Consumers Prefer SMS Over Mobile Apps

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Earlier this month I attended an online webinar session covering topics related to SMS. One of the presenters produced some interesting statistics. I wanted to know more, so I went to the original source and found some great news for everyone using SMS as a key part of their mobile strategy.

But first let me cover another item from the presentation. I’ve written before about the benefits of SMS over email. Here are some numbers discussed in the webinar that continue to back up the notion that SMS is often a better communication channel than email:

SMS has a 36% click through rate (on messages with links) compared to just 3.2% for emails.

The open rate for SMS messages is 98% and just 22% for email.

Why is there such a difference in how people respond to each type of message?

Why the difference?

To figure out the answer to this question, and learn about how people feel regarding apps and SMS, SAP sponsored a study. People aged 18 and 65 years old from various countries around the world (including the USA, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Hong Kong, China, and others) were interviewed by researchers. The SMS Advantage report documents those findings, which prove the report is aptly named!

In the interviews, 91% of the people admitted to having their mobile within reach 24 hours a day (yes, even while sleeping). I’ve seen this result in other studies too, but it’s telling that almost everyone, regardless of country, keeps their mobiles nearby.

But that isn’t all. The mobiles aren’t just in a pocket or resting on a nightstand. We’re also aware of them almost all the time. The study found that 68% of users check their smartphone at least once an hour. Not unexpectedly, younger generations check them even more often. On average 18-24 year olds look at their phones at least every 10 minutes. 10 minutes!

Clearly people have integrated mobiles, smartphones in particular, into their lives. Much more so than most other forms of technology. We’ve come to depend on our phones to the point where some organisations are studying whether or not people can be addicted to mobile use just like they can be addicted to drugs.

mobile phone usage stats

The effect of all these behaviours is that if you want to get someone’s attention, you probably ought to be doing it through their mobile. And people admit that wholeheartedly. The SAP study showed that 70% of people believe that SMS is a good way for companies to reach them and get their attention.

But what about apps?

It’s hard to think about smartphones, or even mobile in general, without thinking about apps. There are indeed apps for everything. They’re easy to find and install. Most people have many more apps than they use though. All those icons make it hard to find anything too. I’m guilty of app overload so I can’t often find the apps I use most often. I’ve tried to organise them but ultimately I end up using the search feature on my iPhone because it’s faster. And when I think of it, I’ll delete apps I don’t actually use or want.

According to the study, 74% of people agree with me that we should delete those unused apps. But 68% admit they have apps they don’t use anyway. A different study showed that on average people have 27 apps they use on their phone. What those apps are differ from person to person but email, weather, and games rank high. Personally I think 27 is still a high number from the perspective of trying to use an app to communicate with a customer. You’re still competing for attention.

Anyway, getting back to the SAP study, it seems a good portion of people agree apps may not be the best way to reach them. Eighty-one percent of respondents said they “believe sometimes a simple SMS is preferable to mobile app use.”

mms multimedia messaging service

And more importantly for brands and marketing, 81% also said they prefer SMS messaging for brand communications over mobile apps. In fact, 75% of people said that “SMS serves to improve the overall brand experience.”

It’s important to note this data isn’t saying brands shouldn’t use mobile apps. It’s just pointing out that people seem to prefer SMS for communication with businesses. So when it comes to reaching out directly to consumers, think about whether SMS makes more sense for you and your customers. Or better yet, ask them and let them decide to opt in for SMS messaging with your brand.

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