The Magic of SMS in a Mobile World

In the age of 5G and endless Zoom meetings, we’re digitally connecting with people and brands more each day, especially on our phones. Mobile commerce growth that was projected to take 2 to 3 years took place over a matter of months in 2020, and the average consumer spent 27% of daily waking hours on mobile in April 2020 — up 20% from 2019.

An Expanding Mobile-First Mentality

With consumer behavior making such drastic changes this year, it only makes sense that marketers have taken advantage of this m-commerce opportunity. With Google's mobile-first index, optimizing everything for mobile devices has never been more important. In Q3 2020, the number of apps in Apple’s App Store surpassed 1.96 million — representing a 7.5% increase compared to the previous quarter. Additionally, another channel that has shown monumental growth in the last year is Text Message (or SMS) Marketing.

During the Cyber Week 2020, mobile commerce drove between 45-50%+ of the sales. Looking at conversion rates alone, SMS’ 29% CVR does not even come close to other digital marketing channels like email (3.26%), Google Ads (3.17%), or Facebook ads (9.21%).

Creating an Integrated Approach

However, this does not mean that shutting down your email or advertising programs and putting all your eggs into the SMS marketing basket will make your metrics *chef’s kiss.* On the contrary, while SMS is still gaining traction in the marketplace, it’s more important than ever to ensure it’s brought into programs as a part of an integrated strategy where different touchpoints are happening throughout the buyer journey. Not only does this approach allow the customer to communicate with your brand in a different, potentially better and more effective way for them, but it can help strengthen the performance of your other marketing channels in the process.

For example, if you’re looking to increase engagement in a certain social channel or even a specific post, you can leverage your SMS audience to engage with said post, or harness that data to create a more accurate lookalike audience when boosting. Or if you are using a fully integrated digital marketing program (like Salesforce Marketing Cloud), you can send an abandon browse text to customers who clicked an ad but did not convert in that session.

Balancing SMS & Email Marketing

And while SMS is a great tool to help channels like social and paid, it’s closest digital marketing channel is email. While some marketers try to compare the two and choose one over another, it’s important to understand that when these two channels are used together in the right way, connections between customers and brands, and consequently, marketing metrics, improve and increase significantly. In order to do this though, it’s important to know the difference between the two channels so you can harness both of their strengths to their maximum potential.

As you’re probably aware, email suits a multitude of purposes, and it’s something many customers are used to receiving for several reasons, including in-depth and educational information, deals and coupons, service or product promotions, feedback, and above all, building, establishing, and maintaining a community.

And while SMS marketing may be rising in popularity, email isn’t going anywhere. Studies have shown that by sending a follow-up text to your customers asking if they’ve read your email can increase email open rates by as much as 30%. This gives marketers the ideal opportunity to engage with customers through both mediums, based on the right balance for your organization and industry. To find this balance, take a look at the behavior of your email subscribers to see if they are opening your emails on mobile already. If so, opening up the option of SMS to them first will give you a good understanding of your audience interest. It all starts with discovering what your customers are looking for and how you can deliver it. 

Improving Customer Service

Another great thing about SMS is that it makes the customer feel like they are involved in the conversation and have power. Most other marketing channels make the customer feel like they are being talked to, rather than conversed with. Brands who have already taken this approach have seen great success, especially when emphasizing the connection between customer service and marketing. 

Businesses who provided customer service through SMS saw a 29% increase in customer satisfaction, and saved money because messaging is 75% less expensive than voice interactions. Salesforce, specifically, harnessed SMS at their annual conference Dreamforce, in 2019. Because attendees were able to reply directly to marketing messages and get connected with an agent if they had a question in response to an SMS, it created a more connected customer experience.

Start Planning Ahead

So SMS sounds great, right? It can do so much for brands and customers. However, as with any other marketing or communications channel, there are some challenges your brand should address and resolve before diving in head thumbs first.

Mobile-Optimize Your Website

  • It’s 2021 — people are getting rid of the negative things in their life that they don’t need, including brands with poor digital experiences. Don’t let your 2012 mobile site UX be the reason your SMS campaigns fail. Make sure that you keep the promises you make explicitly and implicitly, otherwise you’ll receive that dreaded ‘UNSUBSCRIBE’ response in a heartbeat. If you’re not interested in mobile-optimizing your website, I beg of you, please please please put your SMS marketing strategy on hold. I promise, it will be much more effective if you take care of your site first.

Respect Your Customers’ Boundaries and Understand Their Needs

  • Giving your number to a brand with a bad marketing strategy is like giving your number to the annoyingly persistent guy at the bar. There are some instances and industries that no one wants calls or emails from, like appointment confirmations for the healthcare and beauty industries, as well as questions or directions from recruiting and insurance agencies. For them, SMS is a great option! However, there are some things that people don’t want to receive texts about (i.e. a sale for 5% off — an offer that, as a consumer, is not exclusive nor worth my time).
  • It’s important that your organization doesn’t create additional stress by sending too many texts. If you don’t have anything important to say or offer, it’s best not to send a text at all. By sending out only your most exciting texts, you’ll avoid annoying customers. Plus, when they do see that they’ve gotten a text from you, they’ll know it’s something good and be more likely to act on it.

Don’t Do What Email Did 20 Years Ago

  • As SMS marketing continues to rise in popularity, so are the dreaded spam messages. 60% of SMS users already receive spam messages once a week — 28% receive one a day. Therefore, in the not too distant future, SMS marketing could face many of the same challenges as email marketing when it comes to deliverability. Please don’t be that guy that buys lists of phone numbers and ends up making SMS way more difficult for everyone.

If you can optimize your user experience, respect your customer's needs, and avoid being that spammy company that ruins the effectiveness of SMS for the rest of us marketers, the value of the 1:1 connection that you will create with your customers will increase tenfold. With a text message, you can interact with people in a way that feels personal and 1:1, but fits easily into their everyday lives. You’re not interrupting them with a phone call or overwhelming them with too many choices. It’s quick to read and respond to, and very few people ever leave an SMS unread.

With mobile activity and the importance of personalization among consumers increasing every day, marketers need to adapt to their new needs by creating more 1:1 mobile experiences for them. It’s no wonder that the average response rate for SMS marketing is 45%, but I guarantee you, those metrics are not taken in a vacuum. The more integrated your approach is with other channels, the better your strategy will perform. Even though things seem to be moving faster and faster each day, the most important thing we can do is build connections with each other.

Written by Mollie Jahnke on January 27, 2021

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Written by
Mollie Jahnke
Associate Director, Email Marketing