How to Put Text Message Marketing to Work This Holiday Season

Need a better way to reach shoppers and boost sales this holiday season? Text messaging may be the answer. Whether you send plain text messages or branded images and videos, mobile marketing can attract more buyers throughout the holidays, from Black Friday and Cyber Monday to Christmas and post-holiday retail sales.

Mobile marketing, also known as text message marketing, is an effective way to notify consumers and clients about sales, deals and other special promotions via short message service (SMS) and multimedia message service (MMS). Unlike other forms of marketing, mobile marketing also provides an opportunity to interact with customers on a personal level via devices they use the most and using a medium they typically can't live without.

According to payvia, a mobile payments and mobile marketing company, with smartphone sales up 45 percent, retailers have an opportunity to increase sales by leveraging mobile marketing this holiday season. And given that 98 percent of SMS and MMS messages are viewed, whereas most business-to-consumer emails are ignored, mobile marketing offers significantly more reach and a higher return on investment (ROI) than other forms of marketing.

[What is Mobile Marketing?]

James Citron, chief marketing officer of payvia, has helped major retail brands such as Charlotte Russe and Nike boost sales with mobile marketing. Citron talked to BusinessNewsDaily and discussed why retailers should use mobile marketing and how they can leverage it to boost sales this holiday season.

BusinessNewsDaily: What makes mobile marketing so effective?

James Citron: Text marketing works for businesses large and small because it is marketing to customers using technology the customer understands. By using technology the customer uses every day, brands are able to build and activate strong mobile databases that drive significantly higher ROI than other programs, such as email.

BND: The holidays are just around the corner. How early should retailers get started with mobile marketing?

J.C.: It is never too early to start building a mobile database in preparation for the holidays. As your database grows, use it to test new coupons and promotions so you know what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be glad you have a clear knowledge of what resonates best with your customers once the holiday season arrives.

BND: How can retailers leverage mobile marketing to get ready specifically for Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

J.C.: Text message marketing is perfect for these one-day-only shopping sprees because it can have a deadline. If you want shoppers lining up outside your store doors the morning of Black Friday or waiting online on Cyber Monday, text out a quick "to expire" offer a few days before. The immediacy will drive sales and interest.

BND: Small Business Saturday is also coming up. How can merchants use mobile marketing to boost awareness and sales for locally owned businesses?

J.C.: Small businesses are finding success in do-it-yourself (DIY) mobile marketing technology that allows them to design and implement their own text message marketing campaign. Payvia actually offers a monthly service specifically for small and medium-size businesses (SMBs), which allows them to select a keyword and short code and send 1,000 messages for around $100 per month. The trick is to supply your customers compelling content. Choose a DIY service that allows you to send multimedia messages that allow video, audio and pictures to be sent across the same channel as the plain old 160-character text message.

BND: Research shows that most people shop with less than two weeks to go before Christmas and that holiday spending peaks on the last full week before Christmas. How can retailers use mobile marketing to take advantage of this holiday rush?

J.C.: The real secret to successful mobile marketing is to personalize what you send. This is where MMS offers significant benefits because it can be used to share videos and pictures for no extra cost. In those last few days when shoppers are rushing to find the perfect gift last minute, try sending them look books, product images, videos, tips and gift guides. A picture really is worth 1,000 words.

BND: What about post-holiday events, such as after-Christmas sales. How can retailers entice shoppers who are burnt out (and probably broke) from all that last-minute Christmas shopping?

J.C.: Given that 97 percent of text messages are opened within minutes whereas 88 percent of business-to-consumer emails go unopened, businesses should opt to send their after-Christmas sales via text message this time around. In fact, the average redemption rate of a coupon sent via text message is 10 times that of email. When you consider that 42 percent of shoppers say sales and discounts are the most important factor for online holiday shopping, it's a pretty obvious choice to take the sales gains from text over email.

BND: You said that in 2012, retail sales on Black Friday actually dropped 1.8 percent even though foot traffic increased, meaning more people choose to buy online after seeing the product in-store. How can businesses use mobile marketing to prevent or minimize "showrooming" and buy in-store instead?

J.C.: Emphasize your store through signage and location-based coupons. Use signage at your in-store point of sale (POS) to give shoppers a special offer for opting-in to your mobile marketing campaign. You can also send a quick "to expire" coupon that can only be redeemed in-store. Looking at the next generation of mobile marketing solutions, location-based services will help stores address showrooming issues by pushing special offers to consumers that are physically near their retail location. It's all about messaging, timing and location.

BND: How can businesses get started with mobile marketing?

J.C.: Brands first begin by growing their mobile database using a keyword and short code, for example, "text HUNGRY to 51515." The best way to do this is by cross-marketing your mobile marketing campaign with your existing marketing efforts. No matter your strategy, promote your mobile marketing efforts at a number of touch points: on your website, at POS, on product packaging, via social media, and through emails and advertising. Train your in-store sales teams to encourage customers to become mobile followers and gain exclusive content, coupons and notifications on in-store sales.

BND: What are some do's and don'ts of holiday mobile marketing?

J.C.: Do create a compelling, useful program that people will want to join. Find out what your customers like. What info best resonates with them? Is it coupons? Is it sneak peeks? Find what the customer wants and watch your program grow. And choose MMS — multimedia drives higher engagement than plain old SMS messages. Multimedia also allows companies to showcase their products and their branding quickly and easily, deepening the connection between the brand and the customer.

Don't break the rules. Text message marketing is permissions-based and highly regulated. This means that companies cannot send text messages to consumers who have not given explicit permission to be contacted via this method.  Being compliant is easy; it just requires following simple rules. Part of following the rules is being respectful. Mobile phones are personal devices, so send your text messages when they are most likely to resonate with your audience.  Never send messages during late night or early morning hours unless you have clearly stated this as part of your program.

BND: Where do you see the future of mobile marketing going?

J.C.: Mobile marketing is becoming more visual, more interactive and more personal. Consumers are comfortable with sharing pictures and videos on their mobile device — take Instagram and Vine, for example — and are demanding their favorite brands offer more than just a 160-character text message. Brands that meet this demand using the power of MMS will be able to engage their customers with rich media across the same traditional SMS marketing at no extra cost over SMS. They'll up their customer loyalty and overall sales.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.