Man checking SMS marketing messages on his smartphone.
Customer Engagement

SMS Marketing: What Role Does It Play in Your Strategy for 2020?

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Of all the ways that brands can connect, market, and build loyalty with customers, SMS (text messaging) has seemed to be the most off limits in their marketing arsenal.

Physical mailboxes have been stuffed for years with promotional material, leading many consumers to adopt the habit of opening their mail next to the shredder in their home office.

Email inboxes have swelled with promotional messages. A steady pattern of opting in for promotions and communications when making an online purchase or just reading an article can easily lead to inboxes so full, they cry for the user to click on “select all” to discard pages of messages at a time, without reading even one.

Our beloved smartphones have also become highly toxic as the inability to reign in robocallers has changed the mobile phone experience. Many people we speak with have decided to answer only calls from numbers already in their contact list or return missed calls only to those that leave a voice message.

The SMS marketing channel on our phones has been protected until recently with people preferring to use it for real-time communications with friends and family. The first incursion of non-personal text messaging probably falls in the realm of customer service. Validating secure codes to reset a password or to approve a questionable purchase via an online banking app are practical and common uses of SMS for business.

A Verizon example

The text message one of our staffers received from Verizon this week is another example of SMS marketing. Verizon had apparently activated a new service and was using the SMS channel to communicate the new benefit. We checked and our staffer had already downloaded the My Verizon app and had enabled SMS notifications on their phone, meaning they were opted-in to receive this message:

But what about marketing? There suddenly seems to be a trend to incorporate the SMS marketing channel more regularly into a brand’s marketing communications stream.

Just since the commencement of 2020, we have seen text messages from brands that are breaking new ground, or crossing some lines depending on your point-of-view. We’ve seen messages lately that can be categorized in one of these categories: enrollment, promotion, customer service — and we have an example of each one to share with you.

Loyalty Program Enrollment via SMS Marketing

One person on our team was enjoying lunch at the Yard House and saw a coaster on the table with an invitation to text the phrase “beer” to an SMS short code. You’ll see a flow of messages below that led the person to enroll as a “Yard House Insider”. The method makes sense to attract people into the program, though the value offered was vague, with SMS marketing messages like “you’ll be the first to know what’s happening at our house” and “recurring updates and promos”. One day after we signed up, there was another message (pictured below): “Stick to your resolutions with the Lifestyle menu section at Yard House”.

Promotions via text messages

One person on our team had recently joined Boston Market’s new loyalty program, Rotisserie Rewards, and didn’t remember being invited to receive promotions via text. We assume they opted in unintentionally and now are receiving text messages like the one below:

SMS Marketing tools can enhance Customer Service

Duffy’s is a well-known sports bar chain in South Florida and has operated its MVP Rewards program for several years. The program has evolved over time, introducing an app and developing a rich array of menu and event promotions. One element of customer experience that has been a long time in solving was associating the customer with their rewards program. There was a time when servers had to ask customers to write their phone number on a piece of paper and then do research at the point-of-sale to get them credit for the meal they were enjoying. Today, there is flyer on tables that alerts customers that they can text a phrase to a short code to get credit for their meal. It’s still not the most polished process, but it is an illustration of how one restaurant is using SMS marketing tools to solve a customer service problem.

SMS marketing is efficient

We’ve also seen that in countries where data plans on smartphones are expensive and penetration is low compared to US expectations, SMS is used to enable loyalty members to check their point balance and get answers to other simple questions. One application of this tool is in use with Grace Kennedy’s GK Value Rewards in Jamaica.

In a culture where consumers check their phones an average of 52x per day and spend approximately 23 percent of their waking time staring at their phone, it should be no surprise that engagement and immediacy are most effectively achieved by communicating through the mobile device.

We’ve seen reports that indicate 54 percent of customers would like to receive promotions via SMS. We’ve also read that customers react well to SMS messages once they’ve opted in:

If you’ve read our take on Loyalty Trends in 2020, you’ll see that the challenge with mobile apps is not to create one, but to figure out how to pack your mobile app with value and utility to make it worthy of download and repeated usage.

Using the SMS channels effectively shortcuts the decision process of whether to download an app for the consumer.

We’ve found research that validates 86 percent of US consumers opt in to receive SMS notifications, so the availability of the channel is high.

With all the evidence found in support of the advantages of using SMS to communicate with customers, we also read that only 11 percent of businesses are using text to send promotional offers.

Surely there are some applications for text messaging that are more effective and bear less risk than others. Using SMS for customer service and enrollment seems logical. How far brands can go using SMS for promotional offers is the area of experimentation that needs to be explored in 2020.

If you truly believe that people are attracted by immediacy of response and increasingly identify with a world where information to support purchase decisions can be obtained in real time, then it seems one step towards the goal of “customer centricity” would be to experiment more with SMS marketing.

Let us know your thoughts on the best uses of SMS marketing for customer communication and how far the channel can be used for offer delivery and to influence purchase behavior. The world is waiting.

SMS Marketing: What Role Does It Play in Your Strategy for 2020?
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