Contextual content insures SMS? ongoing role in mobile marketing toolbox

Brands have been reaching out to consumers via text for more than a decade, but the same types of messages that delivered results then are not going to work today. 

Marketers are using segmentation and contextual content to take their SMS programs to the next level, helping to drive value for users and improve results. If done correctly, text programs are here to stay.

?Text programs are still in full swing and will be for a while,? said Sheryl Kingstone, research director at Yankee Group, Toronto. ?The world has gone mobile, with 90 percent of the U.S. population having at last one mobile phone, creating a unique opportunity to engage with customers. 

?Sixty-three percent of businesses are prioritizing mobile as a way to be more responsive to customers, but the questions are, ?what does that mean? How can businesses accomplish their goals in a cost effective and valuable way??? she said. ?That is where SMS marketing programs have shown to prove extremely successful. 

?It takes 90 minutes for the average person to respond to an email. It takes 90 seconds for the average person to respond to a text message.?

How to
Messages must also take strong consideration of consumers? location and preferences. 

?The issue is doing these programs well,? Ms. Kingstone said. ?Engaging with customers on mobile devices is extremely competitive and challenging. 

?Companies must deliver value to their customers, and in exchange, customers give valuable information about themselves, their preferences, behaviors and location,? she said. ?With this information tied to location-based proximity marketing programs such as geofencing have shown strong close rates and overall much higher effectiveness than traditional email marketing.?

While mobile technology has allowed brands to deliver highly targeted content, SMS is a tried channel but still relevant nonetheless.

When combined with other efforts, participation with text programs is more likely to occur.

?Text messaging combined with other retail solutions and touch points help enhance these services,? said Gary Schwartz, CEO of Impact Mobile, New York. ?Increasingly, proximity intelligence with Wi-Fi integration is the ultimate dimension that drives relevance to the consumer.?

?Proximity makes for targeted contextual engagement which drives between 19 and 22 percent conversion in trials,? he said. ?This is a huge increase over the standards single digit results in other digital campaigns.?

?Leveraging smart business rules is essential to manage the messaging volume. What is appropriate and delights one consumer will bother another. Segmenting and targeting messaging based on proximity to location will always drive results.?

The facts
Texting is a common form of communication used between consumers. Being a native activity for them, consumers are more likely to respond to their favorite brands through messaging.

Both cost effective and valuable, text programs enable an ongoing conversation and delivery of offers and incentives with a brand?s consumers. Brands and retailers must not forget how soon upon receipt that text messages are usually opened, lending a timely and urgent channel for marketing efforts.

?Increasingly, people prefer texting over other methods of communication,? Ms. Kingstone said. ?It?s the number one most frequently used aspect of the mobile phone beating voice and email. 

?Another point of reference is that 84 percent of businesses are interested in initiatives that provide pro-active communications,? she said.

Impact Mobile's Mr. Schwartz specializes in mobile messaging.

?Mobile marketing is not about mobile technology; it is about understanding mobile consumers,? Mr. Schwartz said. ?Text is the native messaging channel for the phone. 

?If a brand can get into this circle of trust, the retailer has a direct channel to the consumer,? he said. ?App notifications direct consumers to the digital app. 

?Text notifications drives the consumer to your store or POS. The latter is far more valuable to the retailer.?

Recently at the Mobile Shopping Summit 2014, a Cabela?s executive said that segmentation has driven exponential growth in its SMS program, which sees 71 percent of sign-ups take place in store. 

During the ?Tried But True ? How Cabela?s Is Utilizing SMS To Reach Its Customers? session, the executive looked at its pilot of six messages per month following opt-in. Messages were constructed based on each customer?s profile, created by previous purchases.

Cabela?s aimed for SMS for numerous reasons. Its core customer base is skewed to be older males, who are more prevalently texting today. SMS is also very cost efficient and personal, creating a one-on-one conversation. Furthermore, text messages are most often read very soon after received. 

During the session, the Cabela?s executive said that its text marketing efforts will be increased in 2015 and the retailer will be reaching out to its subscribers more often, as much as multiple times per week (see story).

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York