SMS & Mobile Web: The Perfect Combination

October 18th, 2011 by

In a smartphone-centric world, SMS marketing is often dismissed as old news, but it is still a popular marketing tool for many reasons.

  1. The large audience:  Since 99% of phones are capable of sending and receiving text messages, 323 million mobile subscribers in the US can be reached with your marketing message, not just the 40% (or 131 million) who have smartphones.
  2. Two-way communication:  SMS enables marketers to extend customer interactions beyond the initial conversation.  It’s easy to initiate and respond to texts, and once customers have opted in, they can receive additional communications from you such as alerts and coupons.
  3. SMS allows for a quick and effective response to a call to action90% of text messages are read within three minutes of delivery, and most are responded to.

Click to where?

Although most marketers can create effective messages in 160 characters (the maximum length allowed for an SMS message) that will generate great CTRs (click through rates), many brands fail to continue the conversation effectively. But what happens after the user clicks on the link in the text message?  How is the experience on that landing page, and what can the user do there that will add value to the interaction? So many marketers do not consider the full experience, instead using SMS as an automatic tool to snare more additions for their marketing databases.  But what good are these additional customers if you’re not engaging them enough to trigger eventual purchases?

The mobile web solves this problem by providing an anchor for your SMS campaign that continues to give value to the customer after the initial opt-in and can enhance the interaction with a richer, multimedia component.   For example, you could add a hyperlink to the response message that drives users to a mobile site where they can shop or participate in a brand experience.  You can also ask customers to double opt-in to receive additional text updates, thus allowing you to continue the conversation indefinitely.

To make this work, however, you MUST optimize your site for mobile devices.  Many brands fail to heed this advice; according to Google, 79% of its largest advertisers have not optimized their websites for mobile, which results in a poor first impression when the user acts on the SMS message.  Additionally, often links provided within a specifically-purposed SMS campaign jump to a non-campaign specific landing page, leaving customers scratching their heads (and shutting down their mobile browsers).

One company that has executed well on an SMS to mobile web campaign is Victoria’s Secret, which utilizes SMS to build its relationship with existing customers and attract new ones. Once the customer opts in by texting “NATION” to Victoria Secret’s dedicated short code, she is sent a message with an embedded link to access the mobile site, where she can view more products and sign up to receive special offers and exclusive event information.  With a fashion brand like Victoria’s Secret that’s so dependent on the visual experience, a mobile website enables the brand to turn a brief text exchange into a rich, multimedia product showcase, thus increasing the likelihood that customers will be inspired to make purchases.

American Idol (AI) took the reverse approach with its mobile program.  AI worked with Trilibis to create a mobile site where Idol addicts could sign up for SMS services such as sweepstakes, trivia, voting number reminders, and text chat, which continued the conversation well beyond their nightly viewing and voting experience. While on the site, fans could also access exclusive content and updates about the show, which kept them engaged and excited.

The SMS/mobile web combination can also be used to help companies decrease abandoned purchases and to upsell to customers who have already purchased items.   If a user has signed up for SMS and abandons his mobile web shopping cart, the retailer can send an SMS to remind the customer to finish his purchase.  Similarly, a retailer can send an SMS to a customer notifying him that there are new items in stock that complement the last purchase.  In both scenarios, a link within the SMS message can drive the customer to the mobile website, where he can make a purchase.

To leverage SMS successfully, marketers need to design campaigns that start conversations and create ongoing relationships by utilizing mobile web.  Only then will they be able to truly engage and retain their newly won customers and take advantage of the wealth of opportunities that the SMS channel offers.

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One Response to “SMS & Mobile Web: The Perfect Combination”

  1. Lavonda says:

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