The SMS Advantage for Marketing

What’s in this article:

  • To market effectively, you can’t just stick with what worked in the past; you have to use what works now
  • 70% of customers consider texting a good way for businesses to be in touch with them
  • Complying with the legal requirements for SMS is not really more difficult than complying with them for email, but consent is required

Direct communication with customers has evolved from direct mail that may be opened in days to email that may be opened in hours to texts that are most often opened within minutes — if not seconds. As smartphone adoption has risen, so has texting, and marketers are now tapping into the power of SMS.

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Stats on the rise of SMS use

As more and more people acquire smartphones, more of them have come to rely on texting as a regular form of communication. Here are some relevant smartphone and texting stats from SlickText:

  • Around the world, there are about 5 billion people who use SMS.
  • 92% of U.S. adults carry phones capable of texting, and 98% of smartphone users use text on a regular basis.
  • There is some variation by generation: 95% of millennials text every day, while 80% of the general population do the same.
  • Daily hourly smartphone use increased 39% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From messaging to marketing

Techjury found that 62% of smartphone users have made a purchase on the device. For many, it’s the first point of contact for shopping. Specifically, 56.7% of customers report that they consider mobile their primary means of shopping.

Accordingly, Voice Sage found that 70% of customers consider texting a good way for businesses to be in touch with them. SlickText offers even higher numbers, saying that “85% of customers prefer receiving text messages over a phone call or email.”

That brings us to a consideration of how the popularity of smartphones and texting in general can be applied to businesses who wish to connect with customers in particular. SlickText offers these SMS marketing stats:

  • 64% of consumers think companies who text value their time, are progressive and would recommend them to others.
  • 53% of consumers say they feel more positive toward a brand that uses mobile messaging to communicate.
  • 45% of consumers say the ability to send mobile messages is what could convince them to choose one brand, product, or service over another.

That’s consistent with the report that in 2020 66.5% of shoppers subscribed to texts from a larger number of brands than they did the year before. They are very responsive to such messages, as 90% of smartphone users open their messages within three minutes, according to VoiceSage.

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How SMS can be more effective than digital ads

In an interview with Wise Marketer, Dennis Becker, Founder and CEO Mobivity, said, “We consistently see a 14x higher response to SMS offers compared to using email.” He attributes that high level of responsiveness to the fact that shoppers check “their SMS inbox an average of 47X per day.”

He distinguished SMS from other forms of digital marketing that frequently serve ads to people who are engaged in watching a video or listening to a podcast and may resent the interruption. While the ping from the SMS can also be disruptive, it is also anticipated because the subscriber has opted into such messages and does expect to get them.

So long as the marketer doesn’t overstep the subscription permission by sending so many texts that the subscriber starts to regard them as spam, they can actually help deepen the connection. That’s why Becker considers SMS a good way to foster loyalty:

“SMS is not necessarily ‘better than’ loyalty programs, but loyalty programs are certainly ‘better with’ SMS marketing” is the way Becker put it to Wise Marketer.

Certainly, it seems worth looking into for businesses, though they have to be sure to review the legal requirements surrounding this form of communication. You can’t just start sending marketing communication via SMS because you have a customer’s phone number.

Informed consent

Legal requirements governing SMS preclude any business from sending SMS to anyone without consent. That applies even if the customer has given the business a phone number as part of an order confirmation or the like because just getting the number is not the same as getting consent.

Consent has to be explicit and can be done the old-fashioned way with a signature on paper, though it can also be logged digitally. Typically, you’d offer an online form, and you can send a link to one via email or include it on a promotional ad that offers some incentive for subscribing to get texts.

Subscribers can also opt-in via keyword. That works by having customers text a keyword from their mobile device to join your SMS database that you’d confirm with a text.

Every single text message sent has to include an option to unsubscribe with an option to text STOP or the like. For any change, you also have to get consent with an opt-in permission to continue their subscription.

What’s holding businesses back?

Complying with the legal requirements for SMS is not really more difficult than complying with them for email. Yet a lot more businesses are still using email and not yet venturing into SMS.

It can make sense if they know their customer base really does not want that form of communication or includes the rare individual who does not check a phone nearly 50 times a day. But Becker believes it’s more about failure to adapt to new paradigms on the part of the business.

“Many business people are hanging on to traditional media channels, even when these channels are proving less effective by the day, for example, compared to SMS,” Becker told Wise Marketer.

He explained that viewing habits of customers have changed, and ads have to go where the people are. This was particularly accelerated by the effects of the pandemic:

As an example, the impact of COVID on sports meant less people are watching television. We are driving our cars less, so outdoor advertising and to some extent radio are less effective.

The bottom line, he says, is that sticking with what’s been done rather than venturing into what should be done reflects the “massive inertia to change.”

To market effectively, you can’t just stick with what worked in the past; you have to use what works now. For many businesses that means reaching out to customers with SMS.



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