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How SMS can drive engagement with your business

With today’s ‘there’s an app for that’ culture, it’s sometimes easy to see how SMS, or as it’s more commonly known, the text message, gets overlooked. A veteran of the mobile industry and a fundamental part of mobile functionality since the 1980s, today SMS often finds itself in the shadow of flashier messaging options, such as Whatsapp, Snapchat, and even customer-designed instant messaging services that are integrated into social media sites and applications, such as Facebook. And that’s only from a consumer perspective.

Businesses, too, are missing a trick with SMS, by pouring vast amounts of money into bespoke mobile apps for marketing, engagement and branding purposes. I can understand why businesses might feel pressured to take this approach. As of June 2016, there were 2.2 million apps available for Android users to download, and 2 million in Apple’s App Store. So it may seem at first glance that by not developing an app of your own, you are in danger of falling behind your competitors.

I would urge companies not to dismiss the value of SMS when it comes to mobile marketing. Businesses should not overlook SMS as it provides a vital way of interacting with customers and driving engagement.

Here are a few reasons why:

SMS offers unparalleled reach

Recent Ofcom statistics show that, despite the vast array of apps that are available in various mobile and online stores, only two-thirds of UK adults own smartphones, leaving more than 30 per cent not only unable to download an app, but also unreachable through Internet-dependent messaging such as email or WhatsApp.

However, 90 per cent of these mobile phones are SMS-capable. Furthermore, it’s currently estimated that less than 23 per cent of emails sent by SMEs are actually opened, whereas 98 per cent of all texts are read within three minutes of being received. Still need convincing? Consider the fact that the average email response time is 90 minutes, but for SMS, it’s just 90 seconds. So can texting really be matched by email or an app in terms of reach?

SMS is flexible

Employing SMS as a marketing tool can provide businesses with a great deal of flexibility. It’s possible to easily and quickly send either a handful of messages to a targeted group of individuals, or thousands of messages to a bulk list that could span across the world, all from the same platform. This makes customising a text campaign to your audience an incredibly simple and dynamic process, which, in turn, makes tracking meaningful ROI a lot simpler.

SMS is relevant

Marketing via SMS is permission-based, meaning that recipients have to actively register to receive texts from a business, and most platforms monitor fraudulent activity meticulously in order to defend their customers from spammers. A mobile phone is an incredibly personal item, and unlike with email, where endless marketing material is sent straight to the junk folder without a second thought, businesses won’t be let off lightly if they intrude on that personal space with unwanted content.

That said, when used properly, a permission-based marketing campaign can have incredibly positive effects for businesses as well as consumers, as it ensures that you are only communicating with an audience that wants to receive your message. Therefore, respect your customers’ desire for security and privacy by sending only relevant content via a text message, and your audience will be more receptive than they ever would if you 'blanket-bomb' all the contacts you find with a 'one size fits all' email.

Finally, mobile users have been found to often prefer using external applications for social or leisure purposes, but favour text for personal information that is of greater importance, such as reminders, verifications, and alerts. Since this distinction has already been made by the consumer, the leg work has already been done for businesses. Rather than investing heavily in downloadable apps, brands should be ready to jump on the opportunity to reach out directly to their target audience in a way that has been widely preapproved.

I’m not just talking here about using SMS as a tool for distributing marketing material. Consumers want to ensure they have a receipt when they purchase a product or service via their mobile, or a confirmation message when they book a doctor’s appointment, or a way of providing feedback after an appointment and have verified that text is a valid way to receive these.

Looking at SMS more closely, I would encourage businesses that are keen to boost their customer engagement, improve their services or gain more exposure for their brand, but may be sceptical of SMS, to ask themselves, has texting really had its day? SMS may have been around for many years, but the fact that it is still around, still active, and is standing up to competitors such as email and Whatsapp, is just evidence of its value, and that this is very much a case of 'old dog, new tricks'.

I believe that if your business requires a practical, easily implemented solution for connecting directly with an audience that is near-guaranteed to be highly receptive to your content, you couldn’t do much better than sending a text.

Gillian Hughes, VP of Corporate Sales, Veoo