SMS: Who dares wins but get it wrong and it’s curtains

mobile.newBrands are treading a fine line with their SMS marketing – including those who use WhatsApp – with well executed campaigns encouraging customer engagement and spending but poor activity having crippling implications for a company’s bottom line.  

So says Validity’s State of SMS Marketing in 2023 Report, which quizzed over 300 UK SMS, text, and WhatsApp users, as part of a wider study that also covered the US, Australia, and New Zealand.

Text marketing has become a widely adopted practice, and when complemented with email efforts, has the potential to enable brands to reach millions of customers directly on their personal mobile device.

With timely promotional pings and reminders of an abandoned cart, SMS and messaging drives customers to buy. In fact, two-fifths (38%) of customers have been influenced to purchase a service and half have been influenced to purchase a product because of a brand message they received via text or WhatsApp.

Nearly one in five (19%) of respondents list SMS as their most preferred brand communication channel (above email, social media, direct mail, or app notifications). In fact, 16% would ideally like to receive these messages from brands two to three times per week.

However, consumers get miffed when there is a perceived lack of purchase history knowledge and blatant disregard for customer communication preferences. Nearly all consumers (96%) report being occasionally annoyed with SMS marketing, particularly when messages are not relevant to their needs or contain products that they have already purchased.

Some customers go as far as abandoning a brand due to this irritation. In fact, more than a quarter (28%) of those who have felt annoyed from brand messages have completely stopped doing business with companies and the same proportion (28%) report purchasing less – entirely due to irritation with a brand’s marketing text messages.

But poor practices extend beyond a single disgruntled customer: just under one in six (14%) customers that have felt annoyed from brand messages report having left a negative public review of a company due to irritation with marketing text messages.

When implementing ill-crafted SMS strategies, marketers create a domino effect of poor experiences, lost customers, decreased revenue, and damaged brand reputation – all of which can be mitigated by honouring customer preference.

Nearly half (49%) of consumers reported that brands messaging too frequently was what annoyed them most about SMS messaging.

To mitigate this challenge, brands should consider giving consumers the ability to customise the frequency with which they receive messages from brands. In fact, 97% of respondents report that they would prefer this feature and, of those, 81% say this capability would make them more likely to purchase from or do business with a brand.

Data privacy also poses a risk for customers, with 70% reporting they are worried that texts from brands might pose a data risk. Of those, two-thirds (66%) are concerned about companies selling their data and/or clicking links within brand messages due to risk of scammers.

Even so, the majority of customers are willing to risk it, with the respondents who believe SMS messages from brands pose a data risk, reporting they continue to sign up for texts, SMS, and messages from brands because of the potential rewards – including company updates, shipping notifications, and free merchandise.

Validity senior vice-president of marketing Kate Adams said: “With bleak economic conditions projected for the coming months, it is increasingly critical to reach customers where they’re at – which in today’s world is via SMS.

“Marketers who’ve mastered the art of SMS are able to create campaigns that increase customer engagement and satisfaction, and ultimately drive revenue for their business. But this report is also a cautionary tale because the opposite is equally true. When SMS is done poorly, businesses risk alienating large swathes s of customers.

“Unfortunately, many marketers don’t know how to incorporate SMS effectively, and often attempt to apply age-old email marketing tactics – which aren’t effective in this medium. It’s crucial that businesses invest in training for their marketing teams so they are able to effectively adjust how, where, and with what frequency to employ SMS messaging tactics.”

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