Mobile and text marketing

A man is reading a marketing message sent to him on his smartphone

Thanks to smartphones, apps and mobile internet access, the mobile phone is now a key battleground in the fight for new business and customers' attention.

Although the pace of technological change gives you the chance to try innovative techniques and ideas, there are still opportunities for more traditional kinds of mobile marketing, like text message campaigns and WhatsApp marketing.

One of the main attractions of mobile marketing is that mobile phones are almost always switched on and people usually have them to hand. That means that text messages (or SMSs) are usually read.

However, just because using SMS to send direct marketing messages is effective, you cannot simply send messages to whoever you like. For one thing, some people resent being sent unsolicited messages. You must comply with the regulations governing the use of electronic mail for direct marketing.

What is electronic mail?

The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 defines electronic mail as:

“any text, voice, sound or image message sent over a public electronic communications network which can be stored in the network or in the recipient’s terminal equipment until it is collected by the recipient and includes messages sent using a short message service”

This means email and SMS messages, picture, video and voicemail messages and direct messages sent via social media are all covered by the regulations.

Mobile internet is growing fast

What's more, the mobile phone has become the first place that people turn in all kinds of situations: to check for directions or to look up the price of a product, for example - indeed, to find any information online. Because people use their phones in these ways, your business can benefit hugely from intelligent mobile marketing.

In fact, the majority of people in the UK now access the internet from mobile devices. This means potential customers are going to try and reach your business via their mobile phones whether you like it or not. You need to consider the experience they have.

Mobile marketing improves satisfaction

For small businesses in particular, the mobile phone offers exciting opportunities to improve customer service and satisfaction. Texting and emailing customers on their mobile phones can be part of a better, more personal service. Sending details of promotions and events can boost business.

If you're more ambitious, you can create your own mobile app. But whatever you do, you need to optimise your website for mobile devices so that people using smartphones can find what they're looking for. With the mobile landscape still evolving, don't regard mobile marketing as separate to your other marketing efforts - it's becoming harder to determine where online marketing ends and mobile marketing begins.

With mobile internet access commonplace, you must consider mobile users whenever you're changing your website or sending a marketing email. (Statistics suggest most emails are now opened on mobile devices, so it's vital your emails are readable on small screens.)

You can't control how or when people use their mobile phones. And as people work remotely using mobile devices including smartphones and tablet computers, online connectivity for personal and business use is ubiquitous.

Using mobile phones to inform your customers

When it comes to mobile marketing, small firms often have an advantage over big brand names because they already have a personal relationship with customers. As a result, contacting them by mobile phone does not seem so intrusive.

Many small businesses can benefit from mobile phone communication. For example, local entertainment businesses such as restaurants can use text and email marketing to advertise special events. And retailers can text details of sales or vouchers timed to catch shoppers in the right place.

Businesses that work by appointment, such as opticians or hair salons, are ideally placed to use text messages or apps to send reminders and to alert customers when it's time to book their next appointment. What's more, they can send special offers and details of last-minute availability.

Mobile marketing targeting

Smartphones offer some interesting targeting opportunities. Most are equipped with location services, which means they can determine their location via GPS.

Your mobile app or website can use this facility to direct customers to their nearest branch, or to display special offers when people are in your neighbourhood.

With the right timing, this sort of targeting is valuable. Contact shoppers when they are on the high street and you increase the potential for new business. But whatever you do, never send intrusive messages at unsocial hours.

Finally, remember that if you intend to contact customers via text messages or calling their mobile phones, you need permission - just as with all other direct marketing.

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