David Greenberg
David Greenberg 16 December 2021

How Automated SMS Conquers Email's Growing Challenges

There has never been a better time for marketers to double down on extending each customer’s lifetime value. The question is, which channel is likely to play a prominent role in delivering long term loyalty and incremental sales?

Online competition is fierce and for every customer a business has, and every new client they win, brands need to nurture the relationship by developing a mutually beneficial conversation that keeps their brand front of mind. The good news is there is already an effective channel that will not be hit by the new move – SMS.

Email may be the channel marketers have traditionally opted for. However, it suffers from crowded inboxes causing fatigued users to ignore new marketing messages.

There is now an additional challenge as a result of the new level of privacy for apple users under iOS 15 which came into play on 20th September. For those who select the new option, emails load privately, making it challenging for marketers to access open rate data.

Some marketers may have been put off text marketing because of misuse by rogue operators in its early days, but modern, savvy brands are acting on public opinion on automated SMS and therefore capitalising on longer-term value.

When surveyed, 90% of consumers prefer SMS to a phone call and 75% want to receive special offers on their phone, according to SMS Comparison figures. That is why average SMS click-through rates are riding high at 19%, compared to just 4% for email.

Ultimately, nurturing relationships with customers requires effective communication that captures their attention, something that is becoming ever more challenging via email communications.

While I’m certainly not recommending that we abandon email marketing, it is important for marketers to optimise SMS marketing to successfully improve the lifetime value of customers and overcome email’s roadblocks in customer relationship building strategies.

There are several best practices that brands need to bear in mind when exploring SMS marketing to engage with their customers and prospects, such as:

Get Consent, then Focus on Helping

The big issue to clear up right at the start of any automated SMS activity is permission. Without permission to nurture a conversation through a customer’s mobile phone you are not only likely to be breaking local data processing rules, but you will also annoy customers and lose their trust.

With a database of opted-in customers in place, the main consideration for brands is how they can be helpful as they build a proactive dialogue with new and existing customers to keep their products and services front of mind.

This will prompt different brands to adopt a variety of tactics but some of the use cases most will want to consider include:

  • Confirm purchase and acknowledge payment with the order number a customer will need in the event they need to contact customer services
  • Follow this up with delivery updates – some brands are even able to confirm the name of the driver and provide insight into the hour in which the delivery will arrive
  • Offer links to additional information for the product – perhaps the user handbook or warranty information
  • Ask for feedback to see how your service has been received and where improvements can be made
  • Provide customers with promotions, sales, and coupons that are personalised to their purchase history
  • Launches and product availability updates are a good way of making customers feel valued
  • Appointment notifications and reminders are useful for customers as well as your staff waiting to greet or visit them
  • Offer time-saving tips, such as meeting room confirmation with directions

Best Practices with SMS Marketing      

Once a brand has built a database of opted-in customers and has decided on potential use cases for its automated SMS strategy, it is time to think about some best practice considerations.

A good starting point is to be upfront with customers about them being enrolled to receive text messages by providing them with a link to a site where they can opt-out at a future date.

A golden rule with automated SMS is that it is easier to build up frequency than to dial it down. If a company starts by sending too many texts, the likelihood is customers will rescind their permission to be contacted. There is no rule on frequency, but most marketers would urge brands not to send more than three or four messages per month.

So, it is a good idea to start with a minimal number of messages and set a frequency cap to ensure a customer never hears from a brand more than a pre-set limit. It is a good idea to set these so promotional texts, surveys, loyalty point updates and reminders are only sent during office hours during the week, particularly if they are part of a B2B marketing campaign.

The same hours apply during the weekend. The golden rule is to only send something that will be of use to the customer at a time when they are likely to be open to receiving it.

This does not apply to some forms of automated SMS, of course. An order confirmation is always welcomed after purchase, no matter when it is made, and directions to a weekend meeting are best received in the hours running up to it.

So long as marketers are thinking about their opted-in customers first, they will find their openness to receive helpful automated SMS will boost loyalty and deliver growth.

Email marketing is presenting several new roadblocks when it comes to customer relationship building strategies, with the latest challenge being the access to open rates of some Apple users.

There has never been a better time to double down on SMS which has open rates more than four times higher, due to it being the channel three in four prefer to receive marketing communications through.

This would be welcome at any time but when marketers are redoubling efforts to improve the lifetime value of customers, it makes SMS a channel of choice for developing deeper, more meaningful conversations with customers.

For a definitive guide to getting the most out of your marketing campaigns, read The Marketing Automation Quickstart Guide.

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