Unlike email, there's a lot of baggage that comes with mobile. You're treading on seriously thin ice when it comes to targeting people in their pockets. Yet, despite the obstacles, marketing continues to persevere in this direction, making mobile marketing not only plausible but present. Online marketing solutions provider Lyris announced the availability of its SMS texting solution yesterday on its Lyris HQ online marketing stuite. The decision to do incorporate mobile was pretty obvious, explains J.D. Peterson, director of product management. "The main reason we're doing it, frankly," he says, "is customer demand."
With more than 200 million North American consumers using text messaging within the next couple of years, the growth of SMS messaging is tremendous, Peterson says. Still, he admits that mobile marketing is still in its infancy. Research from Jupiter Research, now a part of Forrester Research, has indicated that consumer desire to receive marketing messages through SMS remains low.
According to an October 2008 white paper released by email marketing service provider ExactTarget and Indiana's Ball State University's Center for Media Design, "Wired" consumers -- who tend to be "young males, ages 18 to 34, without kids, are employed with an income of at least $35,000, and at least a college education - were more likely to subscribe for marketing messages via SMS than any other group. Even so, only 20 percent of them wanted to receive campaigns and preferred that they be confined to "urgent customer service issues like financial alerts or travel updates," rather than promotions, sweepstakes, or polls, the report states.
Furthermore, in a survey of over 1,500 Internet users, 42 percent of teens (ages 15 to 17) prefer to communicate via SMS - the highest usage rate of all age groups - but only 1 percent wanted to receive promotional emails through this channel.
Nevertheless, Lyris is ready and waiting. With Web, email, and search engine marketing, under its belt, mobile, Peterson says, was a "natural extension." With the technology in place, the company is now focusing on disseminating best practices for marketing in a multichannel environment. It launched its LyrisHQ.com e-marketing portal in April 2008 as a community-based environment for customers to converse and where the company also publishes best practice white papers and helps customers understand how to use the tools and reach their audiences, explains Erick Mott, communications director at Lyris.
"There's a reason why you and I, on our cell phones, don't get a lot of spam," Peterson says. The process of getting a mobile campaign approved is much more strict and rigorous. Companies who want their own SMS short code have to wait up to 6 to 8 weeks before the carriers approve the program. Lyris HQ Mobile helps its clients complete the application process and when the program is in place, aims to ensure that they are not putting the company at risk with poor marketing practices. There's much more "handholding," he says, when it comes to SMS. "With email, we can make sure people have an unsubscribe link and a From address, but at the end of the day, we can only do so much to make sure they don't send emails to those who don't want it." With SMS, however, it's more difficult to get away with sloppiness. Measures like double opt-ins are required. "If you start veering from your program, or you get just one complaint from a subscriber, [carriers] cancel your program and block your messages," Peterson says.
"From our customer perspective, this is where they need to put their CRM hat on," Mott says. In this sense, he explains, it helps for companies to have a preference center or some way for their customers to delineate precisely what they want to hear, when they want to hear it, and what channel they want to use.
No doubt the space is certainly complicated for all those involved. "The manner in which the networks and carriers are set up requires that the vendor be specialized in this area," Daniels says. "Most vendors that have an offering in [SMS] have some type of partnership with the handful of companies that can provide access to the carrier networks." Whether complications will smooth out over time, or whether this is simply a necessary measure to protect mobile users, as it stands, mobile "is much more complicated and layered than the email marketing vendor space," Daniels says.
Many ESPs, Daniels notes, have already installed SMS-based solutions, citing companies like e-Dialog and Alterian that have broken into markets where the adoption of SMS marketing is much higher than in the North America (i.e., Europe and Asia). Currently, Lyris HQ Mobile supports only North American carries, but the company says it has Lyris HQ Mobile 1.2 on tap for early 2009, expanding the platform on a global level.
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