If you call yourself an omnichannel marketer, then text messaging is a tool you can’t ignore any longer.
Mass adoption in our consumer lives has transformed text into a significant a channel that lets marketers connect with customers in new and better ways. A massive 81 percent of cell phone owners use their phones to text compared to 52 percent for email, according to Pew Internet Research. And “the SMS button has been used three-to-four times more often than the Twitter button ever was,” reports USA Today.
Text messaging is also moving beyond traditional marketing use cases. Now, it is a widely used two-way communication channel that is often preferred over email and phone calls. Take a look at these ways you can deploy text messaging to create more powerful campaigns, and the value of adding text messaging to your marketing strategy will be clear.
Mass adoption. Everyone is text messaging… everyone.
Marketers care about text because it’s universal and global. No other form of communication works across iOS and Android, from AT&T and Verizon to Vodafone and China Mobile. People use Over-the-Top (OTT) apps like WhatsApp and SnapChat to send messages around the globe without burning through their data plans, and despite the fact that all-you-can eat texting plans may be bad for wireless carrier revenues, they’re also the reason why texting is now universally adopted and available. Ninety percent of global mobile subscribers will be using SMS by 2016, and text marketing is forecast by eMarketer to reach 36.3 percent of total ad spending in 2017. If your customers are everywhere, you need to connect with them via text. If you don’t, your competitors will.
Toll-free numbers can now join the conversation
Toll-free texting is being called the unexpected new customer service channel. Toll-free numbers can now text, and texting is starting to roll out more broadly because of this simple but powerful technical change. Most people are surprised to learn that this is new because many businesses have used toll free phone numbers for call centers integrated with CRM for decades. These national brands tended to favor use of short codes (five or six digit codes for texting) rather than phone numbers. However, short codes are inherently one-way forms of communication and are mostly used for marketing. They are expensive, take a long time to set up and provision, and are not capable of receiving phone calls.
Now, toll-free phone numbers can be set up to send and receive both phone calls and SMS messages. The messages coming and going from these numbers can be integrated with marketing platforms, contact centers, sales automation, and CRM software, and new features can be added for text-in, click-to-text, and many other forms of texting workflows in addition to voice calling.
This helps businesses more efficiently process orders, send appointment reminders, answer customer questions, and more.
Mobile engagement without “App for that” consumer fatigue
But there’s an app for that! Unfortunately for consumers and the marketers trying to reach them, “app-for-that” marketing has become too crowded. No one wants to fill up their phone’s memory with apps that they don’t use — and 95 percent of apps fall into that category. If you’re requiring customers to download, install, update, and find your mobile app in the junk drawer of their digital life, you can expect to be disappointed. Mobile communication and engagement must be quick and effortless.
Take an international hotel as an example. A hotel likely uses web, email, and phone calls to handle its marketing, reservations, check-in, concierge services, check-out, and loyalty. But as we travel, we inherently become mobile. The average email is read 48 hours after it is sent, while the average SMS is read in four minutes. So before check-in, during, and at check-out, texting becomes a more effective channel. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the hospitality industry is integrating text messaging at a rapid pace. For example, one enterprise customer engagement platform has created workflows for guests that enable room-ready notifications, check-in activation, and concierge chat using text messaging. The Four Seasons, a luxury hotel chain, has adopted these technologies in support of its “complete service” brand.
Industry-specific applications of SMS don’t stop there. Insurance agents, home improvement services, real estate agents, healthcare organizations, financial services, and other businesses can benefit by allowing customers to engage with them through texting messages that are then tracked, managed, and aligned with CRM data.
Texting converts easily to phone calls
People transition easily between communication channels. Texting is preferred by customers because it’s easy, quick, and convenient, so they may begin a conversation in text and then continue via phone. In this increasingly omnichannel world, the ability to move from one communication channel to another (and back again) is critical to a customer-centric experience.
A text conversation can progress to a phone call on the same virtual phone number, and then revert back to the text conversation. This kind of seamless transition across channels is on its way to becoming the standard in our digital world. Text to phone calls is far simpler than the alternative, which is web to mobile app to phone call to email. Text to phone call is an easy win for omnichannel CRM and sales software systems.
If you call yourself a digital marketer, then the digital experience should extend beyond the web browser or the apps of your smartphone. By using texting technologies, you can access a tool that hundreds of millions of people use each day, with a contextually relevant and direct message to be used at the right time. Omnichannel marketers should not forget about one of the most well-used and effective channels — your customer experience will benefit as a result.