5 SMS Trends for Retailers

As smartphone penetration increases, many retailers are finding that the immediacy of SMS (Short Message Service) has a broader appeal than a downloadable application or mobile website, according to a new Retail Benchmark Report conducted by Cellit. Retailers are moving swiftly from implementation to integration, incorporating mobile programs into their larger CRM (Customer Relationship Management) initiatives.

Here are five SMS trends for retailers to follow:

Commercial MMS is finally coming of age, as more carriers provide the ability to send and receive MMS messages through short codes. This opens up huge engagement opportunities, especially on the incoming MMS front. Many of the retailers Cellit has spoken with plan to use MMS to enable customers to send in photos for contests and contribute to brand engagement activities.

Location-Based Services
There is much interest in LBS on the part of retailers. Due to the fact that costs for LBS are still significant, and the technology hasn’t yet delivered on the many promises, Cellit sees LBS as applicable in very specific situations for the coming year. It is highly likely that those trial or limited programs will be expanded significantly in 2013 as the technology improves and costs are lowered.

Local Targeting
With LBS not delivering on its promise, many retailers are refocusing on less tech savvy ways of approximating location with great success. Several of the retailers surveyed are implementing programs to use area code or zip code to target, going so far as to offer the subscriber the ability to match to a location based on zip code. While this is not nearly as accurate or immediate, it accomplishes much the same thing at a fraction of the cost.

Engagement-Focused Content
Engagement is a key term that marketers keep mentioning, and SMS is not immune to this trend. Look for more programs that are interactive in nature, including the MMS mentioned previously, as well as quiz games, scavenger hunts, and cross media push-pull activities.

One Time Value Added Interactions
Many retailers surveyed launched SMS programs that only included ongoing deals and marketing announcements. With those programs firmly in place, many of the retailers are looking to provide value-enhancing interactions via SMS that are one-time and highly relevant. Examples of those interactions include: text for additional product information; the ability to send directions, coupons or product information to your phone from the website; and SMS sharing.

Cellit analyzed 1,180 retail campaigns with a national footprint during 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. The average database size was nearly 41,000 subscribers with a minimum of 497 and a maximum of 174,390.

Jim Tierney (jim.tierney@penton.com) is a senior writer for Multichannel Merchant. You can connect with him on Twitter (TierneyMCM) and LinkedIn, or call him at 203-358-4265.

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