What Your Customers Want From SMS Marketing

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Mobile marketing offers an unprecedented access to your customers virtually any time, anywhere. This is particularly true for SMS marketing because it is “always on”. Customers don’t have to be surfing the web, or using an app to receive messages. Instead, they see the marketing messages right alongside ones from their friends and family.

That’s what makes SMS marketing so effective, but it also puts a responsibility on the marketer to meet the needs of that individual customer. How can you do that? Well, US marketing company Vibes conducted a study to find out what consumers think about, and want, from mobile marketing. They have some key statistics that can help you understand what your customers want. So let’s take a look.

Getting the opt-in

Before you can send a single SMS marketing message, you’ll need to get your customers to opt-in (limited exceptions apply in the UK, but not the US where this study was done). People are not as willing to give their mobile number as they are their emails, so what drives them to subscribe to a brand?

The Vibes’ data combines subscriptions to a brand’s email, text messaging and social media offerings. But the data is still telling. Over half, 55%, say they sign up for incentives or coupons. Just under that, 52% say they will subscribe to be part of a loyalty or rewards program. Of course the outcome of the program will ultimately be coupons, incentives, or other special offers.

So that trend is pretty clear. Give them a chance to get good deals and they will more than likely agree to your SMS marketing. But what else works?

Only about a quarter of the consumers said they’d sign up to receive “Exclusive content” or “Product info & updates” (26% and 25% respectively). Here, exclusive content doesn’t mean exclusive coupons – those are included in the previous numbers. In this case it means access to content no one else gets, or early access to that content, like an early release of a product or movie. Also product info isn’t a good enough reason to sign up for a list either according to their data. And neither is store related information like new locations, special events, or things like that. Only 19% would be willing to subscribe just for that information.

But then the survey reveals a harsh truth. Another quarter of the people just won’t ever subscribe no matter what the offer. At least for now.

The percentages here add up to more than 100 because people were allowed to choose multiple responses. To me that makes the 50+% that said coupons and loyalty programs more meaningful. These people really want to this sort of information from a brand they like.

The take-away is that to get the best opt-in rates, try offering a great incentive relevant to your brand and customer. A 20% off coupon for women’s clothing isn’t going to get many men to sign up. That’s ok if your brand is all about women’s clothing, but not if your customer base is made of men and women.

Keeping them on the list

It’s important to remember that getting someone on your list is only the first step. They can leave you easily at any time (if you’re following the law and best practices). So how can you keep customer’s from leaving you? You’ll never keep everyone, but knowing why people leave can help you from driving them away.

The number one reason people unsubscribe from a brand is because they receive too many messages. In the Vibes’ study 59% say they will unsubscribe for this reason. Thankfully this is a mistake you can fairly easily avoid, though it may take some trial and error if you’re just starting out.

How often you send messages really depends on what your business is, and who your customers are. If you’re running a food truck, you might want to send out daily lunch specials late in the morning. But if people unsubscribe in bulk, you may want to consider sending just one special out for the whole week, or adjust it some other way.

Other types of retailers might find one message a month is all their customers want. But another might find three or four is good. You can use trial and error to sort it out, or better yet, actually ask your customers using a survey.

The next biggest reason people opt-out is a little trickier. Just over 50% of consumers said they unsubscribed because the information wasn’t relevant to them. Avoiding this means you’ll have to understand your customers well enough to know what offers will work for them. Will you get it right 100% of the time? Of course not. There will always be attrition to any marketing list, but if you pay attention to the patterns you’ll have better insight into what works and what doesn’t.

The third reason people chose to unsubscribe, at 41%, is because those coupons they were promised just didn’t turn out to be good enough for them. People expect a lot when it comes to giving out their personal information like a mobile number. Make sure the deals you send are ones worth their price of opting-in. And if possible, try not to have them be worse than other offers. For example, if you offer a 25% off coupon on your Facebook page or to your email list, but only send a 15% offer to your SMS list, they will likely feel slighted and unsubscribe.

The remaining reasons you’ll see in the chart below. “Untimely messages” is also an easy one to avoid – make sure the messages go out in time to support your sale or event. Not later, or without enough time for someone to act.

unsubscribe

The inability to personalise messages will drive about 20% of people away too. If you’re able to give your customers a place to choose which offers or topics they receive, you’ll keep more people on your list. Also you’ll have a more targeted and profitable marketing effort too. How you implement this can vary depending on your business and resources. Many companies offer access to a personal profile on a website where people and choose what information they get. Other companies narrow down the marketing via SMS messages. This process allows customers to opt in to various lists directly from their mobile, based on a prompting message from you.

Making it matter

Personalisation is a big theme in mobile marketing in general and SMS marketing in particular and worth talking about more.

The report states that people found SMS messaging most effective when it contained “context, personalisation, immediacy and location”. These factors made consumers feel like the messages were created for them, and not some generic blast that went to everyone.

One way to make messages personal is to send them in regards to a transaction they made. For example, a shipping notification on their online order, a confirmation of an order, or tickets to an event. Fifty-nine percent of consumers in the study said they’d like to receive these kinds of messages. It’s important though, to make sure these are all sent in a timely fashion.

I’ll use a personal example here. I’ve signed up for notifications from Amazon. So with every order I get a shipping notification, an “About to be delivered” message, and a “It’s delivered message”.  I always appreciate the shipping notification. However, the message letting me know a package has been delivered is usually hours after I’ve ripped it open to get the goods inside. Pointless. About half the time the “about to be delivered” notification happens also after the item is delivered.

In this case, Amazon is relying on information from third party shipping companies so I understand it won’t always be accurate, but I still think they could do better. So if you send messages about a transaction, make sure it makes sense in the timeline of the purchase. Otherwise, you’re just annoying your customer.

Boiling it all down

After seeing the data and anecdotes, it should be pretty clear what most customers want, and what will drive them away. You need to offer them good deals to get on your list, and good deals to stay on your list. The rest is all about managing your list well according to what your customers want.

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