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Is SMS marketing dead?

When “staycating” in Oslo this year, I experienced something the marketeer in me couldn’t help but be drawn to. As i was busy enjoying the sun, the urge for checking emails and social media updates disappeared, however when I received an SMS I always opened it quickly.

One day this hit my inbox:

Translates to:

” Warning! There is a very large forest fire hazard in Oslo. We remind you there is a total ban on campfires, barbecues and open fire near the fields, the forest and on the islands”

Of course, with non-stop sunny weather for 3 months straight some consequences are expected. Norwegians love to BBQ and we love doing so wherever we find a suitable spot, be it in the parks, the woods or by the beach.

When the city of Oslo needed to send a public service announcement to ban all forms of open fires in public areas due to the fire hazard, SMS was applied to convey the message. The effect was immediate and recipients were eager in aiding the city by spreading the word and policing civilians. The municipality had greatly succeeded in their broadcasting efforts.  Encouraging me to do some research about SMS and how we use it in marketing.

What is SMS marketing and how to take advantage of it

Short Message Service marketing finds its home under the category: Direct Message Marketing (DM). It’s a relatively simple but powerful communication tool where companies and organizations send advertisements via messages, traditionally in the form of text to the recipient.

SMS marketing offers a highly receptive audience. Since we carry our mobile devices at all times, ads delivered here have great potential for marketeers who knows how to run successful campaigns.

What’s the first thing most of us do when we wake up? We check our phones. If Norwegians are in anyway similar to the British, numbers from the State of SMS indicates great opportunities for those who’ll add SMS marketing to their marketing strategies.

• On average, 98% of mobile users will read a branded or business-based text communication.

Knowing that we pick up our phones a staggering 85 times a day, SMS has greater immediate effect than any other digital marketing method. Indicating great efficiency for time sensitive campaigns that require prompt action.

With SMS the options to increase engagement by using MMS, emojis, invitations, polls and surveys are also available. This unfolds interesting SMS-marketing opportunities that all advertisers should be able to benefit from. But why are we not using it more?

Is SMS marketing relevant?

SMS marketing should be relevant to all businesses whether you are a travel agency or in finance. More users are on mobile than ever before and even if the numbers for sending SMS are falling, SMS is still a relevant channel to explore. Norwegians sendt 5 326 million messages by SMS in 2017.

In the UK, 54% of opted-in users are “active” in the sense that they will respond to an SMS from a business, with around one-quarter clicking on a web-link, and around 25% forwarding a business text” – State of SMS

What does this mean for marketers?

We know that SMS can be effective in marketing, the city of Oslo proved so. When a platforms shows an opening rate close to 100% and low engagement from competing businesses, those who dare venture might discover a goldmine. The best approach would be to integrate SMS-marketing into our digital strategies and start testing to understand how users respond.  

How to proceed?

Email and SMS are closely related, but we should approach SMS-marketing with caution. To ensure relevance, messages should be linked to actions (either physical or digital).

Put yourself in the receivers position. When I get an SMS I feel happy, I get curious and open it with anticipation. We should build on that when we create our SMS ads.      

Have you ever longed for an SMS from that special someone? How irritated would you be if you finally receive a text, but it’s an ad for something you don’t even want. An interrupting unexpected message when the recipient is trying to do something else is rarely well received.

On the other hand, how awesome would it be to receive an offer at the perfect moment, like when the city of Oslo finally lifted the ban on open fires, you immediately received an ad from your favourite store reading: 30% off on all BBQ food.

In conclusion

SMS marketing is not dead or dying, it’s dormant. Waiting for marketers to wake it up. We heavily underestimate it. As a channel, it gives direct access to a large number of users. SMS is not always the right channel to use. It works best when your message is direct, concise and includes a clear request. General goals like brand awareness should be achieved by using a smaller direct channel. With its high engagement stats and clickthrough rates, SMS-marketing has great potential to be a highly effective addition to a comprehensive digital strategy.


Even Adrian Nilsen

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August 1, 2018