A Message for Retailers: Start Texting Today for Relevancy Tomorrow

By Andy Shirey, Senior Product Manager, OpenMarket, for TotalRetail

Many people are afraid of change, and the same is true of many companies. After all, staying consistent is a key component of creating a successful brand image, and as the old saying goes, “don’t fix what’s not broken.” Unfortunately from this perspective, the same doesn’t hold true of technological disruption. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you aren’t quick to adapt to the times, your customers inevitably will be. And like the teeny-bopper band that didn’t grow up with its fan base, you get left behind in the dust.

Heading into end-of-year budgets, and to prevent irrelevancy, there’s one component you need to ensure is worked into 2017 engagement plans: SMS, aka text messaging. Consumers have spoken, and they overwhelmingly prefer to receive notifications from preferred businesses via SMS — e.g., package delivery updates, sales announcements, discounts and authentication codes, etc. In fact, 77 percent of consumers today are likely to have a positive perception of a company that offers texting as an engagement channel. This is largely due to their preference towards text messaging in general. Ninety-seven percent of U.S. smartphone owners text at least once a day, and they open their messages within 90 seconds of receiving them.

Get the Message?
If consumers have delivered their message, why aren’t retailers taking note? An astounding 71 percent of retailers are currently not addressing their customers’ communication preferences and expectations. Consumers are overwhelmingly frustrated with being tied to a phone or computer for customer service needs. The majority specifically cite preferring to text a company’s 1-800-number for customer service vs. having to call it. Furthermore, it’s not only increased customer satisfaction that will benefit your company from adopting SMS capabilities for outreach efforts, top retailers are turning to SMS to also help drive revenue. In a recent poll, 79 percent of retailers that used SMS with consumers saw either an increase in revenue or improved customer experience.

As for millennials — the sought after age group that’s currently dominating the consumer influence space — they already get it. “It” in this case is SMS. Millennials are redeeming store coupons delivered to them on their smartphone screen via text 70 percent to 80 percent of the time. And those companies that have already gotten onboard with SMS order tracking are seeing upwards of 80 percent adoption rates for the quick, accessible service. The cherry on top of all this is that SMS is also helping earn customer loyalty. It’s currently delivering an 80 percent to 90 percent conversion rate for building loyalty and marketing lists. Really, what’s not to love?

The Hard and True Numbers
With consumers today having access to so much technology at their fingertips, even the less digitally savvy customer is familiar with text messaging. In fact, it’s now one of the more traditional technologies when you consider engagement channels such as social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger. This may be a big reason why SMS ranks as the No. 1 consumer-preferred method of delivery notifications from businesses, ahead of email, postal mail, voice calls and, most of all, social channels.

Despite the popularity of SMS among consumers, the majority of retailers are currently missing the mark. Recent survey results found that SMS is among the least-used methods of communication for retailers trying to reach their customers. While SMS may not be getting the full attention it deserves, going into the New Year, it’s the 29 percent of companies that have adopted the mobile messaging channel that will stand out most among consumers, and remain relevant long into the future.

Andy Shirey is the senior product manager at OpenMarket, a mobile engagement platform for enterprise brands.