Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ARE MOBILE PAYMENT APPS DIVINE OR THE DEVIL? This week Bob asks: Is cash dead?

I like money. The smelly, dirty, green stuff that you put into your wallet every morning before leaving the house. Plastic also has a special place in my well used wallet.

But today, more and more people are making mobile payments (often called virtual wallets by in-the-know smartphone users). Mobile payment is an alternative to carrying cash for simple things such as a cup of coffee to more expensive items such as concert tickets. Instead of paying with cash, check or credit cards a consumer can use a smartphone to pay for a wide range of services and goods. According to recent studies, mobile payments are expected to reach more than $600 billion globally by 2013, which will double the current estimate of more than $300 billion. So, is cash dead?

According to a recent blog post on (mobile payments by smartphone still dicey), "Store scanners can read payment data on your smartphone, but the market is learning as it goes. So, early adopters need extra layers of safety when downloading mobile payment apps of stores."

But, there are success stories out there; otherwise this phenomenal growth would not be taking place. One great success story is Starbucks. Howard Schultz, president and CEO of Starbucks, claims that his company is "...the number one company not in the U.S. but in the world in terms of mobile payment, transactions and dollars.” In December 2011, Starbucks revealed that it has had 26 million mobile transactions since the launch of its mobile payment program in January 2011. Starbucks reported total net revenues increased in the last quarter of 2011 by 16% to a record $3.4 billion.

There are three good reasons for Starbucks success, according to a senior analyst with Forrester Research:
1.  Coffee is a frequently purchased item and customers are typically looking to get in and out of a store quickly.
2.  Starbucks owns the point-of-sale terminals in its locations, making the transaction a closed loop. This also enables Starbucks to easily make changes.
3.  Starbucks has a close relationship with many consumers who are members of its loyalty program.

Other transactions within the same model as Starbucks, such as mass transit, entertainment venues and national grocery chains will see similar success. And while wariness on the part of businesses and consumers alike will likely fade away, it's still good to be cautious in exploring mobile payments.

Marketing in this new virtual era has its virtues and its vices. My advice to businesses entering into mobile payment is to test, test, test, before going public. Make sure the mobile payment app you provide for customers is safe, secure and well-encrypted.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

FOURSQUARE: A MOBILE APP THAT PROFITS BUSINESSES AND CUSTOMERS. This week Bob turns his blog over to the Shamrock Foursquare Maven, Kasey Crabtree

For those of you who may have heard about foursquare, but don't know what it is, let me tell you simply that foursquare is great.  Foursquare started slowly in 2009. By February 21, 2011 there were 7 million foursquare users and by the end of 2011 that number reached 15 million worldwide users. (Geek Note: On August 8, 2011 President Barack Obama joined foursquare, with the intention that the staff at the White House would use the service to post tips from places the President has visited.)

Here's a quick overview: foursquare is a location-based social networking app, mainly used by people who have a smartphone. Participating customers "check-in" at local venues (often restaurants, coffee shops, concerts, even stores) using a foursquare app to select from a list of nearby locations. Each check-in awards the participant points and sometimes badges. Badges are fun to acquire and reflect the type of venues patrons frequently visit. For example, there is the barista badge, acquired after a patron has visited several different coffee shops. Participants can also add tips and recommendations related to the businesses they visit.

Foursquare is a great marketing device and it's also fun for the participating customer. Actually, foursquare has come to be regarded as cool: a quick way to find the places where the hip hang out.
(By the way, I'd suggest if you have a business and you want to use foursquare, have a foursquare manager responsible to start your page and make sure it's working well.)  

The technique is simple. The participating customer, generally someone with a smartphone, downloads a foursquare app and finds your business based upon a GPS locator. If you offer a good promotion, you're in! For example, you're a local restaurant. You set up a special foursquare deal so that every third check-in gives the participating customer a free appetizer. People who participate most with your business can become a 'mayor' at your establishment. If the business wishes to do so, a 'mayor' may be offered benefits that are somewhat like a loyalty program.

Another bonus for business owners other than generating additional income – when someone checks into your establishment on foursquare – he or she is providing you with free advertising, and perhaps generating more business for you when he or she invites friends to come and join the fun at your venue! Participants may even send their foursquare location to Facebook or Twitter to further spread the word.

Foursquare has generated a lot of street credibility since Amex hooked up with it for a second holiday season in 2011 (foursquare+Amex). Thanks to foursquare + Amex’s “Spend $25, get $25 Small Business Saturday in 2011”, Thanksgiving shoppers around the country bought gifts, had restaurant meals and supported local businesses without putting a dent in their wallets. Despite some glitches, the promotion generated more than 2.75M “Likes” on Amex's Facebook Fan Page.

For us at Shamrock, developing a foursquare plan is simple. If you would like to try foursquare, but you're not sure, give us a call at Shamrock. We can help you develop a sound marketing strategy around foursquare – One designed to generate new business for you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

BUSINESSES WITH A MOBILE WEBSITE PLAN TO EAT YOUR LUNCH. This week Bob makes a rock solid case for building a mobile business site.

Last week I read that more than 40% people in the U.S. access the web via a mobile device. Not their desktop. Not even their laptop! I was kind of surprised when I read this statistic. It made me realize how important it is for businesses to have a mobile website — which is a bit different from a computer-based website. Today, consumers don’t have to carry their laptops to find the latest news, driving directions or brand information anymore. They can access anything from a smart phone.

I also read that mobile search engine result pages are different than the normal desktop results. Seems we need a mobile website to capture these results to help our business. Have a look below for a couple of tips to think about:

Five Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Mobile Website
1. Mobile Crosses All Boundaries
It's universal but it's also local. Mobile is the current hotspot for getting your business noticed. More than ever before, people are using their smart phones or tablets to access information on the web. Capitalizing on this growing market is important for future success.

2. Mobile Search is Surging
It's one of the fastest growing online resources. The world's biggest search engines are heavily invested in mobile, because that's where the action is. The best way for your business to be found is to be listed in top search engines and have a fully optimized site that is user friendly. Besides adapting to the smaller screen of a mobile phone, mobile sites are also easier to navigate using a touch or keypad and provide direct access to the information that a customer is more likely to need while on the go.

3. Mobile is Of-the-Moment
Besides searching for vacation spots, restaurants and sporting events, social networking is contributing to the sudden expansion of mobile. Social sites like Facebook and Twitter make mobile devices fun and functional, and review sites like Yelp add an immediacy to smart phone usage. Businesses that capitalize on these resources with a mobile optimized site have a leg up on the competition.

4. Mobile is Shopping
Mobile devices have changed the way consumers shop. Besides getting real-time price comparisons from multiple online retailers, mobile can provide consumers access to special deals through coupon sites like Groupon or Living Social. They also drive foot traffic through special, time-sensitive deals. With a mobile-ready website, your business can leverage this growing, quickly expanding shopping channel.

5. Mobile is Local
If your business thrives on local foot traffic, a mobile website can help engage residents with search maps and directories that make it easy for them to find you. Google Maps and other local directories can quickly bring up your location, contact and address. All these tools are enhanced with a mobile website that turns traffic into customers.  

Obviously, I've just scratched the surface to get you thinking about a mobile website. While it's not brain surgery, a mobile website does require some expertise to help you get the biggest bang for your buck. If you'd like more information, give us a call and we'll help you work your way through setting up a useful mobile website that meets your specific needs.

Friday, March 9, 2012

QR or Not to QR? This week Bob taps into the Shamrock Mobile Guru's Knowledge to help explain QR Campaigns.

Should you QR? Heck, yes! QR, or Quick Response Code, started as a shipping and tracking device and has now taken the mobile marketing world by storm. I asked Shamrock's in-house mobile Guru, and here's why:

What's a QR Code?
Worldwide, in 2011 QR code usage increased 20%, making it a pretty big deal. Used cleverly by many large companies for entertainment and product/loyalty marketing, many of these applications target mobile phone users — primarily smart phone users. Just to give you an idea of how QR codes may explode — smart phone growth was almost 50% in 2011, which increases the capabilities to use QR codes dramatically!

How Does it Work?
First, the mobile user finds a QR code application in order to scan a QR code onto a smart phone, which the user then takes a specific action as a result of. Or users can generate and print their own QR codes for others to scan and make use of by visiting one of several pay or free QR code-generating sites or applications.

QR codes can be found in magazines, on signs, on buses, on business cards, or on almost any object which users might want more information. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the mobile phone's browser. This gives them the opportunity to learn more about a product, receive a QR code Only discount, enter a contest, or do many other marketing-oriented tasks.

What Are Some Cool QR Code Promotions?
They can be as simple as a local restaurant offering its chef-endorsed recipe of the week or something Shamrock recently did for a client. We included a QR code in the client's literature so that customers could dig down, right on their smart phone, for How To instructions on product installations.

One of the best usages of QR code I recall includes a 2011 holiday promo from JC Penney. This holiday season, the clothing retailer gave consumers the option of sending personalized holiday greetings to loved ones. Once an item was purchased, users were able to scan the QR code, record up to 60 seconds of voice, and then attach the QR code to the gift, making the gift that much more special.

The JC Penney usage of a QR code is a good example because it contains all the elements of a good campaign: it was fun; it was timely; it was interactive; it was creative — and it helped move the needle on JC Penney's overall strategy of positioning itself as a forward-thinking, contemporary retailer. If you'd like to see other examples of good QR code marketing, check us out on Facebook. This week we're talking about the best ways to use QR codes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

KIS MY SMS - This week Bob offers a few notable ideas for text message marketing as part of a mobile solution

Anyone who's worked in sales or marketing has heard about the KIS theory (Keep It Simple). And if you've been around a mobile phone lately you're familiar with SMS (Short Message Service), which, in non-marketing language, is texting. Combine KIS and SMS and you have a good strategy to pop into your marketing toolbox. I would suggest you do a little research first, and think about how text messaging fits into the larger picture of your overall marketing strategy. This way you can be sure your SMS promotion is a real success instead of a flat afterthought. (Of course, we'd be happy to chat with you, since Shamrock has developed a comprehensive mobile solution  that can be customized to your needs.) Here are a few text marketing tips to think about:

Real Men Opt-In -
In all age groups from 17 to 55+, men outnumber women when it comes to opting into an SMS promotion. Probably because it's delivered right to our phone, and all we have to do is say "OK" (opt-in) to receive future promotions. The only age group where it's a close race between the sexes is in the age category 25-34 (here, both men and women opt-in at an average of 57 to 58%). But if you want an SMS campaign targeted to women, do your homework, and chances are good they'll respond too.

Make It Worth My Time -
Make the message short and the promo easy to get (KIS!), so the person receiving the message wants to opt-in. Oh, don't forget that people pay for texts so your text should offer immediate gratification and good value. And don't over-message! Too much of a good thing will easily turn off your audience.

Use KIS for SMS -
Keep it quick and simple. One of the most successful text messaging campaigns I've heard about involves a pizza shop. The owner asks customers to opt-in to his text message with a great discount coupon. When business is slow he sends a message to his existing opt-in customers, offering a 2-for-1 deal during lunch. He reports an increase in profits by 20% and he's cut advertising by 50%. Not bad!

Spread the Message -
Like any good marketing strategy, it's important to reach people through all media. Let your audience know that there's a really special SMS promotion going on through e-mail, social media, traditional advertising and whatever else you generally use to get the word out.

Marketing, even a new opportunity like SMS, is not brain surgery. But, to be successful, it should be well planned and well executed. And asking for professional help may help you get started. If you're interested, give us a call.