Commentary

Mobile Messages: The New Subject Lines

Email is wildly profitable. It is not going away, but alternative communication channels are eroding its primacy in our lives. Perhaps it’s time to drag out that old saw about the fatal mistake train companies made, thinking they were in the railroad business rather than the transportation business.

We are in the digital messaging business.  

The majority of our customers are open to receiving texts for can’t-miss messages like fraud alerts, reminders and travel updates.  Just under half (49%) are open to receiving them for sales, discounts and promotions, per a Corvisa survey. Customers are roughly twice as likely to use an app if they receive Push notifications and about 45% will opt-in.

Yet according to Yesmail's 2016 Channel report, only 26% of U.S. retailers send promotions to their customers via their app and 22% via SMS. We are lagging behind customer interest and expending little energy on these highly personal, highly intimate communications. 

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I propose that we need to invest the same amount of measurement, personalization and testing in notifications and texts that we do with email subject lines. Here are some things to try:

Learn what is causing customers to opt out of SMS or delete your app. Reports are not as nicely formatted and easy-to-come-by as they are for email, but the data is there. Attribute all opt-outs/app deletes to message A until message B is sent and plot them to identify the peaks and valleys. What was it about the message/offer/timing that may have caused them?

Learn what resonates with customers. Track what is generating clicks and plot as suggested above. Employ unique offer codes to gauge the value of a send and your subscriber base as a whole. You can't get appropriate staff and budget if you don't know how much revenue you are generating.  

Measure cross-pollination. If you offer email, SMS and Push, what percentage of your total subscriber base is opted into one or a combination? Are multi-subscription customers more valuable? Is it better to have consistent offers or channel-specific offers?

Test! As we have done for years with email, review your data, test approaches, develop theories and document the results. A few places to start:

Copy treatments. (I have always wanted to try Persado for this!)

Timing -- day of week, time of day or personalized send time optimization, based on behavior patterns.

Symbols, images/animations (MMS), app inbox badges (Push).

Personalization.  Include name, loyalty points, city or product/category of interest.  You may first need to figure out how to connect the data dots.

It's an exciting time to be in the digital messaging business.  Those who invest the energy will be rewarded with more revenue for their companies are more job opportunities in the years ahead.

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