SMS: the communication comeback kid

The first SMS (short message service) was sent 26 years ago, in 1992. Since then, they’ve grown in usage alongside the mobile phone, even sparking a new kind of linguistic shorthand in the heydays of the early noughties.

Today, we may have dropped phrases like “2nte” or “ROFL”, but the simple SMS remains steadfast in use. There has, in fact, been something of a resurgence in the popularity of SMS — even in the face of modern messaging options such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

SMS may be the communication comeback kid, but many businesses aren’t tapping into the potential of texting. We explore the rise of SMS messaging and how businesses can benefit.

The re-rise of the short message service

Over the last decade, there’s been a 7700% increase in the number of SMS messages sent monthly, with 15,220,700 texts sent every minute of every day in 2017.

Think about how many of those texts are sent by your customers, prospects and target audience. That’s a huge potential reach. And unlike some of its more modern competitors, texting is readily available and reaches more mobile devices.

This is because services such as WhatsApp or Messenger require internet connections and the download of an app. Meanwhile, texting relies on a core function of the mobile phone.

Plus, some such popular messaging apps are unavailable in certain countries. Other customers may have ‘dumb’ phones that don’t boast internet connectivity.

The point is: SMS is not obsolete. Far from smoking away on the ash heap of discarded consumer habits, SMS prevails. There may be newer, trendier apps flooding the market, but none can match the accessibility and universal adoption of the traditional text.

The power of SMS

So, SMS is alive and kicking. And it can also give a kick to your marketing efforts. In fact, 37.2 million users in the UK alone opted in to receive marketing texts in 2016. Plus, 75% of customers prefer SMS over a phone call for customer service contact.

But what truly makes SMS so powerful is its engagement rate. Not only are 97% of texts opened and read, this happens within the first three minutes of receiving the text. That’s instant and near-certain engagement. And it doesn’t stop there: SMS marketing boasts a 45% response rate, making the paltry 8% that email garners pale in comparison.

There can be no doubt, SMS is one of the quickest, most certain ways to engage your customers. Yet only 7% of businesses currently interact with customers via text messaging. Why?

Business SMS uses

Paired with business process automation, SMS is a great tool for multiple marketing communications. From bulk sales deals and segmented campaigns to personalised offers, there are many ways to capitalise on the business SMS.

1. Use SMS to distribute coupons, vouchers and offers

You can use SMS to alert opted-in customers about offers, distributing your promotions and rewards. That might be an offer to your most active customers, a loyalty reward to long-standing users, or a triggered seasonal SMS based on retail trends.

You’d do this in much the same way you would a standard email campaign. For example, you would segment customers into groups from your CRM data, based on their behaviour or purchase history. You can then text the most relevant offers and voucher codes to each customer to add that personal touch.

And, just as you would with your email sending service, you can use your SMS automation service to personalise and issue at scale. You simply craft the SMS template and have your automation software mass send.

2. Use SMS to provide helpful reminders and notifications

You can also automatically text customers important reminders and notifications. These could be appointment reminders, booking confirmations, upcoming bill alerts, or even requested notifications about new products or releases.

For example, you have customers that book appointments to use your service. The day before their appointments, you send each customer a personalised automated text, reminding them of the appointment, the time booked, and the service requested.

3. Enable customers to use SMS for orders and delivery updates

You can allow your customers to make orders, receive service and keep track of their deliveries via SMS.

Many of your regular customers make repeat purchases of the same items — their favourite pizza, or a taxi from the same location, for example. Rather than forcing them to redo your web forms every time they order, you can enable the customer to instead text you to request their regular order.

OTOH (or, on the other hand)

It’s worth remembering that with SMS you’re inviting yourself into people’s personal space. SMS is a personal channel, often reserved for check-in messages from dad or your mum experimenting with emojis.

So, when using SMS as a marketing tool, be sure not to spam. Every message should deliver value to customers, in a personal and friendly way. Stick to requested, high-value, and targeted services.

A personalised curry discount on a Friday night? Perfect. Yet another generic PPI SMS blasted to thousands of people on a dubiously purchased mailing list? Don’t do it.

Is there room for SMS in your strategy?

You may have forgotten about SMS as new technologies dominate our business discussions. With artificial intelligence, chatbots, and enormously popular instant messaging channels entering the fray, SMS is all too often tucked away as a relic of the past.

But make no mistake: SMS is the ultimate communication comeback kid. It may seem lacklustre due to its historical legacy and unremarkable technological features, but SMS has been coming out on top for engagement for over a decade.

So, isn’t it time to start backing the messaging underdog?

Explore SMS automation via ThinkAutomation

To use SMS in your own business comms, start creating your send workflows here: