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Make the most of mobile

Make the most of mobile

February 2015

As you’re aware, mobile-optimized email marketing is a great way for businesses to reach out to consumers on their mobile phones and tablets—but it’s far from the only way. These days, savvy marketers are leveraging the power of mobile push notifications and SMS to build relationships with consumers in brief, real-time alerts. A strong 52 percent of smartphone users have push notifications enabled [1], and all mobile phones—smart or not–can receive text messages. Think of push and SMS as the “Hey, look at me!” to email marketing’s “Check me out when you have time.” Each serves its own marketing purposes and fulfills different business needs.

That said, push and SMS are marketing tools that must be handled wisely: 80 percent of consumers always have their phone with them [2], so if your business sends too many of these messages, consumers will get annoyed quickly. Here are some strategies businesses can use to market via SMS and push in a smart, engaging way.

Let’s start with the basics:

SMS
What it is: An acronym for “short message service,” SMS is the industry term for text messages between two or more users. SMS messages do not require an app or even a smartphone.

Benefits:

  • Since it works on any mobile phone, SMS has a wide reach
  • It doesn’t require users to opt in to receiving messages
  • It allows for personalization, such as including a user’s name or location
  • It lets users write back, encouraging them to engage with your brand
  • Most importantly for small businesses on a budget, it does not require a dedicated app

Disadvantages:

  • In the U.S., businesses must follow strict opt-in/opt-out participation guidelines and spam messaging can get you blacklisted
  • If your phone number list is outdated, you may experience delivery failures
  • Let’s face it—customers are sometimes hesitant to give a business their phone number in the first place

Where you may have seen it:

  • HBO’s “Three-Eyed Raven” promotion for its new season of Game of Thrones: Fans could sign up for texts linking to exclusive videos that can only be played once before disappearing, and no app download is required
  • A Papa John’s pizza franchise sent texts alerting their customers to pizza deals over the course of a few weeks—and overall business increased by 33 percent [3]

Push Notifications
What it is: Short messages sent through an app to a user’s mobile device. Users have to opt in to receive push notifications, which can be sent even when the user is not using the app.

Benefits:

  • Push lets you concentrate on your best customers—if users have downloaded your app and opted in to push notifications, they are already engaged with your brand
  • It increases app launches by 88 percent [1]
  • It gets around SMS’s privacy issues with clear opt-in/opt-out functionality
  • It offers deeper segmentation options

Disadvantages:

  • As mentioned above, it requires your business to have an app

Where you may have seen it:

  • Coupon site RetailMeNot uses geofencing to deliver push notifications to consumers near shopping malls, alerting them to coupons from retailers inside the mall [4]

Which should I use?
Ask yourself a couple of questions: Do you actively acquire customers’ cell phone numbers? Do you already have an app, and if not, does it make sense to the overall business to build one? (And don’t feel intimidated by app development: DIY app sites such as Appy Pie and AppMachine are making it something within reach for small businesses.)

Still on the fence? Then give push a try. Push notifications allow user segmentation based on in-app behavior, which can triple your conversion rates [1] and, down the line, inspire brand loyalty. It can sync to devices beyond smartphones and tablets (the Internet of Things), something beyond the capabilities of SMS. Or you could be extra savvy and use both: 43 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase when SMS and push are both pieces of a well-coordinated marketing campaign [5]. As long as you’re engaging with your customers in a positive way, you’ve made the right decision.


More on using technology to market your business
How to write a good subject line
Using social media to support your customers
Marketing to mobile moms

[1] Localytics, The power of push
[2] Startup Nation, How to Use Text Messaging to Reach Customers
[3] tatango, SMS Marketing Increases Sales 33% for Papa John’s
[4] CMO.com, Push Messaging: Intrusive or Relevant Marketing?
[5] Entrepreneur, Mobile Marketing and the Magic of Push Notifications