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M-retailers should embrace the power of SMS and MMS for marketing, customer service and staff management

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Many retailers are getting bogged down in recreating web-like experiences on mobile, when simple SMS and MMS services are cheap, easy and effective to roll out and give a great mobile presence, delegates at M-Retailing’s JumpStart event in London were told. They can also save retailers money on customer care and benefit staff as well.

Usage of SMS and MMS – text and picture messaging, if you prefer – are still growing on all networks in the UK and across much of the world, but these two stalwart technologies are largely overlooked when retailers and brands come to develop their m-retailing strategies, Chris Smith from digital media agency New Toy told delegates.

“Text has a wide range of roles,” Smith explains. “It is a messaging technology, so is very good for sending messages and building a dialogue with your customers. If you have launched a mobile app or improved your m-web site, text is the ideal medium, say, for telling consumers about it.

“It is also an ideal CRM tool too,” Smith continued. “Keeping consumers up to date on their order progress, or for letting them text you product IDs or catalogue numbers are all simple solutions that text is ideally suited to.”

On the picture messaging front, Smith was equally keen to show retailers how this too can play an important role in m-retailing and CRM for retailers. “MMS is still growing strongly, with some 50million being sent in the UK between 2008 and 2009 and it offers a much richer extension to what you have with SMS.”

Smith cites the example of sending out simple animated messages of products, such as TVs and other ‘good looking’ goods in a simple message. “It is a really powerful way of simply showing consumers what is on offer and doesn’t need a great deal of m-commerce know how,” he says.

What it does need, he concedes, is for retailers and brands to make more effort to collect mobile numbers so that they can start to use messaging as a marketing and CRM tool around retail.

“Retailers are really bad at collecting mobile numbers, but in a very short time using online registrations and competitions and prize draws you can easily start to build a useful mobile database that you can then use for messaging, either to market products or services or to build on whatever else you are doing on mobile,” Smith says.

Network operator O2 agreed. Mark Cody from the company, also speaking at the JumpStart on M-retailing, expanded: “Text is a very powerful tool for communicating not just with customers, but with your staff as well – you can use it for HR, marketing, training, sales and customer care”.

In fact, Cody believes that SMS is of huge benefit for organisations in terms of keeping customers in the loop and in cutting costs in this customer care role. “Text messaging can take a huge burden off the call centres and customer service departments as it can be used to handle all those ‘what is the delay with my delivery?’ type questions that come in,” he explained. “It can also be used proactively to follow up to get an idea of how good or bad services are being perceived. O2 itself does this with new customers and we get about 50% texting back.”

In Cody’s view, SMS has the highest redemption rate of any channel. “We used text to promote Natwest Bank’s mobile app and got a 25% response rate, other promos we have done have got around 7 to 8% response rates, which is very high for a marketing channel.”

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