Though people have been texting for years -- ever since SMS messages rose to popularity at the onset of the original T-Mobile Sidekick -- 2021 is going to be the year of business text messages.
In early November, Forrester Research released a report projecting a 40% increase in marketing messages over the next year, and this comes at a time of economic insecurity where marketing budgets are ever-shrinking. In other words: people have reallocated their funds to focus on this emerging trend, and that’s because it works.
By all accounts, we’re about to enter the golden era of SMS marketing. As brands pinch pennies and set their sights on customer loyalty, here’s what that’s going to look like.
The pandemic has fueled text marketing growth
We’re living in unprecedented times, and that’s partly what fueled SMS marketing growth towards the middle of 2020. With less people in stores because of the on-going pandemic, Forrester’s report reveals that marketers sought to develop a more personal relationship with customers. The idea was that if customers aren’t window shopping, marketers were going to bring the window right to their mobile devices.
In this space, email has long been the frontrunner, but newsletters are increasingly filtered into spam folders. The average newsletter has just a 21% open rate, but research has shown that SMS messages are opened 82% of the time. Even now that a vaccine is in sight, it’s very unlikely that retailers would hit reverse on their messaging plans. Why? Because digital advertising is about to go through some major changes.
Changes at Google and Apple will force brands to favor SMS campaigns over targeted ads
If the pandemic didn’t cause retailers to delve into the world of SMS marketing, changes at Google and Apple did. At the start of the 2020, Google announced its plan to end support for third-party cookies, which are essential in the process of tracking users for targeted ads. Seven months later, Apple announced that they’ll be changing the device identifier in their iOS so users could opt-out of being tracked on an app-by-app basis. The company expects the changes to roll out in early 2021, causing a potentially massive blow to Facebook advertisers.
With targeted ads facing an ominous future, it makes sense that more retailers would want to shift their plans away from third party apps and directly communicate with their customers. Text messages are a prime way to do that.
Businesses will increasingly focus on customer loyalty
In 2021, brands don’t just have to prepare for a world without third-party tracking cookies and device identifiers -- they also have to manage a space where budgets are shrinking and economic growth is uncertain. As a result, they’ll likely shift their focus to the customers most likely to make a purchase: their regular customers.
Forrester’s November report predicts that brands will spend more on loyalty and retention marketing, particularly in the SMS space. This includes crafting loyalty programs and allowing users to shop in-app.
The most effective SMS campaigns will include increased personalization
Though brands can send the same, mass message to every person on their SMS list, this won’t necessarily be the most effective plan in 2021. As more companies are adopting an SMS strategy, customers’ attention will be a hot commodity. More the outreach, more the clutter in the inbox. For this reason, brands are moving away from salesy, mass-produced marketing texts and focusing on personalization. This includes things like cart abandonment campaigns or sharing products and special offers based on how the customer has shopped in the past.
Overall, research has shown that people respond to personalization, particularly if it has to do with the realm of customer service. A survey from SimpleTexting found that 75% of mobile device users are open to receiving texts about shipment tracking, 65% are open to receiving texts about order status, and 46% are open to receiving texts alerts and scheduling reminders.
Marketers will make a push towards omnichannel strategies
Today, people start a conversation via direct Twitter message, shift to text, and finish their chat on Instagram. There is no one way to communicate, and businesses are taking note. In 2021, omnichannel messaging -- a marketing strategy where all channels of communication are integrated -- will be an increasingly important trend. This way, retailers can be sure that every rep, no matter the source, has all the relevant information.
As a whole, retailers can use a cross-platform strategy to increase the effectiveness of their SMS campaigns. Business texting campaigns are particularly fruitful when paired with other channels of communication.
2021 is going to be a period of rapid change, not just for retailers, but for the world as a whole. Brands and consumers will engage more freely than ever, and business text messaging will be a huge part of that. Unfortunately, that means brands will be navigating crowded inboxes and must enact a highly personalized strategy to stand out in the noise.