As ubiquitous as mobile technology seems today, marketers are still in the early days of fully recognizing mobile’s potential for customer engagement. By 2016, it’s estimated that one billion people worldwide will own a smartphone. Given that figure, universal telecom services such as voice, SMS and mobile numbers will take on an even more significant role in how businesses interact with their end users, and vice versa.
There is an enormous untapped opportunity for marketers of online services and applications to leverage the ubiquitous nature of voice and SMS to both reach new audiences and strengthen their relationship with existing users – after all, nearly every mobile phone in the world has voice and SMS capabilities.
Although far from a comprehensive list, below are five simple ways marketers can cost-effectively incorporate universal mobile services into their websites and applications to help increase traffic and generate quality two-way conversations with visitors.
Free or low cost calling and texting
Last year, traffic from low-cost or free apps like WhatsApp and Pinger grew to 3.5 trillion messages. With the growing popularity of these services, marketers would be smart to take notice and look for ways to leverage telephony services and integrate them within their communication channels.
By attaching voice and text capabilities to a virtual mobile phone number in the cloud, Internet companies can quickly and simply enable Internet telephony from an IP service. Through telephony apps, extended VoIP and social telephony, companies can increase customer engagement by enabling users to call or text via the Web with questions or comments related to their product or service. From a marketing perspective, the use of free calling and texting over the Web allows customers a convenient way to communicate directly with the brand while simultaneously allowing them to increase time spent on the company Website.
Cloud telephony and one number services
Enabling telephony ‘in the cloud’ makes it possible for consumers and businesses alike to take their entire communications world online. Organizations can use voice, SMS and virtual mobile numbers together with an online interface to create ‘One Number’ services similar to Google Voice.
When implementing a ‘One Number’ service into an Internet business, users are given a virtual mobile number when they sign up to the service. This then becomes the user’s central point of contact. Using the one number technology, users can aggregate all of their telephone accounts (mobile, landline, work, VoIP, etc.) under a single virtual number and choose which device certain messages are received.
Yet ‘One Number’ technology is not just useful when used in the communication from businesses to consumers – it becomes even more useful when deployed in two-way communication. For companies looking to build brand awareness and loyalty, the ‘One Number’ technology can serve as a critical building block of their communication strategy. Companies running advertising or marketing campaigns can include a virtual ‘One Number’ as a point of contact. This has two main advantages: 1. Marketers can easily track calls and SMS for lead generation and calculate ROI for their advertising spend. 2. The ‘One Number’ supports two-way communication, meaning the marketer can foster engagement – by sending out additional SMS to customers who have responded to a campaign, for example.
Live chat is a growing part of social interaction, and already enabled on services like Facebook. However, mobile telephony adds a new depth to live chat functionality through services such as SMS chat, anonymous voice chat and IM integration.
To start, by enabling SMS chat between users via a virtual phone number, marketers can let subscribers stay in touch on-the-go with whatever device they’re using. In addition to SMS chat, marketers can also integrate anonymous voice chat into an online service, using standard mobile phones. This anonymous voice chat has applications from online dating to social networking.
Alerts and reminders
SMS is the ideal tool to alert users of important, timely information. Not only is SMS reliable and cost effective, unlike email and other communication methods – SMS is all but guaranteed to be read. And the fact that nearly every mobile device can send and receive SMS even in areas with low coverage or no data service, means that it is pre-destined to be the tool of the choice for alerts.
For these reasons, the use of outbound SMS as an alerting mechanism for marketers of online services provides additional user services and works to drive traffic back to the company website. Whether it is out-of-coverage notifications, news alerts or social updates, the range of potential applications for alerts are endless.
As well as receiving updates via text, users can also update their social profiles or Web services on the go from a mobile phone by providing users with a dedicated phone number linked to their personal social networking account. From drafting a status update or tweet, users can use their mobile device to update their social profiles by simply entering a quick text and sending to their social network via a virtual number. This is a useful tool for persons who do not have social media apps on their phone or who are unable to connect to data – be it because of a lack of data coverage or an overloaded base station as witnessed often at large public events.
For marketers, the ability to update social profiles via a mobile phone is critical when considering the potential impact social media has on their brand. By providing customers with a dedicated virtual number, marketers enable consumers to discuss their experience with a company’s product or service in real time via any device.
As the world becomes more connected and more mobile, marketers are in a unique position of being able to deepen the customer relationship and extend brand awareness of their online offerings through telco services. Rather than continuing the current pattern of tailoring content for a mobile platform, in order to stay competitive, forward-thinking marketers need to consider ways to more fully engage customers and prospects by incorporating mobility and telephony into their businesses.
About the author: Michael Kowalzik is the CEO of tyntec, a global mobile interaction service provider that enables businesses to integrate mobile services for a wide range of uses – from mission-critical applications to internet services. Prior to joining tyntec, Kowalzik was a director within the Bertelsmann CIO team, leading international strategic projects in the IT and wireless connectivity areas.