SMS - Past, Present and Future - Part two: SMS today and the phenomenal rise of application to person marketing

A couple of months ago, we looked at the phenomenal success of SMS over the last 25 years, from its small beginnings to its ubiquitous usage today. 

22 September 2017

The incredible rise and rise of Mobile communications and the apparent never-ending consumer need to communicate with their peers in near real-time is why there are more mobile phones than people in the UK today. A recent study showed that our mobile phone is the second thing we pick up in a morning -after our car keys but before our wallet.

Staggeringly, in a 2016 study by the ONS they estimated that over 7 billion business to consumer text messages will be sent in 2017, with over 6 billion being opened within 3 minutes of receipt. The study also concluded that there are still over 45% of UK businesses not using the channel, and that 60% of consumers would like more businesses to use this channel to communicate with them.

GCI customers reported an average increase in Call to Action completion of over 12% as a result of sending text marketing messages to their user base. Contact Centre clients have seen increased engagement of first time missed callers of over 28% when using SMS as a follow up communication.

At the heart of this trend is the phenomenal growth in so-called Application-to-Person marketing (A2P), which provides the ability for intelligent automation when sending SMS messages to customers. Rather than simply being a tool to send messages out, modern A2P platforms factor in a user’s unique characteristics and can tailor highly specific campaigns with very precise timing.

Private and public sector pioneers

There are many successful examples of this in practice. British Gas have mobilised their entire Customer Service division, giving their service teams the ability to fulfil appointment books for their field engineers and keep customers informed of visit times whilst allowing the customer to change their appointment – all by SMS message. Waiting times for telephone customers have dropped, as have unhappy reviews from frustrated customers. British Gas has cut back on resource as a result, saving them money.

SMS Messaging is even more successful when tied to location “beacons”, where engagement with people in a highly localised area becomes possible. For example, Heineken used this to drive purchase intent and in-store sales, plus boost awareness of its tie-in with the 2015 James Bond movie, Spectre. The company increased purchase intent alone amongst customers by a factor of seven via 200,000 in-store and points-of-sale engagements.

Public Sector organisations are also capitalising on the advantages of being able to reach large numbers of people; for instance, the UK Government has already launched a text alert system for foreign nationals abroad. Run by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, this service has saved the lives of UK nationals in places like Kenya in recent times thanks to real-time messaging to the citizen’s mobile phone.
UK Power Networks already run an SMS system, whereby people can be kept up-to-date should a power outage hit their area. The company has linked this into the Government’s National Early Warning System, which was established after serious flooding throughout the UK over the last few years. It gives environment agencies a faster way of warning people, organising evacuations and so on.

Just 2% of texts get ignored

Mobile Marketing via SMS is booming. On average, our text messages are opened within 5 seconds of hitting the handset and SMS marketing campaigns have a 98% open rate compared to email, which is 20% at best. More importantly, you can get a real-time response from your customer or prospect.

But let’s not forget the customer in this. The appeal for them is that SMS is unobtrusive – it does not demand to be answered immediately, if at all. They do not need a particular type of device since it works on any phone, nor do they need to be on a data connection. And ultimately, they are in control – if a company sends them messages they consider to be irrelevant or just plain annoying they can simply text ‘STOP’, and they’ll never hear from that organisation again.

SMS Messaging does come with a note of caution – when agreeing to receive an SMS, customers are affording the organisation a privilege. Statistics suggest that 83% of people are happy to receive two text messages per month, but it is important to get the balance right as just 2% would like to receive more than five a month. Therefore, we are looking at an intelligence game, not one based on numbers and volume. When you pick your SMS Messaging supplier, think about this question: “will my supplier give me best practice advice and information?”

In our next blog, we will look at where SMS might go in the future and how messaging can evolve to become even “smarter” than it is today. If you can’t wait till the next release, contact for a free, no-obligation chat to discuss how we can help you.

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