How SMS = Real-Time Engagement, Lifetime Loyalty

By Tim Fujita-Yuhas, Director of Product Management & New Product Strategy for MTA MarTech Advisor

Tim Fujita-Yuhas, Director of Product Management & New Product Strategy at OpenMarket states that mobile’s the new normal, and the marketers quickest to adjust have a competitive edge. With consumers’ glued their smartphones, a mobile communications plan with real-time engagement is key to loyalty.

For better or worse, we live in a mobile-first society. According to Pew Research, at least 90 percent of U.S. adults own a mobile phone and 29 percent describe their phone as “something they can’t live without.” As more mobile-savvy millennials come of age and enter the marketplace, the pressure is on for marketers to embrace this new mobile-centric normal.

Today’s consumers have come to expect receiving timely highly personal, meaningful and engaging messages from preferred brands or companies. To meet these demands, marketers need a comprehensive mobile communications strategy that targets consumers’ eyes wherever they can be found. The solution: mobile messaging. In fact, 75 percent of millennial consumers want companies to text them for anything from appointment or payment reminders, offers, information, parcel tracking details, etc.—yet currently only 30 percent of companies are. This indicates a massive untapped and welcomed engagement opportunity for marketers.

Although not the newest technology, text messaging is an extremely powerful communication tool for marketers when properly executed. Responsible and effective text messaging campaigns revolve around sending texts that are highly relevant to consumers on an individual level. When used in ways such as advertising and product discovery, messages are often considered to be spam and therefore, can easily tarnish your brand. The key is to keep messages contextual, personal and timely. With the right technique, marketers can capitalize on this communication tool that lives in the pocket of nearly every consumer and not only engage them in real-time, but enhance their overall experience with a company.

Here are three ways marketers can strengthen consumer engagement strategies using text messaging:

1. Branded Promotions and Offers

Finding the right promotional messages that engages your audience will take time and experimentation – there is a fine line between exclusive offers and spam. However, for all messages it is important to provide value, be aware of frequency, and offer an exit. An example aligned with this messaging etiquette would be sending a message similar to the following:

“50% off all spring shirts on Friday! Show this text at checkout to receive more rewards. Txt ‘STOP’ to cancel.”

This message should be sent to customers twice during the week of the sale. Consumers are then incentivized by the discount, not bombarded with too many messages, and for those who would like to opt out of the offer, they have the ability to do so instantaneously.

2. Satisfaction Surveys

Gathering consumer feedback on marketing and customer service strategies is important to improving and maintaining exceptional customer experience. However, the low response rate from mailers, emails, and cold calls makes businesses rethink how to invest their time and resources. With text message surveys, higher response rates are projected — given that survey participants receive fewer questions in an un-intrusive way and can respond on their own time.

3. Notifications

Today, it’s common to receive delivery or appointment text messages following an order.. It’s becoming even more common to receive advanced messages that can trigger a personalized and natural, back-and-forth automated conversation via text messaging. This is possible with technologies like machine-learning virtual assistants, also commonly referred to as ‘chat bots’. For example, a customer receives a delivery notification that lets them know they’ll receive a package during a time when they will not be home to receive it. Conveniently, the customer texts back requesting a different delivery time, the virtual assistant will leverage machine learning technologies and algorithms to pick up on the words “delivery” and “time” and responds with a message similar to:

“Hello Joe, I believe you are requesting a different delivery time.”

When the customer replies ‘YES,’ the chat bot then provides Joe with alternate delivery times to choose from. Virtual assistants or chat bots utilize advanced analytics technologies to recognize the intent of customer questions and provide instant and intelligent responses. Not only do chat bots help businesses quickly answer large volumes of customers, but also enable businesses to meet consumers’ growing preference to solve problems over messaging versus talking with company representatives. On the business side, Gartner is forecasting that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with a business without interacting with a human.  Chat bots will be key to eliminating the need for continuous human intervention in customer service positions.

Given the numerous benefits of mobile communications and a growing millennial audience, now is the time for companies to integrate text messaging into their communication plans. By delivering personal, relevant messages at the right time, you will not only gain increased customer engagement, but also long-term loyalty that will benefit your business for many years to come.