Tech

137 posts categorized

March 27, 2015

Mobile Marketing is Going Hyper-Local

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Mobile marketing has taken huge strides towards fulfilling the potential of geo-targeting technology, allowing local businesses to make the most of their sphere of influence. The only way for geo-location techniques to go is inward, reaching ever-more specific parts of the local economy.

Mobile marketing is doing just that, placing an increasing emphasis on attracting foot traffic to brick and mortar retail outlets. The industry is now able to service international brands with bespoke campaigns in multiple locations using region-specific methods capable of targeting users to a single square foot. 

This ultimate refinement of mobile marketing tactics is a real game changer. A heady cocktail of beacons, GPS, location information gathered from existing interactions and other geolocaters is ushering in a new era of hyper-local mobile marketing so precise it’s hard to imagine how it could improve further.

Having such devastatingly effective mobile marketing tactics available at the local level is helping small businesses maximize their efficiency on tight budgets. For a relatively low cost, small businesses can quickly, reliably reach the widest audience they can serve, via a combination of in-app messaging, web ads, text messages, MMS and push notifications. 

So what next? With such sophistication already on display, where targeted mobile marketing could go now is anybody’s guess. Some mobile marketers are considering adjusting their services to allow for weather, which would let marketers better judge the prime time to pitch discounts. It might not be relevant to every business, but purveyors of ice cream or rooftop cocktails could really use knowing if it’s about to rain the moment they’ve sent their 50% discount coupon to hundreds of people. Other local data like traffic conditions may also begin to play a part in geo-location technology. 

The tools at our disposal allows imaginative approaches to marketing to flourish, unencumbered by technological limits. Nobody can say for certain what the next few years hold for mobile marketing - that’s why it’s so exciting. But if the rapid rate of change we’ve seen take place over the past decade continues, we can be confident that the mobile landscape of 2025 will look very different to the one we see today.

March 24, 2015

Is MMS the Next Big Thing in Mobile Marketing?

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Mobile marketing has proven more viable than its email predecessor, as consumers become more detached from their email and clients like Gmail implement new sorting features. Today, mobile devices are in almost every hand and most already have the ability to read SMS and MMS messages—yet, one question remains: which one is better?

Short Message Service (SMS) works similarly to a regular text message in that it can be sent peer-to-peer or from a mobile service provider, and appears to the user in simple text. There’s a limit, however, of 160 characters and all click links require the use of data by the end user. The upside is that these messages are fast, reliable and less expensive than their multimedia counterpart.

Multimedia Message Service (MMS) allows the use of images, animated .GIF, or short video and audio clips. Thousands of characters can be fit in a single MMS message, which provides better branding opportunities and higher high consumer engagement—boasting a 15% average click-through-rate and increased campaign opt-ins by 20% over SMS. 

Both of these mobile marketing tactics increase ROI by creating a direct line of communication to the consumer, building brand awareness and loyalty literally from the palm of the user’s hand. But as Zach Zimmerman of ePrize, the mobile marketing team behind Starbucks’ promo success, pointes out, “MMS is a tactic, not a strategy.” 

While the seeming advantage of MMS is presented in beautiful images, video and sound, the use of this service can be a financial money-pit if paired with the wrong message, brand, product or campaign—a number of things that have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

One huge drawback to the allure of MMS is its inability to collect important space and tracking data, which is easily available through mobile web landing pages, assessable through a click link in basic SMS messages. Moreover, MMS is not enabled on all mobile devices—yet. 

Upgrades and increased sophistication of these mobile marketing tactics are already underway. Developing platforms will allow brands to reach any phone, anywhere, anytime, from the iPhone5S to the Lumia. These media marketing companies are pushing the mobile frontier, and with clients like Ikea, Kellogg, Bloomingdales, Starbucks and major TV networks buying what these companies are throwing down, it’s only a matter of time before answering the SMS vs. MMS question will need to be answered once and for all. 

 

 

March 17, 2015

New App Helps Canadians Pay for Parking via Mobile

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Toronto, Canada drivers will soon have a new mobile option at their fingertips, one designed to make parking easier.  

The Toronto Star recently reported that Canadian smartphone users may use a new app to pay for parking in the city’s outdoor Green P lots.  

“City-owned Toronto Parking Authority unveiled a free app and said that, by the end of spring, motorists should be able to use it to pay to park — and remotely extend their time if needed — at all outdoor Green P lots that currently use ‘pay and display’ machines,” the report notes.

In today’s world, cities and municipalities in every shape and size are using mobile apps, iBeacons, and similar options to aid local residents in finding parking and paying for parking tickets. Since mobile apps are utilized to make innumerable familiar chores more convenient, it’s no surprise it’s extended to parking.  

The mobile app as well as cell phones and web browsers may be used to make payments, and signup is free. Registration is straightforward, and only requires a quick download and mobile number entry to receive and subsequently enter a verification code. The final step is creating a PIN number. The app is available wherever Green P Parking signs are found, i.e. non-gated, off-street parking lots all over the city of Toronto. 

Ticket enforcement officers check license plate number and payment standing after parking, and the only fee drivers pay is the normal parking rate. There’s no service charges or other fees associated with the app.  

"This kind of approach makes sense," said Mayor John Tory at a recent news conference held to unveil the app. "Our role isn't to fight the future, it's to embrace the future."

Tory also added that he believed Toronto  has been “frozen in time," and vowed that the city is set to use modern technology in its services. “I think we have actually ended up behind other Canadian cities in a number of instances and I am determined to see us where we should be,” he said, saying the app will give residents "the best possible parking experience."

The mayor also noted the app will “make lives easier for people in the city.” 

Green P Parking lets drivers know when their parking is about to expire, and allows them to add more time, whatever their current location. The credit-card based system is set to launch next year. 

 

March 16, 2015

Has Mobile Marketing Become a Technical Profession?

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These days, extensive technical expertise is required for any company to enjoy marketing success. Mobile attribution, or discovering how a mobile user found out about and signed up for an app or service, is considered a technically-challenging task. It’s also one that has had a serious impact on how companies approach marketing. 

Doug Milliken, the vice president of global brand marketing at Clorox, remarked in a panel at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit that mobile marketing has become a “technical discipline.” The session was moderated by Ashu Garg, general partner of venture firm Foundation Capital. 

Milliken referred to another CEO with a technical background who enlightened him about this shift in marketing. 

“It’s an important insight,” he said. “It’s a huge period of innovation, the greatest period of innovation in the history of the profession. And it’s all being done by computer scientists and engineers,” adding that “deep expertise” is required for success as a marketer.  

Today’s marketers must now analyze and deal with sizable data sets, and subsequently link together automated platforms so as to run mobile marketing campaigns in real time.  

Jeremy Wacksman, vice president of marketing at online real estate site Zillow, agrees that understanding the technical side of mobile marketing is essential. The site receives 90 million visitors per month, with company heads spending some $75 to $100 million a year on building an audience. Since 75% of Zillow users now come in via mobile, the company has more economists and data scientists than performance marketers. Wackman says what marketing efforts are driving users to their app is challenging.

Clorox, in comparison, spent $10 million to $20 million a year on marketing, and while perfecting campaign strategies was once a top priority, “good enough” campaigns are now considered the norm. 

“You optimize it as you go,” Milliken said. “That’s a very hard thing to do. But now we add in the cost of delay. You may lose hundreds of thousands of profit if you delay a month. So good enough is better. We’re a younger company, and the market is you test. If you are wrong, you make a change. But you learn a lot faster.”  

Milliken added that real-time strategic marketing is now the company’s focus. 

Marketing used to be about print campaigns, such as those featured in magazines, newspapers, mailers, and billboards. Now it’s all about mobile devices, as the information people want about brands and services are merely a screen touch away. Figuring out new ways to encourage people to use apps and visit mobile websites is marketing’s future. 

 

March 12, 2015

The Best LTE Phones Out There

In the world of mobile, Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices are regarded as the heir apparent to the current generation of 3G technology. Already the standard for smartphones, all that needs to happen for LTE to cement its place and earn its name is for the inexorable rise of smartphone adoption to continue.  

If you’re looking to upgrade to a new smartphone, the wealth of options available can be a little overwhelming. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of the very best LTE phones on the market today:

 

iPhone 5S

Apple’s fastest phone yet, the 5S come with a raft of new features including a fingertip reader, 10-hour battery talk time, high quality screen resolution and 64 GB built-in memory. Though it’s drawn some criticism for it battery life, which some feel could be longer, there’s no doubt that the 5S continues to justify the hefty pricetag (unless you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Apple abstainer). 

 

Moto X

The Moto X features a variety of proprietary Motorola apps and enhancements, and promises an all-day battery life. On the downside, the camera has been described as “inconsistent,” and the phone lacks features now demanded as standard by many smartphone users (such as 64GB or removable storage options). Several recent updates have improved the phone’s speed, and if you’re after an Android experience for an affordable price, the Moto X is an attractive option.

 

Samsung Galaxy S4

Hugely popular following its launch, the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains a firm favorite among LTE fans. It’s not as speedy as other models, but other features more than make up for it. Primarily, HD voice, which brings a clarity that has to be heard to be believed.

 

Motorola Droid Maxx

The Motorola Droid Maxx offers efficient connectivity, a long battery life, touchless control and hands-free features. The display could be sharper, and the phone only works with Verizon, which network scrutineers may balk at.

 

Nokia Lumia 1020 

Renowned for its sizable 41MP shooter, the Lumia 1020’s LTE speeds are fair even when browsing the web. It supports Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, NFC and LTE bands 2, 4, 5 and 17. Best of all, the camera is peerless, so it’s a good LTE option for people who take lots of pictures.

 

HTC Droid DNA

Again, this device is exclusive to Verizon Wireless, which will be a big no-no for many consumers. Luckily, the HTC Droid DNA more than makes up for it with a sharp screen, very fast download and upload speeds, and a first rate camera.

 

Blackberry Z10 

The Z10’s “modest” 4.2-inch display makes it one of the more portable LTE smartphones around. The inclusion of NFC features means it’s easy to transfer content between handsets and other enabled mobile devices without the need for network connectivity.

 

March 09, 2015

Six of the Best: Customized Text Message Keyboards

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Android users have historically enjoyed the better deal in terms of smartphone keyboard options. However, Apple’s iOS 8 update means iPhones now support third-party keyboards, something sure to make Apple fans happy. Check out six of the best third-party, customized text message keyboards available today:  

Swype

The keyboard for those who like to type, er, swipe, extra-fast, Swype predicts words when users move their fingers across the screen to connect with different letters in “one continuous motion.” Users may input up to 40 characters per minute using this keyboard, which costs 99 cents on the App Store. 

Kids Keys

This customized keyboard is perfect for parents with children who commandeer their mobile devices. It comes with seven different themes sure to entertain little ones, including polka dots, tricks, monsters, and letters and numbers, and is $2.99 on the App Store. 

 

SwiftKey

The people of SwiftKey are also the team responsible for Stephen Hawking’s communication system. An ultra-smart keyboard that adapts to how you type, it remembers consistent typos and corrects them. The keyboard also learns what emojis you like and how you use them, and allows you to type bilingual messages. It includes a swipe flow feature similar to the one Swype employs as well. SwiftKey is free.

ScribbleBoard 

A custom keyboard for those who want to express themselves with more than words every now and then, ScribbleBoard allows you to “draw your feelings.” It offers a rainbow of colors and swatches for doodling, and you can also copy and paste your drawings into chat sessions. It costs 99 cents on the App Store.  

PopKey 

The perfect custom keyboard for those who enjoy adding GIFs to every text they send, PopKey allows you to pick from hundreds of options within your keyboard rather than switching to your mobile browser or another app. It also lets you store your favorites for easy access. The app is free. 

SNL

If you’re a huge Saturday Night Live fan, you’ll love this SNL emoji keyboard. Add emojis of favorite characters to text messages, such as Stefon, Gilly, Hanz and Franz, Cone Heads, and many more. The app features a keyboard add-on, and is also free. 

Whether you’re looking to add a bit more flavor to text messages or you simply want a practical option that suits your needs, check out the above and other super-cool customized text message keyboards. 

 

 

March 08, 2015

Is Magic, the Text Message Courier Service, actually Any Good?

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Magic is the new on-demand service based in text messages. It’s designed for really busy people….or really lazy people. Some 8,600 people are currently trying to gain access to this “magical” service, which promises the ability to purchase practically anything by “texting your desires.” 

It works (in the U.S., anyway) by sending a text message to a number on the official Magic site. Assuming there aren’t 9,000 people in front of you, you’ll then register your information. This includes name, address, credit card number...you get the idea. The company utilizes payment processing service Stripe to deal with credit card details, allowing such details to remain hidden from Magic employees.  

After all your details are registered, you can use Magic to order basically anything so long as it’s not illegal. Trained Magic operators “figure out the rest,” and all fees and tips are included in the final price. 

Originally a side project, Magic creator Mike Chen notes this is hardly the case anymore.  

“It topped 10,000 incoming messages on Sunday and was closing in on 18,000 Monday morning. Magic's team of magicians on call … grew from two or three at launch to 18 on Sunday,” Chen told Mashable.  

Likened to ChaCha’s text-a-question-and-receive-an-answer service, Magic has already been used to request a tiger (as in the actual jungle cat), as well as less-fangy items and services, such as those for bike wrenches and help in court.  

So how magical is Magic? Popular perhaps due to its simplicity, the service is receiving mixed reviews. It promises quick service that’s “like magic,” with couriers scurrying to your door ready to give you what you wanted, but some argue it’s more like Amazon in that you receive your requested item in a few days’ time. One reviewer notes that even a fairly simple request, such as a delicious chicken parmesan sandwich, took nearly half an hour for a response, which said the restaurant with the very best sandwich was closed.  

The supposedly-speedy courier service could just be experiencing growing pains, and Chen acknowledges the company let too many people sign up in too short a time. 

“We under-predicted how badly people wanted to use the service,” he said in an email. “If we let in a group of people, almost all of them start using it within a few minutes, which is not typical for wait lists with lower-demand services. As of now, I can say that we are letting people in at the correct rate, and that the number-one top focus of the company is quality.” 

Will Magic work out its kinks? Will it become the next big delivery service, bringing clients their hearts’ desires quickly and efficiently? Time will certainly tell.

March 05, 2015

SMS Alert System for Pregnant Cows is Up for Design of the Year

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There are some weird and wonderful uses for SMS messaging out there, but one of the innovations up for this year’s Design of the Year award is milking the technology for all its worth.

The 76 nominees were announced last week by London’s Design Museum; they will go on display from March 25 to August 23, with the winner announced in June. Designs range from new Norwegian banknotes to high-profile projects like Google’s self-driving car.

But the gadget that’s got us most excited is a new SMS-based monitoring system that tells farmers when their cows are going into labor. If you’ve never had any experience of dairy farming you’ve probably never even realized such a gizmo was necessary, but the brilliantly-named Moocall is a promising solution to a problem that’s largely invisible to the general public.

The gadget hooks onto the tail of a pregnant cow and sends a text message to the farmer when the animal is within an hour of giving birth. It uses 3-D motion sensors and a roaming M2M SIM card to ascertain when a cow is going into labor. Other birthing monitors exist, but they are notoriously invasive and uncomfortable for the cow. Most farmers simply opt to keep vigil over pregnant cows in order to maximize the chances of a live birth. Moocall promises a reliable alert system that causes minimal discomfort and frees up vital resources that would otherwise be spent on watching and waiting. 

Designer Niall Austin first conceived the device for use on his own farm in County Offaly, Ireland, and hopes to break into cattle markets in North and South America. He told Irish Tech News: “Losing a cow and calf during birthing process is heart-breaking and very often completely preventable.” 

Created with the help of Irish tech firms Motech Engineering and Dolmen, Austin’s innovation went through a long development process, with a series of prototypes - tried ‘in the field’ so to speak - helping them shape the design to withstand the elements and the animal’s clumsy heft (sorry, cows - no offence).

Moocall is another example of the diversity of SMS messaging. If it didn’t send a text message it would require some other pieces of hardware for farmers to receive the alerts. That would drive the cost up and give farmers more hassle. It would also make the gadget a much less marketable product. By combining sophisticated birthing monitor technology with the simplicity and near-universal availability of text messaging, Moocall seems to provide a solution to a major setback facing dairy farmers worldwide.

March 02, 2015

Mobile Marketing is 'Next Big Thing' Says Mediacom Boss

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The fundamental differences between mobile marketing automation and web marketing automation must be thoroughly understood by marketers so they can provide a great user experience “across all touchpoints.” This is according to Ben Phillips, Medicom’s head of mobile.

While advertisers have pushed automated content on mobile devices for awhile now, an ambiguous view of how people switch between platforms has marred efforts. A form of mobile automated marketing that “goes beyond” the standard mobile app is set to become more ubiquitous as proximity triggers and push notifications increase in use.  

Phillips emphasizes the idea that mobile is no longer limited to phones, and that brands must take this into consideration. He notes the most successful advertisers are those who have designed creative mobile strategies first and “appreciate how their audience chooses to engage with them and provides the correct response.” In retail, for example, it’s a good idea to connect the experience with CRM, and personalize ads with relevant context rather than pushing random ads to shoppers as they browse aisles.  

The Mediacom boss also notes the role creativity will play in automated mobile marketing, “as many brands start to build 'mobile first' content that is relevant to the consumer regardless of point of engagement. Automated mobile marketing will enable deeper CRM learnings and processes that lead brands to a more personal one-to-one dialogue with their consumers.”

Audience data is essential to craft personalized dialogue with customers, and Phillips predicts “the race this year will be to obtain a persistent tracking identifier for an individual across platforms. By this I don’t just mean mobile and desktop, we need to be able to verify individuals against wearable devices, a smart TV a connected car and internet of things.”

Brands must step up their automated mobile marketing game and fully understand the wide spectrum that is mobile. Medicom is arguably ahead of the game, as the company is working on partnerships similar to its relationship with advertising technology platform Celtra. This means Medicom can create rich media ad units for both desktop and mobile.

“I believe [brands] aren’t doing enough because they aren’t being directed, taught or educated in the right way,” remarked Phillips. “Our industry will begin to consolidate and roll up into digital within the next year. The 'systems' lead thinking approach will win out as it becomes ever more apparent that mobile sits in every marketing and advertising discipline and not as a siloed specialist function.”

The consumer is at the heart of any mobile strategy, so focusing on a well-rounded marketing ploy that includes multiple platform and advertising options is key. Phillips is correct in recommending brands determine how their audience opts to engage them, and to build a mobile marketing strategy from there. The companies that take advantage of this idea are the ones who will figuratively blow competition out of the water in the next few years. 

 

February 25, 2015

DEA Accepting Tip Offs Via SMS

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The McAllen, TX branch of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency has turned to text messaging to simplify citizen reporting of potential drug trafficking. DEA Assistant Special Agent Steve Jenkins in the branch office remarked that text messaging is another way to help residents feel safe in their community. 

"We're trying to get the message out to the community that hey this is available and it’s a way for them to help keep the streets safe," Jenkins said. 

Entitled ‘TIP 411,’ the anonymous program makes it possible to text a tip after witnessing possible drug activity. Tipsters can simply type TIP 411 into the “To” line, then use the message box to type RGV with either an image or a description of the crime. Jenkins says the tip will be passed to the DEA office, who will act accordingly. The number of anyone who sends a tip will not be viewed by the DEA agent.  

Jenkins also noted the new system allows the office to keep in anonymous contact with tipsters, as opposed to phone call where the information flow ends once the person hangs up. Texting is also much less personal, and therefore makes it easy for someone to provide information without feeling uncomfortable.  

The DEA hopes younger people will use the program, as it was designed for youth interested in keeping the community safe.  

Other cities, such as New Orleans, El Paso, and Albuquerque, have enjoyed success implementing the program. Anyone who uses the program must be connected with a cell phone provider. 

“This is a way for (the public) to anonymously provide the information to us and communicate back and forth with a DEA agent, via text message,” Jenkins added. “Then, if at some point they no longer want to communicate with us, they can send the word STOP in the message and all communication will be cut off with the agent.” 

Once the tipster texts the word “Stop,” the DEA has no way of getting back in contact with the person. 

Reports of the program have been met with somewhat mixed responses from the public, with some in favor of the idea, and others very much against it, saying the program isn’t particularly safe and is yet another wasted effort in “the war on drugs.” 

Is the program a good idea? Time will certainly tell...