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Oisin Lunny
Oisin Lunny 26 September 2016
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SMS Research Shows What Customers Want From Retailers

SMS is more popular than ever in the retail world, yet only a small fraction of brands are leveraging this powerful communication medium in a high-returning manner.

There’s a stark disconnect between how customers want to be contacted and how retailers are actually contacting them.

Study Shows Retailers Aren’t Maximizing SMS

While more and more retailers are beginning to test the value of SMS, many aren’t fully committing to a high-returning strategy. As a result, they aren’t enjoying a positive return on their investment and ultimately end up discontinuing or trying something else. This is a rather unfortunate issue that needs to be dealt with immediately.

At OpenMarket, we recently worked with Retail Week to shed some light on the use of SMS among retailers and what customers – specifically digital natives – want from the brands they do business with. What we found wasn’t altogether surprising, but it was an eye-opener for those in the retail industry.

Among other things, our research indicates that retailers appear to be communicating with shoppers in entirely wrong ways. When asked what they prefer retailers contact them about, customers overwhelmingly say order confirmation and shipping delivery information. Other preferences included in-store pick-ups and loyalty programs.

However, most retailers are sending other correspondence that customers simply don’t care about. Despite just seven percent of consumers saying they care about text messages related to new store openings, respondents say over half of their SMS communication falls under this category.

SMS isn’t some magic solution to customer engagement. In order for it to work as intended, the retailers utilizing the technology must understand how and when to use it to generate positive results. Currently, it appears that many retailers using SMS have room for improvement.

Five Tips for Making Better Use of SMS

The good news? It’s not very difficult to shift your strategy and turn SMS into a highly profitable solution. However, you do need to change what you’re doing and focus on what your customers really want.

  1. Don’t Limit Your Engagement Points

Let’s be clear about one thing: SMS should not be your only tool for communicating and engaging with customers. While it’s important – and we’re obviously going to focus on it – there are plenty of other mediums and solutions you need to include in your strategy.

In 2016, the most successful strategies are those that respect the modern customer’s desire for choices and high-touch points of engagement. This means establishing an omni-channel experience that incorporates things like blogging, social media, email marketing, call centers, and SMS.

The more opportunities you give your customers to contact you, the better you’ll be able to serve their needs and keep them coming back for more. Understanding where SMS fits into this picture is key.

SMS was designed for sending short messages that are timely and relevant. This communication medium is also viewed as highly personal and should be respected as such. As our research with Retail Week shows, customers want to receive information that’s tailored to them – i.e. delivery updates, pick-up information, loyalty program notifications, personal offers, etc. They don’t really care about information that doesn’t directly relate to them. There are other ways to communicate this information.

  1. Don’t Overdo It

One of the worst things you can do is go overboard and send too many messages. This is the quickest way to whittle down your subscriber list and could ultimately render SMS useless for your company.

“Some companies fall into the trap of sending too many emails and SMS text messages,” marketer Ross Beard admits. “They think that they are offering a better service by keeping customers well informed, but in reality, it’s too much.”

But what constitutes too much? Research shows that unsubscribe rates tend to increase dramatically once companies send more than 10-15 messages in any 30-day period. Sending more than 20 messages leads to unsubscribe rates in excess of 60 percent. With that being said, it’s best to focus on just 4-5 messages per month. If you notice little friction, this number could be bumped up to 6-9 messages per month.

  1. Stick to Common Language

The character limitations of SMS have led many people to rely on abbreviations and acronyms to efficiently communicate with their peers. From a retailer’s perspective, you should be very careful about doing this. It’s okay to use the occasional abbreviation if it makes sense, but don’t lose focus of who you are, and seek to maintain the same professional tone you use in other areas of communication with your customers.

  1. Respect Opt-In and Opt-Out Requirements

Remember that you are required by law to have customers opt-in to earn the right to send them text messages. You also have to make it easy for them to opt-out, should they desire to stop receiving messages in the future. Not only is it illegal to ignore these stipulations, but it can also damage your brand’s reputation.

  1. Choose the Right SMS Solution

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of choosing the right SMS solution. There are tons of companies that offer SMS packages, but very few have the standards and features necessary to consistently produce high-returning SMS campaigns. Look for an SMS provider that has a track record of success and powerful networks.

Contact OpenMarket to Learn More

Having SMS capabilities isn’t enough. As noted, you need a partner that offers you the ability to safely, securely, consistently, and cost-effectively disseminate messages and engage with customers.

At OpenMarket, we exist to provide these opportunities. Our SMS messaging solutions are utilized by some of the largest enterprises in the world and we are always excited about adding another satisfied client to the fold.

If you’re looking for more information regarding our solutions and the role SMs could play in your retail efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!

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