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October 20, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:41am

Getting the message: The future of SMS marketing

By Phillip Othen

The ubiquity of mobile phones gives rise to some quite remarkable statistics.

Nine in ten people open their text messages while more than 60% read them within five minutes (Mobile Monkey, Simple Texting 2021).

This coupled with the prediction that there will be more than 7.5 billion mobile users in the world by 2026 (Statista 2021), demonstrates the unbelievable scale when it comes to SMS marketing.

Innovative drinkware company BruMate is clearly sold. The direct-to-consumer product-makers are bumping up their spending on SMS marketing, confirming it “makes up the most significant share of revenue across all channels”.

This audience potential represents a huge uptick, especially for those with sophisticated websites, apps and online services which help customers fulfil a sale with ease (and still from the phone).

Text marketing is also inherently easy to access. The default setting in mobile phones allows for push notifications; that is a message will be sent regardless of the device or browser, popping up on the home screen.

As a result, 90% of recipients will open the message, compared to 20% via email.

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A2P, yeah you know me
Automation is already big news within marketing. Application-to-person (A2P) messaging allows companies and businesses to directly contact multiple customers on their mobiles.

Different to the two-way nature of person-to-person (P2P), A2P rarely requires a response and marketing notifications, two-step authentication and password reset confirmations are all examples.

In addition, personalised and location-based campaigns are possible, meaning it is becoming easier to monetise.

Uber is a great example of a tech company benefiting from A2P – rather than the rider needing to download a further messaging app, Uber can communicate with the customer using SMS and its app.

For this reason, the global A2P SMS market is expected to reach a value of US$ 101bn by 2030 (Transparency Market Research, 2021).

Covid-19 certainly aided this rise – especially in e-commerce – as lockdowns boosted home delivery, while SMS offers and coupons to encourage spending flourished.

Making SMS marketing work
Marketing through text messages is prevalent across B2C and B2B, although there are distinctions between the two.

When marketing to another business, the communication tends to relationship-centric; professionals are less likely to be opportunistic or emotional when it comes to offers or information.

In fact, in many SMS campaigns, companies are simply on the hunt for contact information, so nurturing can begin in earnest.

The contact list is also likely to be more niche and targeted; there is more information on companies widely available than individuals (for now).

For brands, text marketing to customers focuses on brand awareness, engagement and generating sales.

And there are good reasons to trust in this communication channel.

According to Slick Test, 50% of individuals surveyed consider taking action when they receive a text; over 60% of clients would prefer to make reservations by SMS, for example.

Spam, spam, spam
As with most marketing efforts, getting SMS correspondence right is often a struggle, with unexpected results. Competitors, automotive technology constraints, journey obstacles and issues, and rage-inducing messaging all need to be considered.

Perhaps the largest problem is the medium itself. More than 6.3 billion of us own a smartphone, so direct marketing seems like an easy solution, and brands get lazy and predicable.

Ad-blockers, the deletion of third-party cookies and the sheer weight of social media traffic mean that more companies are relying on directly contacting consumers by text or email, especially as digital transformation takes hold and old-fashioned businesses play online catch-up.

As a result, we are bombarded by spam and scams, and we are programmed to avoid clicking unsolicited links of any description. The mantra becomes ‘delete and move on’.

The law – it is illegal for anyone to send you spam texts unless you have previously given them permission – seems clear, but as our digital handprint gradually expands, the amount of brand interaction does likewise, especially when they can also send information about similar products and services.

Ultimately, SMS marketing works. “Nearly 96% of marketers using text messaging say it has helped them drive more revenue – and almost 60% say it’s significantly or overwhelmingly increased revenue generation,” states Attentive in its 2021 SMS marketing report.

But to avoid a saturation point, all marketers will need to be innovative and creative in their SMS communications – especially as customers get more savvy and begin to opt out of – and even report – intrusive texts.

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