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Etailers that use SMS reap big rewards – but the vast majority still ignore it as a customer engagement channel

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Online retailers who use SMS to interact with customers are seeing improved customer experience, increased revenues and improved marketing and customer service efficiency – however only 29% of merchants actually use it.

So finds a study by OpenMarket, a leader in enterprise mobile engagement, in its Retail Mobile Messaging Report, which polled 100 e-commerce retail professionals about their use of SMS messaging for customer engagement.

The findings revealed that SMS, or text messaging, is an under used communication channel with the potential to deliver much more value than it is today.

Nearly three-quarters (69%) of online retailers who leverage SMS do so because it affords them an opportunity to differentiate; nearly 40% use SMS to meet customer demand.

Among all respondents, “efficiency” ranked highest as the most important quality for engaging with customers, selected by 41% of those who use SMS.

When asked how online retailers are currently measuring the success of current SMS/text messaging programs, 45% cited improved customer experience and 35% track it back to increased revenue.

But when Openmarket looked at who was actually using it, the company finds that, compared to traditional channels like email (97%), phone (66%), social media (82%) and mobile apps (32%), SMS is among the least frequently used methods of communication for retailers (29%) — representing a massive missed opportunity.

Despite the fact that many global brands use SMS to communicate with their customers, as demonstrated by the survey’s findings, it still appears to not be getting the attention it deserves. A majority of respondents recognise there are numerous of use cases for SMS, but they have yet to make it a high enough priority.

As SMS is one of the most familiar and ubiquitous communication methods globally, there’s a valuable opportunity for retailers to seamlessly integrate it into their current communication strategies – yet many online retailers don’t understand the benefits of SMS, such as its direct ROI.

The good news, however, is that while many online retailers may not currently have an SMS strategy in place, many have it on their radar and understand that SMS could add significant business value.

In fact, among the respondents who don’t currently use SMS, more than two-thirds indicate its ability to reach customers would be a reason to try it. What’s more, nearly two thirds (62%) of respondents who don’t use SMS see the channel as an opportunity to drive revenue or improve customer experience.

“SMS may not be a new technology, but the utility and capability of mobile messaging is still greatly untapped by many retailers,” says Jay Emmet, general manager for OpenMarket. “The retailers who have already embraced SMS are seeing success in terms of efficiency, reach, and business impact—setting a strong example for others to follow. As the survey results indicate, there is a lot of room for retailers to capitalise on the opportunities SMS provides.”

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