SMS has been around for over 20 years. In that time it has grown an estimated audience of 4.5 billion SMS enabled smartphones across the world, with an estimated 145 billion messages sent in the UK alone in 2014.
So you might be thinking that SMS was old fashioned and lacks potential?
That’s just not true. In researching for this article, I took a look at the SMS data collected by SalesForce and Oxygen8 to learn a bit more about how SMS is still being used in the wild today.
Since 1993, email marketing, push notifications, instant messaging and more have all come to challenge SMS, and SMS has survived and lived on. In fact, 2014 was the first year since 1993 where SMS usage actually went down, as instant messaging grows across the world.
However, that is not to say that SMS is starting to decline. Far from it.
For developers looking to use SMS in their applications, the data is fantastic. I have collected some SMS data to see the benefits of text messaging for developers, marketers and businesses looking to add a SMS feature to their apps.
What do you do most on your phone? Even as more people are downloading new messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger and WeChat, 96% of smartphone users still use SMS to connect with friends and family, according to Acision.
Since almost all phones come with SMS set up and ready to go, it makes sense that SMS is one of the top 3 things users do with their smartphones, beside searching the internet and checking emails (according to the SalesForce 2014 Mobile Behavior Report). Using social networking services was fourth.
This could be because more users understand how SMS works and have been doing so for years.
Data from Frost & Sullivan suggests that SMS messages are, on average, read within 5 seconds. SMS can be an agile way to communicate with your audience, in a market where the average user spends 3.3 hours on their smartphone.
With all this time spent actively using smartphones, SMS messaging can be a very responsive method to connect with users, and act as an alternative to push notifications.
If you keep the content of your SMS message relevant and appropriate, SMS messaging can bring an added value to your user base. Think along the lines of two-factor authentication (highly relevant since a user has requested a one time code), personalized marketing (based on previous habits) and even shipping information.
When it comes to marketing, most use email as their go-to marketing channel to get into the hands of users. But the SMS data suggests that more messages are actually read compared to email and social media.
This may be because SMS messages are used much less for marketing than email and users are more inquisitive. For marketers, this offers a fantastic opportunity to get your message to an audience that will read it.
In the SalesForce report, 91% of respondents said that “text messaging [from brands] was seen as somewhat or very useful” to them, but only 48% had signed up for text message notifications from a business.
There is a clear opportunity in text message marketing that has been relatively untouched by businesses.
Reasons Consumers Opt In to Brand’s Text Messages
|Being in the loop||48%|
|More meaningful content||33%|
|Don’t want to visit app/website for information||31%|
|Quick access to information||29%|
But anyone looking to use SMS as a new tactic must offer a clear value and respect to their mobile customers. The SMS data from SalesForce suggests that users often opt out of text messaging from brands because they find them disruptive or because they lack meaningful content. Messages need to be customized and appropriate for SMS to work.
In recent years, users have begun to understand the potential with SMS messaging for them, be it marketing coupons or security messages from a two-factor authentication system.
The airline SAS for example is using SMS to provide check-in confirmation and a link to mobile boarding passes. This is a great example of highly relevant content for the user and a great way for SAS to connect with their users.
Using the SMS data I listed above, you should be able to see the potential that SMS can still offer apps, businesses and developers. SMS is incredibly popular with app developers looking for an instant method of connecting with their users.
Although 2014 was the first year that SMS went down in usage, that is not to say that SMS is dying. I think that 2015 could be the year that SMS becomes used in a much more advanced manner.
Now that users are becoming more tech savvy, I think there is fertile ground for developers and apps to start using SMS for much more sophisticated means than just sending marketing coupons.
Have you seen any great uses of SMS recently, just like my SAS example? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.
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