An Exciting Update About Semaphore

Dear Semaphore Customers

We are thrilled to announce that Semaphore has been acquired and is now being operated by Sombra Inc, a leading provider of internet services and software development for small businesses. While this may seem like a big change, you are still in great hands! The same people who originally developed Semaphore are part of the new organization!

What does this mean for you?

On a day-to-day basis, it’s business as usual. Your SMS messages will continue to be delivered uninterrupted. Going forward there are many new features planned for next year including support for multiple users and accounts, one-stop OTP solutions, scheduled blasts and much more.

Will there be any downtime?

The Semaphore service should remain operational as most of the transition has already taken place. There may be a brief outage for email as we transfer the semaphore.co mail domain to another service but this will be scheduled during a low period and we will provide advance notice and alternative emails to use

What about OR requests?

All OR requests from December 16, 2019 onwards will come from Sombra, Inc.
Any outstanding requests will be completed this week. ORs for transactions before December 16, 2019 will still come from Kickstart.

What does this mean for us?

Semaphore now has new resources and capabilities to continue driving value for you and your customers. We are committed to providing the same high quality service you’re used to as well as providing a fresh approach to new features, support and development going forward.

Our story continues…

Semaphore started out 6 years ago as a quick and easy way for businesses in the Philippines to connect with their customers via SMS. It was then that helping small businesses thrive in today’s digital economy became our mission. As we move forward in our next chapter our mission is the same and we now have more resources, tools and staff to support you as we continue to grow together.

I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one customer for putting your trust in us over the last 6 years and bringing us to where we are today. We come to work everyday for you. This commitment is stronger than ever during this exciting time!

Please feel free to reach out if you have any comments, questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Rex and the Semaphore team!

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and makes sure the Kickstart portfolio companies have not run amok. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

Happy New Year and a big thank you from Semaphore!

Thanks to you, our customers, 2017 was a record breaking year for Semaphore and 2018 is shaping up to be even bigger! As you might recall, we successfully launched our new and improved platform early last year.

As a result of our growth, late last year we experienced a few growing pains involving messages being delayed by minutes and sometimes even hours. To start off the year we’ve been working hard to make the platform as fast and reliable as possible. To achieve those goals we’ve made a few key changes to the way messages are handled as follows:

Single Messages 
Single messages are now processed before bulk messages, meaning that if you send a message to one recipient, that message is prioritized over a message being sent to multiple recipients in a single API request. This should solve the issue where bulk marketing messages end up clogging the queues and delaying messages.

Priority Messages
We’ve also implemented priority messages and corresponding API endpoint which allows your message to skip to the front of the line on both the “bulk” and “single” message queues. To prevent abuse, this “priority messages” cost 2 credits (instead of 1 credit) per 160 character message.

To use this method just change the API endpoint from /api/v4/messages to /api/v4/priority. Priority messages have a guaranteed SLA of 10 minutes. The priority endpoint is not rate limited. This is good for time sensitive messages like one-time passwords or two factor authentication.

API Connection Limits
Starting April 1, 2018 all non-priority API requests will be limited to 30 requests per minute. If your system is sending the same message to multiple numbers, please make a single request to /api/v4/messages and specify multiple numbers (comma separated) in the ‘recipient’ field.

These features are currently in beta so let us know if you have any problems–we appreciate your feedback! Our documentation has been updated and can be found at https://semaphore.co/docs. Thanks again for helping us to be the best way to send SMS in the Philippines and please do let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help either through the chat widget on our websites, by emailing support@semaphore.co or through our Facebook page.

As always, thanks for choosing Semaphore!
Your Semaphore Team

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and makes sure the Kickstart portfolio companies have not run amok. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

How to Grow Your Opt-In SMS Database

How to Grow Your Opt-In SMS Database

An SMS campaign is nothing without a profitable opt-in database. And when growing your list, there are rules to follow.

While easy, buying a purchased list is a big no-no. It should be permission-based and grown organically. Unsolicited commercial text messages can be seen as spam and damage your brand’s reputation, whereas permission-based messages target customers that have shown interest in your product or service. Obtaining your recipients’ permission first will result in higher response and conversion rates.

If you have collected information from your customers, you can ask them for their mobile numbers. Sometimes, customers can be hesitant in sharing their personal contact information, and you’ll need to work to build their trust first (or properly incentivize them).

Here are some tips and strategies to help you grow your opt-in list for text blast.

Ways to Grow Opt-In SMS Database

1. Incentivize Signups with Valuable Offers

People value on their privacy, they will be hesitant in giving personal information away without good reason. However, they can often be incentivized to do so, if they can gain something in exchange. It can be a discount code, an exclusive promotion, valuable information, or important notifications.

When you’re getting customers to sign up for your SMS campaign, it’s important to focus on what benefits they can get out of it. Be sure to convey the level of exclusivity that opting in to your SMS list offers.

2. Use SMS Keyword and Short Code on your Advertisements

If you run a brick-and-mortar store, you can put up a sign that drives customers to text a specific keyword to a short code number for special discounts, promotions, and exclusive freebies. You can also place this information on your billboards, flyers, website, and other marketing materials.

Keep your instructions and benefits clear to readers, and use a simple and relevant keyword that is easy to remember and spell.

In the sample below, WCCB-TV implemented this strategy to grow both its opt-in database and community. By texting WCCBVIP to 31401, subscribers do not only get a chance to win two advance screening passes. They also become a member of its text club.

3. Integrate SMS with Other Marketing Channels

Exhaust all possibilities to reach potential subscribers by asking them to opt-in to your SMS list using other marketing channels.

You can add a banner image to your website with simple instructions on how they can sign up to your SMS list. Place a reminder in your email newsletter about how they can receive SMS notifications for more exclusive discounts and promos. In your online sign-up forms, try adding a field for mobile numbers. Consistently posting on your social media channels about your SMS campaign is also helpful in growing your SMS database.

Here are the other marketing channels where you can include your SMS opt-in message:

  • Flyers and print advertisements
  • Social media posts and ads
  • Search ads
  • Email newsletter
  • In-store signs
  • Billboards
  • Events and conferences
  • Radio and TV

Final Thoughts

Since you want your SMS list to include customers who are interested in your business, it is also your responsibility to give them the ability to unsubscribe when they no longer want to receive notifications or messages from you. This will also help you manage and filter your SMS database.

Of course, opting out is the last thing you want your customers to do, so do your best to keep them engaged!

Want to grow your business using SMS? Sign up for Semaphore here!

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and makes sure the Kickstart portfolio companies have not run amok. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.

Case Studies: How 4 Startups Used SMS for Customer Loyalty

How 4 Startups Used SMS for Customer Loyalty

The future of the Philippine startup ecosystem is bright. With an active startup community of over a hundred companies and a strong push from the government, the country aims to have 500 startups with a total valuation of US$2 billion by 2020.

As the local startup industry grows, a key area that entrepreneurs need to look into for long-term better returns is customer retention. Up to 70% of companies agreed that retaining a customer is cheaper than generating new ones. A 5% growth in customer retention can yield a 75% increase in a company’s user base, with happy customers sharing through their social media channels driving most of the growth.

Many customer retention strategies exist today, but SMS remains to be a powerful means to engage customers and encourage brand loyalty. In the Philippines, 400 million text messages are being sent every day, emphasizing the importance of reaching and engaging the Filipino customer via SMS API and other text messaging strategies.

Here are some success stories on how Philippine startups have used SMS to provide a better customer experience and improve customer loyalty.

 

zap

1. ZAP

ZAP is a loyalty-based rewards program that lets users earn points from partner merchants. With the goal of re-targeting existing customers, ZAP created an automated customer journey program, which enabled them to automatically send SMS when certain triggers are met. The objective is to encourage users to make a return visit by sending them reminders about rewards and freebies they can claim with partner merchants.

The triggers were activated after the first visit (to encourage a second visit as soon as possible), after 30 days, 60 days, and 120 days with no transactions, and 7 days before a customer’s birthday to encourage the user to celebrate with a partner merchant.

The messages were based on how many points a user had, and the length of their inactivity. For example, users with more points were offered bigger redemption options, as seen below:

Claim your FREE Steak & Frites at DRAFT Gastropub by redeeming your 1000+ ZAP points! More places to use ZAP: www.zap.com.ph/app

ZAP’s SMS strategy returned impressive results. Within a week, 17.1% of the customers who had received an SMS returned to make another purchase. Within a month, the number of returning customers increased to 41.5%. And after implementing the program for a year, they saw an ROI of over 100% for 95% of their merchants, 1000% for their top 6 merchants, and a whopping 5000% for the top merchant.

 

Kalibrr

2. Kalibrr

A job-matching platform that allows talent and companies to connect, Kalibrr learned that most candidates do not always have immediate access to a computer or even mobile internet. So, they decided to facilitate communications between themselves and jobseekers, as well as recruiters and jobseekers. Using an SMS API, Kalibrr automated sending text notifications for job opportunities and interview reminders to applicants.

Since every single mobile phone has SMS capabilities (and there are more cellphones than people in the Philippines), texting has enabled Kalibrr to reach and engage with 100% of their user base at all times.

Based on qualitative feedback, Kalibrr’s texts to jobseekers have been “very useful and well-loved” for giving timely updates.

 

pinoytravel

3. PinoyTravel

PinoyTravel is an online long distance bus, ferry, and hotel booking website. Similar to Kalibrr, PinoyTravel has found that the Philippine market is not yet ready for a purely online strategy because many of their customers do not have continuous access to the Internet or mobile data.

Thankfully, Filipinos almost always have enough cellular reception to receive texts. So, PinoyTravel uses SMS to send reminders about customer bookings, payments, and other updates.

PinoyTravel received positive feedback on their SMS strategy and their customers enjoyed receiving the text notifications.

 

OLX

4. OLX

OLX is an online marketplace that hosts the largest buy and sell community in the Philippines. To make sure the sellers are legitimate and easy to contact, OLX vets their numbers with a 2-step SMS verification process.

They also find that most of their users are not always online to receive email and app push notifications, making SMS the best way to connect with their user base. OLX users are notified via SMS when important action needs to be taken, including but not limited to: messages to buyers when sellers accept their offer, and messages to sellers when buyers are interested or when they need to repost their advertisement for better results.

 

The startup scene in the Philippines is ripe for growth, and these case studies have shown that SMS will remain an important channel for customer engagement, retention, and overall experience. Since every mobile device can receive texts even without internet connection, marketing messages sent via SMS are almost impossible to ignore.

Use SMS to your advantage today and reach the widest possible number of customers, engage them, and retain them through text messaging campaigns.

Alex built Semaphore’s tech backbone and keeps it running smoothly. In his spare time, he grows hydroponic tomatoes and makes sure the Kickstart portfolio companies have not run amok. Connect with Alex on LinkedIn. Click here.