May 12, 2011, 12:28 PM

Text messages: the nearly universal marketing vehicle

Almost any mobile phone can send and receive text messages.

Lead Photo

Few marketing channels have the utility and reach of text messaging, industry observers say.

“The appeal of text messaging is that it’s so universal,” says Mark Beccue, senior analyst at ABI Research. Almost any mobile phone can send and receive text messages, he says.

This ubiquity means that retailers operating a mobile commerce program do not need to worry about developing mobile apps that run only on certain smartphones, such as an iPhone or Android device, Beccue says.

However, a retailer’s text-messaging program should not consist solely of a list of mobile numbers and sending an occasional short message, he says. There are best practices that can make text message campaigns more effective, Beccue says.

For instance, retailers should personalize the messages as much as possible based on shopper behavior. For example, a retailer might tap into a shopper’s purchase history and note how often the consumer bought a particular product. Then, as the point in that product’s purchase cycle approaches when the consumer is likely to be seeking a replacement, the retailer could send a text offering a coupon for that product, Beccue says.

To keep things simple, smaller merchants especially will want to enlist the help of a third-party vendor, says Nitesh Patel, senior analyst at Strategy Analytics Inc. That’s because many small retailers lack the resources to create a mobile-messaging program, he says.

Retailers also need to ensure their programs comply with laws governing unwanted spam texts, and would rely on vendors for this, says ABI’s Beccue. Spam complaints can lead mobile carriers to block a retailer from using their networks to send consumers text messages, he says.

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