There’s no doubt about it. iBeacon is the buzzword of the year. But don’t take my word for it. All you have to do is look at the buzz – no pun intended – surrounding this year’s SXSW event.  

At SXSW, iBeacon had one of its bigger rollouts to date: iOS users who downloaded the official SXSW app could access iBeacon-enabled features in select sessions, as well as when picking up their badges. For example, according to Mashable writer Christina Warren, “When the user is in the vicinity of the SXSW registration area, the user will get a notification containing their Registration QuickCode.”

This means that the SWSW organizers placed a small homing device that accesses a smartphone’s location via a proximity-based Bluetooth connection near the show’s entrance. As conference participants approached the beacon, their phone received a message containing a code that allowed them to more efficiently enter.

Something we talk about a lot here at Waterfall is making mobile communications more personalized – and iBeacon offers another potential way for marketers to accomplish this goal. To date, many show organizers and retailers like American Eagle Outfitters, Macy’s, Target and more have decided to launch iBeacon trials.

In my opinion, there are three keys to beacon technology’s success:

  1. Foster a closer relationship with customers to maintain interest and build brand loyalty. With its location-triggered features, iBeacon allows brands to send more personalized messages, specifically content based on customers’ shopping habits and preferences. This provides customers with the proverbial “warm and fuzzy“ that a brand really cares, making them more inclined to visit stores and refer friends.
  2. Demonstrable evidence of increasing sales. As we all know, the name of the game for any new technology (especially in retail) is sales. Beacons need to prove with verifiable metrics that they can significantly impact a company’s bottom line.
  3. Stay one step ahead of the mobile curve. Brands may hesitate to jump on iBeacon until they see positive results from early tests, but marketers need to have a handle on mobile now. Sure, beacons must prove that they can provide value today and tomorrow as part of a mobile marketer’s toolset, but brands should be aware of this new technology and how an implementation would work yesterday.

If you’re struggling to develop an iBeacon strategy, my advice is to focus on the data the technology provides. At the simplest level, there are two general types:

  1. Store-level. Would your brand benefit from understanding which aisle customers spent the most time? How shuffling around inventory affects the amount of time customers spent in store overall? These types of store-level data sets are available to marketers through the use of beacons and other location-based technology.
  2. Customer-level. Beyond general store data, beacons also allow you to hone in on individual customers. Examples include the frequency customers visit stores, how often they visit and make purchases or the amount of time they spend in certain aisles.

Developing a customer-level iBeacon strategy will take more time, but has the potential to offer more upside. Don’t count out store-level insights, however, as this data can be a good beachhead from which to build a more robust strategy.

For what it’s worth, I think iBeacon will live up to the hype. We’ll see though. Stay tuned to Mobile Demystified for more updates on how beacon technology is evolving this year. I’m going to a bunch of different shows this year and will make sure to provide our readers with the most up to date info.

Leading publication MediaPost, host of the Mobile Insider Summit, recently published our article analyzing how Passbook will evolve in 2014. “The Evolution of Passbook – 9 Things To Expect From Passbook This Year” presents various Passbook predictions in order of the likelihood that they will happen. Take a look and learn what to expect from Passbook as a marketing professional in the next three quarters. 

Also, in case you missed it, we recently published articles to Wired, on how to use geo-fencing effectively, and Direct Marketing News, on the best ways to introduce personalization into a mobile marketing strategy.

More to come soon. Stay tuned.

 

Get out your school colors. Your brackets. Next week is one of our favorite times of year: March Madness

One of the biggest pieces of news this year is the involvement of The Oracle himself: Warren Buffet. In case you haven’t heard, Mr. Buffet has offered $1 Billion to any college basketball fan (or not so fanatic) that can fill out a perfect bracket.

Now, of course, the odds of picking a perfect bracket are downright insane. That’s what makes picking March Madness brackets so fun. No single pick has a 100% chance of being right and, carrying that out across the whole tournament, the calculated odds of picking a perfect bracket are ~4.2 billion to 1.

That said, Mr. Buffet has to put some controls in place to make sure his $1 Billion only goes to someone who authentically nails every single game. Here at MobileDemystified, one of these risk mitigators in particular caught our eye: preventing duplicate entries.

Crucial right? Someone with intermediate Excel skills could knock out a program that could simulate every single possible permutation of the bracket and submit all these to win Buffet’s contest. It’s free to enter, so why not? Even if each entry cost you a dollar, it would still be worthwhile. We’re talking a billion dollars here.

So, how did Warren Buffet and Dan Gilbert (Buffet’s partner in this endeavor), do it? How are two of the smartest business people in the world (and in Buffet’s case maybe ever) ensuring only unique, authentic entrants to their billion dollar offer?

Mobile Number. 

To put it in the words of Mr. Gilbert, “You have to give a cellphone number. I can’t imagine someone is going to have a thousand cellphones.”

That’s right. Not email address. Not address. Not name. Mobile number remains the best way for billionaires to remain (albeit one less) billionaires.

Brands, marketers and customer-focused companies should take note. Having access to a customer’s mobile number is the single best way to personalize communication and content. No matter the channel used for customer communication, customers will remain people who look to continue living, eating – breathing – within three feet of the  same device every day.

So, go fill out those brackets and have fun rooting for <InsertYourFavoriteTeamSLASHTheOneWhoWinsYouABillionDollars>!!

It’s with great pleasure that I’d like to announce Waterfall’s newly updated API Documentation. The site includes a wealth of background information and examples to help get you started using mobile messaging quickly and painlessly.  

Beyond the introductory sections, we also provide detailed information about each and every API available to Waterfall clients. We restructured the updated version to be more readable and consumable from a developer’s perspective. As developers ourselves, we know all too well the frustration that stems from poor or incomplete documentation.

So, go ahead – dive in, explore, discover something you didn’t realize our platform could do (and – if I do say so myself – do well). Make sure to take a gander at our v2 APIs (officially in beta but still rock solid and growing rapidly) and peruse the different channel APIs our flagship application, The Waterfall Platform, uses to create cross-channel broadcasts and provide an interleaved stream of consciousness from your subscriber base.

There’s more to come too. Our v2 APIs will soon shake off those beta training wheels, and we’ll also be adding the ability to try out any API right from the documentation.

If there is anything else you’d like to see or have a question about, please post a comment below, visit us on GitHub or reach out directly.

In the recent Mobile Marketer article titled, “How Burger King throws away money with mass-market SMS approach,” writer Lauren Johnson discusses how a big brand like Burger King is essentially leaving money on the table by not being direct enough in its mobile marketing efforts. We couldn’t agree more. As you may remember from our 2014 predictions post at the end of 2013, we noted that personalization would be key to the success of mobile campaigns in 2014. And it seems Ms. Johnson agrees.

At Waterfall, we know based on our experience working with a variety of food brands – including YUM! Brands (Pizza Hut), Qdoba Franchises, and more – that to earn maximum ROI, companies have to communicate with their subscribers exactly how they want. Meaning, in a personalized manner that feels less like marketing and more like a direct, intimate conversation.

So how can Burger King do a better job with its SMS campaigns? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Drive opt-ins. Be bold and encourage customers to sign in on the mobile Web. For opted in customers, provide custom features like targeted product recommendations. If consumers see demonstrable value in subscription programs, they not only will continue receiving a brand’s mobile messages, they will also share the benefits with others.
  2. Go Cross-channel whenever possible. Johnson used both Carl’s Jr. and White Castle as examples of food chains that are doing SMS right, but she notes it’s not just SMS that they’re being smart about: “Additionally, both Carl’s Jr. and White Castle’s campaigns are part of more integrated campaigns that the chains are using to build up loyalty and drive repeat traffic.” This is exactly why we launched our new platform in January. We understand that marketing is not done in a vacuum, and that our clients need a solution that enables all the marketing pieces to work together to accomplish a bigger goal.
  3. Location. Location. Location. Mobile devices go everywhere, so take advantage of how that information can create personalized experiences.
  4. Mobile = Data. Savvy marketers understand that mobile produces much more value as a data channel. If Burger King really wants to get the most out of its SMS campaigns, things like customer response time or reviews on service can be key factors in driving the direction of the company’s additional marketing efforts moving forward.

The good news is, marketing is all about learning what works, what doesn’t, and making the necessary adjustments on the fly. By implementing some of these simple suggestions, Burger King will be back in the game in no time.

Recently, we dug into stats showing marketers’ approach for 2014, including budget management and challenges surrounding data integration. Given the degree to which point of view can change a story, let’s dissect an alternative examination of 2014 marketers called the “State of Marketing 2014.” 

2014’s Top Marketing Priorities

According to the report, the top priorities for marketers in 2014 are driving increased conversion rates (47% of respondents), improving brand awareness (46%) and harnessing customer data (29%).

What jumps out at me here is the somewhat misleading nature of “priorities.”  Marketers can only have priorities if they have the requisite capabilities to make forward progress. Given the difficult nature of integrating data, I bet that harnessing data misleadingly occupies a comparatively low place on the priority list. All marketers would place a high priority on data usage if they felt like they could take actionable next steps toward using data better. After all, I’d argue that data usage directly affects both brand awareness and conversion rates.

Budget Growth

Similar to the previous report, marketing budgets are the targets of significant investment. 98% of marketers plan to increase spending, with the highest allocation growth toward Data (61%), Marketing Automation (60%) and Email Marketing (58%).

Perhaps your eyes perked reading “email marketing” in 2014. Shouldn’t email’s low open rates and zero two-way capability open the door for other channels? The answer, surprise, again comes down to data. As we saw last year, enterprise companies made massive investment in email marketing platforms. Email provides an opportune way for companies to develop customer database marketing capabilities, due to email marketing’s – speaking about the product specifically here – relatively long life span.

Productizing a marketing channel starts with a focus on communication. As more and more competitors enter the market, data, segmentation and targeting become product differentiators, as highly efficient and accurate communication become product commodities (i.e. standards offered by everyone). Email marketing’s product maturity has resulted in a channel well suited to capturing customer database insights and offering data tools. That’s why it’s important in 2014. Going forward, the same product evolution will happen (and, well, is happening) with SMS, push messaging and whatever messaging channel comes after that. With the email land grab over, big companies will start scooping up mobile messaging providers (anybody got $19B to spend?).

Lifecycle Marketing Challenges

For those that need a refresher, “lifecycle marketing” describes triggering automated messaging in response to various consumer actions. Examples include Welcome Programs, Cart Abandonment and Price-Drop Alerts.

According to the report, 65% of marketers identify subscriber engagement as their primary lifecycle challenge. Particularities for the various channels include: 49% send more than 500K annual messages (email), 42% use responsive design (email), 57% have a dedicated team (social), 80% believe in the channel’s potential for ROI (mobile and social) and 30% use location-based functionality (mobile).

I of course have mentioned this before, but I believe that personalization is the key to subscriber engagement. Marketers need to implement some basic personalization tactics to launch their lifecycle marketing strategies toward success.

Current Channel Investment

As far as specific channels, the largest majority of marketers currently implement Email Marketing (88% of respondents), SEM/SEO (73%), Data (81%) and Landing Pages (75%). On the other end of the spectrum, only a minority of marketers implement SMS (26%), Guided Selling (27%), Push Notifications (18%) and Personalized Web (29%).

Perhaps more interesting, the top targeted channels for 2014, i.e. those that will begin to receive investment according to the survey, include SMS (25%), Lead Scoring (30%), Marketing Automation (33%), Push notifications (29%) and Personalized Web (29%).

To me, it’s clear that the emerging digital channels are still, well, “emerging.” Even though channels like apps constantly make headlines, Push Notifications still require significant attention. I think that living in tech hubs you get the sense that the world is done with traditional marketing channels. However, clearly marketers still have a ways to go adopting those digital engagement avenues that appear to be requisite footholds for a future competitive advantage.

Top Success Metrics

According to the study, the top success metrics are Conversion Rate (67%), Engagement Rate (64%) and Return on Investment (61%). Rounding out the rest of the list, with half the penetration, are Lifetime Customer Value (35%), Audience List Growth (30%) and Social Activity (28%).

It’s exciting for me to see the list ordered in this way. Marketers have come a long way understanding what makes a successful campaign. Vendors too deserve some credit here, as they now provide more and more tools to accurately calculate these metrics.

Budget Increases

As we’ve stated, budget increases are now the norm for marketers. The majority of marketers (> 50%) are increasing spend for Email, SMS, SEM, Social Media, Marketing Automation, Display and Social. Less than 5% of marketers are decreasing spend on any particular channel.

In a way, these vast increases in spending show the importance of systems integration for enterprise marketers. No single channel works in a vaccum, rather it’s the synthesis of multiple channels working in tandem that marketers feel holds the key to success. Vendors building solutions that easily connect to others will have a leg up on their competition.

Overall Marketing Challenges

In order, marketers have the most trouble with Increasing Subscriber Engagement and Revenue (65%), Acquiring New Subscribers (58%), Developing Relationships (45%) and Getting Non-Active Subscribers’ Attention (42%).

Interesting to see the absence of one of the biggest challenges from the previous study: data. To me the answer to all of the above is data integration, so those marketers who focus on data will be best positioned to address their top challenges.

Overall Recommendations

The report outlined the importance of focusing on customer engagement, developing a clear data strategy and considering the various channel options.

I think these recommendations are solid. Personalized engagement is how marketers can remain effective now and in the future. “Personalized” meaning the use of data to target messaging and “Engagement” meaning compelling content that incites action from the customer. Taken together, sending a compelling message, at the opportune time, in the correct format, to a precise location.

Have you seen any other stats that seem interesting? Post them to the comments and let’s continue the conversation.

To put it simply, Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp this week is clear validation of the effectiveness and power of mobile messaging. Mark Zuckerberg, so determined to acquire his lost target audience of 18-25 year olds who use mobile text messaging as a sole means of communication, shelled out $19 billion to get them back.

Now, many may debate the outrageous valuation of WhatsApp and the payout to Sequoia Capital, but let’s unpack the real story and its impact on enterprise marketers. The acquisition, the fifth-biggest technology deal of all time, comes down to, again, mobile messaging. 70% of WhatsApp users are active on a daily basis, a similar usage profile as SMS users. WhatsApp, due to powering mass group messaging, is currently approaching an equivalent volume to the entire global mobile messaging ecosystem. Consumers, customers, people – they all love, live and breathe mobile messaging. Sure they like to be on Facebook to check out pictures (hello Instagram) and news updates, but mobile at its core is a messaging device. Facebook either knows or realized this, and that’s what spurred them to execute the deal.

So, if you as an enterprise marketer have not yet bought into the idea that mobile messaging is an important medium, hopefully you are on board now. Mobile, the future of consumer technology by any account, at its very core enables messaging – for consumers and thus the businesses from which they purchase. Though business-consumer communication may lag consumer-consumer communication, marketers who don’t have a grasp on mobile messaging now will be too far behind to recover in the future. And that folks, is the reality of Facebook’s move. No way Facebook was going to pass up the opportunity to integrate WhatsApp’s foothold in mobile messaging under its own umbrella (or, heaven forbid, let a company like Google do the same).

This acquisition also shows the unimportance of channels when thinking about mobile messaging. Sure WhatsApp has a ton of subscribers and provides functionality for picture messaging, but that $19B valuation came down to a company focused on SMS and OTT messaging – neither of which will be around forever. However, the individual subscribers and related database insights can apply to whatever channel comes along next. Marketers should think the same way. By doing SMS now, they will be well positioned for the future. Without this experience? No chance at understanding the customer segmentation data required to effectively personally engage modern customers.

If you’ve been following Mobile Demystified for a while, you’ll know that this line of thinking is nothing new. We’ve been proliferating this thesis for years (always nice to see some external validation though). Marketers will continue to face the challenge of creating the right mix of cross-channel marketing campaigns, but mobile messaging at its core continues to prove its effectiveness for creating return on marketing investment now, and in the future. Mark Zuckerberg is certainly on board; he has put his company on the line to prove messaging’s value as mobile’s most personal and ubiquitous form of communication. What about you?

Came across another awesome campaign from leading enterprise mobile marketer PETA recently. PETA continues to demonstrate effective mobile marketing with its innovative and personalized approach to customer engagement

With the new year, PETA wanted to mobilize those people looking to deliver on a New Year’s resolution of healthier eating. The call to action was simple: by texting VEGGIE to 73822 (or 99099 in Canada), people could try being vegan for 14 days. Each day for two weeks, subscribers to the campaign would receive an entire slate of delicious vegan recipes.

There are several reasons (we’ve outlined before) why this call to action demonstrates effective mobile marketing. For one, the incentive is clear. Second, participation is easy. Third, PETA communicates compliance information effectively. Finally, it’s an ideal type of campaign for a mobile audience, as people can reference their recipes at any time from anywhere. Plus, the campaign aligns perfectly with PETA’s mission. There are your four ingredients and secret sauce.

Best of all, with respect to mobile marketing best practices, PETA seamlessly drove referral participants within the flow of the campaign. Knowing that “going vegan” is a group activity, given the social nature of meals, PETA invited participants to refer friends to the program. Within the first weeks of the campaign, referral opt-in rate eclipsed 25% – a huge success rate demonstrative of the compelling messaging used by PETA’s team.

So, go ahead, try out the campaign for yourself. Any questions, please let us know by posting to the comments.

You can also see the example call to action below.

73822 Campaign Spotlight - PETA’s Mobile Menu Demonstrates How To Drive Referrals

Like any industry, analysts and pundits that focus on mobile marketing often talk about the future – the sexy apps and technologies that they deem critical for innovation. But for marketers, often times the challenges and associated solutions aren’t that sexy. Take Passbook for example. Last year, many predicted that Passbook would arrive in full force. With 2014 here and Passbook not yet ubiquitous, it looks like last year’s push was premature and the app didn’t move beyond a novelty and/or offer enough value for marketers.

This conversation rings especially true in the retail industry, where consumer adoption of mobile is growing at an exponential rate. Even so, retailers are still challenged with the simple goal of using a cross-a channel strategy to acquire and nurture a subscriber database, not launching Google Wallet or Apple Passbook.

I came across a survey of major retail brands conducted at the recent DigiDay’s Retail Summit, and the results confirmed this as well. Very few of those surveyed mentioned using iBeacon or Geo-fencing. Rather, they’re more focused on how to use mobile to connect with consumers, track conversions between channels, and drive consumers into stores.

Sure, there will always be customers and marketers who are attracted to the novelty of the new apps, but the majority have a more pragmatic approach. Take Waterfall’s customer Stuart Weitzman as an example.  They are using Instagram to post image shots, customers can then text the style name and receive back a direct link to that product’s purchasing page. The international retailer’s simple yet effective approach to connecting social and mobile marketing has turned loyal fans into brand enthusiasts.

Check out a few of the responses from the DigiDay survey below to get sense of what marketers really want in a mobile marketing strategy. Do you agree? Are you going for the bright shiny object, or are you focusing on the more pragmatic approach?

Diana Klochkova, global social media lead, Levi’s
Everyone works in silos at Levi’s. We have a hard time integrating efforts across the board. Mobile creates a really big need to be in sync, because mobile isn’t its separate category; it needs to be at the heart of everything we do.

Tim Buckley, digital marketing manager, American Express
We’re finding different ways that we can give offers to our various retail partners through different social platforms like Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter.

Lisa Archambault, display and social marketing manager, Zappos
Without having showrooms, our problem is knowing whether the person who we just communicated with on desktop is the same person we’re talking to on mobile.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending MediaPost’s bi-annual Mobile Insider Summit conference. Once again, MediaPost delivered three days packed with great speakers, insightful panels, interactive roundtables, and a healthy dose of networking and fun.

In my mind, this year’s Mobile Insider Summit had three key themes:

  1. Omni-channel. For those who aren’t yet familiar, the term omni-channel (sometimes referred to as “omni-channel retailing”) describes “concentrating on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on.” Retailers are implementing new methods and software to meet omni-channel demands, as customer expectations for brands to be “everywhere and anywhere” at all times continue to rise. At the Mobile Insider Summit, one of the ongoing discussions I had and heard throughout all three days was which outlet mattered most. My answer: the only screen that matters is the one your customer is using at that very moment.
  2. Breaking down the walls. Adding mobile to the omni-channel discussion has been interesting. Previously siloed, mobile has now forced many organizations to break down the “walls” between the departments. When I say “walls,” I’m referring to the technology hurdles, communication challenges, competing priorities, etc. So far, it seems like it is actually the mobile folks within the organizations who are leading the charge on these omni-channel discussions, forcing other marketers to have more discussions about how to implement omni-channel solutions – how they should work, what makes sense from a business standpoint, etc.
  3. Beacons. A buzzword that first came to light at the end of 2013, this indoor positioning system, as it’s currently known, is a concept that is gaining momentum as marketers are trying to learn more about it, and how they can best leverage it for their brands in the future. Apple has their iBeacons, a proprietary version of the concept, while other hardware manufacturers like Qualcomm have also entered the fray. In addition, Macy’s and American Eagle Outfitters have announced their pilots already, so I expect many more to come. The key challenge for marketers will be ensuring a compelling customer experience.

As this year’s conference circuit continues, I expect I’ll be seeing a lot of new trends (like omni-channel), as well as others that were heavily talked about in 2013 that have just now finally started moving towards being market-ready in 2014 (such as Beacons). I’m looking forward to seeing how this all plays out.

To get real-time updates from future shows, follow me on Twitter @matthewsilk.

You can also post a question to the comments here and I’ll get right back to you.