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Think text if you want to reach customers in real time, study suggests

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Retailers need to start thinking more about text messages and less about apps and m-web if they are to use mobile to reach consumers in real time with offers.

So finds research by eDigital Research for OpenMarket, which suggests that text messaging is the most effective communication channel for brands seeking to contact consumers in real-time with time-sensitive information, such as order status alerts.

The findings also suggest that retailers need to implement a comprehensive communications strategy that includes multiple channels, in order to engage with consumers across the entire lifecycle.

“Retail is a very personal experience with unique consumer and purchase journeys,” explains Steve Brockway, Director of Research (UK) at eDigitalResearch. “The report underscores how preferences regarding brand interactions differ for every shopper. This means that retailers must consider these preferences when choosing how they engage with each one of their customers. A ‘one size fits all’ solution doesn’t exist, and retailers should evaluate each communication channel to ensure a smooth customer journey whenever possible.”

The research highlights that SMS is well-suited for the delivery of time-sensitive, priority information, with 53 percent of respondents citing SMS as the preferred method of communication when ‘on the go’. At the same time, 85 percent of respondents would prioritise unopened text messages over emails and push notifications from apps, making SMS an ideal solution for retailers operating ‘Click & Collect’ services. Similarly, mobile messaging was the preferred channel for receiving delivery updates, with more than 50 percent of those surveyed choosing this option for ‘on the day’ notifications.

The findings also revealed that 59 percent of respondents preferred to receive promotional information via email, making it an effective channel for marketing materials. Of those surveyed, 54 percent indicated they always or mostly always opened offers received via email. Email also had the highest open rate for marketing information, closely followed by text messages.

While SMS is preferred by consumers at certain stages during their journey, trust remains a clear barrier to retailers using the technology. Just 43% of respondents said they would be willing to share their phone number with retailers, citing the concern they would be overwhelmed with irrelevant communications.

As such, retailers should not only reassure consumers that they will respect their personal data, but they should also carefully assess which channel to use when communicating information at different stages of the customer journey.

“This research truly reinforces the importance of a comprehensive communications plan for retailers, which includes using a variety of channels for each phase of the customer lifecycle,” adds Paul Murphy, Head of Commercial Development at OpenMarket. “The continued shift to online shopping and growth of services such as ‘Click & Collect’ mean that it’s critical to provide timely delivery and collection information. Only SMS can offer the ubiquity, familiarity and effectiveness when it comes to these types of interactions.”

The research was conducted between the 22nd December 2014 and 5th January 2015 using a nationally representative sample in the United Kingdom, with 1,000 responses collected in total.

Click here to download the full research report, “Mobile Communication Channels – How to Interact with your Customers,”

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