The second coming of SMS

What the rise of multichannel means for text

OpenMarket – May 22, 2019

Something big is happening in martech.

Some of the most powerful players in the space – Salesforce, SAP and Adobe – are on an unprecedented spending spree. And their aim is clear – to create end-to-end solutions capable of managing the entire customer journey.

On the face of it, this trend suggests marketers will be forced to swallow more bloatware. But the watchword for these companies seems to be efficiency. They’re trying to reduce or remove integration costs, consolidate solutions and rationalize customer journeys.

As Adobe pointed out at its 2019 Summit in March, its Marketing Cloud helped Virgin Trains turn 35 disconnected touchpoints into a joined-up and personalized seven-step journey.

All of this begs the question, where does SMS – a 25-year-old channel – fit into a new world of stripped-back, end-to-end platforms?

Old channel, new tricks

With the rise of social media, instant messaging and AI-assisted chat bots you’d perhaps expect SMS to have died out.

But the opposite is true. SMS is booming and it’s a critical part of even the largest and most sophisticated multi-channel platforms.

Let’s take Adobe as an example. They offer a suite of products that allow users to stitch together the latest and greatest communication channels to create slick customer journeys.

Yet their customers sent a mind-blowing 1 billion SMS messages in 2018.

This isn’t an isolated example. SAP sent more than a billion SMS messages in 2018 and Salesforce and Oracle both offer their own text messaging services that handle huge volumes of traffic.

There are three big reasons for SMS’s continued success:

It can’t be replaced – despite the proliferation of new(ish) digital channels, none have the impact and reach of SMS.

It can be easily integrated – which means it can be combined with a multitude of channels quickly and painlessly.

It’s cheap – as message workflows are easy to create and simple to automate.

All of these factors have cemented SMS’s status in the marketing hall of fame (alongside customer engagement stalwarts email and voice) but they’ve also breathed new life into the channel.

Where once SMS was used in isolation to tackle niche use cases, today its being used as part of sophisticated multi-channel programs.

So after a customer clicks on a digital ad, they receive a discount on the advertised product via text.

Or when they ring a helpdesk, they get an SMS update telling them their query has been dealt with.

Or when they pay for a product in-store, they receive a text receipt automatically.

These are the experiences every marketer wants to offer – smart, seamless and customer-first.

The text next generation

The future of martech is unknowable but it’s likely that acquisition and integration will continue to be the order of the day. We’re still a long way from realizing the full potential of multichannel and new use cases and possibilities will emerge as more and more channels are added to the mix.

The question is – how long can SMS hold onto its spot on every marketer’s essentials lists?

We’re betting it’ll be around for a while but that doesn’t mean it won’t evolve. RCS (SMS on steroids) is growing in popularity and as more networks adapt to it we’ll see adoption rise amongst consumers.

In five or ten years’ time, it may well have supplanted SMS as the best way to reach customers in the moment. But for now, SMS reigns supreme – an irreplaceable wheel in the modern marketing machine.

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