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8 mobile technologies revolutionising how companies talk to people

Gauging audience attitude toward your business is can sometimes be challenging. If you’re a small neighbourhood business it’s easy because you can just ask them. The bigger you become however, the more difficult that becomes.

That’s where the field of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) comes into play. Using technology to ask the right the right questions you can find, attract, and win new clients as well as nurture and retain those you already have.

There are a few ways you can do this, one of which is social media, but that limits the number of people you can reach. In most emerging markets, there are a lot more people with cellphones than there are on the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

As with all technologies, mobile CRM tools are constantly changing. Here are eight technologies that have completely changed the face of the industry. Some of them have become tried and tested but we’re only just beginning to see the potential impact of others.

Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) comes standard with every mobile phone on the market, form the most basic cheapo whose only extra feature is a torch, to the most expensive smartphone.

The great thing about USSD is that it allows you to have a back and forth conversation with people. This back and forth means you can a get a lot more information about someone, which is vital to anyone wanting to know who’s buying their products.

It’s also immediate. As soon as you send out the questionnaire or survey, you’ll start getting information back.
The biggest benefit though is that you’ll get answers from the widest possible spectrum of people. Even as smartphones become increasingly ubiquitous, you’ll still need data from the people who don’t have them and that’s a lot more difficult to get without USSD.

2. WAP
WAP is one of the most basic forms of mobile internet connectivity. The biggest advantage it has over USSD is that it you can have a much fuller brand experience. You can, for instance, include your company logo and links to video content optimised for mobile.

The technology is particularly good for surveys, which people can fill out in one go. WAP’s offshoot MMS meanwhile is good for sending a once message that you only expect a once off reply to. A great example of this kind of technique in action involved media research company Nielsen. A client wanted to find out how many people had seen a newspaper ad it had put out. Nielsen sent out an MMS with a picture of the ad and was able to get a fairly accurate gauge of how effective it was.

You might not be able to reach as many people with WAP as you can with USSD but as the price of feature phones continues to come down that will begin to change.

3. Mobile social networks
To be fair most mobile social networks wouldn’t exist without WAP. They also tend to be limited to a much younger audience than you would get with USSD or WAP. That said platforms like Mxit, with its 50-million users, offer a great way to engage and converse with people.

You can get a lot of relevant information from that information, and all for a lot less than you would have to pay sending out an SMS for instance.

4. Apps
Using apps for CRM is still in its infancy, but it’s an area that offers a lot of potential. A company could, for instance, subscribe to a company that allows people to make complaints about or praise it via an app.

The direct conversation between business and user hasn’t really been sorted out yet though. At this stage you can also only reach a very limited audience

5. Airtime
This might seem odd, but there was a time when prepaid airtime didn’t exist. As soon as it came onto the scene, especially in emerging market countries around Africa, it became a form of virtual currency. A smart few companies clicked that this idea had potential. If you want information about a wide range of people quickly, airtime is a great incentive to get them to answer your questions. No one’s going to say to a little extra talk time or a few more hours on the web.

6. Mobile vouchers
Mobile vouchers and coupons are a slightly more sophisticated way of rewarding customers, whether they’ve filled out a survey or just answered a quick question. They function in more or less the same way as online vouchers, except they don’t have to be printed out. This makes them much more immediate and convenient.

Don’t underestimate the appeal of having a bargain specifically targeted to you, and delivered to your own mobile phone when and where you need it, and even when you didn’t know you need it.

7. Geo-location
The ability for people with smartphones to “check-in” to a specific location is great for mobile CRM. Although the market is limited, it does allow you to do some innovative things. Let’s say, for instance, that you run a national retailer. When someone comes into one of your stores and checks in, you can ask them a question about the layout or the staff. You can also give them a reward that you know will likely be spent at the shop immediately.

8. NFC
Near Field Communication (NFC) is more than just a mobile money solution, although in that capacity, it can also be used for rewards. One great way of using NFC is at an event where you have a presence.

People can swipe their NFC-enabled phone to unlock video and rich graphical content from your brand. Add in an interface that lets them say what they felt about the content (it can even be something simple, similar to Facebook’s ‘like’ button for instance) and you can get a good idea of what direction to take with your next campaign.

As with all emerging technologies though, NFC has very limited user numbers and appeals to a very specific demographic.

Author | Andrew Cardoza

Andrew Cardoza
From the Cape Flats to successful entrepreneur. Andrew is currently the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and founder of Mobilitrix. The company started in 2006 from Andrew’s home office and now has offices in Century City. He specialises in low-bandwidth LEO (Low-Earth-Orbiting) micro-satellites, GSM/GPS systems and other terrestrial based communication.... More
  • Hi

    I do
    agree, With geo-tracking and location taken into account when it comes to
    searches and social media engagement is becoming an ever more increasingly
    important aspects of showing viable results and increased / better user preferences
    and experiences – as most people tend to look or search for something close to
    them or related by relevancy due to the demographic position of the user.
    Especially when it comes to PPC and other paid advertising methods.
    Demographically speaking – this plays an extreme part if your Paid advertising
    campaign has been set up demographically.

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