When SMS first became commercially available in 1999, the general reaction wasn't one of excitement but trepidation. Much like today, many people railed against technology's supposedly harmful effects, citing the damage it might wreak upon thousands of years of human communication.
And their concerns weren't so far-fetched either - a recent study reveals that most teenagers today use texting as their main way of sustaining social relationships.
Others, however, aren't just scared of a decline in communication, but of its complete reversal. As texting has gained traction we've increased our inventiveness with it, resulting in the widespread use of emojis. While some herald the "two byte ideograms" as the new height of communication, others see emojis as society slowly back-pedalling towards hieroglyphs and symbols.
SMS for businesses
I would urge companies not to dismiss SMS as something that's outdated and irrelevant, but rather to see it as a technology that can support, benefit and revitalise your marketing strategy.
According to recent research, 37.2 million consumers have opted to use SMS and mobile communications as their preferred choice for receiving notifications from businesses. This number is predicted to rise to 48.7 million by 2020, making SMS the fastest growing marketing channel in the UK.
SMS marketing is also powerful because 98% of branded or business-related texts are opened by mobile users and 90% are read within three minutes. This means that 23.5m people will respond to a business text message in 2017.
Why is SMS such a useful tool?
It's all about immediacy. An ignored email or a lost letter can easily be shrugged off as a colleague being too busy or Royal Mail being inefficient, but the speed and reliability of the SMS leaves no room for excuses.
With SMS, you can deliver timely and personalised messages. You only have to look at your own habits to understand the differences between SMS and email engagement. Whether you are looking to acquire new customers or engage with existing ones, nothing beats the direct and personal connectivity of SMS. From simple marketing campaigns to personalised customer service notifications or identification authentication, SMS provides a quick and easy way to add value and deliver a great experience.
However, the positive aspects of SMS are rarely publicised. Great examples include the story of British tourist Rebecca Fyfe, who upon becoming stranded on a sinking ship in the Lombok Strait, sent an SMS message to her partner in Falmouth which saved both her own life and the lives of ten tourists and crew members by sparking a search and rescue effort.
During the last US election, Bernie Sanders' use of bulk SMS messaging allowed him to engage record numbers of the under-30 voter demographic. With his adoption of mobile payments, Sanders' campaign also attracted significant financial support. With an average donation of $27 per supporter, Sanders used mobile payment services to accrue, at one point, almost $2 million in just one week, taking his grassroots campaign to a whole new level.
Despite these and other successes, only 50% of businesses are using SMS as part of their marketing strategy and the other 50% are still struggling to get the most out of it. This is where the opportunity lies.
Sending out SMS marketing messages to consumers is an underused and often misunderstood method of communication. Real opportunities lie in making each SMS count: making sure it turns up with content that the consumer wants to act on, a message that kills several birds with one stone and messages that enhance the overall brand experience for the consumer.
It's clear that SMS has the power to deliver - whether it's growing a political following or even saving lives. It's also exceptionally relevant for marketers, constantly evolving and it could make the difference between a campaign's success or failure.
Copyright © 2017 Matthew Winters is ceo of Veoo.