SMS is the UK’s fastest-growing marketing channel with mobile ownership at record levels and engagement with text messages booming. So how can SMEs benefit asks Jason Palgrave-Jones.
Britain is increasingly becoming a mobile-first society. Around 93% of the UK population owns a mobile phone with many of us keeping them to hand for more than 16 hours a day. But even though modern smartphones give users a wealth of apps to communicate with, text messages still comes off on top with people using SMS for an expanding range of activities such as confirming appointments, delivering parcels and marketing promotions.
Indeed, 23.5 million people will respond to a business SMS in 2017, according to research by Textlocal, the SMS-platform provider. The State of SMS report also found that mobile users opened 98% of branded or business-related texts, with 90% read within three minutes of receiving them. Therefore text messaging offers SMEs an ideal platform to communicate directly with their audiences.
There are 56.5 million mobile-phone users in the UK with around 80% of us owning smartphones. Apple’s iOS and Android dominate the operating platforms, with each respectively controlling 54% and 35% of the market. And while email and social media are popular on mobile devices, SMS messaging is the only service that reaches 100% of the mobile audience regardless of handset or operating system.
Textlocal's research found that consumers prefer their business communication via SMS, rather than social media or push notifications from apps. Around 41 million consumers currently opt into SMS communications as their preferred choice for receiving business notifications – 7 million people more than the audience for Facebook. Textlocal predicts that this number will rise to 48.7 million by 2020, making SMS the fastest-growing marketing channel to communicate with a target audience.
This is a particularly exciting opportunity for Supermarkets, with the sector being the one consumers most want to hear from via SMS. Although, they are not alone; membership organisations and the health sector take the second and third places. Some 78% of mobile users claim they will read a text message from a company they know and have given their mobile number to. Messages based around delivery updates, appointment reminders and personalised vouchers are most welcome by consumers, respectively scoring 67%, 64% and 49% in the survey. The optimal period for brands and businesses to distribute text messages to their opt-in database is between noon and 3pm, according to the research.
Given the expected sharp rise in mobile marketing, SMS messaging could offer an affordable solution for startups and SMEs. For example, businesses can create and deliver SMS campaigns for as little as £1 to reach 25 key customers – based on a text costing 4p.
Of course, the success of a campaign depends on building long-term relationships with customers, based on trust and transparency. In short, companies must know who their audience is, what they want to receive and when to send it. This customer-centric approach creates an exchange of value between business and customer.
Furthermore, the new General Data Protection Regulations, introduced by the European Parliament and set to be enforced from May 2018, coupled with new ePrivacy legislation, means the growth in mobile and SMS marketing should mirror compliance with appropriate platforms and permissions.
Given that only 50% of the businesses surveyed used SMS as part of their marketing strategies, it certainly seems as the medium presents an untapped opportunity for entrepreneurs to quickly get the word out about their businesses.
Top 5 tips for developing an opted-in customer list
Firstly, transparency: when you’re asking for a customer’s mobile number, outline what you intend to send them. Better still, find out what they would like to hear from you.
Secondly, communicate when you have to and deliver relevant, timely information.
Thirdly, monitor and measure the performance of each SMS campaign.
Fourth, segment your customer database to identify the types of users.
Finally, use your communications to develop a greater understanding of your customer base by running surveys.
This article comes to you courtesy of Jason Palgrave-Jones, managing director of Textlocal, the SMS-platform provider