October 10, 2011, 2:26 PM

Mobile Commerce Forum Report: Why text marketing rules in mobile space

Keep text marketing messages simple, says an executive from DVD rental company Redbox.

Lead Photo

Jake Fenske, director of online marketing at Redbox, speaks at the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Forum 2011.

Text messaging can be an effective marketing tool for retailers, as long as they keep the message simple, Jake Fenske, director of online marketing at video rental service Redbox, advised today in a presentation at the Internet Retailer Mobile Commerce Forum 2011 in Houston.

Redbox, which operates kiosks that rent DVDs at some 30,000 U.S. locations, ran a 10-day text message marketing campaign in May, Fenske explained. In the promotion, publicized at Redbox’s rental kiosks and by e-mail, on its web site and though social media, consumers were offered the chance to text in a code to receive via text a discount code for savings of anywhere from 13 cents to $1.50 on a DVD rental.

The 10-day promotion resulted in the company sending out 1.5 million discount codes in response to texts from consumers; 400,000 of them represented unique participants, Fenske said. He said customers used the codes an average of four times during the 10 days, fulfilling a key campaign goal of deepening customer engagement with the brand.

Fenske said one of the main requirements for a successful text campaign is to keep the message and call to action simple. “In a text, you have 160 characters to tell your customers what you want them to do,” he said.  That’s the limit of a message sent using the Short Message Service that is the standard wireless carriers employ for text messages.

Fenske spoke alongside David Geipel, chief operating officer of texting platform vendor QWASI Inc., in a session entitled “Text message marketing: New tricks for the old workhorse of m-commerce.”

“Text is king in the mobile space,” Geipel said, and backed up that assertion with statistics from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project report “Americans and Text Message Marketing.” That report showed that texting was the most popular activity among cell phone owners, with 73% of those surveyed using their phone for texting, more than double the 31% who downloaded an app on their cell phones and the 29% who used their phones to access a social networking site, he said.

Overall, the Pew survey found that 35% of all American adults own a smartphone and that 92% of smartphone users use their phones for texting, Geipel said.  He also cited recent research showing that texting was more effective than other methods of marketing outreach in reaching consumers, with SMS (short message service, or texts) campaigns receiving an average response rate of 10% to 20% in contrast to e-mail, with an average response rate of 5%; direct mail, 1%-2%; and print, less than 1%.

Geipel gave an overview of several ways text marketing can be used to drive business. Print, radio, e-mail, direct mail and in-store messaging can promote a mobile campaign, attracting customers to text in a selected keyword to respond to a marketer’s deal or offer.

He also described how mobile blasts can target customers with automated text messages and alerts on sales or deals, and how text-to-win campaigns can acquire customers with sweepstakes a retailer’s daily sweepstakes and contests that encourage text participation. Surveys, voting and polling text campaigns give users a forum to participate and allow campaign sponsors to target follow-up campaigns based on participation, he added.

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