Why Text Messaging is Relevant for Retailers
At a time when many retailers remain unsure about how to leverage smartphones for other aspects of their business, text messaging continues to evolve with new uses and opportunities being deployed in-store and beyond. Sure, other mobile apps and device uses have received a lot of attention, but there are several reasons why text messaging remains a powerful go-to strategy for retailers.
The Business Case for SMS
Wal-Mart now uses SMS as a personal in-store concierge, allowing consumers to text a certain code in order to receive real-time information on a product’s location and any deals currently offered. The retailer also uses SMS for e-receipts, enabling customers to receive receipts directly to their mobile device. Customers who pair their device with an account online may also gain access to their complete order history.
Some of the largest pharmacy chains in the world leverage text messaging to drive user actions with significant positive results for their business. For example, customers are reminded when it’s time to renew their prescriptions, notified when their prescriptions are ready to be picked up, and prompted to return to the store if they forget to pick up their medicine. This program has helped pharmacy chains decrease their customer wait times with fewer calls to the pharmacy, while increasing positive customer feedback. It's also resulted in the decline of abandoned prescriptions, generating millions of dollars in incremental revenue.
The Prevalance of SMS
There are so many different ways people can use smartphones today, including apps, email, music and social media. That being said, it might be surprising to hear that 97 percent of smartphone owners still use text messaging, according to Pew Research’s most recent analysis of smartphone use. This remarkably high figure illustrates that basic communication remains a key driver of behavior even as the number and complexity of potential distractions increase.
This basic ability to connect with others is a driver as to why businesses of every size should look to leverage text messaging to communicate with their customers. SMS marketing is a universal way of communicating with customers and has proven to be a highly reliable and personalized medium. What’s more, SMS is ubiquitous across all platforms and mobile devices, allowing businesses to reach their customers regardless if they’ve purchased the latest device or if they're using a basic prepaid handset. Combine this with the fact that everyone carries their mobile device with them at all times (even to the point of sleeping with them), and you’ve got a recipe for success.
From a marketer’s perspective, more than 90 percent of people read a text message within three minutes of receiving one, according to VentureBeat. Even the popularity and proliferation of email marketing can’t come close to those results.
SMS Powers the Presidential Election
Americans can expect to use text messages to stay abreast of the 2016 presidential election. Sure, there are plenty of mobile apps that will provide round-the-clock news updates, but many consumers are starting to turn to SMS for real-time information.
For example, during the recent “Super Tuesday” primaries, many consumers opted into services such as Purple, which provides election updates via text message to people who have opted in. Users say it’s an unobtrusive way to get real-time updates on the status of their favorite candidate.
Purple is an example of a growing trend of chat bots that extend the communication power of text to additional services and data. While the concept has been around for a while (I can recall creating several on AIM almost 10 years ago), it's really gaining steam this year.
Retailers with promotions tied into the election have an opportunity to leverage these strategies to connect with their customers.
With all the talk of new ways to use a smartphone, you’d think text messaging would slowly sunset into the background. However, just the opposite is taking place as businesses and consumers are finding new ways to leverage text messaging. What’s more, younger audiences use text messaging as a way to communicate regularly. As such, it’s important for brands to understand how to best leverage text messages in any of its forms (e.g., SMS, MMS, OTT or the emerging RCS standard) in an effort to increase sales, communications and even municipal safety.
Brian Heikes is vice president of product at 3Cinteractive, a mobile marketing company.