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Role of SMS changing with mobile maturity and intersection of social

As the mobile space evolves, due in part by the intersection of social, the role of SMS as a marketing vehicle is expanding.

Retailers and brands should be incorporating SMS into their mobile commerce sites to let consumers share and recommend a product they are viewing from their device via text message. Brands such as Gilt Groupe, Amazon, Best Buy and Target are encouraging their existing and potential customers to share via an SMS feature within their commerce-enabled mobile sites.

?When compared to a particular product message coming directly from a brand or retailer, as it usually does, the message is more powerful in two ways,? said Doug Wick, director of product marketing at Digby, Austin. 

?First, the product is coming from someone the recipient knows personally and trusts,? he said. ?Second, that person might know the recipient's tastes and be sharing the product because she thinks it will be something her friend will like.

?When compared to other sharing channels ? email, social sites ? it is both more immediate and more one-to-one. For those reasons, it is probably the most likely to get a recipient's attention.?

SMS for sharing
Consumers shopping Gilt?s mobile site, for example, can tap to recommend a product and then get an option to share via Facebook, Twitter, SMS or email. 

SMS is an important option to include, since consumers are more likely to trust someone they know. 

According to the Nielsen Co. 90 percent of consumers surveyed trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent trusted consumer opinions posted online.

?Shoppers are highly likely to check out something that has been recommended to them by a friend by clicking through, and even if they don't end up buying that product they will likely end up browsing and becoming familiar with a retailer's general product assortment,? Mr. Wick said. 

?This could mean a newly acquired customer and all of the value associated with that new relationship,? he said. 

Accustomed to SMS
According to a recent report by Pew Internet, 73 percent of adults with mobile devices use SMS on their phone at least occasionally.

Text message users send or receive an average of 41.5 messages per day, with the user sending or receiving 10 texts daily.

?SMS is a great medium for sharing because it is very low-barrier for the sender ? unlike sharing to social sites where a login is necessary,? Mr. Wick said. ?And it grabs the immediate attention of the recipient. 

?Also, as a communication channel it is something mobile users are accustomed to using to communicate with their friends, and it can reach any friend regardless of device type or presence on a social site,? he said. 

Brands and retailers are already relying on SMS as a channel for service. For example, letting shoppers set reminders or notifying them of shipment and delivery. 

Additionally, SMS can be used for marketing and loyalty through collecting opt-ins on a mobile site or by other means and building a database of interested consumers. 

These types of campaigns must be as targeted as possible. 

?Because the channel is so personal and immediate, a noisy or irrelevant marketing message over SMS will do a lot of harm to a retailer/shopper relationship,? Mr. Wick said. 

?It is best to allow them a high degree of control over how they are contacted in SMS and use it as a vehicle for the relationship, not as a primary venue for pushing offers,? he said.

Mobile Marketer Senior Editor Giselle Tsirulnik interviewed Wilson Kerr, director of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston, regarding the role of SMS as a sharing instrument. 

Here is what he said:

What is the benefit (for a brand or retailer) of having a consumer SMS/MMS a product they are viewing via a mobile commerce site to a friend?
This sort of social sharing means the retailer or brand has a new touchpoint delivered instantly to a highly prequalified audience. Since the text arrives from a trusted friend, the person who receives it is very likely to open the text, read it, and click on the link. 

How could this potentially drive sales for a retailer?
If the retailer has a mobile-optimized site, the SMS can serve as a deep link straight into the section of the mobile commerce site where that exact product (or product grouping) is queued up and ready to buy. This can impact mobile commerce sales and can be tracked. 

Do you think more retailers will be incorporating SMS into their mobile sites in 2012? 
Yes, smart retailers will utilize a variety of new ways to have hyperlinked touchpoints spread by consumers who then link these consumers into their mobile commerce sites, to the exact page where the applicable product is served up. 

As SMS replaces email with the younger generation and more and more retailers build and launch mcommerce sites, this method of ?trigger point marketing? will only become more effective at driving tracked ROI.
Why is SMS a good medium to encourage sharing?

SMS is personal and it comes from a known, trusted person. It also opens up a new channel of communication between the retailer and the consumer, since the mobile commerce platform captures the numbers of the sender and the recipient. 

What are some other ways SMS can be incorporated into a mobile commerce site?
SMS can be tapped to allow consumers to share the pre- and post-purchase links to a product in a mobile commerce site. SMS can also be used, via short codes, to drive traffic for a mcommerce site, since the link can be texted back to the consumer, by the retailer. 

Additionally, SMS can be used to sign up customers to loyalty programs or allow them to opt-in for announcements of new arrivals, etcetera. If a shopping cart is abandoned, SMS can be used to ping the customer who did not complete their transaction, to remind them that their cart is full and they forgot to check out.