Published: June 01, 2015 | Comments (1)
Customer loyalty and repeat business are desired by all organizations, no question about it. There are nearly as many ways to encourage customer loyalty as there are brands that desire it, from phone calls advising customers of upcoming sales to “loyal customer” discounts to personalized services. And there are a multitude of ways for brands to communicate with customers. Finding the right combination of communication tool and loyalty-inspiring message is the ticket to success. It’s also the challenge of achieving success!
It’s no secret that today’s consumers are increasingly social and mobile. And, in all honesty, that our attention spans are shorter than before. There are so many distractions and so many screens begging for our attention that it can be difficult to focus and remember something we read even just a few seconds ago. How can brands break through the chatter and communicate with their customers in a meaningful way?
Text messaging, or SMS, is one effective way for brands to communicate with customers. It’s been said that people bring a limited number of things to bed with them each night and their phone is one of them. Think about it—what’s typically the last thing you do before bed and the first thing you do when you wake up? If you answered “check my phone,” then you’re in the majority. Our phones are our lifelines, our connection to the world, and as such, they have opened new avenues for brands to communicate with customers—like text messages.
Approximately 90 percent of mobile phone users worldwide send at least one text message each day, so it is definitely an important communication tool for mobile phone users. Organizations can send customers text messages on any number of topics, including:
- New product promotions/introductions
- Incentives or special offers for new or returning customers
- Loyalty or rewards program reminders
- Special birthday offers
- Featured events or promotions
- New product or trend news
- Discounts for reorders or
- Personalized local information, such as “Main Street will be closed on Saturday for a special event, so ride your bicycle or plan to park and walk to visit us!”
There are so many benefits of SMS for brands. They make proactive communications more impactful. Most people’s in-boxes are flooded with email on a daily basis, and a mass email about a sale could be easily ignored or deleted. A text message, on the other hand, pops up on the customer’s phone and garners immediate attention. All the better if it’s a personalized text, noting a special discount for return customers or an extra bonus for visiting the location nearby. It’s an easy way to show customers they are important and inspire loyalty.
And proactive messaging can be even more effective for “more important and time-sensitive” messages, such as a traffic delay due to road construction or a delayed public transit schedule. Customers can send a text to a short number and be added to a list of notifications about areas they are interested in—say, bus routes 49 and 62 or subway lines A and D—and learn about issues or delays before they are stuck. Messages like that may not satisfy customers, as they will still experience a delay, but may reduce frustration and ultimately improve the organization's’s image with that customer.
Organizations can also use text messages for customer reminders. It could be about an upcoming payment due date, a delivery status update or a tickler about items left in an online shopping cart. Including links to a payment portal or tracking system can provide added value to the customer and save them the step of finding an email with those details. And since text messages encourage immediate response, they can be effective to trigger customers to take action they may otherwise delay.
It’s important that organizations personalize text messages, as it is a more personal communication tool. Since text messages demand attention, they should be tailored and definitely of value to the customer. There’s no better way to get a customer to unsubscribe from text messages than to send them, a loyal customer, an offer that is only valid for new customers at a location in another city! SMS service providers make it relatively easy to segment customer lists to target new customers, returning customers, different demographics, etc.
And organizations should be prepared—ready and waiting, if you will—for customers to reply to text messages. As such a personal, interactive and immediate technology, people will engage, likely in higher numbers than with email or phone calls. The customer could ask a question related to the text or the text could trigger an unrelated inquiry. Whatever it is, the organization should have people ready to respond. Of course, technology can be used to monitor and provide simple responses to simple questions (“what time does the A train leave Main Street station?”) but timely, personal responses—from a person, to a person—will keep customer satisfaction high and frustration low.
There are some things organizations should be aware of when implementing SMS into marketing plans. Younger consumers use their mobile phone more than a laptop or desktop computer. If text messaging is not part of marketing plans, it should be, or audiences like younger consumers may be missed. And as mentioned above, organizations should work to ensure messages are tailored to the recipient and, above all, not use text for everything. Some messages are better shared in other channels to preserve the immediacy of text for important matters.
Text messages are a wonderful way for organizations to raise awareness and encourage purchases and customer advocacy. Done well—and by that I mean using text for personalized, important messages of value to customers—text messaging is a fantastic way to increase customer loyalty and engagement with an organization.