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The Rise of SMS Marketing

Sunday, June 5, 2011 @ 09:06 PM

Following on from one of the points mentioned in a previous blog post about the findings of the Ad:Tech SF conference, this week I’ll look at the growth of SMS marketing and what the future holds for this fast developing area.

It is no surprise that a market as high-impact as the mobile phone sector – reportedly, the typical mobile phone user reads a new text message within 15 minutes of receiving it – is being capitalised upon by savvy marketers. We are all familiar with the buzz or beep of our mobile phones and the majority of us are quick to respond to this alert, and it is this urgency that makes the potential of this sector so apparent.

Initially SMS marketing got off to a bad start with some negative press leading to the widely held view that it was a new form of spam. Since then, however the major networks have enforced best practices for the entire mobile media industry and the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) and the Mobile Marketing Association have also established guidelines to eliminate SPAM. With strict monitoring in place by the networks, SMS marketing has been able to grow rapidly and now several 100 million advertising SMS are sent out every month in Europe alone.

As mentioned last week, while smart phones have greatly increased the scope of email marketing, SMS opens up the offline market. The majority of mobile phone users carry their phones with them all the time, meaning they can be contacted wherever they are, regardless of whether they have email on their phone. This is particularly useful in terms of timing. Currently email offers can be coincided with events, such as public holidays or sporting events, but SMS goes further and allows for targeted offers at certain times of the day, so for example a coffee offer could be sent around the time of the morning commute or a dinner offer to coincide with the evening commute.

This is not to say that SMS is replacing email marketing. In fact SMS marketing works best when combined with other marketing channels for the broadest reach, making SMS marketing an ideal complement to email. To optimise SMS in this way it is best to use a two-pronged approach to mobile marketing, for example a text message is a good way to follow up an email, such as a newsletter, to which users have subscribed, as they are much more likely to receive the text before checking their emails.

Unfortunately spam is still a major issue within SMS marketing. Strict policing is required of the networks to help stamp this problem out and as the sector develops and evolves, the need for explicit policies will become greater. In short this is a promising new industry with plenty of room for growth, as long as privacy and anti-SPAM legislation can effectively police its use without hindering its progress.

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