent report by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the Android OS increased its market share by 2.8% at the end of a three month period; leading the US with an overall market share of 64.9%. The first full month of sales for Samsung’s latest Galaxy device propelled the company forward year-over-year in the US. However, the same did not hold true for the EU market, where sales have slowed throughout the big five: Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy. 

According to the report, iOS users in the US began to drop off as the shares declined period-over-period and year-over-year. Meanwhile, in Europe, the demand for the iPhone 6 has been steadfast, with the latest model reaching unprecedented success in Great Britain, Germany and France. 

Android-based smartphones received assisted growth from LG, which nearly doubled its US shares year-over-year. This was not the case in Europe. Android vendors in Europe had to count on winning new users away from apple—which has seen little success. Ending in May, only 5% of new Android users switched from apple; down from 11% percent during the same period the year before. 

The Galaxy S6 has been reported as the third best-selling device in the US, just behind the iPhone 6 and its Samsung predecessor the Galaxy S5. Samsung’s year-over-year success is up as well, down only .5% compared to 1.6% in three months ending in April.

Other foreign markets are shifting as the smartphone wars wage on. Urban China, for example, has introduced a third contender to a once two-pronged industry. Currently apple leads in China, followed by Huawei and third competitor Xiaomi. The three are all within half a percentage point share of each other, though considerable differences in niche markets may explain the spread. 

In China, Apple’s sales continually come from high-income users and throughout the most prominent cities: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Close to 7% of apple’s total sales in China are from these affluent areas, while Xiaomi only captures 2% of this same market.  

In urban China, Huawei became the best-selling Android device brand. Thirty-nine percent of Huawei’s sales come from users with a monthly income of less than 2,000 RMBs.  

With several markets developing new infrastructure, the likeliness of new users is on the horizon in several underdeveloped countries. With Apple prices comparatively high, it’s left considerable room for competitors to come in and offer less expensive alternatives. 

July 15, 2015

Swedish Blood Donors Receive Thank You Text Messages for Successful Transfusions

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Around the world, blood donation rates are at an all-time low. Britain has 40% fewer donors today than 10 years ago (according to the NHS). In the United States, only three out of every one-hundred people donate blood. The latest statistics from Executive Healthcare (EHM) shows that about 60% of the American populace is eligible to give blood, but only 5% of the people elect to give. This is a difficult problem because, despite the necessity to maintain a healthy blood supply, the Red Cross needs to find clever ways to convince donors to give.

In recent news, the Stockholm blood service may have come upon an excellent way to increase donations. If you donate blood in Sweden, you are sent an SMS text message each time your donated blood is used to save a life. The SMS texts go on to report on the impact of their donations, which can help to motivate donors as well. These “thank you” texts have created not only a way to make donors feel good about their altruism, it also is a subtle way to remind donors to come back for another donation at a later date. 

The program has been lauded as a success. Swedish citizens who participate have reported that they feel more appreciated once receiving the SMS text messages. Furthermore, donors often share the news with their peers via social media.

The outreach of the Stockholm blood service doesn’t stop there, though. Other text messages are sent to people who’ve donated before to remind them when they are eligible to donate again. In addition, the blood service has been using Facebook and email reminders to reach their potential donors as well. And it doesn’t hurt when they add light-hearted messages like “We won’t give up until you bleed.” Donors have shared that they appreciate these texts as well, since people often forget to donate amid their busy schedules.

Finally, on Stockholm blood service’s website, they have a chart giving a running total of how much blood of each type is left in stock. The idea is that if people know that the blood service is in need, then the people will be more likely to give.

There’s scientific proof that these techniques work. In a study by Johns Hopkins, researchers examined a Facebook initiative that allowed friends to share their organ donations in their status updates – the study observed a 21-fold increase of organ donor registrations in a single day! 

While this program currently only exists in Stockholm, it is likely that similar programs will be rolled-out throughout Sweden. Other countries, like Britain and the United States, are searching for similar techniques to get people to donate. The NHS Blood and Transplant service in the UK is looking to create some viral advertisements to increase donor turnout. Only time will tell how much these programs actually do to increase donor turnout but, in the meantime, we can all agree that SMS text messages and social media have proven to be excellent means to motivate the general public.

July 14, 2015

Early Education Mobile App Wins $2.2 Million in Funding

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Daycare, preschool and child development centers aren’t the first things that come to mind when browsing Apple’s App store. But even early educators need and app to make their job easier, right? Why shouldn’t they benefit from mobile technology? That’s exactly what Dave Vasen, founder and CEO of Brightwheel was thinking before he developed the first app for early education providers. 

On June 17, Brightwheel—a groundbreaking mobile platform for preschools, daycares and afterschool programs—received $2.2 million in seed funding. The funding comes as the app releases its latest version for iOS and Android, which includes the addition of new features previously unavailable to the public. 

Brightwheel is the first of its kind: a free, easy-to-use mobile SAAS platform for early childcare providers. However, Brightwheel is also proving valuable to parents and guardians who struggle to stay informed about daily activities and educational progress—something Vasen was personally familiar with. 

Vasen recognized the challenges faced by childcare providers after the birth of his first child. Not being connected with his daughter during the workday was difficult for the new father; he also observed overworked childcare providers. This scene is likely familiar to parents who need childcare programs, daycares, or after school services. Many early development providers face strict regulatory systems, long hours, and an incredible amount of paperwork to manager in addition to focusing on their real job—taking care of children.  

Brightwheel helps parents and administrators stay connected; allowing teachers and caregivers to practice cohesive programs in class or at home. With Brightwheel, teachers can track attendance in multiple classrooms, record daily observations, and share photos and notes about activities happening throughout the day. Other features include paperless billing for tuition and fees, and community settings for grandparents, nannies or friends. Brightwheel is integrated for both web based and mobile access.  

The childcare market in the United States nears $45 billion each year, so it’s surprising that few tools like Brightwheel have been made available—something Vasen says he is happy to have changed. 

PRE Ventures and Eniac Ventures raised the seed capitol with assistance from CrossLink Capitol, Golden Venture Partners, Red Swan Ventures and Sherpa Ventures. 

Brightwheel is free for parents and administrators and is now available in the Apple App Store and for Android devices.  

 

July 12, 2015

Android Leads the U.S. Market but Trails in Europe

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According to a recent report by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, the Android OS increased its market share by 2.8% at the end of a three month period; leading the US with an overall market share of 64.9%. The first full month of sales for Samsung’s latest Galaxy device propelled the company forward year-over-year in the US. However, the same did not hold true for the EU market, where sales have slowed throughout the big five: Germany, Great Britain, France, Spain and Italy. 

According to the report, iOS users in the US began to drop off as the shares declined period-over-period and year-over-year. Meanwhile, in Europe, the demand for the iPhone 6 has been steadfast, with the latest model reaching unprecedented success in Great Britain, Germany and France.  

Android-based smartphones received assisted growth from LG, which nearly doubled its US shares year-over-year. This was not the case in Europe. Android vendors in Europe had to count on winning new users away from apple—which has seen little success. Ending in May, only 5% of new Android users switched from apple; down from 11% percent during the same period the year before. 

The Galaxy S6 has been reported as the third best-selling device in the US, just behind the iPhone 6 and its Samsung predecessor the Galaxy S5. Samsung’s year-over-year success is up as well, down only .5% compared to 1.6% in three months ending in April.

Other foreign markets are shifting as the smartphone wars wage on. Urban China, for example, has introduced a third contender to a once two-pronged industry. Currently apple leads in China, followed by Huawei and third competitor Xiaomi. The three are all within half a percentage point share of each other, though considerable differences in niche markets may explain the spread.  

In China, apple’s sales continually come from high-income users and throughout the most prominent cities: Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenzhen. Close to 7% of apple’s total sales in China are from these affluent areas, while Xiaomi only captures 2% of this same market. 

In urban China, Huawei became the best-selling Android device brand. Thirty-nine percent of Huawei’s sales come from users with a monthly income of less than 2,000 RMBs. 

With several markets developing new infrastructure, the likeliness of new users is on the horizon in several underdeveloped countries. With Apple prices comparatively high, it’s left considerable room for competitors to come in and offer less expensive alternatives.  

July 11, 2015

EU Scraps Roaming Charges

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After two years of negotiations, the European commission, members of parliament and national ministers have reached an agreement to drop roaming charges in an effort to pave an internet fast lane for the future. Despite obvious resistance from the mobile industry, telecoms received some assurances with a side deal aimed at service providers and faster connection fees—the broader issue of net neutrality has also come into focus. 

On average, EU travelers spend £61 more than usual during a holiday. By mid-2017, roaming charges are scheduled to drop completely after an interim period beginning April of next year. This year, mobile service providers can still charge travelers to EU states as much as 19 cents a minute for outgoing calls, 5 cents for incoming calls and 6 cents per text message.  

By allowing telecom firms to charge service providers like Google, Facebook, and Netflix increased fees for faster connections, some fear smaller competitors will be forced out completely. While campaigners celebrated the dropped roaming charges, others worried the new laws were ambiguous and blurry, leaving much open for profitable interpretation.  

According to the new rules, companies can pay to use the internet fast lane only if the improved connection is determined “necessary” for the service. Whether or not “necessary” protects nonprofits, startups and public service websites has yet to be realized. However, it is clear the draft laws are making an effort to identify public interest exceptions including network security, eliminating child pornography, and improving connections for sensitive health or safety services.   

The telecom industry has condemned the legislation from the start, emphasizing its restrictive nature and potential threat to innovation and competition. For now, the votes are pro-free internet and a likely catalyst for more discussions on net neutrality. 

Compared to the EU, the United States hasn’t been as progressive on net neutrality. The EU’s new rules outlining more equal access to the internet might not be perfect, but it confirms their stance on the wider issues at hand.

The issues are of course about equal access regardless of platform, application or user. Net neutrality aims to ensure that information is not made financially inaccessible because of strict regulations placed on service providers or limited by fees and faster broadband. 

It’s likely that this particular case in the EU will spur discussions in the United States and perhaps influence the outcome of subsequent laws in the EU. Time will ultimately tell if the internet fast lane is a safe place to surf the web.   

June 29, 2015

Uber Goes App-less With SMS Version

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Last month, Uber and Coding Dojo hosted a 48-hour hackathon competition in San Jose—a student and alumni challenge to generate ideas that would improve Uber’s impact on the community. The winner of the contest was TextBer, an SMS version of Uber’s popular smartphone app that will allow non-smartphone users to access the service using basic text messaging.  

The idea isn’t as passé as one might think. While it’s easy to take smartphones for granted in the age of instant-access, the TextBer team focused on people who are marginalized from services like Uber due to various circumstances.  

According to an April study by Pew Research Center, only 27% of adults over 65 have smartphones; half of all adults making less than $30,000 a year are without smart devices as well. However, many of these individuals have the ability to send text messages using their mobile devices, which is precisely what TextBer aims to capitalize on in their SMS version. 

“My grandfather has Alzheimer’s,” said Arash Namvar, one of TextBer’s developers. “…TextBer allows him to easily get an Uber ride from his house to my house. It makes me feel better because he’s safe.” 

Namvar and four other creators spent several hours brainstorming the dilemma before they decided to construct TextBer for the contest, which is currently in beta and utilizing UberX car—Uber’s lower-cost product. 

 

How it Works 

Using a desktop computer, users create an Uber account with a credit card and link their TextBer account with a specific cell phone number. To receive the service, users simply text a pickup and dropoff address to TextBer. A time estimate and quote will be texted back to the user’s cell phone, at which time they can approve the message and dispatch the driver. 

 

Going Forward

The current version of TextBer is limited to UberX vehicles and SMS messaging; however, the team of creators hopes to build more features that will benefit the visually impaired and those with disabilities.  

Other features discussed may include default home settings and common location identifiers so users wouldn’t have to type repetitive information.

SMS is an affordable alternative for service-based communications, which may grow in popularity as this SMS service moves forward through production. In addition to helping users without smartphones, this service will hopefully provide a service that makes life a little easier (and safer) for those in need of a driver; regardless of age, economic status or smartphone.  

 

 

June 24, 2015

5 MMS Marketing Tactics

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MMS marketing has been around for a few years, but when it comes to launching a new product or promotion, most business still limit themselves to SMS messaging. Mobile coupons and other offers are usually plain text affairs, and the popularity of shortcodes and keywords has caused many businesses to lose sight of the bigger picture.

This is somewhat surprising given the wide availability of MMS, which allows brands to entice customers with images as well as words. If you’re interested in harnessing the power of rich media to give your mobile marketing campaign a shot in the arm, consider the following applications of MMS:

 

Show & Tell

The visual element that’s so important to advertising has taken a backseat in text message marketing. Sure, you can (and should) include a link to your website, but in the hyper-competitive world of modern marketing, the fewer steps the consumer needs to take, the better. The food industry is probably the most obvious beneficiary of image-based advertising; MMS allows you to send the 2-for-1 pizza promo deal and a tasty picture of the pie. Visual stimulus will get mouths watering far more than mere words.

 

Text to Win

Use your existing subscriber base to introduce loyal customers to new products with MMS. To generate interaction, run a competition with the product shown as the prize.

 

Text to Reserve

Again, mobile marketing tactics that use SMS messaging can be modified for MMS. If you run a restaurant, send picture messages of the latest meal specials and offer a time-limited promo deal to respondents.  

 

Text to Vote

Running a poll or survey can be more effective with MMS than with standard text messaging. Encourage subscribers to vote on which appetizer they would prefer, along with a picture of each dish. Set up keywords to represent each appetizer (WINGS/SOUP-DU-JOUR/etc) and allow respondents to vote on the nicest looking dish, or the dish they’d prefer to see on your menu. Not only will you encourage engagement by the vote, you’ll have created targeted lists of customers based on food preference.  

 

Text to Connect

Stay in touch with subscribers with the right MMS campaign and you’ll see interaction increase. As long as you offer something of value, the underlying impetus behind your campaign can simply be to remain connected with your customer base. Keep such messages to a minimum. A ‘text to connect’ picture message should only be used if you don’t have any current promos, you haven’t reached out to your contacts for a while and you can create a special offer to be included in the message.