Mobile technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that the mere thought of having instant access to personal emails, social media accounts and premium applications in the palm of your hand would have been unheard of ten years ago. Now, all this and more is achievable with a single touch at an affordable price.
On the other hand, there has been one constant in the advancement of mobile phones. It's an 'app' that comes pre-installed on all handsets and remains the second most-used application behind calls: SMS text messaging.
Around 3.5 billion people use SMS texting services worldwide, while an average of 17.6 billion text messages were sent per day in 2012, according to recent statistics. While these figures are impressive, is there still a place for marketing through this channel in a world that is fast becoming obsessed with email, instant messaging P2P apps and social media?
Alastair Shortland, CEO and founder of SMS marketing service Text Local, believes so.
SMS as a marketing channel
SMS text remains the "one true killer app on mobile phones", according to Shortland and, unlike other apps, everyone can receive a text straight out of the box. In addition, it is completely free to receive. All these benefits help accentuate SMS text as a marketing channel with an extremely wide audience reach - especially for local businesses hoping to drive local custom.
"People are swamped with emails, instant messaging is only for person-to-person messaging and, although social media is fantastic, who is going to notice an offer from a local business perspective?” answers Shortland when questioned why SMS is different to other marketing platforms.
Furthermore, research from Text Local also reveals that people would much rather receive an SMS text from a favoured business than a message on Facebook; a place people visit to network with friends.
Shortland also believes SMS marketing's high exposure and audience reach ticks another box in the eyes of businesses hoping to speak to their customer base.
"When a business sends an opt-in text they can be sure it will be read almost immediately by the recipient - this is unique compared to any other communications medium," he adds. "It can also be highlight personalised, you can merge in unique content and links for each recipient - not something that any social media platform can offer."
The heart of marketing is about promoting the values of a brand and, in the long term, delivering a return on investment (ROI) for businesses. This applies to all channels, whether that's SMS marketing, social media or traditional print advertising. Thankfully, SMS marketing is a simple but layered marketing technique that helps marketers reap maximum ROI while delivering customer service and building loyalty.
Darren Daws, Text Local's managing director and a mobile specialist with years of experience in the field, believes SMS marketing has a two-fold approach. It can help deliver the hard sell but also work as a customer service tool through sending confirmations, reminders and alerts.
He explains: "To reap maximum ROI, it is about putting together a strong proposition and a reason to contact with a good WIFM (What's In It For Me) - as with any media."
However, it is exposure and reach that separates SMS from other channels as "99.9 per cent of people will read a text,” Daws added. “Other things to look at are the time you send, the customer segment chosen and obviously personalisation will all improve response.”
Looking to the future
Technology has evolved so rapidly in the last ten years and it is fascinating to wonder what the next ten will bring. Despite the rise in popularity of other channels, Shortland believes that SMS marketing is going nowhere; evidenced by the fact Text Local has doubled its send volumes every year for the past eight years. However SMS marketing will not remain stagnant like some channels. It will grow, develop and evolve with advancements in technology.
"More SMEs will embrace the technology, delivering tickets and vouchers (either through plain text or barcodes) and wireless 'oyster card' type mechanisms that will be low cost enough to plug into any computer," he explained.
"Any business will feel empowered to communicate with their local customers directly on their own terms at very low cost - creating their own mobile landing pages using simple, intuitive interfaces for time limited news and offers, for example."
It is clear that, despite the development of other channels like mobile applications and social media, SMS marketing remains one of the most popular ways to communicate and it looks as if the platform is here to stay. SMS marketing's low costs alongside its potential to develop alongside other technologies and its unrivalled levels of exposure makes it one of the most essential marketing cards in the deck. Are you in?