By David Senior, EMEA Sector Director – Retail, OpenMarket for IT Pro Portal.
We are lucky enough to live in the ‘era of communication’, where myriad opportunities to communicate and engage are literally at our fingertips. In 2015, with a global population of 7.3 billion, there were 7.1 billion active mobile SIM cards and approximately 6.1 billion people who use SMS every month. The numbers are staggering: there are twice as many people texting than have access to the Internet. With over 20 years since the first text message was sent, SMS remains arguably the most widespread form of written communication in the world. But what does that mean for the business world?
The way people choose to interact and search for information has changed dramatically over the last few years. Smartphones – and more recently tablets and wearables – allow us to be connected at all times, opening new possibilities for businesses to engage with customers and employees. The fact that virtually every mobile device has native SMS capability pre-installed means that SMS as a communication channel is ubiquitous. The potential for reaching an addressable market for both promotional and transactional purposes is almost endless.
One of the key advantages of using SMS in enterprise communications is its ‘personalisation’ capability. Long gone are the days when consumers would communicate with a brand either in-store at a customer service desk or via a call centre. Consumers today interact constantly across multiple channels and want immediacy in their responses. For consumers today, convenience is king and they fully expect brands to acknowledge this.
SMS can be used to talk to consumers in any language, breaking geographical and cultural barriers and provides a two-way channel, not just a broadcast medium, such as TV or newspaper advertising. It straddles the line between mass-communication and personal one-to-one communications unlike any other medium.
Think marketing communications
Promotional messages drawing on available consumer data can be delivered and can be connected with location awareness and ‘presence’ to tailor them to the specific market segment. As such, brands can target existing and prospective consumers that have opted-in with personalised offers and content. Transactional messaging, on the other hand, can provide information to customers following an enquiry or purchase, saving time for both the business and the consumer and taking the pressure off customer care centres.
Think internal communications
SMS provides an opportunity for internal communications just as much as consumer-brand engagement. It can simplify internal communications within an organisation and increase internal business optimisation and employee engagement. Businesses can connect with staff, suppliers, other offices and departments across geographies and time zones. Take logistics and transportation as an example: use cases can include order confirmations, delivery scheduling, shipping confirmations and wider real-time information sharing that maximises the opportunities to streamline internal processes and reduce costs and inefficiencies.
Beat the challenges when implementing enterprise SMS
Implementing an SMS platform across the enterprise is an important IT investment and as such it needs planning and the right capabilities and functionalities. The key challenge for organisations is therefore to select a capable, high-quality partner that will make the process much simpler.
Having a clear idea of the specific business requirements is a good starting point and a trusted service provider will help implement a mobile engagement platform that meets the business needs. Top requirements include global reach, high availability, performance/scalability, reliability, quality, and security. For example, certain enterprises should look for the ability to use sender ID and support for foreign language character sets, in order to be able to launch SMS solutions across international markets serving a global customer base.
Companies should also be aware that the partner will need to be able to support specific mobile messaging use cases and deliver mobile engagement solutions across different organisational departments and industries. IT fragmentation can be a real headache for any IT director, particularly for bigger organisations. Large multinational companies, for instance, often run long-established legacy IT systems. This means that different departments or divisions in different countries use different solutions. To ensure integration, IT departments need a technology partner that can help integrate the new SMS platform with legacy IT systems in a way that can work across departments, countries, time zones and different IT systems.
Additionally, the partner should ensure that mobile spam is eliminated. Businesses need to remember that SMS must provide benefits to end-users. While there is scope for SMS as a blanket marketing tool, SMS lends itself best to applications that add real value to the recipient.
SMS is the most effective digital communication platform available today with truly global reach. But as such it can make or break a brand. Just as it is with other forms of communication, low quality, spam SMS can damage the brand seen sending it. With a clear strategy and the right partner, businesses can make SMS the most powerful and meaningful communication channel.