Covid-19 social distancing requirements have transformed text messaging into one of the most popular B2C communications channels.
According to new research from Podium, 42% of consumers surveyed said they’re more interested in texting with local businesses now than they were before Covid-19.
More than 60% of consumers said they received or exchanged text messages with a local business within the previous 30 days, and more than 65% think that texting makes working with a local business more convenient, the survey shows.
Texting for All Ages
Texting is no longer the realm of only millennials. Members of all age groups, including those over 60 years old, prefer texting with businesses. Consumers are almost twice as likely (1.8x) to prefer texting over any other communication method that a business offers, including phone calls, emails, website chat, and Facebook Messenger.
Of consumers who have taken advantage of services like curbside pickup, local delivery, and contactless payments, 80.3% want one or more of those services to continue post-Covid. Almost 90% of consumers say they are likely to return to a business they first visited because of pandemic-friendly services, even after restrictions lift. In addition, 50% say they’ve avoided local businesses that do not offer such services.
Nearly half of businesses that send texts use the messages to send reminders to customers or patients or to communicate about a purchase. Other less common uses include: collecting customer feedback, answering questions, closing sales, collecting payments, sending personalized product offers, scheduling appointments, confirming delivering dates and times, and asking for reviews.
Recommendations for Text Marketing
To start text marketing program, begin communicating with your current client list, Podium advises. Offer reminders, upsells, discounts on future purchases, and ask for feedback.
Offer a text option to your prospects, such as an offer to move web chat conversations from the Internet to their mobile device. Offer text messaging to prospects through advertising, social media, signage, and your Google My Business page.
Test your email and text messaging lists for open rates and engagement. Compare the two and find what platforms perform better for specific messages. Baseline your open rates against the averages — 20% for email and 98% for texting.
Send consistently. Although too many messages may feel like spam, if you send too few messages, people may forget why they signed up for them, warns SimpleTexting. While best practice is to send 2-4 texts a month, your business might send multiple texts weekly or perhaps more often.
Send exclusive offers. Deliver special promotions customers can’t find anywhere else. That’s one way to motivate customers to opt-in to text messages. But don’t send out the same incentive every time. Mix it up messages to keep them fresh.
Personalize messages. Address customers by name or include some hyper-relevant information within the text.
Ensure messages are relevant to the entire database.
Include a strong call to action. Make sure the consumer sees and feels a sense of reward.
Offers should last only a short time. Offers that last for three or four days create a sense of urgency.
Don’t send your customers something that requires printing or opening an email to retrieve.
Resist using short hand, which makes messages appear amateur and unprofessional.
Get Permission to Send
It’s imperative to first obtain express written consent from customers before sending them messages. Federal regulations require them to knowingly agree to receive promotional texts from your business.
Obtaining an individual’s phone number—regardless of whether they are a potential lead, an existing client, a former customer, or a member of your group or organization—is not the same as receiving permission to contact them, explains Sean Griffith at SimpleTexting.
Also include government-mandated disclaimers and a clear way to opt out. Consult the CTIA’s Short Code Monitoring Handbook and CTIA’s Messaging Principles and Best Practices for full details.
In addition to risking government fines, sending unsolicited messages may offend potential customers and cause a PR crisis and reputational damage when FCC penalties are announced in the media. With text messaging, it’s important to play by the rules.
Bottom Line: More people prefer to communicate with local businesses through text messages because of Covid-19 fears. Businesses can do more with text messages than send reminders and schedule appointments. Innovative organizations are using texts for a growing number of PR, marketing and customer service uses.
Michael Kling is manager of public relations, marketing and social media at Glean.info, a media monitoring and measurement service that provides customized media monitoring and PR analytics solutions.