The pandemic has altered the purchase journey of consumers amid the frequent lockdowns, and digital has taken center stage. Jeremy Smart, vice-president, sales (Asia Pacific & Japan) for Acoustic, a leading global martech company, holds forth on how marketers need to revisit their mobile strategy. They need to get the SMS right back in the action, he says, “not only as a channel but as an integral part of their business strategy to reach consumers who are in lockdown.”
Marketers know the key to success is meeting the customer where they are, but that’s a lot easier said than done when everyone is stuck at home due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Fewer customers are ready to buy in-person at brick-and-mortar retailers, and many have been forced to tighten their budgets during uncertain times.
One direct outcome has been the increasing power being given to mobile marketing, which has become an even more powerful tool in the arsenal of marketers, specifically SMS. It’s impossible to deny the ubiquity of mobile phones, with 21.5 million devices in Australia alone, and with 80% of adults expected to own a smartphone by 2025.
What’s more, Australian consumers have been forced to spend more time in front of their screens during lockdowns, making them more receptive to mobile marketing than ever before.
Based on these trends, it’s clear marketers need to take a serious look at incorporating mobile marketing, specifically SMS, as an integral part of their overall business strategy, not just as an extra marketing channel. Here is why it has to be an integral part of the media plan.
Mobile is effective
SMS has one of the highest ROIs of any marketing tool, not just because of the prevalence of smartphones, but the engagement rates are much higher than any other platform. SMS messages are typically opened within minutes because marketers only have 160 characters or less to get their message across, so it needs to be concise. That’s not to say email marketing should be dismissed. SMS and email could work well together.
Mobile is flexible
Almost any business can harness SMS marketing in some capacity, whether it’s a simple promotional message, a coupon for a retail store or a financial services company notifying their customer about deposits and payments. This is particularly useful in times like the Covid-19 pandemic when businesses need to rethink how they serve their customers and figure out more flexible ways to deliver positive customer experiences.
For example, rather than customers needing to walk into a retail store to pick up an order, they could be notified that their order is ready and directed to a safe, no-contact delivery point – all via SMS.
SMS also enables two-factor authentication, in which a customer receives a code via SMS that they must enter into another app to verify their identity. The rate of cyber-attacks has increased during the pandemic, particularly ransomware targeting personal data. Providing an additional layer of security gives customers peace of mind that their data is in safe hands.
Mobile can help you go that extra bit further
As mobile marketing ramps up, so too will its complexity, but that needn’t turn people off from getting started. It could start with basic SMS marketing, which could be something simple, such as signing up consumers to your customer list. After that, they can move up to sending segmented SMS marketing campaigns to the customers already signed up based on their personal information. A more advanced SMS marketing campaign might be something like a customer survey sent out over SMS.
Interestingly, while SMS marketing is one of the most effective marketing tools, it can also be one of the most expensive. An important consideration in SMS marketing is the customer list. Partnering with a tier-1 SMS aggregator is more expensive up front, but it will mean you’re less likely to waste money sending a message to someone who won’t engage or may even be resentful that a company they don’t know reached out to them.
Consent and permission are critical
It is important to ensure SMS marketing is distributed in the right way and to the correct audience. Recently, a vast majority of Australians received an unsolicited text message with a political agenda, which resulted in a media outcry of poor behavior. Businesses should build out their own customer database by asking if consumers want to receive SMS messages at appropriate times throughout the customer lifecycle, like at the register or once an online order is placed.
Marketers must make sure they receive consent before messaging customers if they want to avoid losing potential customers or angering their existing ones. What’s important is to continually test and analyze the efforts throughout the entire process to learn what works and what doesn’t.
While lockdowns continue throughout many parts of Australia and South East Asia, the power of SMS marketing is only rising, and there are no signs of slowing down. Marketers need to use every tool at their disposal to ensure their message cuts through to customers, so it only makes sense for marketers to take a look at SMS marketing for its true potential.
Jeremy Smart is the vice-president, sales, Asia Pacific & Japan at Acoustic.