SMS marketing and brands: why more than just your message matters

Mobile Marketing - Member Content

Sarah Keller, Chief Global Enterprise Officer at GMS, looks at the importance of understanding how your SMS marketing messages reach your customers and prospects.

Getting what you pay for is probably one of the oldest truisms in the world of commerce. This applies equally to the landscape of least-cost ‘grey’ SMS routing. If you are using this as a strategy for sending your marketing messages then don’t be surprised if they, or your user/customer authentication messages, reach their destination in a less than ‘perfect’ state. Grey SMS routes are notoriously unreliable, to say the very least.

Still, SMS continues to thrive as one of the most effective channels for customer communications. There is plenty of available research to underpin this popularity – it is recognised that SMS delivers the highest engagement of all communications channels with almost all messages being opened within 5 minutes of receipt. And whilst SMS is a powerful, fast, and cost-effective way to reach consumers, you need to fully understand how your message reaches your customer. After all, using this form of marketing to build and protect your customer engagement depends on what turns up and how your customer receives it - this is ultimately determined by how it gets there. If you are using the ‘grey route’ then what you intended to send compared to what is received can vary wildly.

Poor results
If you decide to use a least-cost provider, you might be saving money, but at what cost? Grey routes are offered by indirect messaging companies, entities that have no direct relationships with any major carrier or are unable to offer routes through fully accredited peers. Using this type of provider to send your messages often delivers poor results – messages can turn up late or not at all, they might include unsolicited content changes and they can arrive from weird sender addresses. Will your intended recipient trust the sender ID in this case? Perhaps the customer’s network blocks it as spam. Ultimately, does using a least cost provider build confidence in your brand, or does it erode it?

Businesses look set to make more use of SMS, especially to make their customer relationships secure. According to Juniper Research, multifactor authentication traffic is expected to grow to 2.1 billion messages by 2027. But as the use of one-time passwords continues to grow, cybercriminals will look to leverage any shortcomings from a security point of view. Security is key when planning a brand SMS campaign. Imagine the scenario if your password reset message gets substituted by a phishing URL that arrives precisely when a customer has decided to engage with their bank? If your message is taking an unnecessary number of steps in its journey, security risks are multiplied, and fraudsters are more easily hidden from view. Prioritise security over things like pantones and fonts. Remember, you might be just about to hand over your customer data to a loosely affiliated bunch of messaging aggregators – the damage to a brand in this scenario can be difficult to calculate. Also, if you operate in Europe then you are subject to strict data protection and privacy regulations. Can you say who has had access to your customer data or whether they have retained it? Could anyone read the messages in flight?

Guaranteed routing
Taking unnecessary risk out of your communications strategy can be as simple as using a messaging provider that guarantees the routing of your messages. This could be by either using direct connections to mobile operators or by using a network of audited partners.

Telecommunication services offer a variety of protocols when it comes to connections and interworking. As an example, Signalling System 7 (SS7) allows companies to track where messaging failure or blocking occurs. In this way, you will be informed immediately about any failures or delays in message delivery. Using SS7 a sender can also customise their profile settings which comes in handy should you wish to arrange for redelivery should the first attempt fail. If you want to enjoy a trusted relationship with any mobile network operator, then you need to invest in ways that protect their networks and customers from spam. Ask your messaging provider for full transparency. How do they ensure that your messages get to your customer? Can they tell you how many ‘hands’ your messages pass through? Are you happy with the state in which your messages currently arrive? If you are uneasy with the responses, you get then it’s time to invest in a trusted supplier.