December 4, 2012, 11:46 AM

For the young, texts are as meaningful as calls

Are you speaking their language?

Lead Photo

The text message turned 20 yesterday, and, to celebrate, Experian Marketing Services released a survey of 1,485 U.S. smartphone owners on the ubiquitous, 160-character messages.

The most interesting finding is that 48% of smartphone owners ages 18 to 24 and 47% ages 25-34 say that a conversation via text message is just as meaningful as a telephone call. 37% ages 35-44, 28% ages 45-54 and 15% age 55 and older give text messages the same weight as voice calls.

I text far more than I talk, and you can count me among the 28% of those ages 45-54 who give texts equal heft. These days I rarely use my iPhone to make or receive a call. I communicate via text. It’s just simpler and to the point. And it gives the recipient leeway as to when they can reply. If they have their hands full at the moment and can’t take a call, they can reply to my text message when they get a minute. Plus, texts allow me to communicate thoughts when they strike me, a thought that perhaps doesn’t add up to enough time to merit a phone call. Phone calls interrupt, text messages come and go as you please.

It strikes me that if half of smartphone owners ages 18 to 34 say texts are as meaningful as phone calls and you as a retailer have a good number of customers in this demographic, you should be reaching out to them by text message. You should have a box on the checkout page asking for a customer’s mobile number while clearly explaining they will receive special sale notifications and exclusive deals if they sign up for text messages. And you should clearly indicate approximately how many times a week they will receive a text message. You can do the same thing with a box on the home page, though I think it probably will be more effective on the checkout page where people are accustomed to entering personal information. But text-happy younger folk will likely respond to a good text offer anywhere.

Here are some more nuggets from the Experian survey:

  • During a typical week, 95% of smartphone owners talk on their mobile phone while 59% text.
  • Among smartphone owners ages 18 to 24, 89% talk on their phone and 85% text.
  • During a typical month, smartphone owners ages 18 to 24 send 2,022 text messages and receive another 1,831 for a combined total of 3,852 texts sent and received. With every age bracket moving up, the number of texts drops by roughly 40%. For instance, smartphone owners ages 25 to 34 send, on average, 1,110 text messages a month and receive another 1,130 for a combined total of 2,240 messages.
  • During a typical month, smartphone owners ages 18 to 24 make 119 calls on their mobile phone and answer another 64 calls. Adults ages 35 to 44 make and receive the most calls on their mobile phones in a given month. (Call counts do not include inbound and outbound calls that go unanswered.)
  • Even when asleep, young adults’ smartphones continue buzzing from inbound texts. In fact, 37% of 18-to-24 year-old smartphone owners receive texts at 4:00 in the morning. By comparison, just 20% of smartphone owners ages 25 to 34 receive texts at this late hour as do 17% of those 35 to 44, 15% of those 45 to 54, and 10% of those ages 55 and older.

Text messages have become part of the fabric of everyday life in the 21st century, especially for younger consumers. There are many vendors out there that work with retailers to create smart text message marketing programs. Unless your customer base skews senior, you should be thinking about how you can put text messages to work in a meaningful way to help sell in this increasingly mobile world.

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