Empowered by the proliferation of smartphones and the digitization of everything, today’s shoppers are more aware and informed than ever.
The upshot? Engaging with customers and understanding their evolving preferences is no easy feat. Gone are the days when brands could “buy” a customer’s repeat business. Now, you need to earn it. But how?
A recent global study from Sinch uncovers a clear gap between how brands today are using mobile messaging vs. how consumers would like them to use it. Retailers take note: consumers are 35x more likely to open your mobile messages than your emails.
Advances in mobile communications and conversational messaging — e.g., new channels like WhatsApp and Rich Communication Services (RCS) — continue to accelerate, providing businesses an unprecedented opportunity to engage with consumers wherever, whenever. However, businesses have been slow to provide this high-value, real-time messaging that consumers prefer across all channels. What can retailers learn and apply from this latest study?
Key insights from the report include the following:
- People tolerate unread emails, but not unread mobile messages: Forty percent of consumers say they have at least 50 unread emails in their inbox, but just 4 percent say the same about mobile messages.
- Consumers are wary about app downloads: Eighty percent of consumers say they’ll only download an app from a company they know and trust, and 72 percent express concern that apps are tracking their movements.
- Mobile users are ready for rich engagement: Companies are experimenting with personalized video, rich media messaging, and artificial intelligence-fueled conversations — and consumers are pleased with the results. Two out of three respondents who have used a chatbot said they had a positive experience, which they attribute to speed and efficiency.
Here are key takeaways and tips for retailers in 2020 and beyond:
- Prioritize customer value. Mobile messaging is a channel full of opportunity, but it also comes with significant “permission risk.” Retail brands must focus on delivering value that consumers clearly indicate they want and welcome, rather than using customer data to promote or sell more. Those that focus on the latter run the risk of customers putting them on mobile mute — and once a company has lost permission to send messages, it’s very hard to re-establish trust.
- Prepare for the future. Conversational messaging is transforming the customer journey and delivering business value as it empowers companies to reach consumers in a personalized and contextual manner in the channel of their choice. RCS is breaking ground in a handful of countries, with conversational commerce and rich media messaging the next frontier. Over the top (OTT) services are changing the way people consume media. WhatsApp, a key driver of mobile messaging growth, has over 1.5 billion users from 180 countries, making it the most popular messaging app worldwide. Personalized video is among the most exciting opportunities that many businesses aren't yet fully using today, even though it’s available through MMS and mobile landing pages.
- Look for unmet needs. Consumers value a wide array of message types from brands, including via formats they've never experienced before. Now is the time to brainstorm how omnichannel messaging (e.g., notifications, rich media, chatbots) can fill voids in customer experience.
- Build trust. Making mobile connections is at the core of customer engagement, but it’s contingent on trust. Brands that prioritize building consumer trust outperform those that don’t.
- Value consumer privacy. After years of data breaches and misuse scandals, consumers are understandably concerned about sharing their data. First and foremost, access to consumer data is a privilege and brands must treat it as such. All companies should be able to articulate how they'll provide tangible value to customers who share their data.
The Next Decade of Customer Engagement
As we move forward in 2020, breaking down data silos to deliver highly personalized mobile experiences will be mission critical for leaders in retail, marketing, customer engagement and customer experience.
Jonathan Bean is chief marketing officer of Sinch, a cloud communications platform and global leader in messaging, voice and video.
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