Tech

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December 17, 2014

How SMS is Helping Small Businesses in Latin America

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The second annual Latin American Bitcoin Conference took place in Rio earlier this month. More than 200 attendees saw seminars and panels featuring 37 guest speakers from around the world. 

Among the keynote speakers were a number of bitcoin representatives. The crypto currency is making a big impact across the region. A new partnership between Coinapult and 37 Coins seeks to expand bitcoin access to segments of the population without smartphones or traditional banking methods at their disposal. Their weapon? SMS messaging.

The service allows bitcoin users the world over to send and receive payments using only a feature phone with SMS capability. For entrepreneurs in South America, it holds the promise of allowing them to operate from remote areas, lessening the burden on over-populated urban centers.

This is a crucial development, not just for SMB owners, but for the public purse as well. Millions of small businesses across Latin America are currently restricted to cash-only transactions. This raises the question: how sure can local governments be that rural entrepreneurs are doing due diligence when it comes to paying taxes? It hardly takes a cynic to assume millions of pesos, bolivianos, reals and dollars are slipping through the net.

Of course, there will always be a black market. For some, operating outside the system is a point of principal. But for most small businesses, removing the temptation is all that’s needed to reduce corruption. Give them the tools to accept trackable, taxable payments and they’ll play ball, safe in the knowledge that the added security will help their business in the long run. Legitimacy is so much more attractive when it’s easily achieved.

A similar scheme – albeit with no SMS element – has been implemented in East African countries including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. M-Pesain allows its 16 million users to send and receive money, pay bills and withdraw cash from local ATMs. 

SMS-based money transfer systems are providing the way forward in Latin America. Paraguay has Giros Tigo, which incurs a 5% commission fee. Brazil and Argentina have similar systems in place.

Bitcoin and text messaging seem to be a winning doubles team. The key beneficiaries are often people who face discrimination from financial institutions, which view them as risky prospect for credit. Entrepreneurs trying to make headway in these conditions find it difficult to send money, pay with credit cards or open a bank account – no matter how promising their ideas are. Nothing can match text message in terms of potential: four billion people worldwide are living without smartphones (perish the thought!) and the remittances market has found it’s most promising tool yet in SMS-enabled bitcoin transfers.

December 16, 2014

Here’s the Big Brand Proof that Mobile Marketing Tactics Really Work

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In recent years, mobile marketing has grown in its influence upon corporate marketing spend. It is currently only about 1% of the total amount spent on advertising, but times are changing. Studies performed by Bank of America/Merrill Lynch have predicted that mobile advertising spend in the United States will increase from $3.6 billion in 2011 to $18.3 billion in 2015. The reason: several Big Brands have jumped into the mobile marketing game, and these businesses are seeing some terrific ROI.

 

  • BMW. In early 2014, BMW began an MMS campaign to send pictures and video, as well as text messages to their customers, inviting them to purchase customized snow tires. Their conversion rate increased over 30%.

 

  • American Express. AMEX developed an interactive user experience for customers using smartphones. American Express members can create a customized “panorama,” relating their lifestyle interests from dining and travel to shopping and sports. The company then utilized the data they gathered not only find special offers for their customers, but they deepened their relationship with customers in the process.

 

  • Dunkin Donuts. This well-known pastry provider started to use SMS texts to drive sales, offering coupons to the customers through their mobile phones. Store traffic increased 20%.

 

  • Harley Davidson. Late last year, Harley Davidson used a mobile marketing campaign to promote their version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” through Route 66’s mobile club and a mobile social media campaign. Holiday dealer traffic swelled, and sale of helmets increased two and a half times.

 

  • Nissan. With the mobile ads they created for their Nissan Leaf model, Nissan showed customers “how far you can drive on a dollar.” This effective strategy caused mobile users to share the mobile ads, and drove up customer awareness about their products.

 

  • McDonald’s. Invented the “Restaurant Finder” app to help their customers find late-night locations. Mobile users responded by downloading the app more than 1.3 million times, with an estimated ROI of two to one.

 

  • Samsung. By sending targeted messages to people who have purchased the latest iPhone, Samsung Mobile has found an excellent way to reach savvy mobile users. They offered these individuals $300 to trade in their iPhone for a new Samsung device.

 

  • Verizon. Using QR codes and Facebook, Verizon enacted a competition to win a smartphone. If the customer who shared the Facebook post had a friend who bought their own Verizon phone, the original customer would get a free phone. The promotion generated $35,000 in sales for an ad campaign that only cost about a thousand dollars.

With a well-planned, well-timed strategy, any business can improve their bottom line with a good mobile marketing campaign. And while mobile marketing has a great deal of room to grow, this will not always be the case. The time is now to get a foothold in the mobile advertising market: take a page from the playbook of these Big Brands. Develop a simple mobile marketing campaign and track how effective the ROI in this realm can be. 

December 15, 2014

The Ten Best Mobile Marketing Campaigns of 2014

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2014 has seen some terrific mobile marketing campaigns. By utilizing both social media sites and all of the functionality of mobile phones, we’ve seen some innovative ways that advertisers have increased their reach with mobile users. Here are the ten best campaigns of 2014:

1. NASA’s #GlobalSelfie engages users to create a worldwide mosaic of photos.

Nominated for its use of multiplatform social media for engagement, NASA invited users to take selfies that they would organize and compile into a global mosaic on Earth Day 2014. Using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Google+, NASA urged users to include the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. Users could also access the event directly on Facebook, Flickr and Google+.

2. White House’s #getcovered spreads the word about Obamacare.

The social media campaign from the White House received a huge response from users, even in 2014. #Getcovered allowed users to tweet their personal stories regarding securing health insurance, and utilized a Storify slideshow to enhance their website.

3. NPR’s company page on LinkedIn provides rich content for workers.

By offering LinkedIn users exactly what they’re there to receive, NPR increased its brand awareness. Users can access NPR’s company page right from their mobile phones to get information about how to improve their career and to increase their knowledge of their industry. Many of their posts are educational and inspiring, and have tremendous reach.

4. Nissan launches a multiplatform B2B campaign with comedy and celebrity.

Nissan’s digital and social marketing campaign promoted its rugged commercial vans, and achieved a wonderful response from the companies it reached. The ads, entitled “Tough Love,” featured rock-and-roller Bret Michaels getting in touch with his softer side. The juxtaposition proved a hit, and garnered terrific ROI for the car company.

5. Nivea’s Bluetooth-enabled print ad helps to track your children at the beach.

Nivea launched an innovative print campaign that featured a removable protector strip that can be placed on a child’s wrist. An app called Protégé then allows parents to track where their kids are by locating the protector strip using Bluetooth 4.0 technology. Very handy for beach trips, indeed.

6. Hershey’s unveils a sponsored mobile data opportunity with a video campaign.

In an astoundingly simple way to get mobile users engaged, Hershey offers to pay for part of your mobile data when you watch their Scharffen Berger brand commercial. The sponsored content, offered by AT&T and partners through advertisements on apps like Pandora, has been well-received by mobile users.

7. Movie theatres incorporate mobile-enabled interactive ads into their lobbies and on screen.

Thousands of movie theatres have enabled moviegoers to interact using the camera on their mobile phones. The visual search platform Slyce teamed up with Screenvision to enhance the audience experience when going to the movies. Consumers have eaten up the ads, downloading games and purchasing film-inspired merchandise due to these effective interactive advertisements.

8. Pepsi – London #LiveForNow turns a bus stop into a wild and weird space.

PepsiMax created a bus shelter ad that made it appear as though crazy events were taking place. The entire experience was recorded and converted into an advertisement (that consequently went viral). Watch the advertisement here: http://youtu.be/Go9rf9GmYpM.

9. Red Cross collects donations after Hurricane Sandy with an SMS short code.

In an unprecedented example of human kindness, people around the world donated money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy through the Red Cross’ donation efforts. Donors texted “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10, which billed mobile users directly through their cell providers. 20% of all of the donations received by the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief came through text message donations.

10. Samsung’s #Oscars Celebri-tweet dominates Twitter.

Everyone who is anyone heard about Ellen’s celebri-tweet during the Oscars. Very few knew that it was a ploy, created by Samsung, to increase brand awareness among the viewers of the awards program. Probably the most brilliant mobile marketing stroke to date, the famous photo was shared and shared – causing viewers to create their own selfies and engage with the brand as well. 

The key to good mobile marketing is to consider all of the ways that you can roll out your campaign: the capabilities of devices, the variability, and how to incorporate every platform available. Then, keep it as simple as possible. All of the above examples do just that, by simplifying the strategy while increasing customers’ awareness of the brand.

December 10, 2014

Why Are Mobile Marketing Budgets Increasing?

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We see a lot in these pages about the growth of mobile marketing. But just how fast is that growth happening? And are the same trends expected in future? 

The more the industry swells its ranks and revenues, the more data we have to go on. A recent Tatango survey looked at mobile budget trends and forecasts and compared the results with previous mobile marketing metrics. So, are budgets going up in accordance with the mobile explosion? 

The answer is yes. Very much so. Some 44% of marketers said they were increasing their mobile budgets during 2014 – up from a little over 42% in 2013. Mobile is proving particularly popular with startups, who can devise creative mobile marketing campaigns on relatively few dollars.

Other surveys report similar upward trends. According to Gartner, digital marketing budgets are expected to increase by 8% in 2015. Exactly half of all respondents stated an intention to increase digital spending next year.

The message from businesses remains remarkably consistent. Gartner’s research was conducted with the participation of 315 companies located in the United States, Canada and the UK. They represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue, working in six disparate industries: hospitality, tech, manufacturing, financial services, retail and media. The bigger the firm, the greater the marketing budget as a percentage of revenue; companies with revenues in excess of $5 billion report spending, on average, 11% of revenue on marketing. For companies generating between $500 million and $1 billion, marketing spend was 9.2%. 

And really, those dollars are what it all comes down to. Understanding how to exploit capital to it’s fullest potential is the primary challenge for cash-strapped startups. That’s why having an effective CFO is so important, and it goes a long way towards explaining the huge popularity of mobile marketing tactics like coupons and time-limited discounts, which are easily and affordably disseminated via text message.

The modern marketer is performing a delicate balancing act. Each strand of their campaign must be woven together into a satisfying whole. Integration is everything. The resultant consumer experience is nudging users towards a more self-service buying model, which means businesses can reduce traditional sales-led budgets without sacrificing quality. Marketing budgets in general – and mobile marketing budgets in particular – are the primary beneficiaries of this new model. If you’re yet to move ad spend into a coherent mobile marketing strategy, it might be time to start…

December 09, 2014

Ethiopian Airlines Goes Mobile

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Ethiopian Airlines happens to be the largest and most profitable airline company on the African continent, and recently announced plans to become a mobile-only operation. The company’s Mobile Short Message Service (SMS) information system launched at the end of November 2014, and provides customers with easy access to flight information and cargo tracking.

Customers simply send a mobile short code SMS text to the 8611 messaging number to receive cargo information and check flight status. Part of Ethiopian Airlines’ ‘Mobility’ project, customers can access vital information instantly while on the road. The Mobility project is designed so customers can perform transactions directly from their mobile devices, whether booking flights, checking in, choosing seats and more.

The Mobility campaign also makes it possible for those welcoming passengers on Ethiopian flights to to check exact arrival times of flights by texting  8611 with “f” followed by the flight number or “r” followed by the expected route. Cargo customers may track shipments by texting  “c” followed by their Air Way Bill number of shipment. Such customers no longer have to visit the Ethiopian Airlines Cargo terminal before the shipment arrives, and texting “i” or “help” accesses system guidelines. 

The airline is also working to further streamline their customer service experience by adding more features to their mobile SMS service. 

“Ethiopian is first and foremost a customer service organization,” says Tewolde Gebremariam, Chief Executive Officer of Ethiopian Airlines. “We are continuously looking at ways and means of availing to our customers the best possible travel experience both on the ground and on- board. In today’s digital era, customers want to have access to real-time and personalized information at the tip of their fingers using mobile devices. The launching of this SMS service is only the beginning of a grandiose plan to use a new system called “Mobility” which is mobile digital channels for enhancing customer experience.” 

Ethiopian Airlines received the Passenger Choice award for the Best Airline in Africa in August 2014 following a highly-extensive survey of passengers in the industry. A global Pan-African carrier, Ethiopian currently serves 84 international destinations on five continents. Current aircraft technology, including B777s and B787s, is used on the airline’s some 200 daily flights.

Will Ethiopian succeed in becoming a mobile-only operation? And if so, will other airlines follow suit? In today’s increasingly mobile-driven market, it’s entirely possible, and could up the customer service convenience factor considerably. 

December 03, 2014

SMS Do-Over: The App That Lets You Delete Sent Messages

 

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You know the feeling. You’ve just hit ‘send’ on an incendiary/embarrassing/meaningless/meaningful (delete as appropriate) SMS and really wish you hadn’t. You’d give anything to delete it from the recipient’s phone.

Well now you can do just that – and you don’t have to give anything at all. Free text messaging app Wiper is generating ripples of excitement amongst online privacy advocates – but does it really work?

In short, yes. It may not be the smoothest messaging interface out there, but it does what it promises by allowing users to make calls, send texts and – most importantly – wipe messages that have already been sent. A pleasingly retro eraser animation scrubs the erroneous message and sends a notification to the recipient letting them know what’s happened.

The Wiper team are still working on solving the problem of screenshots; thus far, a recipient can still grab an image of the conversation, effectively nullifying the app’s primary function. However, Wiper will send you a notification to let you know a screenshot has been taken. At least you can prepare yourself for whatever shades of hellfire you imagine will rain down on you for your SMS slip-up. 

Wiper’s kill-switch takes the idea of text messaging as an ephemeral form of communication one stage further. The ex you ill-advisedly texted after a few beers may not be able to ‘unsee’ what you wrote, but at least they can’t show their friends or humiliate you by uploading it to social media. One tap, all gone.

But Wiper’s raison d’etre is about much more than destroying embarrassing tittle-tattle. CEO Manlio Carrelli sees privacy as one of the ‘big issues of our time’ and wants to bring the ideals of data protection to the general public.

Which is all well and good, providing we can trust yet another promising tech start up with our personal data. The app is not open source. We can only take the developers’ word that they will decisively destroy information from their servers once the erase command is given. With data protection such a high-profile, sensitive issue, a little cynicism has to be expected.

That said, the app makes a decent fist of allowing users to have freewheeling conversations just as if they were talking one-on-one, in person, with no fear of their words coming back to haunt them. You can also share YouTube videos instantly, simply by clicking on them from within the app. For the data deletion skeptics, this feature is probably more attractive than Wiper’s headline function. 

December 02, 2014

Crank Up Your Marketing Efforts for Christmas

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As the holiday shopping season draws near, it’s important to “amp up” marketing efforts. Let’s check out a few holiday promotional tactics small businesses can implement and subsequently increase brand recognition while ensuring customer loyalty.

 

Email Marketing

A straightforward option, email assorted blasts to opted-in customers about deals, sales and other promotions, and create holiday messages discussing new promo codes or other exclusive, limited-time offers. Existing customer discounts and free gift cards with purchase are generally the most successful email blast options, as they build brand loyalty and referrals in addition to increasing sales. Find an appealing holiday template, add the right information, and go from there.

 

Content Marketing

Whatever you “put out there” for your customers should engage them--don’t simply go for the boring sales pitch. Place attention-grabbing content on social media channels, blogs, press releases, articles, videos...think funny holiday clips, last-minute tips, guides on using your products, fun and helpful newsletters, and more. Information on day-before-Christmas ordering is another great content marketing method.

 

Social Media

Social media is a viable option for promoting your brand and products. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all provide real-time access to customers and their online communities, with social media marketing even more essential during the holiday season. Upload holiday-themed images to your accounts, such as product shots in holiday settings or stores/offices decorated for the season. Provide regular updates on holiday promotions, sales, return policies and shipping cut-off dates, but don’t forget to add fun seasonal facts and similar information as well. Promoting gift card opportunities with links back to official websites is another option.

 

SMS Marketing

Text message marketing is becoming more and more prevalent, as it provides an easy, cost-effective method for reaching the vast majority of your customers instantly. Send holiday promo codes to opted-in customers, as well as exclusive holiday coupons and sales alerts. Advertise Christmas-themed discounts and specials to potential customers who opt-in, and enjoy a larger database you can utilize all year long.

 

Open House 

Another excellent Christmastime marketing idea is to host an open house at your place of business if applicable. Provide cookies and warm cider and or mulled wine, as well as free gift-wrapping for shoppers. Raffles, discounts and other special promos also work when advertising an open house, as do cross-promotional efforts, such as offering handmade chocolates from the confectionary across the street. If your business caters to children, have a friend or co-worker dress up as Santa and hand out candy canes or Christmas-themed coloring books while taking free photos with customers and their little ones.

These are just some of many marketing options to try this holiday season. Good luck, and Happy Holidays. 

November 27, 2014

3 Ways to Get More Punters with Mobile Marketing

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Punter (noun) British, informal : customer

SMS messaging is the most effective marketing method for bars. It lets you target specific customers with bespoke promotions, maximize your ROI and grow that all-important contact list.

The beauty of using mobile marketing tactics for bar promotion is the receptiveness of a willing audience, primed to engage with businesses via their smartphone. According to a recent YouGov survey, 75% of smartphone users prefer to receive promotional material in a text message. It’s a flexible medium capable of sending short, succinct information containing links to rich content. SMS is the perfect gateway to the meatier elements of your marketing strategy.

Here are five reasons why text message marketing is a good way to grow your business:

Immediacy

More than 90% of text messages are opened and read within a few minutes. That includes commercial SMS which, unlike email, requires opt-in consent from users. For that reason, texts are trusted sources of information. Let’s say you run a promotion via email. You need to announce your latest drinks special at least a few days ahead of time. What if your bar ends up packed with punters who did not receive the email? There was no need to run the offer and you’ve failed to maximize your profits. With SMS marketing, you can turn a slow Monday night into a busy one by issuing a last-minute deal. Now, you’re only reducing prices when it makes sound financial sense to do so.

Entertainment Promotions

If you run a live music program, you’ll know how effective it can be at drawing in a crowd. But bands are notoriously unreliable, and schedules can change with only a few hours notice. SMS messaging keeps your punters abreast of all the latest changes to the lineup, so even if someone pulls out, you can minimize the negative impact of disappointed customers.

Geo-Targeted Promos

One of the most powerful weapons in the mobile marketers arsenal, geo-targeting is a highly effective strategy for attracting nearby business. For bars and restaurants, geo-targeting is particularly useful, as you can quickly identify which opt-in customers are in the area, devise a promotion that will appeal to them, and get them through the door. This technique is especially useful on weekend nights; people are already out (often in large groups) bar-hopping with no real destination in mind. Geo-targeting allows you to attract passing trade during busy nights by offering an unbeatable drinks promotion. Again, make the offer time limited and punters are more likely to make a snap decision. With your nearby promotion, they’ll do the math and realize that spending the next couple of hours in your bar will save them a bundle.

SMS message marketing is highly effective for a fraction of the cost of other forms of advertising. A strategy can be devised and implemented within minutes. Reaching an audience in such a short space of time simply isn’t possible with more traditional ad mediums like radio and print. If your bar still doesn’t have a mobile marketing strategy, get one going in time for the festive season and your business will have a very merry Christmas indeed…

November 15, 2014

The Potential of App-to-Person SMS for Mobile Network Operators

App-to-person SMS represents a major revenue opportunity for mobile network operators. Globally, app-to-person messages are expected to hit 2.19 trillion by 2018, generating predicted revenues of $60 billion.

The figures come from wide-ranging research conducted by UK-based industry analysts mobilesquared. They surveyed more than 50 international mobile network operators and made a number of key findings:

  • 32% of mobile network operators have experienced a reduction in person-to-person SMS over the last year
  • 50% have experienced an increase in app-to-person traffic, with a third of those reporting growth of at least 6%
  • 81% cite decreasing revenues from traditional services like P2P text messaging as their primary concern

When it comes to P2P messaging, mobile network operators have long been upping the ante on competitors, with increasingly generous – and in many cases unlimited – SMS bundles on offer as a way of enticing new users. 

They’re no longer just competing with each other. So-called ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are usurping traditional SMS providers as the go-to platforms for interpersonal communication. Half of all mobile network operators who took part in the survey expect to lose at least half of their customers to OTT services by next year. 

But while P2P text messaging is on the wane, business is booming for commercial text messaging companies. Consumers, it seems, are compartmentalizing their personal life, preferring OTT platforms for talking to friends while sticking with traditional SMS to engage with brands.

This is great news for mobile marketing campaign managers and small businesses. With an opt-in model predicated on consent and trust, the mobile marketing industry has managed to skirt the problems faced by their email-marketing forbears. Rather than filtering out all commercial messages as spam, smartphone owners are engaging with businesses via SMS because they want to, not because it’s the only option available to them. 

There’s no such low-hanging fruit for mobile network operators. They must forge relationships with OTTs and provide competitive price points if they want to leverage revenues from app-to-person SMS.

 

 

 

November 14, 2014

How to Text in OS X Yosemite

Apple recently introduced iOS 8.1, and with it activated SMS text forwarding from iPhone to OS X Yosemite. This makes it possible for users to read, send and reply to cellular-based messages directly from Mac computers and iPads in addition to iPhones. And while texting forwarding is “off” by default, turning it on is as simple as connecting to and setting up an Apple TV. So how does it work? 

The first step is navigating to Settings on an iPhone featuring iOS 8.1, where you’ll see a new option entitled “Text Message Forwarding” just below the iMessage toggle switch. It features the wording, "Allow your iPhone text messages to also be sent and received on other devices signed in to your iMessage account."

Select this option to bring up a menu pane of devices, such as the Mac Pro or the MacBook Pro, with each featuring the ability to “connect with and transmit text messages to and from your iPhone.” Choose which device you want to connect to and you’re almost finished. 

Let’s say you activate a MacBook Pro to receive text messages. You’ll receive a six-digit prompt in Messaging for Mac, which you’ll need to enter on your iPhone. Enter the passcode and voila: the devices are now paired, allowing you to receive and send SMS and MMS messages.

Should you receive a message not stored in your Contacts, you’ll get a Notification Center alert along with the unidentified number. Reply directly from this window as you would an iMessage, or click the alert to open your Message app.

Text messages sent from Mac devices are green, the same as iOS, to help users keep track of how many messages they’re sending. The conversation pane in Messages also features a small informational line of text, which indicates what number the text is being sent to or received.

Users may also begin text conversations by highlighting numbers in other Mac apps such as Safari, Spotlight, Calendar or Contacts. Share sheets are available as well, making it easy for rich content such as pictures to be sent through MMS. However, early testing found that while texts from numbers linked to existing contacts did appear with correct identification, results were “spotty.” Numerous tests found known numbers that “failed to trigger correct caller ID on the alert,” and instead appeared in line with iMessages from the same person sometime later. 

As soon as this kink is worked out, texting in OS X Yosemite will likely become the next big thing in the world of mobile.