giffgaff: an alternative to your mobile phone service?

Do you trust your mobile phone service to give you the best deal? My bet is that – even if you consider yourself to be someone who’s in the know – at some point you’ve been confused by complicated tariffs, felt cheated on the deal you were sold, or let down by your service. Amongst consumers, this is all too often what mobile phone services are known for.

What does giffgaff offer to its customers?

Enter giffgaff, the type of company that likes to brand its name in lower case. It calls itself ‘the mobile network run by you’ and has been operating for a few years now, providing an alternative, community-based service with the customer at its heart. Its unique selling point is that it offers transparency, value for money and a symbiotic partnership with users: precisely what other providers are thought to lack.

giffgaff is fundamentally a pay-as-you-go service, operating on O2’s network. It offers goodybags’, monthly packages which for all intents and purposes function as a monthly rolling contract, if you choose their auto top-up’ option. Text and minutes are cheap, especially compared with other networks. Many of the goodybags offer unlimited data: and the data is truly unlimited, no secret clauses (but no tethering either). Essentially, you get a straightforward, uncomplicated deal that you can opt out of at almost the drop of a hat.

How does it keep costs down?

The company has a few simple tricks to keep costs down, which reflect their community ethos. No call centres, no high street shops, very little marketing and advertising. Promotion is achieved through word-of-mouth; indeed, that’s how I heard about it.

But this isn’t a cheap scam. A small team runs a modest head office. There’s a number customers can dial if they need help, primarily with credit card issues. Problems are instead solved in the forums by the online user community; you usually have a response within 90 seconds. The giffgaff team asks users what they want through the forum, and the users tell them.

What’s in it for me?

giffgaff rewards its users for their forum contributions in points which equate to real money through its payback’ system: this is reimbursed twice a year, in the form of mobile credit, cash, or a donation to your chosen charity. £1.8 million was paid out in December 2012. Not bad.

It’s a low-cost, efficient business model, and it works. It is, admittedly, not for everyone, but that is its appeal. It’s alternative, honest and it listens: exactly what its users are looking for.

 

Can I get your number? Find out more about giffgaff on its website – how about consulting the online community to see what they think?

What’s up with WhatsApp? Working up a WhatsAppetite

So WhatsApp has topped the paid-for iPhone app chart yet again. The cross-platform mobile messaging application allows users to send messages to other WhatsApp users without having to spend on an SMS, but what is so special about this app that makes it so popular with mobile consumers?

What’s so good if you have unlimited texts already?

In the UK, many mobile users already have a plan that gives you unlimited texts, so the ability to exchange messages for free seems somewhat redundant. Even more so, if you consider that WhatsApp uses the internet plan that you already use for email and web-browsing: no additional costs, but no additional value either?

Not quite. Unlike SMS or MMS communication, WhatsApp allows you to send and receive video and audio messages from within the app, using your pre-existing data plan. I can take a photo, or record a voice message from within a conversation and send it for my friend to receive instantly.

I can upload a media file from my mobile, broadcast my location using my phone’s GPS services, and import and send contact details from within the conversation too. And it’s got more emoticons than you can shake a USB stick at.

All this makes WhatsApp more appealing than texting my contacts in the UK. I can see if my contacts are online, typing, or when they last connected to WhatsApp. I can see if my message has sent, been received, or if it still hasn’t left my phone.

Saving you a fortune in roaming’ text charges

Where WhatsApp really comes into its own, however, is in messaging contacts abroad. If I am out of the UK, and therefore my mobile costs are subject to international charges, I can connect to WiFi and exchange messages free-of-charge as I would in the UK. Sending an SMS or making or receiving a call, on the other hand, would cost me.

A case study: a friend of my daughter has recently moved to Buenos Aires. Being regular texters and facing the expense of cross-continental texting, which wasn’t really an option, my daughter suggested her friend downloaded WhatsApp, which she herself had used to communicate with friends in Spain.

Now my daughter’s friend can visit Iguazú Falls and send the photos straight back to friends and family in London. She can send a video of a tango show to my daughter, who can watch it instantly then record a voice message to tell her friend how she wishes she could have been there too.

How can WhatsApp bring mothers and daughters together?

This isn’t necessarily something for the younger generations though. Mother and daughter keep in regular contact through WhatsApp, which affords a more immediate and personal exchange that email cannot compete with.

It offers a different service from Skype, which generally requires a computer, or at least a very fast connection, whereas WhatsApp can be used on the go to send an instant update wherever you happen to be.

Mobile consumers vote with their feet, and there appears to be a trend towards apps like WhatsApp whose advantages outweigh the pros of other services. This is by no means to say that the humble text message (or phone call) is dead after 20 years of ever-growing usage (declining for the first time last year in the UK).

Those interested in mobile technologies and how fast creative innovation can spread globally in the new world of Mobile Apps would do well to take note of the rocketing popularity of WhatsApp.

 

Worked up a WhatsAppetite? If you like the sound of WhatsApp, you can download and install from Google Play for free, or for £0.69 on iTunes.

Mobile Messaging Innovations

Mobile phones have long been used as a means of communicating with other individuals, first as traditional telephones, and then utilising the overwhelming popular method of text messaging. The drawback of text messaging and even telephone calls today is that these types of communication can quickly increase the user’s total cell phone bill. Many plans have limited minutes and limited text messages. New mobile technology innovation options seek to eliminate this problem while still allowing users to send text messages to one another. There are several applications that can now be used in place of text messages, but which work in essentially the same manner.

Alternatives to SMS messaging services

Meebo is one of the most popular choices for users who are looking for a mobile technology innovation that offers all the functionality of text messaging within an easy-to-use format. Meebo sends push notifications of new messages, stores the user’s chat history, and offers a desktop platform that allows conversations to move seamlessly from a mobile device to the computer. Meebo is compatible with iOS, Android and BlackBerry and is free to use. This innovative program makes it easy to connect with users on other devices as well as those on chat platforms like Windows Live Messenger, Google Talk, and more.

 

There are several other similar apps that provide the same basic service. Beejive and Trillian also provide platforms that are compatible with multiple smart phones and several web-based chat systems like Yahoo! Messenger. In addition, users can select a chat application with a slightly more limited scope, such as BlackBerry Messenger that offers text messaging with no character limit between users of BlackBerry devices. Google Talk has an app that allows Google users to enjoy the same chat platform on their phone that they can use through Google. Ultimately, most users will gravitate toward whatever mobile technology innovation has claimed the majority of their friends.

 Group Messaging takes Text Messaging to the Next Level

For users who want a mobile technology innovation that takes the idea of text messaging a step further, there are a variety of group messaging apps. These applications allow several members of a group to chat with one another. GroupMe connects iPhone, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone 7 users. Members of the chat have the option to send their location to a map of all the participants. Google+ offers group messaging as well, with push notifications so you don’t miss a thing. Google Voice allows you to send recorded voice messages or other forms of media. These platforms provide new and exciting ways for mobile users to keep in touch.

Technology Innovation – what works and doesn’t work

There is nothing more natural in business than a desire to get one’s hands on better technology. To bring in technology innovation is largely what Research and Development departments exist for. The Wall Street Journal has commented on this topic. Manufacturing industries benefit from investing in tools that deliver better precision or greater strength. Equally, companies that actually produce successful technology innovative cannot afford to be anything less than cutting-edge.

Small and medium-sized enterprises are under particular pressure to keep abreast of relevant technology innovation and then to hunt down the affordable versions. Before deciding on giving the green light to a technology innovation project in your company, certain factors merit careful scrutiny. Question to ask include:

  • Will the proposed technology innovation bring about tangible improvements to existing products and processes?
  • Can measurable added value be assured?
  • Will the new technology innovation produce a better business model for the company?
  • Is there a direct effect in terms of increase in revenue?

Creating technology innovation for its own sake is a recipe for failure, however. While there are some benefits (once costs like re-training of staff or re-configuring of premises are taken into account), the overall outcome is likely to be an empty advance. The Economist reports on this topic in an article entitled Looking for the Next Infosys.

Conversely, when products incorporating technology innovation are launched in conjunction with an improved business model, a far more fruitful outcome is achieved. This was the case when Apple made great strides in digital music listening by marrying its market-leading product the iPod with the iTunes store. Customers needed little persuasion when presented with a chance to revolutionise their own listening experience.

Similarly, companies that put price performance at the heart of their technology innovation can win over consumers, as was the case with Amazon’s Kindle.

In other words, when technology innovation is combined with offerings that get customers foaming at the mouth, it can take a company forward spectacularly.

 

Trends in Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is a continuously growing method for connecting with customers. Technology innovation opportunities to track in the future are pertaining more and more to communication with customers through mobile phones. Mobile marketing trends are constantly changing, so it’s vital for successful companies to stay on top of the latest and greatest opportunities in this area of the market. To begin understanding the unique possibilities available through mobile marketing, you must first consider the capabilities of the mobile technology that many users have, such as smart phones. The sales of smart phones are expected to continue growing by about 25% in 2012.

2012 expects to see a total 8 trillion SMS messages, over the 6.9 billion that were sent in 2011. This provides a wide opening for companies to use this technology as a means of communicating with customers. Though advertisements sent in the mail are often discarded unopened, most mobile users will actually read through a text message. The technology innovation of SMS marketing allows companies to send targeted message to their customers through a voluntary subscription. These messages often include coupons and special deals, which entice customers to sign up for the service. The messages can then expand to tell customers about new products and promotions.

Social media is another important technology innovation for companies to take advance of. With Facebook and Twitter apps, mobile users have access to these social media sites any time. A presence on them can help to put your brand in front of their eyes every day. Best of all, social media gives customers the ability to share your original post, thus turning each follower into a potential advertiser in his or her own right. Catchy design, smart promotions, and interesting posts are essential to making this mobile marketing trend work for you. If your content falls flat, you’ll lose followers fast.

Finally, mobile technology innovation trends point toward users being able to accomplish more and more from their smart phones. With a mobile optimized site, you can capture the user’s location. Many shoppers are willing to provide basic information about themselves that can provide businesses with valuable data for further customizing advertising campaigns. With the rights apps, mobile technology will allow you to sell your products right through the user’s mobile phone. A mobile-optimized site lets customers browse your products, read details, and make purchases using their mobile. You can also engage users in new ways with videos, social games, and flashy sites.

Designed by: Carne Associates & modified by Dawud Miracle