texting, texts, SMS, Marketing, Pappa Jon's, O2, mobile, omnichannel, Conversation, What'sApp, Viber, Facebook, Twitter, BBM, Total Customer

Text Message Marketing: A Dying Horse?

In Customer Engagement, Featured on App, Marketing and Sales, Technology, The Mobile Customer by Vaughn Highfield2 Comments

texting, texts, SMS, Marketing, Pappa Jon's, O2, mobile, omnichannel, Conversation, What'sApp, Viber, Facebook, Twitter, BBM, Total Customer

Can the lowly SMS message compete with the likes of social networks and instant messengers?

Text messaging has been the cornerstone of communicating with friends on mobile phones for years, but 20 years on it’s hit a slump. And it’s likely that it’ll keep on falling year on year.

In 2013, the number of text messages being sent hit a decline for the first time in the message medium’s lifetime, dropping around 7bn to 145bn. Deloitte estimates that the number will fall to 140bn in 2014. Judging by the amount of text messages I receive from Papa John’s and O2, a lot of those could well just be annoying marketing twaddle (they obviously aren’t). Now it seems that the text is dying, largely in favour of tech-savvy smartphone users making the most of things like Viber, What’sApp, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, etc., what does that mean for marketing campaigns promoted by text message?

Standard Messaging Service (or SMS) texts are far too cumbersome for many, especially in an era where messages come thick and fast through group chats and instant messaging services, and in a world where having unlimited data in your mobile contract is far more precious than unlimited texts or minutes. It’s no surprise then that Deloitte reports that 160bn instant messages were sent in Britain alone in 2013, and this is only set to rise in the coming years.

But what does this mean for marketers? Especially those who use text messages still, and is there really a way for it to be replicated on instant messaging services?

Well, in a rather annoying and roundabout way, yes – and no.

Now, I’m guilty of being horrendously gleeful that SMS could potentially die. It’s woeful stuff, wholly unintuitive and feels rather invasive sending a text to my phone rather than an email. Although, I am guilty of succumbing to a cheeky Pappa John’s when they send me a well-timed text…

Still, what else can a marketer do now the text message is seemingly starting down its slippery slope to nowhere? You can probably find your way into many of the instant messaging services that exist within the ever-growing app space on Android and iOS, handily marketing your products in largely the same way as before – after all, What’sApp uses mobile phone numbers to link friends together. You could also start pushing your way into Facebook messaging, as the folks over at Facebook look to squeeze more money out of each user, this could be a viable avenue in the future for the social network.

It’s really a hard thing to predict, especially as nothing can really replicate SMS marketing in the modern age – many would find instant messaging far too intrusive. But remain content that in the MINT countries of Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey will still be making use of SMS for a few more years, so don’t forget to turn your sights onto them.


[Image:  {Andrea} – Flickr]

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  1. Alastair Shortland

    Ok, so you have read a new article that says that P2P SMS is on the decline – and somehow thought “I know, I will write a blog article that tenuously links this news to the SMS marketing industry (application to person A2P messaging).”

    If any of what you say were correct, there would not have been 3 SMS text companies in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 list of fastest growing tech companies in 2013 (note also that it is 3 out of only 15 web companies in the index). Our own SMS text service, Textlocal.com, now enables over 100,000 UK SMEs to reach their customers, staff & members in seconds with personalised SMS text messages – something that is impossible with OTT messaging services – and our business is growing 40% annually (in year 8!..)

    After all, SMS is (and will remain for the foreseeable future) the only way that a business can instantly communicate with their customers – with messages that cost pennies, are delivered in 4 seconds and are mostly read within the first 30 seconds. Message can be up to 1000 characters long, link to any online content, files, surveys, forms, tickets – and the recipient can reply back to the business. All with full link tracking and delivery reports. It works on every handset on the planet. There is no way for a business to tunnel into WhatsApp or any other OTT messaging service – and even if there were there would need to be a separate delivery system for every platform… why bother when SMS does this perfectly well already?

    As always, it comes down to permission. As you say – who doesn’t mind receiving messages from their favourite restaurant – showing this week’s special’s board? Who minds getting a school snow closure alert? Who minds getting a dentist appointment reminder? Who minds getting a notification that your parcel will be delivered at 10am and to look out for the postman? Who minds receiving a reminder about your dog’s vaccination (costing the vet 2.5p to send the message rather than a 60p letter)…. all of which would be impossible to guarantee delivery to ALL interested parties via social networks or OTT messaging services – Facebook use is actually on the decline (in terms of daily users), and unlike SMS it will never have 100% audience reach with guaranteed delivery and nearly 100% open rate.

  2. James Marscheider (Head of Marketing, Oxygen8 Group)

    There may have been a ‘slump’ in the amount of peer-to-peer text messages that have been sent but this doesn’t mean that it’s the end of text messaging as we know it… Users still have access to text messages on their devices and if marketers are savvy enough to step up personalisation strategies, there is no reason that consumers can’t be persuaded by an offer at their favourite coffee house, whether it be via a text message, social network or an instant message.

    The key is to realise that mobile marketing strategies don’t stop at text messages. What with omni-channel marketing becoming more prevalent, it’s important to understand that text messaging is only one element of the marketing mix and if used correctly, to complement a well thought out strategy, there shouldn’t be any reason to panic about the up take of a campaign.

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