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Keep up to date with current news and highlights from the SMS industry
month 03
day 15
year 2017

3 ways SMS can boost educational standards

As the results from students in Australian education continue to slip (source), schools, colleges and universities are looking increasingly towards more supportive methods and channels of communication to contribute to a better educational outcome.  

While telephone and email all serve a purpose, the mass adoption of SMS by millennials and adults alike leaves it open to opportunity.

Here are three ways SMS can be used to improve educational standards:

1. Boost educational performance

School communications have drastically changed in the last two decades. Online portals and emails are used in addition to written notices and report cards as a means of strengthening the partnerships between teachers and parents. And there’s plenty of room to evolve.

Recent research conducted by Columbia University in America found that sending automated SMS alerts to parents following missed assignments, poor grades and class absences of their child, showed that they managed to reduce course failure by 39% and encourage class attendance by 17%.

Text messages like the below showed an increase in the desired response rate:

“Parent alert: Peter has 5 missing assignments in history class. For more information, log in online.”

Many parents didn’t exercise the option to investigate further online, but still were able to use the SMS alerts as a way to improve their child’s performance.

SMS provides parents with vital information instantly, and in a time frame that allows them to react just as quickly.

2. Mobile learning

A study conducted at a community college in North Carolina in the US also looked at how text messaging could be used to enhance mobile learning on a pre-algebra course.

One-way text messages were sent to students about quiz reminders, exams, assignment due dates and various maths problem and formulas for student to solve.

The results were very positive, with students welcoming the reminders, especially after they finished their part time job at night.

Others felt that the formulas or math problems helped them to refresh their memory and assisted their studies.

Some students even suggested that two-way communication which would have enabled them to answer the questions and get further feedback would have been preferred.

This opens up the potential SMS has as an educational tool. SMS enjoys the benefit of being direct, instant and personal yet not intrusive. It enhances engagement and interaction which are essential to keep students motivated in the learning process.

Given more thought, there is an opportunity for SMS to be adopted into different classes and integrated as an aid to help students achieve a better learning outcome.

3. Emotional support

It is estimated that college students spend an average of 9 hours a day on their mobile phone with texting as the number one activity. While some people feel that it raises the alarm of mobile phone addiction, there might be a silver lining here for educational establishments looking to adopt SMS.

The Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand showed how SMS interventions for persuasion and encouragement sent twice a week helped significantly improve the grades of students. In a recent study Maori and Pacific students who received the text messages scored far higher in the final exam than those who didn’t receive any.

This demonstrates how much the personal aspect of SMS can be used to support while improving educational standards of both student and institution.

As an education provider or a not-for-profit organization, do you have any other ideas or methods of using SMS? We’d love to hear from you.

If you would like to discuss ways to integrate SMS into your organisation, contact us on 1300 764 946.

month 01
day 17
year 2017

How to protect yourself from cyber crime

Australia is one of the most targeted countries for cyber criminals, ranking 4th in the world for phishing attacks.

Companies like Australia Post, Telstra and NAB have all been targeted by sophisticated phishing attacks, but fraudsters are not only aiming at these large corporates.

The number of small businesses that are being targeted has also increased, with a local business in South Australia losing $1.5m to a targeted phishing scam in October 2016 (source).

When you look at the sophistication of these attacks on Google Drive and Dropbox, you can probably understand why one in four Australians cannot detect a phishing attack (source)!

Esendex, together with some other SMS solution providers, have recently been targeted, so we are taking this opportunity to show you what are the latest tactics we’ve seen in play, and to give you some suggestions on how to protect yourself as a consumer and as a company to avoid falling victim to cyber criminals.

Look twice at the domain name

One of the most commonly used tactics in phishing attacks is the use of an almost identical url – with a different domain extension only.

As at March 2016, there were 882 domain extensions, and while they could all be used for legitimate business, this also means hackers can use these domain extensions to create highly convincing phishing websites.

Their aim, of course, is to collect personal information such as your username, password or even credit card details.

This is how Esendex and other SMS companies have been targeted. Scammers purchased domain extensions like .pro, .me, .top and .pw; then made a copy of our login page so you ended up seeing something like this:

Fraudulent Site

Fraudulent Site

Actual, non-fraudulent site

Actual, non-fraudulent site

If you’re not looking closely enough, you probably couldn’t spot the differences:

  • The domain extension
  • The use of https and the lock symbol
  • The copyright notice.

And to be honest, these are probably the only differences you will find in any sophisticated phishing website.

As a business, your options for preventing this from happening are unfortunately quite limited. You can use https://www.whois.net/ to find out who the registrar is and report abuse, and they should take the fraudulent website down. How long it takes, though, depends solely on the registrar.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your customers? The best way is through education. Make sure your customers know the legitimate URL to access your website, and advise them of any suspected issues.

For the record, always access Esendex’s services via our brochure site at https://www.esendex.com.au/ and use the login button at the top right, or directly at https://login.esendex.com/.

Remember, pay attention to the domain extension and always stick to recognisable ones like .com.au and .com.

Google Ads aren’t 100% reliable

Many businesses rely on Google Adwords to attract potential customers. Hackers use Google Adwords to attract potential victims too.

In our case, we bid our own brand name in Google Adwords, so when someone searches for ‘Esendex’, they will see our ad as a sponsored link at the top of the result.

However, any third party can also bid on Esendex’s brand name, so our hackers did too, and this is how it looked on Google UK:

Fraudulent Google Adwords Campaign

Bitcoin was targeted by this same tactic in 2016, as was Google Adwords itself. So whether you are a business owner who uses Google Adwords, or as a consumer relying on Google search, this is certainly something to look out for.

If you are an Adwords user, you can set up alerts to advise you when someone outbids you on your own brand name, and you can automatically increase your bid to stay at the top of the list.

It is also important that you report the activity to Google, so that they can take action to close the scammer’s Adwords account and stop them from fooling more people.

And again, encourage your customers to bookmark your website rather than using the search engine, and make them aware of the legitimate URL of your website so that they can protect themselves.

Take your password seriously

With an average person having at least 90 online accounts, ranging from emails, social media accounts, banking, utilities and government services, we really should take our password security more seriously.

Yet over 50% of people use 5 or fewer passwords across their entire online life, and 47% haven’t changed their password in 5 years or more (source).

If this is not convincing enough for you to go change your password now, try this: go to https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and check if your email is in one of the stolen databases among all the hacks that happened in recent years, including the breach of LinkedIn.

If you found your email in there, it is a clear warning sign and you really should consider changing your password for all online services. And remember:

So, what do you think readers? Have you or your business experienced phishing attacks? Share with us your experiences in the comments.

month 12
day 13
year 2016

Who is Santa’s little helper this Christmas? – infographic

Esendex SMS is Santa's little helper

It’s not just elves and reindeer that will be helping Santa this Christmas. SMS is playing its part in helping to ease the pressures in the lead up to, over and after the festive period.

While rushing around getting presents may be a priority for most of us, in the background many businesses like yours will need to make sure that the cogs keep turning.

Shift and overtime management, out of stock and product alerts, this kind of activity all contributes to making sure your customers enjoy the best service so that they’re happy. And happy customers are likely to turn into the most loyal ones.

526 million children will be expecting a gift from Santa Claus this year, and that figure doesn’t include Mums, Dads, friends and the odd acquaintance – your business will likely play a part in these purchases whether in making these gifts, selling them or ensuring they get delivered on time.

But how can SMS help you?

98% of text messages are read…

At Esendex we’ve been working closely with Santa Claus to build a communication solution that uses a combination of bulk SMS, SMS via our API and Mobile Journeys. This not only enhances internal communication for shifts, elf and safety and critical alerts but also adopts our SMS Surveys solution to gather feedback from gift recipients to help make further improvements to Santa’s service in the following year.

Take a look at our latest infographic, and remember: SMS is not just for Christmas, but the whole year!

month 11
day 4
year 2016

Apps, apps, everywhere, but any ROI?

Apps or mobile web

The media might have moved on to bots, but for businesses, apps are still very much on the agenda. Our sales team routinely meet with customers either planning, building or attempting to market an app, and on the face of it, it’s easy to see why.

Techcrunch.com reported that consumers spend 85% of time on smartphones on apps, and that’s the figure people generally fixate on. For some reason they’re glossing over the second half of that headline, which reports than only five apps see heavy use.

The average cost of developing an app has been estimated at $6,543 (source), but, as Deloitte’s 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey report confirmed, “most users download just 0.00001 per cent of the millions of apps available.”

top ten app activitiesWhat makes for a popular app?

The same report highlighted the top ten app activities, ranging from checking the weather, accessing social media, playing games, reading the news and streaming video. The similarity? They’re all things that we do regularly, and, for the most part, for fun.

The difference between these activities, and what most businesses are trying to achieve in developing an app, is that business apps typically want something from you in order to help them.

That could be a meter reading, registering your interest in an event or course, updating contact information, paying a bill, upgrading your account, booking an appointment etc.

They’re all things we do when we *have* to, rather than when we *want* to.

Why apps are so appealing

The principles of behaviour led design dictate that in order to someone to complete an activity, you must have achieved the following:

  1. They must be sufficiently motivated
  2. It must be relatively easy for them to complete the activity
  3. There needs to be a trigger to prompt the activity.

An app absolutely nails point no. 2 – the user experience of completing a form on an app is vastly superior to completing a form on a website (even if that site is mobile optimised), and much more convenient than having to make a call or email.

Is the only way app?

Fortunately, no: if your objective is to get your customers to *do* something for you, a mobile web app such as Esendex’s Mobile Journeys platform delivers an app-like user experience but without the need to develop, market and maintain a native app.

Mobile web apps are accessed via a URL similar to https://ems.ese.pm/Esendex_YiK (this is a link to a sample Mobile Journey so do feel free to check it out!). They are built with the mobile user in mind, so all of the items that generally create friction when completing online forms are smoothed over.

They’re extremely goal-focused, generally only having one purpose, and make self-service an appealing option for your customers.

The principles of behaviour led design:

  1. Motivation: this can take the form of a reward or the threat of a penalty. The beauty of a mobile web app is that you can combine the link to the application in the same message, delivered via email, SMS or even social media.
  2. Ability: as just mentioned, mobile web apps seek to make it as easy as possible for the user to complete a goal on a mobile.
  3. Trigger: whereas apps rely on push notifications being accepted, a mobile web app can be pushed out to customers at the right time and through the communication channel that best suits the customer.

So, in conclusion – before you commit to building an app, it’s most definitely worth exploring your options to see if a mobile web app would be less costly, more effective and tie in better with your overall communications strategy.

Please do comment if you’ve had experience in building either sort of app, and how it worked out for you.

month 10
day 4
year 2016

Optimising form conversion on a mobile – infographic

According to Pew Research Centre, Australia leads the way with smartphone adoption –  at 77% ownership (source), we’re second only to South Korea! Despite this almost complete saturation, businesses have struggled to find ways to engage with their customers via mobile.

While there’s movement towards mobile friendly websites, this in and of itself isn’t fixing the issue. Even with mobile optimisation, the volume of visitors completing registration forms, buying items, requesting trials and simply making contact is vastly reduced when the website is accessed via a mobile device compared to a desktop computer.

In the development and beta testing of our Mobile Journey platform, we’ve learned a lot about what you can do to encourage form completion on a mobile: by reducing friction and building trust, our customers are achieving an average click-to-completion rate of 46.5%.

We’ve highlighted the six most successful tactics, which can be applied to almost any platform, in our infographic!

Mobile form conversion rate optimisation infographic

If you’d like to try out Esendex’s Mobile Journeys platform, you can take a free trial here, or contact us on 1300 764 946.

month 09
day 15
year 2016

Why responsive websites don’t always improve mobile form completion

‘Mobilegeddon’ – Google’s initiative to reward mobile optimised websites with better search engine rankings for searches coming from a mobile device – came and went in April 2015, but Australian businesses were a little slow to react.

Around the same time as Google implemented the new rules, it was reported that 70% of the top 1,000 websites in Australia were not mobile optimised (source). At the time, 56% of Australians accessed the internet at least as often via smartphone as they did via a computer.

Skip forward to 2016 and that figure’s now 63% (source). It all makes for a highly compelling argument that your website should be mobile optimised, and we’re definitely not about to tell you not to do that – however, it’s not a silver bullet to engagement with mobile users.

Here’s Google’s definition of a mobile friendly website:

Definition of mobile friendly websites

It’s all about providing a better user experience for people accessing websites on a mobile, but what’s interesting is that further research has shown that simply making your website mobile friendly doesn’t mean you’re going to enjoy higher conversion rates from mobile users.

By conversion rates I mean the likelihood that someone’s going to complete a form, register for a service, make a purchase etc. This case study illustrated that the impact of responsive (mobile friendly) design on a tablet is negligible, and on a mobile it’s actually worse.

Form conversion on mobile

Additional analysis from the recruitment industry revealed that 8% of candidates accessing a job application form on a desktop will complete it, but that drops to 1.5% when accessed via a mobile.*

Why aren’t Google’s guidelines going far enough to make completing a form on a mobile as likely as a desktop? The researchers concluded that not enough thought is going into reducing friction – the ease of completion – or building trust.

Conversion rate optimisation is not a new discipline but there’s not much out there which tackles mobile devices. We’ve put together our top tips for improving your chances of getting a customer from A to B on their mobile.

Optimising your mobile forms


1Avoid distractions
. Remove anything that’s not absolutely necessary to the customer experience to create both a better aesthetic and keep users focused on the goal.

2Use adaptive error messages that appear immediately when a field has been completed incorrectly, rather than when you’ve clicked submit. They should clearly illustrate how to correct the error, too.

3Depending on the nature of the form, pre-populate fields. So for example, if you have initiated the access of the form by providing a personalised link in an SMS or email, you could hide or pre-fill any fields with information you already have about the customer.

4Remove any fields that aren’t absolutely necessary (as a rule of thumb, shorter forms are more likely to be completed), and if it’s not obvious, explain why you’re asking for the information to build confidence with the user.

5Drop down menus don’t lend themselves to mobile forms. Exchange these for radio buttons, sliders or steppers that allow you to change a number or date by increments.

Our new Mobile Journeys platform was designed with mobile form completion in mind, and we’ve seen average click-to-completion rates of 46.5%. Try a Mobile Journey out here.

*Sources: Eremedia | Esendex UK customer data

month 08
day 26
year 2016

Should staff wages be based on customer satisfaction?

With Uber having a huge impact on the taxi industry, many taxi companies are trying to understand how they can compete. Many people have stated that the service from Uber drivers is better than from a taxi driver, and this could be because Uber drivers are rated on their app.

One taxi company, an Esendex customer, recently started using SMS Surveys to gather feedback from their customers in regards to their taxi journey to find such information.

In order to improve customer service, they are using the results from these surveys to calculate the amount of bonus each taxi driver is awarded. This got us thinking; would more organisations benefit from staff incentives being incentivised on customer satisfaction?

(more…)

month 08
day 17
year 2016

Top 10 telephone frustrations

being called by a company

Being called by a company

Having to call a company or being called by a company, especially a large one, can leave you frustrated before you even start. Past experience has told you that it is going to be long and painful. But in many occasions it’s simply a necessity. You take a big breath in, sigh out and dial the number. Here are the top 10 frustrations that you’re about to encounter.

(more…)

month 08
day 5
year 2016

Your business communication strategy is missing something

business communicationBusiness communication is vital to the success of running a business, it’s how we share important information that allows our businesses to run. It’s how we deliver information from one person or application, to another person or application.

Business communication involves everything from letting consumers know that you are selling something they need, to letting an engineer know something needs fixing. (more…)

month 07
day 20
year 2016

Get more sales with these 5 SMS receipt marketing tactics

Retail-offerEvery time someone makes a purchase from you, you undoubtedly send them an email receipt. Where many see this as simply another standard process to follow, I’m here to tell you there is an opportunity to make further sales.

A customer that has just purchased from you is at their highest level of trust, they’ve done their research and have chosen you. Whether it is their first purchase or hundredth, they are buying from you because they trust you. This is the moment to capitalise on that trust. (more…)