Smartphones are ubiquitous and, according to data from Pew Research, text messaging is the most-used feature on smartphones. More than 97 percent of users say that they use instant messaging of one form or another to communicate with their friends and family. Increasingly, smart marketers are learning to leverage instant messages as part of the marketing strategy.
The question, of course, is why has text messaging become so popular? And how can smart marketers take advantage of this consumer preference by learning to leverage instant messages for their brand?
Why brands should leverage instant messages
People are busy
Modern people are exceptionally busy. They lead hectic lives, rushing from one place to the next, never really stopping until they get back home late in the evening.
They don’t have time for phone calls, especially when they simply need to update the time or date of an event or something simple. Lots of people, regardless of age, prefer instant messages to the more time-consuming phone call.
Now, you can lament the loss of community all you want, you’re not going to change consumer preferences. All you can hope to do is leverage instant messages as part of your marketing strategy to capture more of your market and make customers happy.
Providing customer support and service is one way businesses leverage instant messages to improve customer satisfaction and increase performance.
In the old days, you had to call companies if you wanted to lodge a customer complaint. But that approach takes a lot of time. You always end up in a long queue, waiting for the call center to pick up and deal with your problem. Such waits create frustration because you never know precisely when your call rises to the top of the queue. And, frankly, you have better things to do than sit on hold all day.
With instant messaging, though, customers send their concerns to customer support employees who sort out the customer’s issue – whatever it is. Once the customer support person has an answer, they text the information back to customers, including links to videos or other tools to help the customer solve their problem. You can’t do that with a phone call without increasing frustration as the consumer searches for pen and paper, then copies down the link incorrectly.
Customers prefer this approach because texting enables more efficient use of their time.
Customers are more likely to read instant messages than emails
Email marketing faces a number of hurdles.
First, email clients such as Outlook bypass a user’s inbox and places email messages into spam folders (for which there’s an easy solution) or into promotional or social boxes that users never visit (for which there is no solution, at least without encouraging new behaviors among your subscribers).
Plus, unfortunately, email marketing has a number of negative connotations. People associate email with being stressed at work or their bosses communicating with them during holidays or personal time.
Finally, email messages tend toward being long-winded. I’m sure we’ve all faced a full inbox and opened a message from the long queue only do find it goes on and on with content you don’t find valuable or interesting. You hit delete after the first sentence and move to the next email hoping for something of more value.
SMS, however, is entirely different. People love receiving messages and are much more likely to open and read them, even if the message is the same as an email might contain. After all, the key element of SMS is SHORT, so the message is easily scannable in a few seconds. Even if the content isn’t particularly interesting, the user only took a fraction of a minute to discover this versus a long-winded email.
Studies show that open rates for SMS are nearly 100% (ok, 98%) as compared with an email open rate averaging around 20% [source]. Response rates from SMS are also much faster.
Therefore, marketers leverage instant messages much more often by ensuring the messages they provide are relevant and useful, but also brief.
Instant messages aren’t just for millennials
While millennials might have started the rush toward text messaging, the tool is now pretty ubiquitous across demographic groups. That’s especially true when you include instant messaging apps like Facebook Messanger (there’s even a kids version now available, although marketing opportunities are still missing), WeChat, WhatsApp, and others that make instant messaging more readily available and easier to use.
Marketing professionals also know that text messages are the key to enable them to communicate with a wider variety of people. While it’s true that millennials love instant messaging, even people over the age of 55 respond positively to instant messaging.
Not all seniors use instant messaging, but enough do to warrant learning to leverage instant messages in your marketing strategy. For instance, a wide range of consumers prefer not to call your business when they need customer service. Instead, they’re quite happy to send you a text over social media and wait for you to respond to their handheld devices.
Instant messaging creates better relationships
You would think that your customers phoning you would create better relationships since they’re more personal and interactive. but that’s not actually what happens. It turns out that companies that offer text messaging support receive higher levels of reported satisfaction from people than those who only operate a call service.
Interestingly, researchers think that this phenomenon has something to do with expectations. Customers don’t expect firms to offer instant messaging help – even in today’s economy. And so when they find out that a company does, it creates a hugely positive first impression. That positive feeling then rolls through to subsequent interactions, creating a more positive vibe.
Customers don’t want to talk
Finally, there are just a lot of people who don’t want to talk to companies. They want the service, but they can do without the hassle and time involved with engaging in a conversation. A simple text message makes everything more straightforward and requires less effort.
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