The opportunity for text-message marketing would seem to be growing as more cell phone users get SMS savvy, but consumers still fiercely guard their numbers.
Posted Nov 28, 2006
There are millions of active SMS users in the United States and not one of them wants to chat with your company. Okay, this is an exaggeration, but it may appear to be the case for companies wishing to market and sell through text messaging, according to "Multichannel Retail: Assessing Sales Opportunities via Cell Phone," a new report from Jupiter Research. The study finds that 44 percent of all U.S. cell phone users are active text messagers, totaling a potential 96 million consumers that marketers could reach through SMS. However, strong resistance to third-party marketing via text and strong unwillingness to give out personal cell phone numbers is proving a very difficult roadblock. Jupiter finds the most promise to be in the younger market, which is more open to texting with companies, and recommends that despite the opposition, companies should push forward with texting to customers try to stay ahead in the sales and marketing game.
For many consumers giving a company their cell phone number conjures up pictures of email inboxes overflowing with spam and dinner interrupted by telemarketing calls. It is not, therefore, completely surprising that 66 percent of cell phone owners report that nothing would motivate them to give out their number in return for promotional offers, according to the study. Patti Freeman Evans, an analyst at Jupiter and report author, says that for cell phones the resistance may be greater than for other communication channels. "The cell phone is maybe even more personal, because you carry it around in your pocket with you."
The media and entertainment industry is the only vertical that has been even moderately successful in the text message marketing space. Advancements in cell phone interfaces and technology have allowed ring tones, games, graphics and logos, and video subscription services to enjoy the highest level of sales. However, an undercurrent of distrust still impedes customers from giving out numbers for any reason. Only 22 percent said that a guarantee that personal information would not be misused could possibly motivate them to release their numbers, 21 percent if they don't have to pay for advertising SMS, and 13 percent if they could select which type of offer was sent to them.
In the face of this reluctance, the report recommends that companies still try to dip into the opportunity present in mobile marketing. A company can do so by starting to collect numbers as soon as possible, create risk-free trials for customers, and test messages to make sure that they are what their customers want to hear. Younger cell phone users may also provide promise for marketers as they were found to be more open to text message promotions, with 13 percent more allowing that they would not be completely opposed to releasing their number.
Evans says that the most important message for companies to remember is to keep customers feeling safe and understand that they are getting something out of the exchange. "Marketing needs to think twice about the messages it sends, that it does have a high value to customers."
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