Editor's note: The following is a guest post from Nancy Lim, marketing director at CallRail.
Quick question: Do you know where your phone is right now?
Chances are you do. It's likely you even know how many unread texts you have and how much battery your phone has left.
Consumers' obsessions with their phones is well-documented. But, while marketers strive to meet consumers where they are, too few make use of the opportunity that is SMS.
Dialing in on SMS
SMS is a powerful marketing channel for businesses, as it leverages location information and speed to efficiently engage on-the-go consumers.
This is hardly a surprise, considering the popularity of texting among consumers. When it comes to reach and engagement, SMS is seemingly unparalleled. Almost 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery, and 99% are eventually read by their intended recipient. Considering that 95% of Americans own a cellphone (77% own a smartphone), SMS can reach a wide audience quickly and with a higher chance of engagement.
Some industries already make use of SMS as a part of their larger marketing strategies to great success. Chipotle, for example, has used it to connect with its mobile subscribers. After Chipotle's recent blunders, the company has used an SMS strategy to re-engage customers with special promotions and deals.
However, even those brands using SMS to reach consumers sometimes struggle to take this process a step further through analytics to learn more about customers in real time. Equipped with these analytics tools, marketers can track text messages and initiate interactions to gain valuable insights about consumers and their desires. Response rate, type of response and conversation rates on SMS all offer valuable data about how a business can best use the channel. For instance, a business may find that SMS offers have a higher conversion rate when sent during typical commuting hours when consumers might be on a train or bus to work. Or, an auto shop that offers a discounted oil change via SMS may actually receive questions unrelated to the offer in response. Understanding these performance metrics and trends informs better SMS strategy over time. As commerce moves toward mobile interfaces, more businesses must engage consumers on these devices, but also empower these interactions with qualitative and quantitative data.
The mobile tactic should be a part of that strategy, from executing SMS-based ad campaigns to developing recurring, seamless interactions with customers via text messages. This approach ultimately provides marketers with a deeper understanding of the entire consumer path to purchase and allows businesses to better engage consumers in real time.
The power of SMS for appointment- and discretion-based industries
For appointment-based industries like healthcare and automotive, an SMS marketing strategy ensures marketers can engage users in a timely manner. The outbound messaging functionality of SMS empowers regular interactions, especially for routine activities like checking the status of an order or scheduling an appointment.
Likewise, for industries with heightened discretionary needs, such as healthcare and finance, SMS interactions maintain privacy by working directly through a consumer's own device and leveraging unique attributes like a customer's specific local tracking number. SMS is perhaps today's most discreet marketing channel.
Here are a few ways the following industries can capitalize on SMS:
- Banking: Banks can use SMS to confirm credit card payments, alert a consumer of a change to his or her checking account and provide targeting offers for loans or refinancing. This feature is particularly useful as a convenient way to prevent fraud because banks are able to quickly alert users of large or unusual payments that can be easily confirmed or denied by text. Features like this save time for both the user and bank since it eliminates the need for otherwise lengthy phone calls and potential hold times with customer service representatives — and ensures that customers' accounts are secure.
- Healthcare: Scheduling a doctor's appointment, especially in private situations like a rehab facility or even in an office setting, is often something that patients would prefer to do avoid doing over the phone when others are around. SMS allows for easy, on-the-go and discreet scheduling, confirming and more. Additionally, healthcare providers can use SMS for appointment and prescription pickup reminders and even simple diagnostic results that don't require face-to-face interaction with doctors.
- Insurance: SMS can alleviate many common frustrations for insurance customers, especially in high-stress instances. Using SMS, customers can send picture messages directly to agents when filing claims. For instance, a customer in a car accident could document the scene and immediately provide photo evidence. SMS also allows consumers to easily get in contact with an agent to ask questions, check payment schedules and receive bill reminders. Additionally, many insurance providers are now providing text-to-pay options that take less time than paying bills online.
- Automotive: Auto shops and dealers can communicate with customers about car updates via SMS. Rather than sitting for hours in a dealership, consumers can monitor repairs from the comfort of their own home. Dealers can also remind drivers when they're due for regular services like an oil change or new tires. During the purchasing process, prospective buyers can use SMS to book test drives, schedule viewings and receive personalized promotions. Afterward, they can check delivery status of vehicles and even provide useful feedback to auto dealers via mobile customer surveys.
The practical applications of SMS for these industries are many and will likely grow in number as mobile capabilities continue to increase and customers grow more comfortable using them in more versatile ways.
Despite the wave of self-service and conveniences brought about by technologies like ZeroUI, nearly two thirds (64%) of consumers with texting capabilities prefer text as a customer service channel over voice. Younger consumers are even more partial to SMS, with 77% of those with texting capabilities aged 18-34 reporting a positive perception of companies that offer texting abilities. As these generations' buying power continues to rise with age, businesses must play to their communication desires.
Even if you don't know where your phone is, your customers likely do — and they're waiting for a text from your business.