Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Why SMS is essential to the future of marketing

By Alex Hendricks, Senior Product Manager at Iterable

How many times did you check your texts today? Whether you’re an avid texter or not, there’s a high likelihood you sent or received a text at some point during the day.

At the nexus of several major (and lasting) trends is an oft-misunderstood mobile marketing channel: SMS. As consumers embrace online shopping, they’re relying on their phones at every step of the buying journey; from discovery to purchase and tracking items. This new consumer habit gives brands the opportunity to curate mobile shopping experiences — from product recommendations to customer support recommendations and shipping updates — via text messaging.

Consumers are comfortable having conversations via SMS, and see text messaging as a high-value channel that helps them build 1:1 relationships with the brands they love. In fact, nine in ten consumers are interested in signing up to text messages to hear more from brands. 30% of consumers will respond to a SMS marketing campaign and, of those that do, around half will go on to convert. The personal nature of SMS helps consumers feel valued by brands — deepening their loyalty. It’s clear that brands have a massive opportunity to capture consumers’ attention (and build deep, lasting relationships that generate e-commerce revenue) with SMS.

Bright future, how do we get there?

Text and SMS are important; as recently as five years ago, text messaging was the single most popular feature used on smartphones. With everyone in one spot, not seeing family and friends, and suffering from Zoom fatigue, the number of daily texts is likely rising quickly.

So for marketers, the decision to add SMS to their marketing strategy should already be made. The next step: perfecting the SMS strategy.

The obvious benefit of SMS: reaching customers where they are. Adults are now spending almost four hours a day on their mobile devices, which means the chances of engagement with your brands’ message is very high. Marketers can take the goal of consumer engagement a step further by sending SMS messages literally to where the customer is. An SMS service that provides updates about happenings in your area, The Nudge does a great job at sending relevant messaging that pertains directly to users’ locations.

While personalisation (especially in terms of geolocation) will get a brand noticed, there are other ways to stand out over SMS. Text messages are personal. They’re a direct contact between people. The content is fluid, conversational, and fun. Brands should be using SMS in a similar manner. Take Resy, as an example. This reservation brand utilizes a more conversational tone in their confirmation messages. “Just a reminder” is something you likely heard from a coworker today. And “Thanks for letting us know” feels like a nice, polite touch beyond the standard, robotic-sounding “Your reservation has been cancelled.” This isn’t to say you should message customers solely in acronyms and emojis (unless, of course,

that fits the tone of voice for your brand) but adding a conversational tone and the occasional smile makes your messages more readable.

There are many ways to build rapport (and relationships) with customers. Marketers should treat the channel like they do friends and family, which will encourage consumers to respond in kind

What do marketers need to know?

SMS marketing is about tapping into one of today’s most-used communication methods. It’s a direct line to users. There are incorrect assumptions of how expensive and complex SMS is compared to other channels. While this may have been true at one point, it’s no longer the case. Technology has enabled incredible advancements in marketing, and has been especially transformational for SMS, ensuring marketing messages are not just well received by consumers, but also cost-effective and simple to set up. From drag-and-drop to automation, marketers can now quite literally type a promotional piece of copy and select the audience, and press “send” in a few clicks. They can also build automated pathways, wherein texts are sent out to keep customers informed, such as an order being taken or a product being out for delivery.

It may sound like a small point, but shortened URLs are another great example of increased ability. Nothing puts customers off more than a URL which stretches out over a couple of lines, or even multiple messages. For this reason, savvy brands are realising they need to be shortened. In the past this has meant brands have been forced to use a third party, adding complexity, making personalization more difficult and placing limitations on the analysis of campaign performance. New advances in marketing automation allow this functionality to be delivered on one platform, providing a seamless experience for marketers and customers alike.

By automating and simplifying the text message capability, technology allows marketers to spend less time worrying about complexity and more time curating and creating SMS campaigns that start conversations with consumers.

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