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August 14, 2014

7 Clear Advantages of Text Marketing



Many smart marketers make the (giant) mistake of underestimating the promotional impact of text messages. Others commit the twin sin of failing to use them to their full advantage. Understand the seven core benefits of text marketing, however, and you're on your way to properly harnessing this tool's impressive influence.

How weighty is that influence? An estimated 8.3 trillion text messages are expected to be sent in 2015, and in 2013 North American users averaged 6.5 billion SMS messages per day. Texting's transition from novelty to integral part of everyday life is complete. And, with that change, text marketing's potential advantages have expanded. The vast majority of people who enroll in SMS loyalty programs believe they gain value from it, and SMS coupons are 10 times more likely to be redeemed than paper or email coupons. If you're not considering text marketing, you should be. Here are seven clear advantages of this marketing method.

1. Higher Open Rates Than email and Direct Mail

With text marketing, you're reaching people who have opted in and want to receive offers from you. Marketing to an existing customer base has a high return on investment. Furthermore, since these people want to receive information from you, they deliver very high read rates for your messages.

2. Text Marketing Allows Detailed, Up-to-the-Minute Analytics

With many types of marketing it's hard to get decent analytics and deduce what you're doing right and what could use improvement. With text marketing, by contrast, you should expect timely analytics on open rates and your redemption rate data can be be added to at the point of sale, as the transaction happens.

3. People Like the Simplicity of Text Marketing

If you send a coupon or offer by text message, there's no coupon to cut out or lose, and redeeming the offer is simple. People's lives are complex enough, and text marketing lets consumers take advantage of fun offers, contests, and polls with minimal hassle.

4. People Have Phones With Them Practically 24/7

People generally check their traditional postal mail once a day. Email accounts may be checked several times a day. But phones are in view with near constancy. When you use text marketing, you can be confident that your message will be received and probably read within seconds of arrival.

5. Opt-In Lets You Target Marketing Without Wasting Time or Money

When people opt in to your text marketing program, you can know you're sending your messages and special offers to a targeted, receptive audience. You won't waste time or money messaging people who are poor leads.

6. Text Marketing Is Environmentally Friendly

In 2012, there were $1,535 available in coupon savings for every person in the US, yet on average people only took advantage of $10.75 in coupon savings. That same year, coupon redemption volume dropped by 14.3%. That represents a lot of paper going to waste. When offers are sent by text, there's no clipping, and no searching through pockets or purses to locate coupons at the point of sale. Text marketing is much friendlier to the environment than printed offers.

7. Text Marketing Reaches Coveted Young Consumers

Close to one-third of adults prefer communicating by text message over phone calls, and the percentage is higher among younger adults. Texting is a way of life for Millennials, the up-and-coming consumer generation, so it's only natural that text marketing is a good fit with this demographic.

Text marketing makes sense across a range of industries. It's quick, simple, environmentally friendly, and you can collect analytics with the ease and accuracy needed to make the data useful. Whether you want to run a contest, send out a coupon code, or announce a sale, text marketing is a cost-effective, powerful way to reach consumers on a device that most have within arm's reach at all times.

August 12, 2014

How to Market to Millennials with Mass Text Messaging



Millennials, the generation of consumers born between 1982 and 2004, are always connected, and prefer texting over talking for interpersonal communication.

Forty-three percent of Millennials believe texting is as meaningful as a voice conversation over the phone. This demographic takes texting seriously, and their message volume reflects that. From 2000 to 2010, the number of text messages sent every month in the US went from 14 billion to 188 billion, and the trend isn't subsiding. A 2010 Nielsen study found that 42% of teens say the main reason they even have a phone is for texting. Marketers should expect Millennials to love text messages as a medium, and have high expectations for its content. Want to make traction when text marketing to Millennials? Here are our top dos and don'ts.

DO: Understand Why They Text

Millennials love texting because it offers control. According to Neil Howe and William Strauss--the authors credited with coining the name for this generation--these are the babies welcomed into the world with Lamaze and attachment-parenting obsessiveness. As adults they welcome order. Texting allows them to participate when they want to, and not when they don't. That control more than makes up for the bit of extra time that responding to a text requires. It's asynchronous, and far less intrusive than a call that demands to be dealt with immediately. Texting is also preferred due to an element of privacy, because texts can't be overheard, and due to their relative permanence, since they are stored until archived or deleted.

DO: Enable (Instant) Interactivity

Mass text messaging makes inherent sense when dealing with Millennials, but you can't just start blasting out texts one after the other and expect positive results. Millennials' relationships with brands are far more interactive than their parents'. That two-way communication can take many forms. They may comment on a brand's social media posts, or interact with brands via mass text messaging campaigns. But they are used to having a two-way relationship with the brands they love.

They're also impatient. If they respond to a mass text message, they won't wait long for a response. They want their coupon code or contest entry right then. So when engaging with Millennials by mass text messaging, it pays to be interactive and quick. Don't set this demographic up for a wait; they won't like it...and they won't be quiet about that displeasure!

DON'T: Water Down the Message

Millennials are used to byte-sized messages and getting news through a Twitter feed, but that doesn't mean you have to water down your message. Millennials are expected to become the most educated American generation. Older adults may be puzzled as to why their carefully composed text messages to their kids only get "k" as a response. It's not because the younger folks aren't taking it in, they've simply perfected their personal ROI on response length. Their expectations for you will be similarly high: be brief, but don't dumb it down.

DON'T: Send a Constant Stream of Texts

It may take a bit of benchmarking and statistic collecting, but most brands eventually find a sweet spot in terms of frequency of mass text messaging and response rate for Millennials. Much depends on the immediacy of the topic (a club contest that starts tomorrow vs. a sale that starts next week), but there must also be a clear purpose to the message. A steady drumbeat of irrelevant texts designed to keep a brand in the Millennial's mind will be ignored.

DO: Remind Millennials Via Text

With Millennials, mass text messaging works. Today's young adults are used to sending and receiving texts, and are used to text reminders and promotions. A study of 800 community college students by the University of Virginia and the University of Pittsburgh found that students who were sent text message reminders to reapply for student aid were more likely to reapply than those who were not sent text reminders. A survey by Millennial advocacy group Generation Opportunity found that 58% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote if they were sent a text reminder to do so. So if Millennials are your target demographic, mass text messaging could be the key to effectively engaging them as customers.

August 09, 2014

Scottish Healthcare Gets a Boost from SMS

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Glasgow's Western Infirmary

Healthcare providers across the world are using SMS to stay engaged with consumers. Blood banks in India are increasing donor numbers. Discharge times in U.S. hospitals are being reduced by up to an hour. And in Scotland – where healthcare is managed largely under the auspices of the public sector – investment in SMS systems is helping patients stay on top of appointments, and even encouraging them to quit smoking.

The latest development in the Scottish Government’s fledgling relationship with SMS technology has seen mobile marketing company Incentivated develop a ‘Find My Nearest’ service specifically aimed at helping women get to breast screening centers. A public advertising campaign is currently promoting the service. By texting their postcode along with the keyword SCREEN to 61611, Scottish women will receive a reply giving details of their nearest screening center, and ask that they call for a screening appointment if they have not had one in the last three years.

Headed by the Scottish Breast Screening Programme, the scheme divides the country into six regions. Postcodes sent into the service are cross-checked against the government’s database of mobile users. The reply message differs according to region, and is sent as soon as the person’s location has been determined.

Gail Lyall, Senior Marketing Manager for the government, says:

"Creating awareness of the importance of the role of breast screening is hugely important to ensure we keep increasing the numbers of women that detect breast cancer at the earliest stage. The audience we are targeting are hard to engage, so when we have their attention to act, it is imperative we make things as easy as possible for them. SMS allows us to provide a quicker customer journey from call to action to making that important appointment."

It’s no surprise that Holyrood has opted to use Incentivated. The tech firm has a well-established relationship with the government, and already provides a wide range of SMS services, including a program for the Scottish Children’s Panel that allows citizens to text in for information on taking part in public hearings designed to improve child safety in the home. The service was an enormous success, prompting 1700 SMS requests in the first week alone.

Scotland also provides a text service for people trying to give up smoking. Users text in the date they would like to quit, and a daily reply helps them count down to the big day, as well as sending tips on staying off the cigarettes for good.

August 03, 2014

Scented Text Message Startup Still Smells Victory After a Taste of Failure

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Vapor Communications, a company that transmits aromas via text message, has failed to meet its $150,000 crowdfunding goal on Indiegogo – but is promising to press on with the money it did raise. 

The technology was partly invented by Harvard University professor David Edwards. It has thus far raised close to 30% of its goal, with 176 backers pledging $47,000 to the project. Despite falling well short of their target, Vapor Communications will continue to work towards a viable commercial version of the technology. Plans are afoot to move their office from Paris to Cambridge later this year, and a company statement said:

“We expect that the evolution of the product over the coming months will increasingly attract the interest of consumers.”

Vapor Communications was founded last September as a way to bring Edwards’ oPhone hardware to market. The oPhone comes with small ‘scent cartridges’ that communicate with an app on the iPhone. Pre-sales were strong, with the $149 retail price seeming just right to enthusiastic food bloggers and others with an interest in sharing scents.

But critics suggest that this need to buy extra hardware is an impediment to success. In a world governed by cloud-based data and in-built apps, the less physical stuff you need to accumulate, the better. The vast majority of smartphone experiences require nothing more than a download, which makes apps like oPhone and oSnap a hard sell.

Nevertheless, the developers’ aims are laudable. It’s true that a huge part of our eating experiences are influenced by aroma, and that there is plenty of interest in communicating smells in the same way audiovisual content is shared. Whether that interest extends beyond those in the food industry to the consumers they serve remains to be seen. If and when then happens, the oPhone will be well placed to meet the demand. For now, lovers of madcap tech concepts can only hope Vapor Communications continues to grow in it’s new UK home. 

July 31, 2014

Text Messages Used to Curb Teen Drinking

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As student activities go, binge drinking and text messaging are two perennial favorites. Now, a group of researchers have figured out a way to use the latter to combat the former.

A recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine suggests data collected and support offered via text message can reduce future instances of binge-drinking in young adults.

Lead researcher Brian Suffoletto, M.D. and his team designed the trial and won funding from the Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF). The research – which is the first of its kind – aimed to see if SMS messaging  could collect data on college drinking habits, deliver feedback and ultimately change drinking behavior in young adults. The findings are due to be published in August in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

According to Dr. Suffoletto, more than 50,000 adults between 18 and 24 arrive at emergency rooms on a daily basis in the United States, all seeking treatment for alcohol related problems. The research team performed a randomized trial of an SMS program with 765 young adults who were discharged from four emergency departments in Pennsylvania.

Participants were divided into three groups. One group received a series of automated text messages each week, asking them about their drinking plans for the weekend. A follow-up report compares their actual consumption. If the group anticipated having more than five drinks during a 24 hour period, participants received a warning text and a request to lower alcohol consumption during the week. Those who agreed received positive reinforcement and strategies for cutting down; those who refused to lower their consumption received a text message asking them to reflect on their decision.

A second group received a text query about total alcohol intake, but did not receive any pre-weekend messages or post-weekend feedback. The third group was a control group, and did not receive any text messages.

At the three month stage, participants who were exposed to the text message encouragement had decreased their drinking by 1-2 occasions each month (from a baseline of 3-4). Nearly 15% of the intervention group reported complete abstinence.

Researchers speculate that frequent text messages raised self-awareness about alcohol use. This sort of ‘mobile intervention’ could, if implemented in emergency departments across the country, not only curb teen drinking, but alleviate the daily burden placed on hospitals because of alcohol poisoning and other alcohol-related admissions.

July 18, 2014

Taco Bell Text Message Lawsuit Dismissed

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A federal appellate court has ruled in favor of Taco Bell after a lawsuit accused the restaurant chain of violating commercial text message legislation.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a 2012 ruling that said Taco Bell was not responsible for SMS messages sent to consumers by a marketing agency in 2005.

The promotion at the center of the legal drama allegedly saw twelve franchisees in the Chicago area send text messages to local residents asking them to vote on two varieties of the Nacho Bell Grande item. Ad agency ESW outsourced the mobile strand of the campaign to a company called Ipsh (now the Marketing Arm).

A woman from Georgia sued Taco Bell in the wake of the campaign, claiming she had received two unsolicited text messages – a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which prohibits companies from using automated dialing systems to send cell phone communications without the recipients' consent. After the judge dismissed her case, the plaintiff decried the ruling as a “blueprint for retailers to evade liability for transmitting spam text messages en masse to the public.”

During the case, Taco Bell denied involvement in the text message campaign, which was put together by a group of local franchise owners and Ipsh, without the knowledge or consent of the parent company. According to court papers, Taco Bell successfully argued that it played “no role in the decision to distribute the message by way of a blast text or that it ever reviewed any proposed text message, or even knew about the outgoing text message component of the local promotion.”

The TCPA was recently updated to reflect the shift towards mobile. Historically, advertisers could depend on pre-existing business relationships (such as a prior purchase). Now, mobile marketing campaigns must obtain express written consent in order to contact consumers.

The court’s decision has probably made it harder for consumers to sue advertisers for campaigns that potentially violate the law. It could prove to be a landmark ruling. It’s certainly dealt a blow to opponents of aggressive marketing strategies. Whether or not it sets a precedent remains to be seen. 

July 08, 2014

New Mexico Joins the Growing Clampdown on Distracted Driving

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The rate at which states are banning texting while driving is one of the most dramatic displays of legislation shifting with popular public opinion in recent memory. Forty-four states have now added their name to the list of jurisdictions in which all drivers are banned from texting.

The drive to reduce road deaths has been remarkably free from distractions – and few could oppose such well-intentioned laws (those few being, so far, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma). The latest state to say ‘no’ to distracted driving is New Mexico, where a ban on all texting and driving took effect last Tuesday.

Under the legislation, drivers are prohibited from sending or reading texts and emails – even if they are at a stop light or stuck in traffic. New Mexico motorists are also banned from searching the web on smartphones or other mobile devices, but the law does allow them to pull over to the side of the road to send or receive SMS messages. Anyone in breach of the text messaging law faces a $25 fine for a first offence, and a $50 fine for subsequent violations.

According to the bill’s main champion, Santa Fe democrat Senator Peter Wirth, the law will “save lives and make roads safer.” "New Mexicans need to understand that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving," Wirth continued. "If you have to look at your phone, pull off the road."

Before the Legislature updated their distracted driving laws, New Mexico’s strictures on texting and driving extended only to teenage drivers with a provisional or learner’s license. Expanding that to encompass all drivers means New Mexico joins 43 other US states and a growing number of other North and Central American jurisdictions to have banned all texting and driving incidents.

Similar laws are being passed all over the world. The legal response to such deadly behavior has been swift, and reflects a wider societal intolerance of activity that puts irresponsible drivers and other road users at enormous risk.

There are some caveats. New Mexico will allow a text to be sent from behind the wheel in an emergency situation, provided the message is being sent to a medical team or emergency service unit. Nevertheless, this new legislation is a resounding victory for the majority of drivers who recognize that the only text message important enough to endanger lives is one that intends to save them.

June 27, 2014

World Cup: Yo App Sends Text Alerts When Goals Are Scored

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Every four years, the World Cup serves up a thrilling taste of the best footballing talent on the planet, but for developers, the month-long extravaganza is an opportunity to capitalize on soccer fever. And although there was no shortage of apps released during the 2010 tournament, smartphone ownership was leagues below where it’s at now. Mobile-powered football fandom has finally come of age.

The app everyone is talking about this time is “Yo”. It helps subscribers keep track of all the goals scored during the competition by sending text message alerts to users who add the user name “World Cup” to their account.

Unlike other sports news apps, no further information is sent. Yo doesn’t send the name of the scorer, or even which team they’re on. Users receive the titular two-letter greeting as a kind of ‘heads up’ to look out for coverage of the goals. It may sound rather limited, but it’s all part of Yo’s attempt to carve out a ‘contextualized messaging’ niche in a crowded text app marketplace.

Sure, it’s a little gimmicky – but gimmicks have their place, especially if they can claim to shave even a second or two off any of the manifold tasks we perform each day. With contextualized text messages, users can see at a glance that something they are interested in has undergone some sort of development and they should investigate further. There’s no need to even open the message. When it comes to brevity – one of the golden rules of text message marketing – ‘yo’ is as fiendishly efficient as it gets.

The app has already surpassed one million users, despite only being launched earlier this month. And while it’s riding the wave of the world’s most watched sporting event, Yo’s founders hope to carry on finding uses for contextualized SMS.

Company CEO Or Arbel believes major brands like Starbucks could use the ‘Yo’ alert to let customers know their orders are ready. So he’s certainly thinking big. Whether or not such a major brand will favor a start up’s product over their own well-established app remains to be seen, but with millions of “yo” text messages now zipping between smartphones, and an app market more exciting and unpredictable than the World Cup itself, you’d be a fool to dismiss the idea with a red card just yet…

June 23, 2014

Will the Cellphone Sweater Really Take Wearable Tech to the Next Level?

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“Smartphone” has passed well and truly into the lexicon, and some would have us believe that “smartclothes” are next. At least, that’s the message from a group of NYU students who have come up with a prototype for a hooded sweatshirt capable of sending preset text messages.

During a demonstration, the designers showed off the smart hoodie’s three triggers: touching the hood, touching the sleeve and rolling up the sleeve. Each action results in a different, pre-programmed SMS message being sent to a pre-determined recipient. 

If you’re still scratching your head wondering how many applications there could be for such limited capabilities, join the club. Many industry analysts have questioned how users will forsee the type messages they need to send at short notice – and so surreptitiously.

There are a number of other obvious limitations. Like how do you wash an item of clothing with built in electronics? And how sensitive is the technology? Is there a risk of accidentally sending a text message?

The designers say the main objective of the smart hoodie is to help people in emergency situations. With 911 texting now being adopted by law enforcers across the continent, you can imagine how a preset message might help someone in trouble. You find yourself embroiled in a bank robbery, or an outbreak of public violence, and the smart hoodie could alert authorities with the villains being none the wiser. But are there enough hyper-cautious folk out there who would actually pre-program such paranoid messages and then wear the same item of clothing every day, just in case? Without washing it in between?! Plus, 911 texting programs require users to text their location in order for the authorities to find them. How would this help if you’re out in a random public place?

Even worse, couldn’t texting police about an ongoing bank robbery make you look rather suspicious? How, they might ask as they shine a light in your face in some dingy interrogation room, did you know to preset the message? It sounds like more trouble than it’s worth?

We haven’t even mentioned airport security – that’s a whole other can of worms right there. Compared to that, the benefits of wearing a secret texting device pale. And there are a few minor advantages we can think of. Tapping your sleeve is, to date, still perfectly legal whilst driving; perhaps the system could help in the fight against distracted driving by giving motorists a way to let their family know they’re getting close to home. 

If you have a busy work day ahead of you before picking a friend up for dinner, the smart hoodie could be a convenient way of letting them know you’re going to be late, without interrupting that overrunning conference call.

These applications seem pretty trivial next to the pitfalls of owning such an item. It seems unlikely that the wearable text message device – at least in this prototype form – will catch on, but it’s an interesting new direction for SMS technology, and we await the next innovation with interest.

 

 

 

June 16, 2014

911 Texting Now Available to the Deaf

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Not only did Manitoba recently become the first Canadian province to provide it’s citizens with a 911 texting service, it has also made the platform available to the deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired.

The new wireless text messaging program is the first of its kind in Canada. Unveiled last week by Manitoba Telecom Services (MTS), the system requires hearing or speech impaired people to first register their wireless devices. 

Text-to-911 software has proven popular with law enforcement services all over North America. In May, the four major wireless carriers in the United States have been emergency SMS capabilities as an alternative to voice calls. It’s important to note, however, that the FCC says Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T only support text-to-911 in areas where dispatchers are already equipped to receive SMS.

For those areas, using the technology is very simple. Users simply type 911into the number field, and state their location and the nature of the emergency in the body of the text.

The National Emergency Number Association states that call centers equipped to receive emergency text messages can field SMS in a variety of ways. Centers without the latest SMS technology can simply upgrade their systems.

It’s hoped that more communities will adopt the technology over the coming year, and it could take several years before implementation is nationally adopted.

According to the FCC, anyone who sends a text to 911 via Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or AT&T in an area where the program is not yet supported will immediately receive a "bounce back" text informing them that their text could not be delivered. If you find yourself in this situation, you would then need to make a voice call to emergency services.

The advantages of text-to-911 are clear. In certain criminal situations, it’s not always possible – or advisable – to bring attention to yourself by talking on the telephone. Emergency text messages could save lives in such situations. Nevertheless, the FCC and law enforcers stress that when contacting 911, the first choice should always be to place a call, with SMS suggested only when a phone call is impossible or dangerous.