It’s official; Americans love our smartphones. In particular, we love texting. We can send a message at any time of day and know that our friends will get it. We send 6 billion text messages a day in the United States, and two-thirds of adults own smartphones, which they use to get information on community events and breaking news.
It seems obvious that businesses want to advertise through smartphones and text messaging, and with a little prep work, it can be a viable advertising strategy. But there are some pros and cons a marketer should be aware of before moving forward with a text message campaign.
How can businesses use text messaging for their benefit?
For brick-and-mortar businesses, utilizing the in-the-moment benefit of text messaging will generally bring the best results. Let customers know about flash sales, special one-day-only opportunities, and events in the store.
When customers sign up for text messages, give them a variety of options to sign up for. For example, a store could target its messages by departments and lines; customers could sign up for updates on special deals for clothing, electronics, or both. Restaurants, however, might want to find out when customers are likely to be in the area. Do they tend to arrive for dinner, lunch, or brunch? Having more targeted groups to send messages to will reduce the number of messages customers get, and help them feel less spammed.
Events planners have unique opportunities with text messaging. Many people would like to attend events, but are unable to get there, due to planning problems, accessibility issues, or time constraints. During a recent political event in my town, I was able to integrate an event registration plugin with a text messaging service and stay updated over the course of the event. For the next three days, I got regular updates on who said what, links to videos and more in-depth articles, and snippets designed to be shared on social media, improving word of mouth reach about the event.
Smartphones and text messaging connect the world more intimately than just the Internet did before. Businesses that can take advantage of these connections in a way that feels beneficial to the consumer, instead of frustrating and intrusive, are poised to reap great rewards.
There are many strong benefits to using text messaging or SMS messaging as part of your overall marketing campaign. Because of the laws around marketing through mobile devices, users must opt-in to receive your messages. This means that your audience is choosing to hear what you have to say, which always gives you a better chance of motivating people to buy.
Choosing to advertise through text messaging might make more sense than many website advertising strategies; around 20 percent of American adults are smartphone dependent, meaning that their smartphone is their primary method of getting online. They are particularly popular amongst Millennials and Gen Y, giving businesses an in-road with two highly sought demographic groups.
Text messages arrive in real-time, which means that businesses have a unique opportunity to try and shift business patterns in a moment. A restaurant could text out a half-off coupon, for example, on a slow afternoon.
Mobile payments are also gaining real traction with many users, giving businesses new options to offer micro-transactions and purchase opportunities at the moment.
With all of that said, however, there are some significant downsides to using text messaging as a corner stone of your marketing plan. It’s unlikely that any business could afford to have text messaging be its primary advertising; if nothing else, getting the initial opt-in would be difficult to impossible. Text messaging is an add-on at best.
Because most text messages are between 140-160 characters, and generally without pictures or sound, condensing your ad down into a marketing message can be difficult. Many inexperienced marketers assume that crafting a short ad is easy and cheap; in reality, it’s difficult, and since you’re paying for every text message you send out, it may not be cheap.
While a business might pay for a print or radio ad once, and use it repeatedly, it’s generally best to only use a text message once. With the way most modern smartphones present text messages, it’s immediately apparent if a user keeps sending the same message, which feels unappealing to the recipient.
Smartphones are becoming ubiquitous in our society, especially in the younger generations, but many older Americans don’t use their phones often, or don’t carry them with them. Many of them don’t really understand how to text, and are just now beginning to acclimatize to the idea of getting marketing in their email.