Without four fundamentals, text message marketing efforts could falter

Marketing firm Experian offers advice from its years of work with retailers.

Kevin Woodward

Retailers investing their promotional dollars into text message marketing may want to consider four lessons Experian PLC, a marketing services firm, has culled from its work with retailers.

Text message advertising is a popular element of many retailers’ mobile commerce strategies. Approximately 23% of retailers surveyed for the “The State of Retailing Online 2012” by Forrester Research Inc. use it.

Step one to a successful text message marketing program, Experian says, is understanding what text messaging is and isn’t capable of. It can reach millions of consumers who rarely are far from their mobile phones. Consumers tend to open and read text messages immediately. That immediacy, however, requires retailers to compose their messages with the idea that consumers are not likely to read the same message again, Experian says. “So design your message’s call to action for immediate response,” Experian says.

One virtue of text messaging marketing is the sheer volume of potential consumers who might read the messages, Experian says. Just as companies have created large and highly segmented e-mail databases, so should they develop them for text messaging, the firm says. Do that by recruiting new subscribers at every opportunity and converting existing customers by enticing them to enroll their mobile numbers, Experian says.

Retailers trying to attract new customers should note that consumers are very reluctant to award unfamiliar businesses access to their mobile phones, Experian says. “It is important to offer incentives that both leverage mobile’s myriad strengths and are relevant to their business,” the firm says. Offer incentives, for example, based on a service, such as a notification when an item is ready for pickup, or a personalized message, such as when a favorite item is back in stock or on sale.

Another component of a text messaging strategy is to build a mobile strategy that is based on an in-depth knowledge of a retailer’s targeted customers and the complexities of writing a 160-character promotional message.

Experian advises creating distinct groups within the mobile subscriber database based on demographics, device types, location and any other marketing data that may have been collected. Text messages should clearly identify the sender, create a sense of urgency to act and be direct about the value being offered, Experian says. The call to action should be explicit and easy to understand.

And, as with any marketing program, retailers should track their text message campaigns so they can understand their effectiveness, and use that data to improve future campaigns, Experian says.

Retailers should count consumers who opt out as a sign of a campaign’s failure, Experian says, but one that can be corrected. Many consumers opt in and out of campaigns just to get an immediate award, it says. “Your task is to convert these revolving-door types into more conventional subscribers by creating stronger mobile ties and dependencies,” Experian says.

For example, Experian worked with the San Diego Chargers football team to reduce opt-outs during the lengthy off-season by making the team’s text message program more interactive with the inclusion of polls and trivia quizzes.


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