Mobile Marketing (SMS) and Digital Signage

Posted by on Jun 30, 2011 in DOOH, Industry

“Mobile marketing” and “digital signage” have been buzz phrases over the last couple of years. Both mediums offer unique and strategic ways to connect with consumers. With a cellular phone in nearly every pocket in the country, mobile marketers realize the vast opportunity to connect. On the other hand, digital signage vendors and network administrators are focused on creating dynamic, honed, and targeted content aimed at reaching niche markets in out-of-home venues worldwide.

It would seem foolish to ignore such powerful sources of digitally enhanced and singularly focused ad mediums. Bringing them together in a unique way has been the subject of numerous articles of late. Here are the questions this article will answer:
How does SMS mobile marketing benefit my digital signage network?
How can digital signage and text message advertising work together most effectively?
How can I procure my own short code for SMS integration with my digital displays?
If I don’t want to spend the time or money in procuring my own short code, where are the most cost effective sources for SMS advertising?

Before we answer these questions, it may be helpful to define some terms.

Mobile Marketing Terminology

SMS: “short message service” or the acronym for a text message sent from a mobile device.
SMS Short Code: A Short Code is a mobile telephone number (typically 5-6 characters), which can be used to direct SMS and MMS messages from mobile phones. Short codes can be vanity codes as well, but vanity short codes are sold at a premium.
Keywords: specifically recognized words sent within the text of the limited 140 to 160 character text message which can be elicited to trigger a specific response.
SMS Aggregator: An aggregator is a mobile telecom company that acts as an intermediary between companies wanting to utilize a SMS shortcode (in this case a digital signage network operator) and the mobile operators (e.g. Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.). Mobile aggregators reconcile the payments for those messages, from the operators, on behalf of clients. This is also known as a mobile transactions network.
SMS Gateway: the modus operandi in which the text message is sent. SMS aggregators provide the gateway in which the SMS messages are sent.
MO: “message or mobile origination”
MT: “message or mobile termination”
Digital Signage: digital billboard utilizing a LED, LCD, projector or plasma screen with an attached media player. The attached media player allows for real-time, dynamic, high definition content display.

Mobile marketing can benefit a digital signage network in several ways:
It engages the audience through interactivity.
It allows for an increased digital signage metrics capabilities.
SMS can bring customers back again and again.

SMS Mobile Marketing Interactivity and Digital Signage

Standard SMS services allow for a tit-for-tat text and response system. For instance, I text in a specific keyword or phrase (MO) and the gateway, upon receipt (MT) of the specific phrase, will return a previously determined response.

For example, a digital display reads, “text ‘pizza’ to 12345 to receive a free coupon for $1 off your next pizza.” The gateway will receive the keyword “pizza” and a message will be returned with the appropriate coupon and coupon code embedded.

Additionally, there are some solutions which allow a greater measure of interactivity. Many signage networks, especially those in social environments, already utilize text-to-screen, mobile voting, and SMS controlled interactive games. Engaging the audience is not only important, but essential in making lasting advertising impressions.

Increased Digital Signage Metrics

Although digital signage dweller measurement has experienced rapid improvements in the last couple of years, the metrics are still not quite to the “Minority Report” level. In fact, they may never reach such in-your-face advancement because privacy issues eventually become a major factor.

Mobile marketing integration allows for a simple way to judge whether someone is not only viewing a digital display, but if they are interested in what may have caught their attention. By measuring the SMS text message response rates of digital signage, network administrators are able to more accurately depict the effectiveness of their networked screens.

Opt-in SMS

After a consumer has contacted the gateway via a text, the network administrator then gains the ability to solicit to that individual to receive opt-in messages on an ongoing basis.

For instance, a person may receive a text with, “for weekly pizza coupons, text ‘pizzatime’ to 12345.” This will ensure weekly impressions of specific brands and reminders that can be cobranded for maximum effect.

With a large volume of opt-in subscriber phone numbers, SMS companies can send pizza coupons with something like the following, “This week’s pizza coupon code for $5 off is 12345. Coupons brought to you by digitalsignage. com.”

The effectiveness of both a digital signage as well as an SMS campaign is greatly enhanced with congruency. However, a great deal can be involved in establishing SMS for your digital signage network.

SMS for Your Digital Signage Network

There are several things that need to happen when a standard tit-for-tat SMS campaign is integrated with an out-of-home network. First, you need a short code. Second, you need keyword recognition software which will allow your specified keywords to be recognized and the appropriate responses sent back.

Interactive text-2-screen digital signage is a bit more involved. For instance, you’ll need a separate application, powered by .NET or Adobe Flash which allows for near-complete control by the cell phone operator. There are numerous application solutions for this type of application. Efficiently coding your own solution in-house depends on how large of a network you’re operating. If the network offers enough scalability, then maybe an in-house, Flash-driven SMS game would be ideal. Otherwise, it would be wise to go utilize existing platforms.

Procuring a Short Code vs. Piggybacking

Two options exist for integrating SMS into your signage network. First, you can work with an already established mobile marketing company and piggyback. Or, you can essential become a mobile marketing/digital signage company by procuring your own short code.

In some cases, it may be least expensive to integrate a single mobile device into the hardware of the display. Paying for unlimited text with a cellular phone can be much easier than starting your own mobile marketing company. If you want to go “full bore,” then the directions below should be of assistance.

Going with a Tier 2 or Tier 3 SMS Aggregator

If scalability is limited on your network it may be best to simply work with an established mobile marketing company. This has several benefits.
They’ve already done the work of short code procurement, software development, and (as you’ll see later) they’re already paying all short code license fees.
They focus on the SMS, while you focus on your core competencies. In this case, digital signage.
Tier 2 and 3 aggregators can give fairly great bulk pricing, even if you have a fairly large network.

A WORD OF CAUTION: Beware of mobile marketing providers who’re not utilizing an SMTP server for their MT (returning text messages). Without this type of system you’re looking at paying exorbitant per-message fees. Also beware of companies who charge keyword fees. Although, this may be necessary at times, it’s usually just another nickel-and-dime ploy. If they already have a customer utilizing a particular keyword, than it’s taken. It doesn’t mean you should have to pay more for it. Some companies charge monthly fees for simply using a keyword like, “pizza.”

Growing Your Own

Finally we get to the crux of this article! Pat yourself on the back if you read this far. If you scanned to this point, that’s probably better because this will help you understand how to procure your own short code and establish your own SMS marketing system.

If your network allows for a large amount of scalability, procuring your own short code may be the most cost effective solution. Short code procurement costs are as follows:
Set up fees run between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on what aggregator you procure them through. A list of some Tier 1 aggregators can be found below in Exhibit A.
Monthly short code fee of $500/month
Monthly vanity short code fee of $1000/month
Per message fees of 1 to 5 cents for both MO and MT depending on volume and scalability.

I’ve compared prices of several different SMS aggregators and they vary slightly. So, the pricing you chose really depends on the business model you wish to set up. It’s worth some time looking into. The pricing is also proprietary, so you’ll probably have to sign some sort of NDA to even look at the pricing schedule.

On a side note, there was an article out several months ago which compared sending an SMS to sending and receiving messages from the Hubble Space Telescope. The per bit costs of sending an SMS is thousands of times more expensive than sending and receiving information from outer space. It’s like these companies are printing money.

Once the procurement is taken care of then you’ll need to have a programmer take care of the SMS listener and SMS sender. Make sure you set up the system to run off SMTP for MT. This will make things much cheaper in the aggregate.

I understand this is quite a generalized version of what actually needs to take place. The information below should help you understand where to turn for help in procurement, use, and initiation of your very own SMS mobile marketing system.

Exhibit A

Aggregator Information

TIER 1 – National Mobile Media Connection Aggregator

Direct connection (SMPP) to at least 4 of the 5 following mobile operators: Alltel Communications, Cingular Wireless, Sprint/NEXTEL, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless.
Premium settlement agreement with at least 4 of the 5 following mobile operators: Alltel Communications, Cingular Wireless, Sprint/NEXTEL, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless.
Acceptable 24/7 service level agreement on all services represented, quality infrastructure, redundancy and network security.
Only publish content when rights are owned or license to publish is held on behalf of client and published for direct client benefit.
Support carrier grade SMS & MMS capability.
Some examples of Tier 1 aggregators include: SinglePoint, CellTrust, Vibes Media, MBlox, Mobliss Inc., Verizon, Vivo Touch, ClickaTell, Trac Phone, T-Mobile, iLoop Mobile, ipsh!, HSBC bank, Upoc Networks, Sprint, Cybase, Proteus.

TIER 2 – National Text Message Connection Aggregator

Direct connection (SMPP) to at least 3 of the 5 following mobile operators: Alltel Communications, Cingular Wireless, Sprint/NEXTEL, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless.
Premium settlement agreement with at least 2 of the 5 following mobile operators: Alltel Communications, Cingular Wireless, Sprint/NEXTEL, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon Wireless.
Acceptable 24/7 service level agreement on all services represented, quality infrastructure, redundancy and network security.
Only publish content when rights are owned or license to publish is held on behalf of client and published for direct client benefit.
Support carrier grade SMS capability.

TIER 3 – Connection Aggregator Reseller

Tier 3 aggregators are companies who predominantly operate their campaigns on the backbone of Tier 1 and Tier 2 aggregators. These companies generally mark-up aggregator messaging rates and premium payouts.

Source: http://www.usshortcodes.com/csc_find_con_agg.htm

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