Enterprise Mobile Messaging Wars: Four Battle-Tested Reasons Why SMS Will Prevail

By Steve French, Global VP of Product Management & Marketing, OpenMarket for Enterprise CIO Forum

The mobile industry is inundated with mobile messaging apps, with many influencers declaring a Mobile Messaging War as enterprises look to leverage the mobile channel to improve internal operations and enhance both internal and external communication. While some are getting lost in the app frenzy, Global 2000 enterprises are already leveraging SMS messaging as a cost-effective, reliable and proven solution to meet these goals. Here are four reasons why SMS will prevail for years to come:

1.    Consumers Prefer SMS When Engaging with Brands
The most overlooked and efficient way to reach a mobile phone user today is through SMS. Amongst enterprise employees and customers, adoption rates of business-provided mobile apps aren’t as high as the “opt in” rates of many SMS programs. In fact, the mobile user today still prefers the simplicity and ubiquity of texting versus interacting with mobile apps for business communications.

2.    SMS is Already Embedded in the Enterprise
SMS is a mature communication tool that IT organizations are already familiar with and are implementing with ease –opposed to apps, which can take months to develop, cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, pose adoption challenges, and cause potential device interoperability limitations in BYOD environments. A recent Forrester study reported that 70 percent of enterprises today consider SMS the number one mobile technology, with an additional 16 percent planning to utilize SMS in 2014. In addition, SMS usage far exceeds other technologies like QR codes, voice recognition and push notifications, which are all closely linked to mobile apps. The same study reported the top three priorities for enterprise mobile communication strategies were to increase engagement, improve customer satisfaction, and acquire new customers — all of which SMS already achieves.

3.    SMS Offers Broad Reach and Strong ROI
There is also something to be said about the familiarity enterprise customers and employees have with SMS that make it the preferred mobile communication and engagement technology. Nearly everyone owns a mobile phone and SMS open rates are significantly higher than other channels like email and direct mail, with 90% of text messages being opened and read within 3 minutes. Whether it’s a customer appointment reminder or employee emergency notification, SMS is a quick, simple and highly effective communication channel compared to other alternatives.

4.    SMS Ubiquity is Unmatched
Customer engagement with mobile apps is also an issue. Research from Flurry reveals that mobile users spend 86% of their time using apps, of which 71% is dominated by gaming, social networking, entertainment and news. This leaves very little room for the types of customer and employee engagement that most enterprises desire. In addition, Compuware discovered that 90 percent of apps are deleted after one use, and similar research found that after 20 days of downloading one, less than 5 percent of mobile users are actively using it. If an app reaches only 5 percent of a customer base, how do businesses reach the other 95 percent? SMS is a better option, reaching over 3 billion mobile users and 6 billion devices worldwide (Source: GSMA).

Taking a Strategic Approach to Mobile across the Entire Business

As businesses consider whether to invest more money in SMS for engagement before devoting more resources into a mobile app strategy, the most important thing to remember is what SMS brings to the table. Due to its ubiquity, device interoperability, ease of use, and global reach, SMS is by far a better choice than apps if the goal is to engage with the broadest set of customers and employees. While the jury is still out on applications and their effectiveness as a communications tool, it is imperative that CIOs and other decision makers identify their goals before succumbing to app hype, as SMS has shown why it is the best tool for direct and personal mobile interaction. As Forrester Research puts it, mobile users want utility and they want it now.

While the business world begins to leverage the mobile channel efficiently, those caught chasing the latest flashy object are often distracted from what will best achieve business goals. Instead of rushing to bring things like mobile apps to market as fast as possible, make sure to stop and ask the question: is a mobile application really what my employees and customers are looking for to stay actively engaged with our brand and company over time?

Enterprise executives need to take a holistic approach to adopting mobile engagement technology in order to improve internal operations and enhance both internal and external communications. By integrating SMS capabilities into their existing processes and IT services, enterprises can solve for numerous use cases across their organizations – reaching the largest number of mobile users as efficiently as possible, and achieve the higher engagement rates that mobile delivers.