By guest blogger, Mark Weishaar
Today’s smart, marketing-focused organizations realize the value of communicating with their customers using the channel of their customers’ preference. More and more, that preference is mobile.

It’s commonly reported that over 87% of Americans (90% of Canadians) own a cell phone, and most of them won’t leave home without it. For many, checking their mobile device is the last thing they do at night and the first thing they do in the morning. Almost 80% of smartphone owners use their device more frequently today for mobile email and texting than to actually make phone calls. Mobile marketing is dominating the media landscape, and mobile users are lapping it up.

  • 82% agree it’s a good way to learn about new products and brands;
  • 80% believe it can influence them to investigate a product or service;
  • 71% accept that it can change the way they think about a product or service; and
  • 65% report that it has the power to influence them to BUY a product or service.

Given this proliferation and mainstream acceptance of technology solutions, one would think that insurance companies and financial services organizations would be among the first to provide their customers and prospects with cutting-edge, lightning-fast applications. But one would be quite wrong. The fact is, only about one-third of marketers report having a defined strategy for mobile marketing! And the insurance industry, in particular, is lagging at the back of the pack when it comes to offering engaging mobile experiences. This sector must explore mobile websites, mobile applications and SMS text messaging campaigns to effectively respond to emerging consumer behavior.

Maximize the efficiency of your Customer Service efforts

One of the easiest and highest-ROI considerations should be your company’s website. Google reports that a good 50% of mobile users become frustrated when they encounter a site that is not mobile-friendly. It seems unnecessary to say that annoying your clients, especially those who may be experiencing an emergency, is not very smart. A mobile application is essentially a tool to make it easy for your customers to connect with you. It can be fun and useful, informative and interactive; it can be a short-cut to service. A Customer Service-specific mobile app might feature

  • Talking to a live agent
  • Dealing with an accident on the spot
  • Requesting a live call-back
  • Filing and managing a claim

Implementing these mobile options can help reduce support costs and call center overhead, reduce customer churn and even increase customer lifetime value. An app can enhance brand advocacy and promote upsells and cross-sells. What’s best, all of these benefits are entirely measurable in terms of ROI.

Building a Useful Database

The success of a mobile marketing strategy is going to depend on the power of your database. No program is complete without an Acquisition Model to cost-effectively harvest and manipulate prospect information. An advertising plan combining online, SMS and traditional channels is vital to drive traffic and promote downloads of a mobile app, with a clearly defined conversion funnel from prospect to customer.

Growing Pains specific to Mobile Payments for Insurance and Banking

Although Juniper Research reports that mobile payments are expected to reach $630 BILLION by 2014, remittances such as insurance premiums are not included. The issue does not lie with the technology of the Mobile Application, but rather with the capabilities and guidelines of mobile carriers, such as AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, among others.

Bill-to-Carrier US Obstacles

  1. Each carrier must approve each program based on their own guidelines. They demand a 2-3 week beta test, during which they review an online-hosted version of each app for flow, usability, bugs, and terms of use acceptance.Your customers choose from among many Carriers, so you need to be compliant with all of them. The degree of speed, complexity and cooperation varies from one Operator to the next; they are however consistent in requiring 20-30% of each purchase amount.
  2. Operators are strict and favor big brands; legitimacy is important given the number of bill-to-carrier scams. As a alternative, they look for a guaranteed minimum of $50,000 in monthly bill-to-carrier revenue, proof that is often first generated in Canada or Europe.
  3. US Carriers prefer micropayments to the tune of $2. They are reluctant to approve monthly fees of $15 or $20 due to the higher risk of complaints or accidental enrollment by children.

Their preference for lower price points, non-recurring fees and virtual goods over outside services can all be hurdles for monthly insurance premium billing.

In addition to carrier complexities, success can depend on the various device operating systems. Currently, only Android supports bill-to-carrier within a native application. iOS will only use its IAP API (In-app purchase) using iTunes to make a purchase.

Retention and Loyalty – in a Mobile Environment

It is possible to truly integrate mobile into your existing strategy and better measure increased retention and loyalty from your customers. It’s all about convenience and real-time communication. Give them instant fingertip access to source and share critical data:

  • Review the latest product and service offerings
  • Manage personal “MyAccount” files on the go
  • Provide 24/7 emergency access to processes and forms on a handheld device
  • Enable immediate accident claims reporting and supporting photo uploads

These are just a few of the exciting, dynamic Mobile solutions that will propel your further differentiation from the competition – with measurable results.

Yet there are many complexities surrounding the development of mobile apps and mobile websites for insurance premium payment processing and lead generation. Any such strategy requires an in-depth understanding of the various Carriers, government regulations, operating systems, user demographics and data availability. This calls for the experienced insights of seasoned experts.

Today’s technology does not allow “catch-up” time. But it’s never too late to adjust your marketing focus onto those channels that are proven to build connections with your customers. They will reward you with interest, participation and brand loyalty.

Mark Weishaar is VP, Business Development with Direct Access Marketing, based in Burlington, Ontario, Canada and Philadelphia, PA.



Online Sales up 30% with a Big Boost From Mobile

Black Friday sales were huge, so what about Cyber Monday?  Sales were up, and customers bought more items per order this year. Oddly, they had a lower Average Order Value than in 2011, which indicates that people were shopping for values. See below for figures.
The big winner was mobile sales:
  • Online sales were up 30.3% over last year.
  • Cyber Monday purchasing activity beat Black Friday by 49%
  • Mobile sales accounted for almost 13% of sales – up 96% from last year.
  • The iPad drove most of the online sales with usage up 118%.
  • Amazon Kindle accounted for 2.6%.
  • Barnes and Noble Nook accounted for  0.6%.

But the big loser was social media, which lost ground since 2011:

  • Facebook referral traffic was down almost 14%.
  • Twitter was insignificant.

The combined numbers from Black Friday and Cyber Monday suggests that marketers should devote more to their mobile strategy than to social media.

Here’s a huge infographic on why it’s so important to go mobile from MelborneIT.

The scale of mobile usage is staggering. According to MobiThinking, at the end of 2011:

  • There were 6 billion mobile subscribers worldwide.
  • That’s 87% of the world’s population.
  • By the end of 2016, there will be 8 billion mobile subscribers.
  • That means a mobile phone or device accessing the Internet for nearly every person on the planet.

Usage Statistics also show that mobile internet connectivity is growing by leaps and bounds:

  • 65% of mobile users access the internet daily.
  • 86% look for local information on their phones.
  • 49% of global users make a purchase with a smartphone.


Mobile Shopping Is on the Rise

New research shows that mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are changing consumer shopping behavior. Nielsen’s new findings demonstrate that consumers are now becoming more comfortable with mobile shopping:

  • 47% of smartphone owners have used native shopping apps
  • 45 million have used shopping apps an average of 17 times per person per month

Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices whether for pre-shopping research or final purchase because portable devices like smartphones and tablets are convenient and portable, making research and access to social networks available anywhere.

TheTop 10 Mobile Shopping Apps

Nielson ranks the top 10 mobile shopping apps for retail by traffic volume and the amount of time spent on the sites:


Mobile Shopping traffic grew by 38%

With Twitter and Facebook are under increased pressure to monetize their business models, social networking is  increasingly influencing  consumers mobile shopping behavior. As consumers become increasingly willing to share about their shopping experience, ecommerce sales grow:

  • Traffic was 43% higher than the prior 3 weekdays for the 2012 summer Independence holiday.
  • Q2 revenue grew 15% over the same period in 2011 to $43.15 billion, according to Comscore, .

The Mobile Payments Process Is Evolving

Retailers including Walmart and Target formed a partnership called Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) to facilitate the shopping experience by integrating the convenience of paying at the register with customizable offers, promotions and retail programs. The result is a mobile shopping app that should work on almost any smartphone to bring mobile shopping into the mainstream by removing barriers like multiple app downloading and allaying financial security fears.

Mobile Shopping Customizes the Shopping Experience

Joseph Ruiz  of Social Media Today gives two examples of how the mobile shopping are providing a more customer-centric experience.

I went to an Apple store to purchase an iPad. From research, to purchase, to set-up, I was with the same sales rep the entire time. The store representative was able to check inventory and complete the sales transaction from his phone. The phone was connected to discreetly hidden printers in nearby tables.

Ford is experimenting with a sales process that will equip their reps with iPads designed to facilitate the buying experience by allowing the rep and customer to build their vehicle on the spot.

New software now allows even small businesses and individuals to accept mobile payments conveniently using their mobile devices.

AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless Introduce “Isis” and Bloomberg News report that that a new mobile wallet payment system is rolling out as a joint venture between the nation’s three largest mobile phone service providers.  Isis, the mobile wallet service from AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, will pilot in Austin, Texas, and Salt Lake City, Utah in September, 2012.  The NFC-based (Near Field Communications) mobile payment system was created by Verizon, T-mobile and AT&T to try and make mobile payments a common practice.

  • Near field communication (NFC) is a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity, usually no more than a few centimeters for applications including contactless transactions and data exchange.

The Isis mobile wallet app that will be available to more than 100 million United States Credit Card holders and compete with Google Wallet and Opera, offering a secure and convenient way to use a mobile phone to pay with a credit card.

Chase, Capitol One, and Barclay were the first to sign up for the service. Isis added a batch of new financial partners earlier this year, including American Express’ various credit card offerings  (including the company’s own mobile-linked Serve cards), which will let users of those cards load them into the Isis app and make payments with their NFC-equipped smartphone. While American Express had already signed on as an Isis partner last year, this is the first time that the company has committed to tying its cards to the platform.

A simple UI lists your current payment options. At the bottom is “Isis Feed” which is likely a payment history page, “Directory” which is a list of shopping outlets that will accept the Isis payment system, and “More” (settings).

The pilot was delayed since late last year because Isis decided to use a different method for processing payments than originally planned. The original plan involved having the phone companies behind Isis process all the payments made with the program, but instead, credit card payment processors will process the payments to increase the security of transactions for both consumers and businesses.

Bloomberg reports that another possible reason for the delay is that there are currently still very few smartphones on the market capable of handling such a transaction. T-Mobile has just four smartphones equipped with the near-field communications that Isis runs on that are compatible with its network. Verizon came under fire late last year when it was discovered that Google Wallet was not supported on their version of the Galaxy Nexus phone.

Many believe that Isis has a far better chance of catching on with consumers than some of the other mobile wallet programs available now, such as Google Wallet, or in development because of the perceived value for consumers whose phone companies’ products and services they already use every day, which will make for a seamless mobile wallet entry.

Click on the image to see videos of Google Wallet in action

Mobile wallet adoption could become the norm within the next few years, as many consumers become convinced of its safety and convenience. For more information on ISIS, see their website at

Related Article:

Google Wallet Leads the Way


Check tomorrow for a post on a revolutionary new mobile payment system debuting shortly.


Matt Macari of The Verge reports that, although the jury found that 28 Samsung products had infringed on Apple copyrights, Apple filed an injunction against 8 these Samsung smartphones, available in the U.S. The injunction hearing for the eight smartphones was slated for September 20th, but Judge Lucy Koh, who has been presiding over the Apple vs. Samsung patent infringement case, has moved the hearing from Sept. 20 to Dec. 6. Three of the eight were not judged to have infringed on utility, but design and “trade dress.” There is a preliminary injunction on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in force, though the jury did not hold up Apple’s infringement claims on that product. The 8 phones that Samsung seeks to ban U.S. sales of are:
  • Galaxy S 4G
  • Galaxy S2 (AT&T)
  • Galaxy S2 (Skyrocket)
  • Galaxy S2 (T-Mobile)
  • Galaxy S2 Epic 4G
  • Galaxy S Showcase
  • Droid Charge
  • Galaxy Prevail

Not A Hard Hit to Samsung?

Forbes contributor Nigam Arora, believes the ban itself is just for show and less significant than it may seem.

First, Apple is not seeking a ban on all of the devices involved in the trial, perhaps becaue some of the devices are now obsolete, not being sold in the United States, or have very low sales.

Second, even if Apple is successful in receiving a preliminary injunction against Galaxy S II, chances are Samsung will lower prices of Galaxy S II devices to clear inventory before the ban goes into effect. Meanwhile, Samsung’s flagship  Galaxy S III is not on the list.  If Samsung comes up with new incentives to capture budget conscious buyers who would have chosen Galaxy S II, Apple may end up helping Samsung in the short run.

A Windfall for Apple

While the ban may be meaningless in the short term, Apple may still realize great benefits from the verdict, as Nigam Arora calculates that the decision will be worth $450 Billion to Apple. He explains the calculation in Why I Think Apple’s $1 Billion Jury Award May Really Be Worth $450 Billion. He believes that the verdict is economically significant for Apple for 6 reasons:

1. Hurting Google: $200 Billion

The verdict’s result should be higher costs for phone manufacturers who use Google Android and slowdown of the rapid expansion of Android Juggernaut, which Nigam estimates to be worth $150 billion to $200 billion to Apple over the next 10 years.

2. Enhancing Sales Overseas

Apple products have become status symbols especially in emerging markets such as India and China, and the newly rich in these countries who need to display the fact that they have arrived will tend to buy Apple products to do so. The difference from the western world is that in China and India there are a lot more newly rich than in the western world.

3. Strengthening Apple’s Brand Image: $100 Billion

Nigam estimates that the strengthening of Apple’s brand image could be worth about $100 billion over the next 10 years.

4. Winning Over Aspirational Buyers: $150 Billion

Aspirational buyers who previously had to stretch to buy Apple products and have settled to buy products from competitors that looked similar to Apple products may find that the verdict will make it more difficult for competitors to copy the look and feel of Apple products.  If aspirational buyers stretch farther to buy Apple products, Nigam’s estimate is that this will contribute about $150 billion to Apple’s sales over the next 10 years.

5. Wavering Buyers: $100 Billion

A stronger brand image for Apple and higher competitor costs with less copying of the look and feel of Apple products should help Apple capture more of the buyers who waver between Apple products and competing products. He estimates that this could add about $100 billion to Apple sales over the next 10 years.

6. Decreased Defection: $100 Billion

The jury found that the Galaxy Tab infringed Apple’s patent that controls the behavior at the end of the screen, which makes Apple users less likely to defect to competitors, which could add about $75 billion to $100 billion to Apple sales over the next 10 years.

Adjusting for Overlap: Final Windfall = $450 billion

Some Apple customers will fall into more than one of the categories described above, resulting in a certain overlap in the estimates above.  Estimating overlap at around $200 billion and subtracting this from the total estimate of $650 billion, leaves a a net gain over 10 years of about $450 billion.

Nigam Arora founded two Inc. 500 companies, and has been involved in over 50 entrepreneurial ventures. He am the chief investment officer at The Arora Report, which publishes four newsletters to help investors profit from change. You can follow him here.

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