SMS is becoming a commercial channel for brands. Consumers’ widespread use of text messaging is making room for select brands to communicate directly with those who opt in.
As 80 percent of U.S. online adults use smartphones, these wireless devices, in the words of Facebook’s Margaret Gould Stewart, “have assumed a central position in everyday life … as hyper-personalized, multipurpose power tools …right inside our pockets.” New psychological research has suggested that individual “feelings for favorite brands seem an awful like feelings for your friends.” This data, married to use patterns, offers openings for brands to gain 24/7 mobile access to key audiences.
With the average user checking their smartphone 60 times each day or once every 17 minutes, there is a great opportunity for brands to earn their way into the hearts, minds, and screens of their best customers. Eighty percent of consumers find SMS less intrusive and easier to use than apps. Add to that insight from Teradata indicating that 94 percent of SMS messages are opened within three minutes and that 98 percent of the text is read; three times more that tweets and four times more than email. SMS is immediate, personal, intimate, psychological, and responsive, channel qualities that marketers crave.
The trick to building SMS into a brand asset requires four critical moves.
Drive Opt-Ins. Ask your customers or prospects for permission to text them. Offer up SMS as an additional service. Give them a good immediate reason or an incentive to sign up. Understand that only a small segment, probably a younger Millennial one, will act at this time.
Focus on permission for notifications of new merchandise, sales, deals, and rewards, since a recent study from Retale says that 89 percent of Millennials are likely to respond to notifications from their favorite brands. Push notifications are a springboard step in building brand loyalty. According to Kahuna Research, the average long- and short-term retention rates for users who have opted in for push notifications are more than twice as high for those who haven’t.
Be Relentlessly Relevant. Only send SMS messages that people will really care about. Edit yourself. Protect the immediacy or privacy of this channel by only sending information, offers, or notifications that your customers are very likely to care about. Factor in time of day and day of week to be sure that your SMS communications are relevant at an exact moment in time. Use personal, purchase, or behavioral data to decide what to send and when. SMS access is a rare gift, and it must not be overused or abused with spam.
Think Local. Ninety-four percent of Millennials use location-based services. Geo-location apps and notifications are becoming increasingly commonplace and reasonably well accepted. Proximity and immediacy should drive your strategy. Selectively and carefully offer SMS messages that can be instantly scanned and instantly understood as valuable (deals, offers, coupons, specials, exclusives). Limit availability by time to drive more engagement or action and to validate the channel’s utility.
Converse. SMS is a two-way conversation. Anticipate the ebb-and-flow of the conversation your brand wants to have and develop your program accordingly. People text back and forth routinely. They expect an exchange of texts and an opportunity to interact. Plan for one that rewards the consumer and enhances the brand experience.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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