Lyris Connections Blog

To SMS or Not to SMS – Should that even be a Question for Retail Marketers?

Oct 08, 2013 by

With the average smartphone user sending at least 10 texts a day and Australians sending over 250 million texts in total per month, the enduring popularity of SMS (short message service) among consumers should be taken note of by marketers. In fact, the question of whether retailers should use SMS messaging as part of their marketing campaigns has one simple answer – YES!

SMS userAccording to a study released by Pew Internet, part of the Pew Research Center, text messaging and photo taking are the two most common non-voice applications used by mobile phone subscribers. The study also found that 73% of adult owners of cell phones use text messaging at least occasionally.

This means there is a large audience of cell phone subscribers who are familiar with SMS and already using it. More than two trillion messages are expected to be transmitted in 2013; however, there is still room for the growth of SMS in the Asia Pacific region including Australia and Japan.

A recent article on Tech Shout forecasts that in 2014 SMS messaging will increase by 12.7% to over 2.1 trillion messages. One reason for this expected growth is that, for many users, a cellular phone is their first opportunity to access the Internet. Smartphones are far more common than computers.

An Example of How SMS Works

You just had Chinese food delivered. The white cartons all say “Text 98765” with the words “Fortune Cookie” and “Enter to win free Chinese Food every week for a year!” The offer sounds too good to pass up, so you compose the message with the “To” address of 98765 and the message box filled in with “Fortune Cookie.”

Once you send the message, you have opted in to that restaurant’s SMS program. (It is illegal to send SMS messages to anyone who has not opted in.) After your message is received, special SMS marketing software stores it. The software immediately triggers a return message to your phone that says something like, “Thank you for entering our Chinese Food giveaway. The winner will be announced two weeks from today.” The restaurant should also follow up with a brief message that defines the frequency of SMS messages you should expect to receive per month, for example, and offer a way for you to opt out.

When the contest is over, the SMS software sends a message to everyone on the opt-in list. The restaurant may send out an SMS that the winner is Joan R. from Millville. Better still, the restaurant can now message everyone on the list about other special offers and discounts – for instance, an SMS for “Half-off happy hour today 6 – 8, show text message,” or one for “Dinner for two, half off today only, show text message.”

Why Use SMS and Integrate with Email?

Studies show that consumers prefer email for updates on account status, promotional messages, and confirmations. On the other hand, SMS is preferred when timeliness of the message is critical, such as for financial matters or travel. However, there are recent indications that the lines are blurring, and that SMS messages are becoming as acceptable as emails for communications about promotions.

Sending a timely, concise, and relevant SMS promotional message to consumers who have opted in is far more likely to get a good response. That’s because your recipients are:

  • Targeted with laser-like precision by the SMS software
  • Already interested in your message and your products
  • More likely to share your message with friends or post in social media if urged to do so

From a business’ standpoint, SMS marketing is fairly simple:

  • Consumers love to participate in polls or vote for their favorite sandwich at a cafe.
  • A whole month of SMS activity can be planned with SMS software – it’s a set-it-and-forget-it proposition.
  • Many SMS programs can ask for detailed information, such as zip codes, number and ages of children, and so on, that allows for very targeted marketing.

From the consumers’ standpoint, SMS messaging is even easier. They need to do very little – if interested, they call for a reservation or stop by a store to make a purchase. 

SMS has the potential to help retail marketers do amazing things with the numbers of consumers that opt in to their programs. So the real question is not so much should you or shouldn’t you, but rather– what are you waiting for?

Have you had success with SMS marketing? Share your insights in the Comments section below.

Ramak Capodicasa

About the Author: Ramak Capodicasa

Ramak is Regional Director for Lyris APAC, and has responsibility for nurturing and growing Lyris’ business in Australia, New Zealand, and the Asia Pacific region. Her experience is working with leading retailers with traditional marketing focus and helping them transition and develop digital strategies to ultimately increase engagement and online conversions from automated marketing initiatives. Ramak has over 15 years of experience in marketing, having gained insight from working with leading Global IT software and hardware vendors, and in marketing and sales disciplines for both direct B2B, B2C, and channel organisations.

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