Web/Tech

66 posts categorized

August 29, 2014

SMS Marketing for Web-Only Businesses

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The most traditional way to interact with customers is of course to talk with them face-to-face. Second is to communicate with them via voice phone calls. But what if you don’t maintain these capacities due to the nature of your business? Many online brands today simply don’t have the infrastructure for live agents, or a brick-and-mortar location where they can foster live customer engagement. Luckily, this age of technology has opened a lot of doors for small businesses in the form of SMS marketing.

By engaging customers over their text messaging apps, customers have absolute freedom. They aren’t bothered by telesales reps, nor do they have to visit a store to learn about the latest deal. They can choose to open and read text message at their leisure. And with more than a 97% open rate, smart business owners are taking advantage of text marketing—the simplest and most effective form of mobile communication for customer interaction.

Call-to-Action

When connecting with customers through SMS, remember to always emphasize a concise and appealing call-to-action. Letting them know who you are, why you’re contacting them, and what’s in it for the customer is tough to do in such a short message…and that’s why text message marketing is a bit of an art form. A/B test your messages; discover which words and phrases hit home and which ones don’t create traction.

VIP Treatment

Another critical piece is to make customers feel as though they are part of a special club or VIP group. Receiving exclusive offers will develop brand loyalty, as well as continued excitement around opting in to your text marketing list. Offering promotional codes and coupons can be very effective in converting mobile users into new and repeat customers, and loyalty programs are a good follow up to such promotions. Think of some free or discounted items loyal customers might enjoy as a reward for their participation.

Event Marketing

Reminding customers about upcoming events also works well via SMS messages. Oftentimes, readers will overlook an email with the exact same content as a text message. Due to the exorbitant amount of spam that customers find in their inboxes, they are less likely to open many of their emails. So next time, text them event invites, and you just might find turnout numbers increasing dramatically.

Surveys and Feedback

Finally, offering your customers a way to provide feedback is very effective in text messages. Surveys these days need to be kept short, and a text message survey is the perfect feedback tool. It’s cheaper and more effective than other forms of survey solicitation, as brands will often receive an immediate response to the message. Simply ask a couple question via text (instead of in a lofty email or phone call), and your customers may be happy to oblige. Surveys are especially effective when offering a reward for participation.

In utilizing these simple techniques for your web-based business, you’re likely to see the benefits of SMS marketing campaigns immediately. Everyone is using their phone to text these days – shouldn’t your business be taking advantage of a well-executed SMS campaign? Once you implement text message marketing into your overall customer engagement strategy, customers will be able to communicate more seamlessly with your company, and for a fraction of the cost of other marketing programs.

August 20, 2014

The Big Mobile Marketing Match: Email vs. SMS

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

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

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

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

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

August 14, 2014

Is Beacon Technology Going to Change the Retail World?

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

Mass Potential

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

Current Barriers

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

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

The Future

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

August 01, 2014

Hospitality Industry Divided Over Mobile Marketing

 

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New research from Omnico indicates that UK consumers are less likely to use mobile devices to engage with hospitality service providers when compared with other industries. Just 13% of consumers said they would use mobile to interact with hoteliers and travel agents.

This reticence is understandable when examined from the consumer point of view. People ultimately want a better user experience, but with so many metrics to consider when booking a holiday, it’s possible that small screen devices are given short shrift. Filling in multiple fields – car rental, flights, hotels etc – is a hassle even on a desktop. Even on a mobile-optimized site or app, there’s simply too much information to divest for a quality user experience. 

Thankfully for the industry, the point of purchase is just one step in the process. There is still plenty of scope to create a compelling mobile marketing campaign that simply hands off to desktop at the point of sale. 

And despite the apparently-negative data collated in the UK, mobile usage has been steadily increasing in the world of hospitality. A Forrester survey from last year identified a 450% increase in mobile bookings since 2009. Some analysts predict mobile sales will be worth $26 billion by the year’s end. That’s one in five online travel dollars! 

The biggest mobile marketing strides have been made post-purchase, with 75% of travelers using a mobile device to shop and book activities while on holiday, according to Forrester. Clearly, this is where the hospitality industry is benefitting most: reaching consumers who are already on vacation and for whom smartphones and tablets are the only readily-available web-connected device.

If you’re trying to create a mobile marketing campaign that works, focus on enriching the entire experience, not just selling vacations. Offer portals for booking restaurants. Provide information on local tourist sites. Gather user reviews that could help future customers. Break your mobile marketing strategy down into three key practices:

  • Promotion. Offer last minute deals, hotel discounts or coupons. Mobile – and especially SMS messaging - is perfect for issuing time-sensitive information.
  • Loyalty Rewards. Offer loyalty points with personalized incentives attached. Track data to give reward customers with the things they like. If they’re clocking up thousands of miles, offer air miles. If they use the same hotel chain around the world, try to partner with that hotel to offer discounts.
  • User Experience. Keep customers up to date on new destinations. Send weather forecasts, or travel directions. Stay engaged throughout their trip and solicit feedback in the form of reviews.

A balanced mobile marketing strategy is of vital importance in an aggressively competitive industry. The beauty of mobile is the ease with which you can subdivide customers according to personal preference, so even if your primary booking platform is your desktop website, stay plugged in to mobile and you’ll reap the long term benefits.

July 31, 2014

Beyond Marketing: 4 Unexpected Uses for SMS

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SMS messaging has become a key component of any mobile marketing strategy. It’s use as an advertising tool has been well documented – not least on this very organ – but there are all sorts of weird, wonderful ways to leverage the power of text. Schools, community groups, churches and even emergency services have begun incorporating SMS into their processes. We’ve cherry picked our favorite unusual uses of SMS messaging outside of the mobile marketing realm…

Finding Lost Pets

Companies like MobiPet are helping pet owners locate lost furry friends. When notified of a lost animal, they send photo alerts by text message to registered vets, animal shelters and pet owners within a 30 mile radius. Animal lovers have rallied round the idea which, unlike microchip implants, is non-invasive and requires no equipment apart from a camera-enabled mobile phone with text message capability.

Donating to Good Causes

Text-to-donate has proven highly effective at engaging people who don’t donate to charity by other methods. In 2007, a Super Bowl commercial raised $10,000 within seconds for the victims of the recent tsunami in Asia. The Haiti earthquake relief effort also benefitted from a text campaign, with the Red Cross eventually pulling in $32 million for victims. The success of text-to-donate is owed to the simplicity of the process. People too busy to go through the hassle of visiting a website and uploading credit card information can simply reply to a text message and have their donation applied to their phone bill.

Emergency Alerts

Closer to home, Hurricane Sandy – the second costliest hurricane in the US since records began – had a devastating impact on local businesses, but SMS proved to be a true survivor in the face of infrastructural collapse. Businesses and emergency services used SMS to keep residents up to date on the weather and how the damage it caused would affect them. 

Talking to Home Appliances

‘Smart appliances’ allow their owners to control them remotely via text message. Appliances are programmed to respond to a series of commands, so if you have an unexpected guest coming to your house, and you don’t have time to go home and clean, you can send a text to your robotic vacuum cleaner or mop. Intelligent SMS systems are also being used in fridges to tell owners what they need to pick up from the store, and even suggest recipe ideas!

July 30, 2014

Microsoft Finally Takes It's Head From the Sand... and Into the Cloud

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After years of threatening to become a computing anachronism, Microsoft is transmogrifying into a cloud services provider with a strong focus on mobile marketing. 

Earlier this year, the tech giant put the finishing touches to its Windows Phone 8.1 OS, and promised delivery to consumers by ‘Summer 2014’. They’ve already begun integrating Nokia’s smartphone business, and shares have gone up by 25% since the appointment of new CEO Satya Nadella five months ago.

On the face of it, Microsoft is finally joining the cloud/mobile party that’s been in full swing since the turn of the decade. It’s been a long time coming, and competing with the likes of Google and Apple will be a tough road aho.

Critics have lambasted Microsoft for its reticence regarding the obvious consumer appeal of cloud computing, but their strategy has become more focused on Nadella’s watch, with the professed ‘cloud first, mobile first’ philosophy at last gaining credibility.

In particular, the firm has begun to recognize the need to give partners more control over the cloud services they resell. They recently announced the implementation of the Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider program, which grants affiliates who resell products like Office 365 and Windows Intune greater control of billing and customer service tools. Says Phil Sorgen, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Partnerships:

“It fundamentally enables our partners to own the customer relationship.”

The program will expand gradually until it covers all MS cloud services. It certainly appears that Microsoft is offering the right incentives to partners. They are waiving the first year fee for new registrants wanting to sell Azure and Office 365, and increasing the number of internal use rights licenses by anything from 25 to 200 percent. Even their traditional on-premise software products are getting a 10 percent price slash for partner programs.

The jury is still out on whether this cloud and mobile marketing strategy will pay off for Microsoft. With hundreds of thousands of partners out their, the challenge is to meet the needs of a vast, heterogeneous group with extremely diverse priorities. Not all of them are thrilled at the way the wind is blowing.

Many long-time resellers and integrators will find themselves struggling to adjust their models to cloud-based services after years spent building business around on-premises Microsoft software. For one thing, on-premises deals are usually made with a one-time payment, whilst cloud services are sold by subscription. The latter generates recurring revenue streams – but the size of the deal tends to be smaller.

But Microsoft have realized that focusing on the future is the only way to ensure long term prosperity. Their attentions are pointed at the ‘born in the cloud’ generation of entrepreneurs who have never used on-premises software. For them, Microsoft’s evolution can’t happen quickly enough.

July 25, 2014

Push Techniques & Your Mobile Marketing Strategy

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Cell phones are rarely out of reach of their owners. For mobile marketing campaign managers, the question isn’t ‘can we reach consumers via their smartphone’ – we already know the answer to that – but rather, ‘how can we best reach individual consumers via their smartphone.’

Most successful mobile marketing campaigns use push notifications, SMS messaging or a combination of both. Each has it’s own set of pros and cons, which vary according to industry. Deciding when to use push notifications versus SMS is one of the key decisions you’ll make when devising a mobile marketing strategy.

Push notifications can yield a decisive ROI when smartly executed. Data from tech startup Urban Airship indicates that push notifications can prompt a 540% increase in daily app opens and a 30% increase in social media sharing. If you’re looking to communicate information and updates about a product to existing app customers, push notifications are where it’s at.

According to data collated by Responsys, 68% of people who download a brand’s app opt in to receive push notifications, but their power goes beyond apps. It’s true that most push notifications are delivered to mobile devices, but they are expanding to reach desktops, e-readers – even car dashboards. Some analysts predict that by 2020, the number of web-connected devices will reach 75 billion. With an average of ten points-of-internet-access per person, champions of the push notification are salivating at the possibilities.

It’s not all wine and roses. Like SMS messaging, push notifications should be used sparingly for maximum impact. Remember, notifications can be switched off. And unlike SMS, users don’t even need to unsubscribe in order to stop receiving them. Diehard app lovers are notoriously fickle; once the number of apps they use reaches a critical mass, they become more inclined to demote their least favorite. Avoid bombarding customers with notifications and you’re less likely to fall prey to a push cull. To minimize the number of users switching off, the trick is to walk that fine line between remaining on someone’s radar, and simply irritating them.

Bear in mind too that smartphone penetration is deep but they’re not the only game in town. A third of Americans own cell phones that are not smartphones. That’s a significant market. Those consumers can’t use apps, ans SMS is the only way to reach them, so if the bulk of your target audience is yet to adopt a smartphone, forget about push notifications and concentrate your mobile marketing strategy on SMS.

An effective mobile marketing strategy is all about balance. Balance between push notifications and SMS messaging. Balance between apps and mobile friendly content. Walking that tightrope is the difference between getting noticed and shouting to an empty room.

 

July 19, 2014

From Zero to Hero: How Mobile Revolutionized Planet Marketing

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Mobile marketing has gone stratospheric since the advent of the smartphone, but it’s been around in some form or another for more than 20 years. SMS messaging gave marketers a whole new channel to pursue during the 90s, when cell phone ownership first became widespread. Now, with text messages the most commonly read form of communication, advertisers are cautiously rediscovering the possibilities of SMS marketing.

But mobile marketing is about much more than SMS. The smartphone age has seen to that by putting the power and connectivity of a desktop computer into the palms, pockets and handbags of almost everyone in the western world. Some inroads were made into serious, non-SMS mobile marketing tactics during BlackBerry’s first flush of success in the early noughties, but when the first iPhone hit stores in 2007, marketing execs really sat up and began to take notice. 

As developers clamored to create apps to go along with Apple’s devices, the first wave of modern mobile marketing tactics began to take shape. The focus was very much on volume, and publishers relied largely on getting high app store chart rankings in order to gain visibility. Marketing efforts were all about short-term gains, with the main objective to generate as many downloads as early as possible in order to climb the charts. Quantity reigned supreme over quality.

These early years of app/mobile marketing were dominated by incentivized downloads – something Apple continued to allow until April 2011, despite the obvious credibility problems. Tracking performance was problematic. Platform regulations were loose, and developers took full advantage; it was essentially a land grab, the Old West of app and mobile marketing. 

By 2012, developers began thinking about the possibilities of quality and performance tracking. CPI-based campaigns gathered steam and, and better quality tracking was sought. For their part, Apple tightened its rules, clamping down on people accused of gaming the chart system by using bot farms to generate inauthentic downloads.

Around the same time, publishers became more data-focused, integrating in-app analytics software to collect metrics like usage, engagement, retention and monetization potential. There was a growing focus on high-quality user experience – but mostly with the objective of retaining customers for the medium-term.

That all began to change over the last 18 months, as a new climate took hold in the tech world. The shift is now overwhelmingly moving in the direction of stellar quality, as mobile marketing campaign managers realize that acquiring new users, even for a pittance, is not sensible unless they are retained, engaged, and monetized. Against that backdrop, some unlikely transactions have taken place – such as the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook – but there is no doubt that the app world has raised it’s game. With GPS technology and other location-based tools fast improving, the future of mobile marketing is unpredictable, but undeniably exciting.

 

 

June 24, 2014

Smartphone Use at Work on the Rise

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Whether at home or work – or even while on the commute between the two places – people carry their mobile devices with most of the time. In 2013, 132 million people around the world used their smartphones while at work, with that number expected to grow by nearly one third to 174 million people by the end of 2014. According to recent figures, as many as 328 million workers will be bringing their smartphones to work by 2017. The fact that people use these devices while on the job presents rich opportunity when it comes to SMS marketing. 

While B2C retailers have taken advantage of such widespread smartphone use in recent years, what may come as a surprise in the B2B arena is just how many workers today use their devices to complete work-related tasks. Therefore, the rise in smartphone use at work spells enormous opportunity for B2B SMS marketing as well. Thanks to the release of the 5S, a rise in iPhone use on the job has accounted for 54 percent of newly activated workplace mobile use. And more people are also, of course, using Androids at work.

Mobile Gains Popularity as a Business Tool

Companies have been increasingly adopting mobile apps for business use. The days when employers discouraged workers from using mobile devices at their desks have been on the decline. Enterprise app activations have been up 54 percent since 2013, which is an acceleration from the 42 percent growth rate from earlier that same year. VMware’s recent announcement that it would be spending $1.5 billion to acquire AirWatch, a rival mobile device management enterprise, says a lot about the many business opportunities a mobile presence at work has to offer.

Currently, the most popular business use of mobile devices is document editing, with business intelligence apps and cloud storage also rising. More and more enterprises today are even building their own business apps. However, the fact that people are already using their mobile devices while at work now means they are more likely to respond to B2B SMS text marketing while on the job.

Smartphone Use Means Convenience and Efficiency

Until recently, the widespread presence of mobile devices at the office only meant marketing to consumers as they scrambled to fit personal online shopping and other errands into the hectic work day. Now that more and more of the workforce uses mobile devices for business purposes, however, B2B SMS mobile marketing will experience enormous growth opportunities as well. 

SMS texting is an invaluable tool for communicating with B2B clients partly because SMS texting costs only a small fraction of what phone calls do. SMS also saves money, increasing efficiency through features like mass texting and automation.

At the end of the day, more than half of workers making business-to-business purchasing decisions for their companies now use their smartphones to gather product and service information before placing orders. That number is only growing. Therefore, B2B SMS marketing has become an absolutely essential part of any B2B marketing campaign.

June 10, 2014

How to Get More Leads with Mobile Marketing

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Lead generation on the web may seem straightforward enough: businesses simply promote offers on their landing pages and through social media, email, etc., and a lead is generated every time a potential customer fills out the lead generation form. However, mobile visitors do not behave the same as those who surf the web on a desktop computer. Therefore, the online experience needs to be adjusted accordingly in order for mobile marketing to result in optimal lead generation.

Following is a list of mobile marketing optimization strategies for better lead generation:

Using Progressive Profiling Forms. Online forms must be short and easy to fill out, or mobile users won't bother with them. Instead of using long form fills, asking for a plethora of information, progressive profiling forms can be used. With progressive profiling forms, fields that were filled out the previous time by the same visitor can be replaced with new fields, thus making each form shorter and ultimately creating easier navigation and more return visits.

Making Calls-to-Action Simple. The CTA text must be action-oriented, short, readable, and clear. Avoid distracting images that are too visually heavy. The CTA must also be easy to click on a small screen. Think: large buttons!

Advertising Mobile-Friendly Specials. Promotions and discounts that may be redeemed through mobile devices, such as on-location promo codes, are a great way to appeal to mobile users. For example, as customers enter a store, geo-location technology can offer them a specific discount for texting a keyword to the company’s shortcode. The result? An increased sense of customer loyalty as well as a longer list of leads for future business. 

Optimizing Content for the Mobile Screen. People often look at their smartphones when they only have a few extra minutes to “kill.” For this reason, many users may not reach the bottom of an article. Therefore, content should be frontloaded with lead generation links. The content should also be easily digestible, and the purpose of the article should be clear from the start. The writing must be concise and include bold, short, “tweetable” headlines. It's a good idea to test out different types of material to see what mobile visitors are most likely to read, whether it's “how-to” articles or lists – and then create more of that type of content.

Enabling Measurable Action With Just a Few Clicks. People pick up their mobile phones with the intention of taking action, whether that means sending a text message, making a call, or opening an app. Making it easy for users to complete an action in as few clicks as possible greatly increases the chance of bringing them to the point of conversion. When potential customers may simply click on a phone number to place a call, for instance, instead of having to copy and paste it, the odds that they will complete that call are greater. Hence, offer clickable phone numbers and hyperlinks.

Creating a Text Message Campaign.  A mass texting campaign is an easy to get new leads to “opt in.” As mentioned above, for instance, when customers walk into a store and see a sign advertising an automatic discount just for sending a text message, that's a difficult deal to refuse. In exchange, the store may choose to alert the customer once a month about future sales, making him/her a return customer.

The fact that consumers may now access the web so quickly and often means that mobile marketing has a lot to offer when it comes to lead generation. Smart business owners and brand managers know they will create even more leads if they actually make the mobile experience enjoyable for potential customers. Doing so requires making small adjustments to an existing web presence, and those small adjustments can lead to a big payoff in the end.