Nearly 30 billion texts per day—that’s the current statistic on how many messages the 277 million people who text are exchanging in the course of each 24-hour period here in the U.S. This stat is consistently on the rise at exponential levels, as texting has increased by upwards of 7,700% in the last decade. 

U.S. smartphone users engage in texting activities five times more often than they make or receive phone calls. All the stats reveal that millennials and all younger consumers prefer texting over phone calls and many other forms of direct messaging, but the stats indicated similar trends for the population at large, regardless of generational affiliation. One study found that the phone app on today’s smartphones ranks as the fifth most used communications app, ranking below texting and other popular messaging platforms (e.g. - Facebook Messenger). Clearly, comedian Gary Gulman has it right in his act; we are a text-first…or text-only…nation!

The use of texting extends beyond friendly and familial messaging. Data reveals that consumers are surprisingly receptive to engaging with businesses via text messages. One survey revealed that consumers preferred texts from businesses over those from personal contacts by 13%. In yet another study, 91% of users who opted in to receive texts from businesses reported they found the texts to be “very useful” or “somewhat useful.” When we consider these affirming stats in conjunction with the reality that most smartphone users see the text message alerts enabled on their devices, it’s hard to ignore that there might be potential for businesses like ours.

What does all this mean for you? Should you try texts, also known as SMS (short message service) messages, to reach your customers? 

Let’s get educated with some basics, as well as a range of ideas for putting SMS to good use in your biz.

The Basics

1. SMS is the most common type of text messaging. With SMS, messages are sent via cellular networks and are limited to 160 characters (anything longer is split and sent in multiple messages). SMS is so popular and widely used because most carriers’ data plans accommodate generous texting activities, making them no- or low-cost. 

MMS (multimedia messaging service) is built with the same tech as SMS but allows for the sending of images and video. 

OTT (over-the-top messaging) think iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger—functions like texting but is powered by internet protocol, no cellular networks required. For the purposes of this brief article, I’ll focus solely on SMS because it’s so widely used. 

2. Customers opt in or out: As with email marketing, customers hold the power to opt in to receive messages and opt out whenever they choose. You, as the business owner, are able to offer the convenience and immediacy of text messages for customers without having to fret that you’re intruding. Practices and standards similar to those of email marketing are in play (each text must offer the ability to stop receipt of messages, for example), including measures to provide security, privacy, and protection from spam. Though some aspects of text messaging mirror those of email, word is that click-through rates from texts is around 18 times higher than with email; that’s a real advantage, for sure!

3. Targeted Messaging Capabilities: You can collect cell numbers and segment your audiences in order to send customized, relevant messages based on the members’ demographics and preferences. For example, it’s handy to send in-the-moment offers specific to interior designers or installation professionals. And you don’t have to target large groups with tailored messaging. You can message one-by-one whenever someone opts in or expresses interest by texting a trigger word, thus prompting an automated response from you. 

4. Mobile Integration: These days, most Google searches for your business happen on mobile devices, namely smartphones. Imagine the potential in inviting text message communications that would so easily, conveniently harmonize with your potential customers’ mobile searches! By adding “click to text” functionality on your mobile-optimized website, you can make interactions simple and quick for interested parties who prefer to text than call. Whether they might be looking for basic info like store hours or hoping to find out availability of a specific product, the ease of texting can provide a seamless mobile experience.

5. Future-forward Approach: As the stats show, all of your customers are actively text messaging. However, your younger customers strongly prefer this type of communication. By incorporating SMS into your overall strategy, you’re basically future-proofing your business by being ready for generational shifts sure to come as your base of younger shoppers continues to grow.

The Ideas

Promote special offers and sales. Reach targeted customer groups via text to alert them about specials and sales events you are running. You can even create personalized offers for newly opted-in text recipients to encourage them to come into the showroom. 

Use triggers to invite reciprocal messaging (and automated segmenting). To let customers express what interests them most, send messages that invite recipients to reply back with a keyword or phrase. When you receive the designated responses, these customer-senders will promptly get an automated reply with a discount code (or whatever special message/offer you’ve queued up). Your SMS service will also note the respondents for this trigger and segment them for future, similar promotions or for follow-ups you may wish to send via other communications channels such as email.

Augment your customer service. The use of text messages can be a great supplement to your customer service strategy. This is about meeting people where they are—or where they prefer to receive your communications, especially if they are facing an issue or concern with your business. While a direct phone conversation may be necessary in many instances, texting can augment and enhance the overall process for providing thorough, customer-centric communications that are authentic to those who buy from you. 

Collect reviews more readily. As previously mentioned, the click-through rates on links shared via text message often significantly exceed those sent by email. Talk about a great opportunity for collecting reviews! Via text, you can send direct links to the review submission forms for Google or other online platforms with greater likelihood of recipients clicking and sharing. 

Are you interested in getting into the SMS marketing game? There are many services that provide automated solutions. If you need guidance, send me a short message through my website, I’d be happy to help you find the text best thing for your biz!