month 11
day 29
year 2016

Putting your customers on the right path

While they have improved our ability to multi-task, smartphones and their capabilities have left us with a much shorter attention span –  even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer.

Research conducted by Microsoft earlier this year, highlighted the effect of digitalised lifestyles on the brain claiming that the average person’s concentration was lost after just eight seconds.

How can your business benefit from this?

79% of respondents stated that they regularly dual screen, using a portable device while watching television, so reaching customers on-the-go is key. But with a plethora of features and options available on a smartphone, committing to a purchase or filling out forms are always going to be easily distracted by something else.

Smartphone users love their phones, more than two billion people use theirs for more than two hours a day (Call Centre Helper) which is why being mobile friendly is no longer enough. Most businesses offer mobile users a responsive experience when really these are just scaled down versions of their desktop site. At what point are you considering user experience?

If there’s one thing the mobile was made for, it was for getting things done on-the-go. By removing distractions and providing a simple route you can guide your customers along a simple, successful journey from A to B.

Opt for efficient and accessible paths which reduce obstacles often present with a scaled down version of your desktop site.

Introducing Mobile Journeys…

Encourage customer engagement, increase mobile form completion, securely process mobile payments and create rich media marketing campaigns that achieve your business goals.

Take a look at what mobile-first means to Esendex.

Take a demo here.

month 11
day 22
year 2016

Hands-on coding experience for NUAST students

The Esendex office welcomed back students of Nottingham University Academy of Science and Technology (NUAST) as they spent an afternoon getting hands-on experience with our developer team.

In order to inspire and support the next generation of developers and programmers, we believe it’s important to demonstrate what to expect in the working world of development. One of our lead developers, Robin Cox took the reins this year and coordinated the day based on last year’s feedback.nuast-taster-day

After a short presentation from Robin, the students were paired up with a member of our team and got stuck into exploring our API code and sending SMS to their mobiles.

Although the pupils are currently using Python in the classroom, on this taster day they were able to see how other programming languages such as C# are implemented.

For some of the students, it was the first time they had stepped into a work environment. Abdullah, who was inspired to study Computer Science as he has a tech-orientated family, was pleasantly surprised by the office atmosphere.

“I expected people to have their own cubicle but it’s really open plan so you can chat and discuss work with each other”

NUAST student, Kate, said that she really enjoyed her time working with developer Tommy Ly on sending and receiving text messages using C# and Javascript.

“I feel like it’s going to help with coding in the future… being able to sit down and talk to someone who really knows what they’re doing and picking stuff up as you go”

NUAST feedbackIt was fantastic to see a mix of young faces, taking a keen interest in studying Computer Science and were enthusiastic about working in the industry. Following a lively question and answers session, the day was brought to an end with a guided tour of the Nottingham office.

The feedback from the students and their teacher Dan Wood was overwhelming. We look forward to seeing them at future Nottingham tech community events.

month 11
day 9
year 2016

How can Facebook Messenger work for your business?

Facebook Messenger Multichannel

Ever since it was announced that Facebook intended to open up their Messenger platform to businesses, many companies have been wondering how they can best capitalise on it, and what the benefits are for them.

Facebook Messenger is used by over 1 billion people worldwide, so the potential for companies to engage with their audience is huge. But how does Messenger help companies connect with this massive audience?

The short answer is that there are a variety of ways, including bots and subscription messaging, but for us, the most exciting opportunity is to integrate Messenger as part of a multichannel communication solution.

Here’s the sort of thing that can be implemented with the current level of functionality:

Add value to your existing communication channels

Our most requested solution allows businesses to contact their customers via SMS and ask them if they would like to opt in to use Facebook Messenger as their primary communication channel with the business.

If it’s a no from the customer, then they will continue to receive their communications via SMS. If it’s a yes, then their correspondence will be sent via Messenger, with an SMS sent in case of the customer not being logged in, not having read the message or not having internet signal.

This can be used to send confirmation messages of all types ranging from appointment reminders to package delivery information.

This resolves a key challenge with Messenger – determining the response to the following factors:

  • Does my audience use Messenger?
  • Are they logged in to their accounts?
  • Do they have an internet connection?

The beauty of combining SMS and Messenger is that you can always rely on SMS as your fail-safe. SMS enjoys a 98% open rate, doesn’t require internet access, doesn’t require a smartphone to be received, and ensures that your messages get through.

What else can Facebook Messenger do for your business?

Once you’ve got the all-important opt in, you’ve got plenty of options open to you. For example, how about policy/contract renewals? We can work with you to create a bot which automatically contacts customers and lets them know it’s time to renew, and then links to your web portal.

If the customer doesn’t have their policy/contract details to hand, no problem! Via Messenger we can ask some security questions, which, when answered correctly, will provide them with the details they need to process the renewal.
Customer survey dashboard

Customer satisfaction surveys via Messenger

If a customer’s opted to go ‘Facebook First’, you can send your post-service surveys out via this platform, with responses routed back into the Esendex platform for collation with your SMS Survey responses.

Again, you can deploy SMS Surveys if that’s the customer’s preference, or they’re not online at the time of sending the message.

What can you expect in terms of engagement rates through Messenger?

It’s really too soon to tell, but if we use email (20% open rate) and SMS (98% open rate) as benchmarks we can make an educated guess. Messenger won’t immediately suffer from the same issues with spam as email, but equally it’s not as accessible as SMS, so we’d expect read rates to average around 50% depending on use.

What could you do in the future?

As Messenger continues to evolve, so will the variety of functionality. How about using Messenger as part of a broader multichannel business communication solution, or subscription based news alerts and marketing? Improving engagement with your audience to gain better market research?

This is happening right now…

In the first month since launch, over 5,000 traders that use the Shopify ecommerce platform started to send order confirmations and alerts through Facebook Messenger (source).

It’s safe to say that based on the numbers of businesses who have already added Messenger to their communication strategy, that this is a viable channel for both B2B and B2C industries.

We’re currently working with a range of partners and customers to help create their perfect bespoke Facebook Messenger solution, and we’d love to work with you to create the right Facebook Messenger integration for you.

We have some extremely exciting Messenger developments in the pipeline so please watch this space and get in touch to see if we can help you.

month 11
day 1
year 2016

Black Friday shoppers are armed with mobiles and Wi-Fi

Consumers who are eager to get the best deal no longer need to queue outside in the cold or risk facing a serious injury… they just need to be equipped with their smartphone.

A lot can change in a year. In 2014 we saw raucous shoppers fight for the best deals in store and staff become overwhelmed by the large influx of bargain hunters, whereas 2015 had stores over prepare for what looked no different than a regular day.

It is predicted that in 2016, the majority of online purchases during Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be made via mobile (source: Salmon). With 40% of all online purchases being made through mobile in 2015 and with UK shoppers embracing mobile technology, there’s little doubt that these records will be beaten once again this year.

As a retailer, knowing that over 50% of online traffic is generated from mobile devices is a blessing when trying to identify the most successful way to reach your audience. Our infographic explains how Black Friday is evolving, and what you can do to attract shoppers to your store:

Black Friday infographic

month 10
day 27
year 2016

3 ways click-to-message ads will change communication

Mobile Journeys blog images

After the changes “Mobilegeddon” yielded for the web in 2015, Google has now taken its “mobile-first” strategy one step further with the roll out of a new tool that will help consumers and businesses connect more simply using a combination of SMS and online advertising.

But how does this change the landscape of communication?

1. Mobile is a priority

This move, to incorporate click-to-SMS ads, hints at a requirement for businesses to cater to their intended audience’s needs through the channel or channels that they use most.

Nearly two thirds of smartphone owners use messaging more than five times a day and 65% of consumers have said they would consider using messaging to connect with a business for everything from gathering more information through to scheduling or booking an appointment (Google Consumer Surveys).

Marketers shouldn’t just be considering mobile-first strategies but prioritising them.

2. Companies will always adopt the easiest tool for communication

Google understands that companies will always adopt the best medium to make B2C connectivity as simple as possible.

While Facebook is building up Messenger as a means of offering better customer service to those who use it most, basic SMS is still at its most popular with 97% using SMS at least once a day (Pew Internet).

Text messaging is the “app” consumers use most frequently and combining it with other messaging solutions could ensure that your message gets heard, or read.

3. Customers like to track their engagements

Customers are happy when they know their enquiry is seen by the recipient and even happier when they see that the recipient is typing a reply – borne out by developments by Google, Facebook and WhatsApp.

Amit Agarwal, Senior Product Manager of Mobile Search Ads said: “Mobile users have more flexibility than ever to choose how they want to connect with businesses. Through messaging, you can initiate valuable conversations with them by tapping into one of their most preferred modes of communication.”

Whether your customer’s preference is for text messaging or the mobile web,  or chatbots and Messenger, Esendex has the solutions your business needs to communicate better. Call us on 0345 356 5758 or ask us a question.

month 10
day 26
year 2016

Is a Local Authority ‘too big to fail’?

Local Government

I recently had the pleasure of hearing a talk on ‘The Future of Local Government’ at the IRRV Conference, featuring three speakers: Wallace Sampson, Chief Executive, Harrogate BC; Duncan Whitfield, Strategic Director of Finance and Governance, Southwark LBC; and Chris West, Executive Director – Resources, Coventry CC.

When I say ‘had the pleasure’… Sadly the overwhelming impression I got from the session is that the future for local government is bleak.

Funding remains the central issue, and one which spans across all the services that local government provide. After a period of unprecedented budget cuts started in 2010 by the then coalition government, the panel remarked that funding remains worryingly unclear, and what impact Brexit will have on budgets is yet to be understood.

Duncan Whitfield  even suggested that there is a real possibility that within the next five years, a local authority could fail financially, and Chris West described Coventry City Council as “at breaking point”.

We’re used to this phrase being used for banks, but having worked with local authorities for more than 10 years, to hear it being used for local councils was sobering.

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel, any hope?

The short answer is yes. At the IRRV Conference, collections was seen as a super critical function within any authority. If (when!) we do enter a period of economic strife, getting debt collection right will be essential to keep local government services running. Shared services (where council neighbours share the burden of delivering services to their communities) could be vital to realise economies of scale.

Finally, the way that local government interacts with service users via “better systems and processes” was seen as a crucial strategy to achieve the “do more for less” objective. Central government have called this Digital Transformation or Digital by Default for many years now.

The definition of Digital Transformation is evolving

10 years ago the e-gov agenda meant local government started to communicate by email and customers had the ability to request a service online (although that typically just generated a paper form!).

Now, technology delivers so much more. Customers can interact with council staff through a variety of digital platforms, including live chat and SMS, but this is just the start. It’s possible to dramatically reduce the number of people who need to speak to a live agent, and encourage self service.

For example, these questions could be answered without any manual intervention through automated SMS, voice, email and even chat bots:

  • What’s my council tax reference number?
  • What are the opening hours for the local recycling centre?
  • When are the school holiday dates for 2017?
  • On what day do my bins get emptied?
  • What’s the status of my application?

The key to success is careful selection of the services that can be automated without compromising the customer’s experience. The benefit of doing so is that it enables council staff to focus on areas such as benefit assessments which need the human touch.

Even traditionally labour intensive processes such as collecting council tax debt can be simplified by offering customers the ability to self-serve, while retaining the option to speak to an agent if required. This example shows an SMS trigger:

Council Tax Collection

 

What was clear from the conference is that inaction isn’t an option. The speakers felt that digital communication presented the greatest opportunity to both improve outcomes and reduce costs, and our experience of working with local government suggests the same.

Download our Council Workflows in Action data sheet, and please leave a comment if you’ve any first hand experience of Digital by Default strategies.

month 10
day 25
year 2016

I app-solutely need one… Or do I?

App overload

Over the last few years I’ve spoken with many customers about how to improve customer interactions or their own internal processes, and the one word that seems to appear in almost every conversation is ‘app’.

Businesses either have one that offers their customers some form of information or access to their account, or they believe they need one to connect with their customers and compete with other businesses. They understand that for most people, the majority of time spent using a smartphone is in apps and feel that they need to tap into this market.

Are apps where it’s at?

Earlier this year my colleague wrote an article titled Apps vs web: is there a happy medium? This explored a survey of app developers, which found that the average cost to develop an app was $6,452.

Of course it’s not about the cost, but the return on investment – but that’s by no means guaranteed. The 2016 Deloitte Global Mobile Consumer Survey reported that “most users download just 0.00001 per cent of the millions of apps available.”

But I only want to check the weather!

In the same paper, the activity that was most used via an app was checking the weather, with 56% of people saying an app is their preferred method for doing so.

If I take a look at my own smartphone, with the exception of my Vodaphone app, the only business related app is for my bank. The rest are all social media, sports related or games.

“The majority of smartphone owners have downloaded 20 or fewer apps. Only ten per cent have downloaded 30 or more… Even among 18–24 year olds the majority have downloaded 20 or fewer.” – Deloitte

App installation statistics

How many apps do you have installed on your phone?

Why isn’t app adoption higher?

Apps are most successful when they’re being used for a regularly repeated action – playing a game, accessing social media, or reading the news.

For more irregular activity, such as paying a bill, providing information such as a meter reading or a change of circumstances, or registering for an event, while you might wish to deliver the superior user experience of an app, the likelihood of the app being downloaded for this sort of activity is fairly remote.

There’s also the simple fact that most people don’t want to have their smartphone clogged up with multiple apps.

What about mobile web apps?

“Native and hybrid apps are installed in an app store, whereas web apps are mobile-optimized webpages that look like an app.” – Neilsen Norman Group

Mobile web apps shouldn’t be confused with a mobile optimised website: the latter is generally a desktop website that has been reshuffled to fit a smaller screen.

Mobile web apps are built with the mobile user first and foremost in the developer’s mind. They focus on delivering a friction-free experience on a smaller screen, and typically only have one purpose in mind for the user – to complete a goal. They facilitate self-service, thus giving customers more choice and helping you reduce costs.

However, unlike a native app, mobile web apps don’t have to be downloaded or updated. Access to our mobile web app platform, Mobile Journeys, is usually triggered from a link delivered via SMS, email or social media.

Three things that really make the difference when it comes to getting customers to self-serve:

  1. Motivation: the customer has to want to complete the goal. In this context, it’s about educating your customer as to why it’s important that they do. Sometimes that’s the threat of penalties; sometimes it’s the promise of a great reward!
  2. Ability: the ease and simplicity of completing the goal (here’s an infographic exploring the six most effective ways to achieve this).
  3. Trigger: the method by which they’re prompted to take action. Different customers will respond better to different triggers (email, SMS), and your service provider should be able to provide you with (at least) detailed analytics so you can optimise future campaigns.

These are the basic principles of behavior-based design, which, if you’ve read all the way to the bottom of this post, it’s worth you looking into!

Are you exploring an app right now? Or have you built one that flies in the face of this article and is a qualified success? Let me know in the comments…

month 10
day 25
year 2016

Bridging the tech diversity gap with Women In Technology

Woman using computer

Two of the world’s four most powerful countries have a female leader, and next month Hillary Clinton could make it three. We are living under a record-high number of simultaneous female world leaders. But just as politics has the capacity to shape the world we live in, so too does a 30-year-old “internet industry” which is disrupting everything we’ve come to know about the world – from the way we shop to the way we wind-down.

Women occupy just 17% of tech jobs within this industry in the UK. It seems that while the internet and tech sectors have grown in importance to the world’s economy, the gender imbalance hasn’t.

Did you know that the first computer programmer was female?

Her name was Ada Lovelace and her success, passion and vision for technology led to her being named the “enchantress of number”. She’s still a powerful symbol for women in technology today.

October 11th 2016 marked eight years since a celebratory day was founded in her name, aiming to raise the profile of, and celebrate women in science, technology, engineering and maths, catalysed by a worry that women in tech were invisible…or just non-existent.

Are women in tech invisible?

While women account for more than half of the users of technology products and websites, according to a 2015 report by the National Centre of Information & Technology, only 25% of the computing workforce are women.

And, although Facebook tops the tech industry diversity table with a workforce made up of 33% women, only 17% of these are responsible for more technical roles. Twitter have a 70/30 divide with men accounting for 90% of all technical roles (The Guardian).

They have since set goals to change this ratio.

Co-founder of Lastminute.com, Martha Jane Fox, famously said in 2015:

“We need 600,000 people to work in the IT and digital sector. By 2020, they’ll probably [need] one million. Right now there are 800,000 unemployed women in this country.”

Events like Women In Tech Notts hope to change the number and proportion of women in technical roles, and we’re in full support.

Supporting and inspiring women

Women In Tech Notts is a monthly meetup which is now reaching its ninth month. It’ss aimed at women in all areas of technology, from developers and testers through to engineers, digital marketers and those with an emerging interest in tech.

Speakers come from far and wide in support of the event, from various backgrounds: entrepreneurs, hackathon organisers and charities right through to tech companies (ahem).

It’s had overwhelming interest and support and is now moving to new premises, fittingly just over the road from our own.

We’re proud to be supporting such a worthwhile venture and one which we hope will continue to drive diversity and innovation within technology companies similar to our own.

Women In Tech Notts

Where and when?

The next event takes place on November 3rd at 7pm at Accelerate Places, The Poynt, Wollaton Street. RSVP here.

month 10
day 21
year 2016

The three Rs of retail marketing

Retail Marketing

It was my first day at Esendex in 2011 when I came across the three Rs:

  • Right Message
  • Right Time
  • Right Person

This became my business mantra and five years later, it’s just as important. The difference is that we now have the tools and channels to give us a deeper insight into the behaviour of customers, and so we can – and should – be more on point than ever.

In retail, the smartphone has changed everything. We can book a summer holiday while enduring a rainy Monday commute; we can pay bills in front of the TV, and do the weekly food shop on our lunchbreak for delivery that evening.

In short, we can buy almost anything, any time, in any place: a completely ‘on demand’ experience that’s light years away from the shopping experience of a decade ago.

Similarly, marketing to your customers by sending a ‘one size fits all’ message is not enough, now, to compete in retail. The three Rs illustrated the basic requirement to understand your customers, but must evolve to meet the needs of today’s consumers.

The evolution of the three Rs

Right Message = right content

You may have heard the anecdote about an American supermarket inadvertently alerting a teenager’s father to her pregnancy…? Her changing shopping habits had prompted them to send out promotional material specific to expectant mothers, which he saw, confronted his daughter with, and found out that she was indeed in the family way.

It’s an extreme example but retailers like Amazon have proved that the more tailored a promotion, the greater the adoption. Obviously, a campaign about Kobe beef sent to vegetarians isn’t going to fly!

Your easy sources of customer data range from the obvious – purchase history – to tracing which pages they’ve visited on your website, which offers they’ve clicked through from your email campaigns, and the contents of wish lists.

Right Time = *their* time

Do you read promotional messages as soon as you receive them? Of course it depends where you are, what you’re doing, what time it is etc. – and these are all elements that retailers need to be aware of when scheduling content.

Even if you don’t know in advance when customers are most likely to engage with your message (reading it, clicking through etc.), you can experiment by sending your promotion at different days and times to segments of your database, and see which performs the best.

We’ve seen some of our customers achieve double figure uplifts in campaign engagement simply from moving a mid-afternoon message to a lunchtime message – so a continuous programme of testing, analysis and improvement should be at the centre of your engagement strategy,

Right Person = treating customers as individuals

Easy if you have a small number of customers, of course, but you need to be able to scale up and automate the selection of the right promotion for the right person. To do this you need to start collecting data and identifying trends.

If 100 customers who purchased x also purchased y, it’s worth sending a message to everyone who purchases x and doesn’t purchase y to suggest that they might like to.

If a particular demographic of customers (age, location, gender) proved more likely to engage with a text message promotion than an email, it’s worth adopting a mobile-first strategy to all customers who meet that same criteria.

Once upon a time, these sort of tactics were the preserve of the most successful companies, but now, business intelligence of this sort is built into almost every communications platform. You can start small – simply by testing different times of day for example – but the important thing is to *start* at all.

Learn more about Esendex’s communication solutions for retailers.

month 10
day 17
year 2016

Give marketing a boost with mobile

Almost 7 billion people in the world have one thing in common, and this one isn’t biological, but something material. The mobile phone; a possession we no longer want to have but something we need in order to communicate, get around and function within the modern world.

Despite all of the technological capabilities built into mobiles and smartphones, one of the most used features which still remains the same is messaging. Is this really any surprise? Its original build purpose was to make communication easier after all.

With mobile saturation currently at a peak, consumers have never been more addicted to their mobiles. As such, it’s crucial that marketers and businesses utilise SMS to their full advantage.

Our guide to mobile marketing is just the beginning of your SMS journey.

Esendex's guide to mobile marketing

If you would like to do more with SMS or explore other solutions, call us today on 0345 356 5758.