February 5, 2014 Leave a Comment
In the quest for mobile competence we identified as a top 2014 priority, it’s tempting to focus on tablet marketing techniques and branded apps as the solution for driving mobile consumer engagement. But merchants would do well to consider a humbler, but no less potentially effective, avenue for reaching shoppers: the text message.
For starts, developing an SMS service can help merchants reach the broadest possible mobile audience. Fully 81% of cell phone users send and receive text messages, compared with 60% who browse the Internet on their devices and 50% who download apps, the Pew Internet & American Life Project found.
This near-universal usage extends globally, and even to those using the most sophisticated mobile phones; in Europe, for example, 90% of consumers armed with an iPhone still report using text-messaging frequently, according to technology researcher Forrester.
Finally, the inter-operability of text messaging across wireless carriers and device types means that launching an SMS service requires less of a technology investment than developing — and maintaining — smartphone apps on several mobile operating systems.
Perhaps because of these potential benefits, just over half of merchants report that they’re either using SMS campaigns now or plan to do so this year, according to a recent survey from Exact Target. Of the 26% of merchants currently using SMS services, more than half report “excellent” results for a variety of campaigns, from “welcome” routines for new subscribers to holiday messaging.
So while merchants should attune their mobile strategies to their target audiences, SMS campaigns should almost always be part of the mix. To successfully craft an SMS strategy and develop campaigns, merchants should:
Start with a foundation of ethical practices. While text messaging can potentially provide effective, broad mobile reach, its unique medium and format require merchants to exercise caution and create messaging that conforms to common standards. Among them:
Following industry guidelines for opt-in and opt-out. The Mobile Marketing Association’s guidelines describe how to give consumers maximum control over their SMS subscription — essential given that, depending on the wireless plan, a per-message fee might apply. For starts, merchants should institute a double-opt-in routine for new subscribers and include opt-out information with every message.
Treading lightly when it comes to frequency and scheduling. Because text messaging is not only a one-to-one medium, but an immediate one — with 90% of text messages being read within 3 minutes, by some counts — merchants should exercise caution with the timing of their messages. For example, overnight hours are to be avoided for delivering text messages, since many consumers sleep near their phones and might not take kindly to receiving promotional materials in the dead of night.
Think beyond contests when it comes to content. While “text to win”-style sweepstakes are commonplace, they’re only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ways merchants can engage consumers via text messaging. Among the contenders:
Limited-time alerts. With the popularity of daily deals and “flash sales” continuing to rise, merchants can capitalize on the immediacy of SMS messaging to deliver exclusive, limited-time offers. Macy’s messaged SMS subscribers in synch with a network television show, letting them know they could shop looks featured on the show
Post-purchase notifications, including replenishment reminders. Delivering shipping status notifications and reminders to reorder to mobile devices ups convenience and encourages them to re-engage with the brand on the go.
In-store purchase support. SMS can be a viable alternative to QR codes for giving shoppers in physical outlets quick access to further product information online, such as buying guides or customer reviews. And with mobile coupons enjoying a redemption rate of 10%, compared with paper coupons at 1%, SMS links to mobile coupons for immedate use can connect shoppers with the discounts they seek.
Promote — and differentiate — SMS availability everywhere. Once they’ve developed an SMS service, merchants should be sure to promote it prominently — and to detail how messages will complement, not duplicate, existing options for staying in touch with the brand, such as email updates or social media. Among the locations to consider:
The eCommerce site. Merchants should let desktop and laptop shoppers know that they have an option to connect with the brand beyond browsing the mobile web.
The mobile Web site. While it may seem redundant, the option to receive incoming “push” alerts means consumers on the go don’t need to remember to keep checking the mobile Web site. Saks Fifth Avenue recently gave SMS alerts pride of place on the mobile home page.
In stores. Merchants should use store displays to promote the benefits of staying connected via SMS. Ace Hardware emphasizes the exclusive nature of the discounts offered by SMS with a “Mobile Only Offers” banner on signage. The point-of-sale signage includes examples of discounts available via the SMS program.
How are you incorporating SMS into your mobile strategy?