Web/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 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 04, 2014

How to Protect Yourself from Cyber Scammers

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A new scam operating out of Tallahassee has been asking Bank of America customers to divulge their account information. The text message asks Floridians to provide personal information – including debit card numbers – in response to ‘fraudulent activity’ being detected. In truth, the only fraud being perpetrated is by the authors of the SMS; no legitimate financial institution will ever ask for details via text message. One 21-year-old victim learned of the scam after being charged a few hundred dollars for a dress costing just $50.

She’s not alone. With the majority of the populace surfing the web for gifts every holiday season, it’s little wonder that so many are affected by scammers. Last year, a staggering number of Americans fell prey to a data breach at Target stores. It operated for less than three weeks, but managed to harvest bank details from more than 70 million citizens. 

This year won’t be any different – unless shoppers change their habits and become more alert to the warning signs of fraudsters. The rise of online scams correlates with the increase in web shopping. Bottom line is, more people shopping on the internet = more potential victims. So how can you protect yourself?

Cyber Scams and How to Spot Them

Annually, more than 16 million people report identity theft. During the holiday season, the number of victims increases. Cyber fraudsters view online shoppers as easy marks.

 

It’s not just the increase in the number of consumers that attracts criminals. From mid-November to mid-January, retailers start slashing prices, often with aggressive time-limitations. Shoppers act hastily in the face of perceived competition, with scant regard for the possibility that they’re being conned.

Protect yourself by learning the fraud indicators that should set alarm bells ringing:

 

  • No padlock icon. When visiting a site purporting to be a bank, check the far left side of your browser for the green padlock icon. As a security measure it’s far from failsafe – the padlock just means the site is encrypted – but clicking on it should bring up the true site address. If what you see doesn’t match the URL in the address bar, the site may well be a fake. Look for the lock. It’s something all legitimate websites will have.
  • Non-secure protocol. Never give your financial information to a non-secure website. Check the URL: if it begins with https it’s secure; http means it’s not. Again, neither protocol guarantees safety or scam, but no legitimate banking institution would use http, so its presence should put you on high alert for other fraud warning signs.
  • Being asked to pay by money transfer. Private sellers who ask you to pay using a prepaid card or via money transfer are highly suspicious and may be operating a scam. Always use a secure payment platform like PayPal.
  • Public wi-fi. Incredibly useful for using in-store apps or comparing deals on retail goods, access to free wi-fi is understandably tempting for shoppers - just don’t use it to input any personal data. That includes logging into your email account. Public networks are gifts for hackers, especially in busy malls where it would be extremely hard to identify who the perpetrator of a fraud is. Not that you would know you’d been hacked until much later.

 

As long as you remain vigilant to the possibility of being defrauded, and are aware of the methods they use, you stand a very good chance of surviving the holiday season without falling afoul of cyber criminals.

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 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.

November 12, 2014

Generations and Their Gadgets

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It’s true: each generation has their own “gadgets,” and today’s young generations prefer laptops to desktops and smartphones to “regular, old” cell phones. A Pew Internet Study conducted between August 9 and September 13, 2010 found many devices are popular across the generations, with young people paving the way for increased mobility. 

In the study, only 11% of people surveyed did not own a cell phone, desktop computer, laptop computer, or other devices inquired about. Cell phones are the most popular device among adult Americans, especially those under age 65. Desktop computers are favored by adults ages 35 to 65, while the millennial generation is the only one more likely to own a laptop or a notebook than their stationary predecessors.

Over half of adults own an mp3 player such as an iPod, and this device is again most popular among millennials. E-book readers aren’t widely used by older adults, and while tablets, such as the iPad, are most widely used among Americans 65 and older, only 4% of adults total own the device. Game consoles remain a “younger person” device, and highly used among those ages 18 to 45.

In addition to owning more of the devices discussed in the survey than their elder counterparts, millennials are more likely to use them for a wider range of reasons. Cell phones were originally used for talking and texting, but Millennials rely on them for email, internet, music, videos and games. And that’s besides their original uses!

Gen X and Millennials are comparable in their ownership of certain devices, such as game consoles, but Xers are still more likely to own desktops.

Each generation may carry cell phones, however the survey’s largest drop-off was still the older generation with 48% ownership. This is compared to 95% of Millennials and 92% of Gen-Xers. When study participants were pressed further about cell phone ownership, 33% who did not own a cell phone resided with someone who did. This means that overall, 90% of all adults—including 62% of those age 75 and older—live in a household with at least one working cell phone. And as this number increases, the likelihood of landline phone connections decreases.

Every generation’s gadgets always seem to outdo previous incarnations, with today’s devices offering a (virtual) world of options right at the fingertips. The only question is, what grandiose feature(s) and usage options will the next generation’s devices include?

 

 

 

November 07, 2014

How to Reach Millenials with Your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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In the world of mobile marketing, much hay is made of millennials and how to reach them. They’re supposed to be wily, committed to free content and spendthrifts. They spend a lot of time online – but not so much money. But is this demographic really so mysterious and elusive? Are there really 12 types of millennial that you must identify and target at all costs in order to thrive?!

At this point, a group of 22-year-olds grimace, roll their eyes and go back to texting their twelve types of friend about how baby boomers ‘just don’t get it.’ The problem for boomers and Gen-Xers is that millennials have grown up in a connected world. They’ve never known anything else. Their interactions with the online world are more sophisticated and diverse than any of us can understand. There’s no point scanning the latest research paper on how long those 22-year-olds spend on their tablet. It’s more complex than that.

The ‘amount of time spent’ is such a common metric that many mobile marketing campaign managers have ceased questioning it’s validity. For millennials in particular, the amount of time spent on a specific device is far less important than what they are doing on that device. Let’s break it down:

Laptop

Millennials stand alone among the generations in their preference for laptops over desktop computers. According to Pew research from 2011, 70% own a laptop, compared with 57% who own a desktop. The laptop is their primary portal for shopping, web browsing and watching movies and TV shows.

Tablet

The tablet unites all demographics under the age of 65. Though only 4% of adults own one, that statistic remains constant for people of all generations. For millennials, it’s a luxury item used primarily for entertainment purposes – and often in conjunction with other activities, such as watching television. 

Television

Ah, yes, television. Lest we forget, young people still watch traditional television sets in huge numbers. The rise of prestige TV, in conjunction with an increasingly diverse array of options, may have heralded the end of the family viewing experience, but individually we’re watching more than ever. And instead of uniting the nuclear family, TV shows are uniting people of the same age. If you’ve got the budget, don’t make the mistake of ignoring traditional television advertising. The millennials have been dubbed Gen FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), an indication of the power of multimedia as a social glue.

Smartphone

The smartphone is like a fifth limb for Gen Yers. They’ll just as happily use an iPhone to watch a YouTube video, and the market is awash with apps aimed squarely at young people. There’s nothing they don’t use smartphones for, but the commonest activity – by far – is the humble text message. Time Magazine recently suggested that the average American aged 18-29 sends 88 text messages per day. For anyone devising a mobile marketing strategy aimed at millennials, that statistic is a mouth-watering one.

Millennials are by far the most likely group to own more devices and to use more functions on them. From a marketer’s perspective, there’s little point just blithely shifting budgets to digital. In order to reach millennials, you need to understand how they engage with the digital world, and recognize that they are calling the shots.