SMS Messaging Yet to Break Through as Customer Engagement Channel

By Steve Taggart, Loyalty360

From email, to direct mail, to Facebook and Twitter, it seems that every available channel is being leveraged to serve up personalized marketing to consumers. One medium that is conspicuously missing from this outpouring of advertisements, however, is SMS messaging or, as it’s widely known, texting. The platform has become the preferred method of communication for Americans, yet it remains relatively untouched by marketers.

OpenMarket, an enterprise mobile engagement firm, examined the topic in its “Retail Mobile Messaging Report,” which was developed in collaboration with Internet Retailer using a poll of 100 ecommerce retail professionals. According to the survey, only 29% of retailers utilize the SMS channel, as opposed to a 97% usage rate for email, 82% for social media, and 66% for phone.

The lack of SMS usage may not last long however: Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed who don’t currently leverage the channel say that they see it as a future opportunity to drive revenue or improve customer experience going forward.

“Communication is one of the most important elements of running a successful company and it’s all about sending the right message at the right time to the consumer,” Steve French, Global Vice President of Product Management and Marketing for OpenMarket, told Loyalty360. “Some retailers are choosing traditional communication methods like email, voice, or even social media to interact with their customers because they might be unaware of the reach and benefits of SMS. Some of our largest customers are major global brands that are using SMS as a primary engagement channel because consumers actually prefer it. Based on our research, over 90% of SMS messages are read within about 90 seconds – far better than other channels. Retailers will see the benefits of SMS reflected in both the bottom-line and in long-term customer satisfaction.”

Interestingly, 69% of those who are utilizing SMS marketing do so because of the differentiation it provides, a number that is sure to be affected by the growing number of companies on the verge of breaking into the channel.

Given the massive popularity of SMS messaging, there is an entire market that is being left untapped by a majority of marketers. By unlocking the potential of the medium, companies stand to make major breakthroughs in customer experience, customer service, and personalized added value. As with other channels, the question now is which brands will be the first to embrace SMS marketing, and how will it be implemented to walk the tightrope of engaging customers without crossing the threshold into annoyance?