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We all know that getting through to consumers has become an increasingly difficult task due to over-communication from brands across every channel. And no channel – be it social, direct, email, paid search, or display ads – guarantees that consumers will even see a brand’s content, let alone engage with it. The only exception to the rule is SMS.
With over one billion mobile phones globally, SMS is a universal communication standard across every mobile phone (smart or not-so-smart). According to a 2015 TNW News article, approximately 90% of SMS are opened and read within the first three minutes of delivery. Unlike most other digital channels, it does not require an application or even internet which makes it accessible and able to reach an arguably larger audience segment than many other channels. When used in combination with email, push, and social communications, SMS can greatly enhance a brand’s marketing program and help deliver an integrated cross-channel customer experience with a focus on conversion.
SMS is closely governed and regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) offers guidelines on how to adhere to regulations. In 2014, the FCC passed a new ruling on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to ensure that SMS marketing is only sent to those who have opted into a marketer’s program. This legislation required that all brands secure a “double opt-in” from their SMS customers to limit unsolicited SMS marketing and abuse complaints. Additionally, the CTIA strictly enforces opt-out protocols according to which customers can simply text “STOP” to discontinue any type of SMS communication. TCPA, STOP, and other regulations ensure customers’ privacy.
The recommended way to build an SMS database and prompt customers to opt in is by activating SMS as a transactional communication point. Transactional communication includes purchase confirmations, receipts, shipping notifications, appointment reminders, and many more. Customers typically opt into these transactional communications by entering their phone numbers at an eCommerce checkout point including a website form or a mobile application. Transactional SMS campaigns are a great ‘in’ with customers because, unlike email, the SMS channel guarantees immediate engagement and communicates urgency (e.g. Your order just shipped. Track it here!) Once part of the transactional communication stream, an SMS subscriber is familiar enough with the brand and its SMS program to start receiving promotional SMS campaigns.
In terms of opting out, it’s a best practice to ensure, at the point of subscribing, what type of messages and via what channels customers are going to receive and what are the Terms & Conditions of these messages. It’s always best for marketers to have a centralized preference center where their subscribers can manage their communication preferences and indicate the type of content they would like to receive, the frequency they want to receive communications in, and the channel(s) they prefer to be reached on - SMS, email, push, social, direct mail, or all of the above.
MMS allows brands to send multimedia via text message to customers. It’s more expensive than SMS, is not often deployed internationally, and is not supported by every messaging aggregator*. If MMS is not in a brand’s budget, SMS is a great alternative because it can achieve similar goals by simply including a link that brings customers to a hosted image, form, video, etc.
*Messaging aggregators are the entities with connections to the carriers in various countries, ensuring connectivity and delivery of SMS/MMS messages around the globe. They are the gateway through which brands/enterprises can send message to and receive message from their end customers over text and multimedia messaging. Pricing depends on the chosen aggregator, necessary countries, and use cases.
The SMS channel can be used for a variety of campaigns including loyalty, promotional, welcome, transactional, triggered (for example, using the GPS on a subscriber’s smartphone to send an SMS offer when they pass a store) and many more. SMS campaigns also boast some unique features that can amplify a campaign’s effectiveness and conversions. Some of these functionalities include text-to-application download, Passbook integration, Text2Pin2Buy, Text2Win, and Scratch2Win.
If done right, SMS can be an instrumental touch-point for conversion along the customer journey. It can amplify the buying experience by facilitating:
Written in collaboration with Gina Giambanco, Client Services Team Lead at Qwasi.
Gina currently focuses on Client Strategy and Business Development at QWASI, bringing innovation to the digital marketing and communication space. Prior to joining QWASI, she taught enterprise brands like HBO and Michael Kors how to innovate with 3D Printing using Makerbot. At QWASI she focuses on Enterprise Engagement Strategies, where brands use real time data and IOT to create custom brand communication and experiences. Gina is a Fulbright Scholar, former division one college basketball player, and studied Psychology and Business at Fordham University.