SMS Marketing - A Blast from the Present

Mobile Marketing

Philip Herridge, Business Development Manager, Oxygen8 UK, examines the myths about SMS marketing originally outlined in the latest whitepaper written by James Harrison.

Phil_HerridgeWhen mobile truly reached the mass market in the late 1990s and early 2000s, using text messages for marketing purposes was a no-brainer. Sure, the lack of brains deployed led to the mobile ecosystem becoming a Wild West of spam and distress for customers, but regulators were pretty quick to lay down guidelines which form the basis of good SMS marketing practices today.

But towards the end of the decade, mobile phones, PDAs, cameras and MP3 players merged into what would become the world-conquering smartphone. With the help of network operators’ speedy 3G and 4G networks, it became just as easy to market to mobiles via email and social media, with marketers sharing rich content that made the poor old text-based SMS look like a relic from an ancient civilization.

So you can hardly blame companies for stepping away from SMS. Advertisers love colourful, loud and moving things, and they were pretty successful at convincing business that this was the future. Leave SMS to messages from your mum, they said.

Without explicitly saying why (perhaps because nobody asked to see the figures), marketers allowed a mindset to become embedded that suggested all these high-definition images and sounds inevitably led to greater engagement with customers.

They were wrong.

Just how wrong they have been is nicely set out in Oxygen8’s new whitepaper: “Mobile engagement: Why SMS is still the biggest missed opportunity”. Written by the company’s CEO, James Harrison, the paper confronts the myths about SMS marketing in a list inspired by his relentless uphill struggle to guide customers towards the fact that SMS marketing is many times more efficient and engaging than email and other channels.

The paper starts as it means to go on – using the mathematics of the issue to drive home the inescapable truth that SMS means engagement, satisfaction and conversion. There are 5.1 billion mobile phones in a world with a population of 6.8 billion. Rule out babies and refuseniks and that’s pretty much everyone. In the UK, 93% of adults own a mobile phone. They’re not all smartphones, of course, but every single mobile phone can send and receive text messages (i.e., emails and browser links don’t reach 100% of owners). Straight away, there’s a statistical justification for SMS being the go-to channel for any demographic.

The killer stats come on page 12, however. The open rate for SMS is 98%, and 90% are opened within three minutes (the average time being 90 seconds). You want engagement? That’s engagement. Consumers know that whoever has just contacted them, it’ll be less than 161 characters long (no more than 25 words) and can be read in seconds. There’s little temptation to put it off till later – customers will be able to make a decision straight away whether to read and follow up on the message.

Apps, browser links and emails come with their own problems. Despite the speed of 3G and 4G, message notifications are just the start of the journey – customers are then expected to wait for multi-megabyte downloads, often in areas of poor coverage, for the indulgence of being marketed to. Unsurprisingly, many don’t bother waiting. With SMS, notification means the whole message has already been delivered.

By the time you get to the part of the whitepaper where James slices and dices the eight misconceptions about SMS marketing, you’ve probably already been won over to the SMS cause. But point by point, the case being made will leave you in no doubt – SMS marketing works.

Obviously, the message still has to be right. Businesses still have to pay heed to the offering, the timing and the needs of the customer, but that’s marketing 101. When it comes to the medium, SMS is king in more situations than business often gives it credit for.

Have a look at the whitepaper and make up your own mind. Sometimes the message just needs to be there in black and white.

Philip Herridge is Business Development Manager at Oxygen8 UK