Is Text Message Marketing Dead?

The adoption of smartphones in the U.S. continues to grow at a 36% clip. Mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Kik, and Facebook Messenger that bypass the text messaging capabilities of mobile carriers continue to gain popularity. And more and more people are using their smartphones to access social media sites. So where does that leave text messaging (a.k.a. SMS, or Short Message Service) in businesses’ mobile marketing mix? Is text message marketing dead? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons and how text message marketing is being used today.

Pros of Using Text Message Marketing

Text messaging provides unparalleled mobile reach: There are over 234 million unique mobile device users in the U.S., all of which can receive text messages.

Text messaging nearly guarantees customer engagement: 98% of all SMS and MMS (Multimedia Message Service) messages are opened. Compare this to the fact that only 16% of Facebook News Feed stories are viewed, only 29% of tweets are seen, and only 12% of emails are opened.

(See this infographic for a summary of the above stats.)

Text messaging instantly engages: 90% of text messages are opened within three minutes.

Mobile phone users want to receive offers via text message: 70% of mobile phone users want to receive offers, with 41% claiming they want them delivered via text message.

Cons of Using Text Message Marketing

High cost: Businesses typically spend around $0.01-0.05 per text message sent. This can get very expensive if distribution lists are large and text messages are sent with high frequency.

Little ability to be creative: You only get 160 characters to deliver your message with no ability to incorporate visual assets.

It’s difficult to build profiles around a mobile number: First of all, it’s tough to instantly discern whether a phone number is a mobile or landline number. Furthermore, building a profile around a mobile number is much more difficult than doing so around an email address, where you can track more robust engagement metrics.

Primary Uses of Text Message Marketing

Caps Mobile Club Text MessagingMany companies use text messaging to deliver alerts and notifications to their customers. Mobile carriers like Sprint send text messages when voice, data, and text usage is close to the monthly limit, airlines send SMS messages to notify passengers of flight delays, and banks may deliver account balances and other financial alerts via text. SMS is a key channel to deliver important, time-sensitive information.

Other businesses use text messaging as an engagement channel to deliver product news and special offers. Tide and Coke leveraged SMS programs to engage fans and grow their mobile subscriber bases. When I worked for the Washington Capitals, we created the Caps Mobile Club and delivered breaking player news, special ticket offers, and score updates to over 25,000 subscribers.

Companies are also using SMS to garner donations and execute purchases via carrier billing, and many retailers and malls are sending geo-fenced text message offers to lure shoppers to their stores.

It’s clear that there are plenty of ways to use text messaging to engage customers and facilitate purchases.

So, Is Text Message Marketing Dead?

Though SMS usage may be on the decline, text message marketing certainly still has its place in the mobile marketing mix. Though there are some drawbacks, text messaging basically guarantees that your message will be read by the largest population of mobile users. But it must be strategically employed with the user experience in mind (i.e. you can’t text your customers too often!) in conjunction with other online and mobile channels such as email and social media. Bottom line is that text message marketing is still alive.

What do you think? Does your company use text message marketing, and if so, has your usage grown or decreased? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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