SMS Alerts: Proceed With Caution
A mere 10 percent of U.S. wireless subscribers have been on the receiving end of a short message service (SMS) message that they wanted from a business, a year-over-year 2 percent uptake, according to "SMS Customer Service Alerts: The Next Frontier for Mobile Marketing," a Jupiter Research report. Additionally, only 7 percent of those surveyed don't mind receiving SMS messages on their cell phones, while 60 percent admit that they strongly disagree or would mind. These findings are based on two Jupiter Research/Ipsos-Insight surveys--a February 2007 survey of 1,939 cell phone owners in the U.S. and a January 2006 survey of 1,945 cell phone owners in the United States.
"The clear message to marketers or companies trying to get into SMS alerts is to make it very relevant and very personal, and not to overdo it by overalerting customers," says Neil Strother, an analyst at Jupiter Research and lead analyst on the report. Additionally, employing SMS in B2C relationships is still in the early years, which also adds to its relatively low adoption rate, according to Strother. "It takes time for a new tool like this to take hold in a big way," he says, "but over time people will opt in to these kinds of alerts when it benefits them. From a marketing standpoint these SMS alerts may seem like they're not very direct. It's not like saying, 'Come and buy this product,' but it's a way for a company to say, 'I'm really providing value here to my end user.'"
Consumers are most interested in receiving customer service alerts notifying them when bills are due or when their bank balances have hit a certain level (26 percent) and appointment reminders (24 percent). "These SMS cues let the consumer know where he stands with finances or important personal appointments, and can trigger some form of action--a perfect place for marketers to insert a message like, 'New low rates available on auto loans. Click here,' or, 'Your next haircut qualifies for a 50 percent discount,'" the report states. SMS messages regarding the weather (17 percent) and safety alerts for the consumer's location (another 17 percent) tied for the third most welcome form of notifications, trailed by activity alerts (12 percent), order status (11 percent), and personalized travel alerts (11 percent). Fifty-nine percent, however, noted that they are not interested in alerts. (These findings are based on an April 2007 Jupiter/Ipsos-Insight consumer survey of 1,815 cell phone owners in the U.S.)
Not surprisingly, the report also highlights that SMS alerts from businesses have gained the most traction with the younger consumer subset. Although not an exceedingly strong number, 19 percent of consumers within the 18-to-24-age bracket have received a wanted SMS message from a business in the past six months, according to the February 2007 survey. Twelve percent of adults ages 35 to 44 and 11 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 have received a wanted SMS alert, while a mere 6 percent of consumers ages 45 to 54 and 4 percent of consumers 55 and older have. Thirteen percent of men compared to 7 percent of women reported receiving a wanted SMS message.
For companies looking to fuse SMS alerts into their customer strategy, allowing consumers to request the service and delivering relevant and personal information is crucial, according to Strother. "First and foremost you have to allow people to opt in," he says. "When you capture their cell phone number make sure it's very clear what you're planning to do. Let the consumer know, if they're willing to give you their cell phone number, what kinds of things you will tell them when it's appropriate."
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