Despite the mobile revolution, many marketers have remained hesitant about using the text-message/SMS marketing channel.
Even with business use of text messaging having grown 20% as a result of the pandemic, just 3% of registered businesses worldwide are using it to communicate and transact with consumers, according to Mobilesquared data.
Just 14% of companies currently text with consumers, and 65% of brands still don’t have a formal text-marketing strategy, according to stats from various industry surveys gathered by SlickText.
“That’s surprising, given text messaging’s natural fit for business-to-consumer communications,” says Chuck Moxley, vice president of marketing for text-messaging platform Mobivity.
As a native installation on mobile phones, text-messaging apps offer potential reach to massive universes: 292 million people in North America and 5 billion globally use texting (80% and 65% of those populations, respectively).
SMS apps are also used more often than any other app (most apps are abandoned within 90 days of being downloaded), points out Moxley.
As Gartner has noted, various sources report SMS open and response rates as high as 98% and 45%, respectively — in contrast to corresponding figures of 20% and 6% for email.
Numerous surveys have found large percentages of consumers reporting that they want to text with their favorite brands to get updates and receive promotional offers, and use texting for customer service issues and functions such as making reservations.
Texting can be particularly effective for ecommerce offers. “On major shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when nearly every ecommerce business is promoting discounts, texting can be used to cut through the noise and give your customers the opportunity to claim a discount, and make a purchase, almost instantaneously,” says Moxley.
Brick-and-mortar brands that have integrated text messaging in their technology stacks are finding that the two-way communication greatly improves the online ordering and pickup experiences, he reports.
And consumers are far more likely to opt in (via a simple five-digit shortcode) for promotions via text than email and other channels.
Brands can confirm opt-in with users to guard against accusations of spamming, and a brand’s texting platform can be integrated with point-of-sale, loyalty, email and social media efforts to ensure marketing and fulfillment campaigns are personalized and integrated for the best consumer experience.
Other recent survey findings cited by SlickText: 64% of consumers think companies who text value their time, are progressive and would recommend them to others; 53% say they feel more positive toward a brand that uses mobile messaging to communicate; and 45% say the ability to send mobile messages is what could convince them to choose one brand, product or service over another.
So what’s been preventing a much more robust uptake of SMS marketing to date?
Although it’s bottom-line results that matter, cost is always a key factor, and SMS campaigns “are significantly more costly than email campaigns on a per-message basis because all the messages must flow through mobile operators that charge a premium,” according to Gartner.
SMS marketers must also be vigilant about adhering to both the Telephone Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act.
In combination, those require obtaining explicit written consent/opt-in from each individual before sending texts (just providing a phone number doesn’t count), easy access to program terms and conditions, and simple opt-out mechanisms.
To ensure a positive rather than alienating experience, marketers also need to determine the types of content and frequencies desired by different customer demographics, and deliver those in practice.
SMS marketing requires having or tapping into expertise and attention to detail, in other words.
But this channel is looking more attractive than ever these days, for at last two big reasons.
One is the pandemic’s acceleration of consumers’ already rapidly growing embrace of ecommerce.
The other is marketers’ pressing need to gather and leverage first-party data, with Apple’s mandatory opt-in for tracking iOS users across apps and sites kicking in, and Google’s ending its support for cookies further off now, but still looming.
Data collected through explicit upfront consent and ongoing interaction via the under-used SMS channel could be one efficient route to building an engaged first-party digital audience.