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Smartphone Technology Available to All
By: Jane Eckert

Last month, we talked about how mobile (Smartphones) are changing the way we access the Internet and utilize this new technology. Mobile websites are now becoming a “must have,” as people want to quickly view a website at the touch of their finger and get instant information without being bogged down with a lot of graphics or text. 

It’s reported that over 53% of mobile users now have Smartphones as of November 2012, and that number keeps increasing every single month. The use of other mobile related activities has also expanded our capability to reach our customers via their Smartphone.

On my recent survey of farm marketers, 31% of those responding said they are now utilizing some form of Smartphone technology, including: mobile website, mobile apps, mobile text (SMS) messaging, mobile coupons, mobile loyalty program and QR code placement. Those who completed my survey are definitely industry leaders when it comes to farm marketing, but I believe it is going to be a trend that we all need to understand and begin to use as part of our marketing mix.

How many of you send or receive text messages? Have you ever sent a text to vote on a reality show contestant or sent a text to a company to receive a coupon or more information? Nielsen recently released a report that 20% of the time spent with a Smartphone is spent on texting or what is called in the industry, “SMS” (Smart Messaging Service).

It can work pretty easily once you identify an online resource to handle your SMS program. You have probably seen, heard or read the appeal to text a five or six digit number to a business to sign up for a special offer or mobile club.  These five or six digit numbers are called “CSC” (Common Short Codes), and allow you to develop a loyal ‘permission based’ customer database to receive texts, alerts, coupons, special messages etc.  There really isn’t anything as quickly opened as a text message.

You control the timing, the content and the offer. To find providers, just do an Internet search for “SMS service”.  The charge for their service is typically based on number of subscribers and frequency of contact.  Much like our e-newsletter providers, SMS providers make the process easy to use.

Is it effective?  I recently read an article about the results of a television commercial test done by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.  The test compared asking people to sign up on their website for a special offer, or to use a CSC on their Smartphone to obtain the same deal. The consumer response to CSC sign up was 325% greater than the website. It’s fast, it’s easy and people want to get the deal …..now!

There are farms today using CSC to promote their business to their most loyal customers via coupons, with fast and traceable results - something we just don’t get with most other types of media.

Here’s another tool.  How many of you have seen a QR code? It stands for Quick Response, and it is a square box that looks like a bar code.  These are now frequently appearing on brochures, billboards, realtor signs, in store displays, labels etc.  A QR code is used to engage the customer to point their Smartphone at the code and to get immediate information about the company, the product, a coupon and much more. Recent research found that 44% of Smartphone users claimed to have scanned and looked at QR code information.

Farm marketers today are using QR codes on banners to get sign-ups for Facebook, create interaction in the maze, place on brochures and other marketing materials etc.  You are probably wondering, where do I get these QR codes?  Just go online and search QR codes and you will find a number of places that will assign you a QR code linked to a specific online URL address of your choosing.  They are free to obtain and to use.  (Note:  Each QR code is specific to you and your request, but it remains valid only for a limited time unless paid for through the service.)

As Smartphones continue to increase in numbers, the ability for you to use them as an integral marketing tool will also increase. If you don’t have a Smartphone and are not familiar with or never have seen the items discussed in this article, ask a younger person.  I know they will be glad to show you and to introduce you a whole new technology that will change the way we forever receive and interact with each other.

Jane Eckert, a national speaker, author and agritourism expert, is principal of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a firm that helps farmers sell products directly to consumers and develop their operations into tourist destinations, and CEO of RuralBounty.com, a consumer based directory of agritourism farms in North America.  Jane can be reached by phone 314-862-6288 or at jane@eckertagrimarketing.com