5 Best Practices for Effective SMS Marketing

SMS marketing has gained in popularity in recent years given the incredible ease with which marketers can develop and deploy campaigns and the power of one-to-one communication with an SMS that can evoke an instant response from a customer. SMS also provides the ability to effectively measure campaign performance through the use of a ‘call-to-action’ from the customer. The flexibility to quickly test different campaigns provides much lower costs and turnaround time compared to many other forms of marketing. For example, an A/B testing on SMS is more viable than say on TV or E-Mail. However, when marketers choose to use SMS marketing, it is important to understand the strengths and limitations of the medium to get the most out of the campaigns.

We discuss below the top 5 Best Practices for effective SMS campaigns –

  1. Use Proven Mobile Nos. Databases

Databases containing mobile nos. are used for undertaking SMS campaigns. Often Marketers source databases from the grey market and these are mostly overused and can be quite inaccurate with outdated user details. Databases built in-house and fine-tuned over a period of time are way more reliable in terms of a good delivery percentage and quality of responses. So it is best to do campaigns on one’s own database, or at a minimum, on databases from reputable vendors. The criticality of the database is also closely linked to the nature of the product. Though generally mass appeal products work best for SMS campaigns, more niche products can also be used effectively as long as a highly targeted and accurate database is available.

  1. Keep the Content Simple, and Interesting

The SMS content is one of the largest factors for the success of a campaign. Only a content which is simple, interesting and easy to understand will have the desired impact and elicit the much needed user response. Proper punctuation, grammar and readability also go a long way in creating the right impression. Including a ‘special offer’ helps the message stand out from the rest of the offerings in the market, and has a high chance of improving customer responses. Brand names also help lend credibility to the offering and hence should be mentioned in the content.

  1. Have a Straight-Forward Call-To-Action

An SMS content needs to have a user call-to-action that conveys what is exactly expected of the recipient to show his interest in the product on offer. The call-to-action, more often than not, needs to be kept simple. A long winded call-to-action will end up blurring what is expected of the respondent and can lead to response errors. Even for something as simple as a keyword response as the call to action, the chosen keyword should have as few letters as possible as this will eliminate the possibility of the end user making typos while responding. Responses with typos may not get captured by the system and these can form a sizable chunk and sometimes can make or break a campaign.

  1. Call-To-Action Must Suit Campaign Objectives

Depending on the breadth and quality of responses required from the campaign, the call-to-action needs to be suitably crafted. For example, a company with limited resources may want to focus on getting responses only from serious buyers. So the call-to-action needs to convey the same – for example, ‘To buy, send XXX to 55555. On the other hand, a company with a large and experienced sales force may want to get responses even from people just fishing for information – for example, ‘For details, send XXX to 55555’. In the latter case, where there is no commitment required from the recipient to make a purchase, the responses can be about 20-25% higher. Also, the response quality and quantity vary with the channels used for gathering user responses. Responses on short-code are fewer in number but they tend be of better quality. Missed-Call responses, on the other hand, get about 3X more responses but the quality is comparatively a bit poorer.

  1. Choose the Right Day and Time

The day and time of the campaign can affect the campaign’s effectiveness as different target groups will have different profiles around when they are likely to respond to an SMS. Accordingly, one should decide the day and time of the campaign to have maximum impact. For example, a campaign meant for students can ideally be done in early evening when they have spare time from their morning grind of lectures and college. The ideal time to run campaigns meant for working professionals could be late mornings when they would have settled down at work after the morning rush and have the time to look and respond to SMSes. It is also seen that the response rate is up to 20% lesser during holidays and weekends – likely because the chances of people being physically away from their phones are higher. For any campaign, it is often best to do fresh iterations to arrive at the ideal day and time for the campaign.

SMS Marketing has a definite place in the overall scheme of marketing with its purpose and value being distinct from other forms. A clear understanding on the kind of products and the target groups, for which SMS Marketing works well, is the key to getting the desired results.

Cloud Communications: Enhancing the E-Commerce Experience

Excerpt from blog on computer.financialexpress.com

E-commerce in India has been a hotbed of activity lately. The entire consumer experience is seeing a major transformation through greater product choice, transparent pricing and an unmatched convenience. On one hand, buying online offers great convenience, on the other, there is an absence of personalized assistance which one normally gets in a physical store. Due to economies of scale, the online stores are able to offer dynamic discounts across categories. Marketing in such an environment can be a challenge and it needs to be very agile.

Cloud Communications can be an important enabler in helping e-commerce companies in ensuring there is personalized consumer engagement throughout the purchase cycle and also in executing effective and near real-time marketing campaigns. Cloud Communications form an indispensable link between the ‘faceless’ seller and the consumer. Despite a steady rate of adoption of smart phones and computers with internet connections, it is interesting to note that a vast majority of users in India still do not have an internet connection that is readily accessible, reliable and affordable.

Communication sent using SMS and Voice channels is delivered directly to the end user without being filtered by spam filters as can be the case with e-mail. These two modes are also not dependent on internet thus making them a near fool-proof way in ensuring that all the important communication reaches the consumer.

There can be numerous use-cases of using Cloud Communications in e-commerce. The moment a product is bought, an SMS is sent to the customer, confirming the order. A first time buyer choosing Cash-on-Delivery gets an automated voice call requiring him to double confirm the order. The verification process greatly eliminates the processing of frivolous orders, thus saving time and effort. After a product is dispatched, another communication is sent to the buyer with complete details on the consignment to enable effortless order tracking. When the product is about to be delivered, another update is sent mentioning the expected time of delivery. This ensures the user is available to collect the order and thus reduces the cost of delivery and importantly reduces even the cash collection cycle in case of COD. From the point of view of tracking customer service levels, either of SMS, interactive Voice Call or e-mail is sent to the user who can readily share feedback. This feedback data can readily be collated and analyzed.

E-commerce companies have also been increasingly using cloud communications solutions for their marketing activities. An example is, informing the shoppers about a ‘deal of the day’ or a ‘flash sale’. Communicating on SMS or Voice, to a targeted audience would perhaps get higher responses when compared with other modes of communication where the chances of the customer reading the message ‘after’ the deal is over, are more. These solutions give companies the ability to conceptualize and even roll-out a deal, all on the same day. Also, since the probability of non-delivery of communication here is extremely less, enterprises continue to depend heavily on SMS and Automated Calls for end-user communication.

As e-commerce continues to evolve, companies would explore newer and more innovative ways to engage their customers. Cloud Communications would be a critical enabler to this end with companies continuing to leverage Cloud Communications both as a basic necessity of operation and as a seamless aid to enhance overall consumer experience.

Cloud Communications has just begun

Today a majority of the enterprises are well-down the path of deciding how cloud communications can be leveraged to have more cohesive organizations, and customers who are fully engaged. Communication over SMS, Voice, E-Mail and USSD has begun to gain wider acceptance with organizations effectively using these services to meet their objectives. Over the last few years, SMS in particular, has been extensively used by organizations to fulfill a huge majority of the communication requirements. Indian enterprises are however, beginning to realize that SMS is not the silver bullet for all communications requirements. As customers become more demanding, enterprises are looking to become more nuanced in how they communicate

Other cloud communication channels can perhaps offer a much powerful interface for fulfilling an organization’s communication needs. For example, automated voice services can provide a highly interactive communication platform in a way that SMS cannot, while also providing local language interaction that is so critical in a market like India where various regional languages are spoken. Also, as internet penetration increases enterprises are seeing email as a critical element of their customer communication strategy. While traditionally Indian enterprises would attempt to extend their in-house email system for customer communications as well, they have realized that such systems are neither scalable enough, nor do they have the required functionality for effectively tracking communications to their customers. And as quality of interaction becomes much more critical than quantity of interaction, the ability to do intelligent analytics on communications is absolutely critical.

Even other mobile technologies, such as USSD, have seen significant regulatory involvement in helping overcome the inter-operator technical barriers that had limited the effectiveness of such technologies in India.

To meet these changing needs, cloud communications providers have a unique opportunity to provide an incredibly rich set of communications solutions for enterprises. Though the regulatory situation has significantly improved, history suggests that one must expect the unexpected. With more than a dozen telcos still active in India, and with telcos remaining a critical part of the vendor equation, cloud communications providers must know how and when to cultivate relationships with the right telcos. Competition in India will always be fierce, and thus competitive advantage must be an area of constant reinvention. Customers are also incredibly demanding, and so providers must be nimble and ready to provide whatever support is required for success.

Today many providers in India provide point solutions across many elements of the cloud communications landscape. But few, if any, are focused on building a unified communications platform that enables enterprises to effortlessly pick and integrate across communication media, while also providing multiple off-the-shelf applications that can instantly address many enterprise pain points. UNICEL believes that technology expertise and customer insight is at the heart of being able to deliver on that promise, and that is exactly what we have always sought to do. Having completely redesigned our service delivery platform based on these concepts, we have already integrated voice, USSD, and email services onto a single platform that we use to deliver our SMS services, and we are constantly inventing innovative new solutions to enhance enterprise communications.