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SMS finally gets down to business

ONCE considered by those outside the loop as little more than the latest ‘must have’ for mobile phone-attached teens, short message service (SMS) technology has evolved to embrace a vast new world of information.

The instant and cost-effective nature of SMS is being utilised by businesses that want to increase efficiencies, create better customer service, or gain stronger marketing strategies.

The Bureau of Meteorology is among the many organisations providing an SMS service to industry and consumers, primarily in response to community demand, according to Bureau of Meteorology regional manager for public marine and special weather services, Neil Bennett.

“Ninety-nine per cent of our information is out there via the web or a telephone service, but we received a number of calls for an SMS service,” Mr Bennett said.

“We have a feedback system on our website and there were a number of comments suggesting we offer an SMS service. We had calls from the emergency services, who thought this could be useful.”

The bureau’s service should assist many industries, including the building industry, which may be able to cancel work in advance or maintain safer work sites during high winds.

Mr Bennett said the alert service would provide a 1-300 number for people to ring if they required further details.

 “We are limited in the number of characters we can send. If they need more info they can call that number for more details,” he said.

The SMS alert service will operate for a trial period of two months and has been organised through Sydney-based Legion Interactive.

ComputerCorp m-commerce manager Glynis Marley said m-commerce, the ability to conduct business using mobile devices, was becoming more common.

“Its mainly beneficial to managing director type people who can check if the plane is running on time when they are in a taxi or get stock market updates or to check emails,” she said.

Ms Marley said several companies were enabling staff to text in to the office for details of particular jobs.

“For example, air-conditioning repair men can send an SMS to say they are at one job and download details of the next job,” she told WA Business News.

Local e-business solutions provider Amnet has noticed a marked increase in the number of companies wanting to utilise SMS for marketing activities.

Amnet sales manager e-business solutions Sarah Wilson said the company now provided several different SMS solutions to cater to increasing growth from small operators to multinationals.

“One of our clients is Coles Myer and they use SMS for communication internally. They are using that to replace their paging systems in all their stores,” Ms Wilson said.

“We have developed a fully integrated solution and they operate everything from their end.”

The cost of using an SMS marketing platform can be an inexpensive marketing tool. Generally businesses are charged for each message sent. That is usually 22 cents, however discounts are available for pre-bought bulk messages.

There is a range of different SMS software packages on the market offering varying degrees of volume and integration with business systems.

Amnet, for example, has three different SMS offerings ranging from an ‘easy SMS desktop’ package through to its recent launch of a ‘premium SMS’ pack-age.

“The ‘eze SMS desktop’ is the simplest product and it allows you to send text messages like you would an email from your desktop. You can integrate it into outlook. A phone icon comes up and you click on that and type like you would an email and send it to mobile phone numbers,” Ms Wilson said.

“Then we have the marketer package. It is used by organisations that want to send bulk emails for advertising and marketing functions.

“This allows them to integrate excel and other programs into it. You can create groups and fields and run a proper marketing campaign.”

The latest product to hit the market would provide an alter-native to 1-900 competition line phone numbers, she said.

“We are launching a Premium SMS product that is pretty exciting. It allows an organisation to charge the customer for content.

“It is the SMS equivalent of a 1-900 number and it used all the time in Europe. For example, banks may choose to offer customers the choice to pay to have them send an SMS of their bank balance.”

The most effective way to utilise SMS marketing is the ‘opt-in’ model, according to e-business solutions experts spoken to by WA Business News, with regard to the privacy laws that govern how a business can collect and distribute information.

Ms Wilson said business should also provide a mechanism to let people off the marketing list.

“It’s important to do that. It’s like email in that you don’t abuse it otherwise the advertising benefits are removed,” she said.

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