Mobile Messaging, it’s more than 160 characters! It Is Time to Get Strategic

by Jay O’SullivanMichael J. Becker

Over the past several years, the world of messaging has morphed in front of our very eyes. There are now more than six messaging channel categories, including text (inc. SMS, MMS, RCS), email, social media, chatbots (i.e. for support and conversational commerce), proximity alerts, and more than a dozen over-the-top apps (WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Apple Business Chat, Line, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more). What does this mean for organizations? Well, for some they may think it means that their organization has a variety of channels to choose from to reach the people they serve (aka consumers, shoppers, patients, investors, etc.). On the surface, this is true. But what it really means is that organizations must start developing their multi-channel messaging muscles so that they can reach individuals not on the organization’s preferred time and medium of communication, but on the individual’s preferred time and medium of communication.

To effectively manage a messaging program, the most important thing to realize is that messaging channels are NOT all created equal. Every channel has a different audience profile, audience expectations, norms, message lengths, message formats, ways to send and receive messages, and methods for reporting across the engagement continuum (e.g., transaction through relationship). Messaging is an ecosystem all of its own that must be nurtured if you want to find success.

Need I say more? Of course, I do!

“The customer is everywhere and nowhere.” Todd Harrison, SVP of Digital at Skechers (Harrison, 2021)

You may find yourself with prospects and customers and few ways to reach them? You may find yourself with tired campaigns that simply do not perform the way you want them to? You may find yourself losing touch with your most valuable asset, your first-party database. You may ask yourself, how did I get here? You may ask yourself, which channel should I use to achieve the best results?

Todd is right, “the customer is everywhere, and nowhere.” The way to address this problem is to put your customer at the heart of your business. What does this mean? It means you must learn to collect and listen to their preferences? To interact and engage them, not just barrage them with mono-directional messages that basically say, “I have an idea, why don’t you buy more stuff from us?” People want to be respected, heard, and served. You need to treat them as the hero of your story. To make this happen, you need to understand them. You need to focus on building out an end-to-end communication strategy, which includes building a preference-based opt-in database, often referred to as a customer data platform (CDP). Depending on your needs you’ll need dedicated messaging platforms (e.g. SMS, 10DLC, Email, etc.) or possibly a multichannel communication platform as a service (CPasS) to manage real-time messaging across all channels. Moreover, you’ll need a content strategy. And soon, to meet the expectations of those you serve, you’ll need to build the capability to deliver predictive, personalized, contextually aware content and offers, with real-time feedback loops so that you can listen to customers and respond to them when they reply or initiate a conversation with you. In the near future, we will find that messaging has become the cornerstone of the vast majority of businesses’ engagement strategies, but we have a long way to go as only six to ten percent of companies are actively nurturing and running commercial messaging programs today (Ruppert, 2021).

Yes, you can succeed with the tried and true tactics, but for how long? The marketplace and consumer sentiments are changing, and you must change with them, or you’ll be left behind.

“By 2030, society will no longer tolerate a business model that relies on mass transactions of increasingly sensitive personal data: a different system will be in place.” (Data 2030, 2020)

We’ll cover more on the bigger picture in future articles, let’s get back to messaging.

What it takes to run a successful messaging program

The key to a successful messaging program is to start simple and build from there.

You should not be frightened by the sea of mobile messaging opportunities. Embrace them, and take them one step at a time. Take it from us, with the simplest of messaging programs you have the potential to see material success. For example, we are aware of a retail company that, in 12 months after launching a text-based SMS program sprinkled with the occasional MMS message, acquired 700,000 subscribers and is now generating over $1.4M in monthly sales.

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Where do you start?

SMS, or text messaging, is the most straightforward, omnipresent, and ubiquitous messaging channel that you can use to engage people anywhere in the world. And, best of all, it is proven. Open rates in SMS are often 95% and higher.

Text messaging is not just about driving sales, and although this is the end-game, it is about being of service to your audience throughout every stage of the relationship they have with you. Text messaging provides at the most basic level more engagement not just as a utility but as a consumer relationship tool – securing interactions, driving pre and post-sales engagements, gathering feedback through surveys, and fostering loyalty and support. You can, and should, use it across every stage of the purchase funnel: discovery, awareness, consideration, conversation, onboarding and adoption, loyalty, support, and offboarding.

NOTE: Keep an eye out for 10DLC, a new messaging standard the kicked off in June 2021. Our next article will be on this.

But What if?

Yes, text messaging, aka SMS, is ubiquitous, but what should you do when you need to grow beyond what texting has to offer? Remember, “the medium is the message” (Marshall McLuhan, 1964). Text messaging is not the right channel for every engagement.

What if you needed to reach and engage people in China, Brazil, Germany, or Australia? What if your product was best suited to be explained via a picture or a video? What are the best channels to reach these consumers? Text is not always the answer!

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Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, and other messaging channels are making a considerable play at being complementary messaging options for consumers and, in some cases, the primary channel. Geographic location is the main driver for these channel decisions as well as the use case. But the numbers don’t lie in regards to the global user base of over 2 billion consumers.  OTT Messaging Leaders. 

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Where Should You Start?

Sounds like a lot? Sounds complicated? It’s really not if you think about these few items and take them one at a time in your messaging and engagement roadmap.

Here are a few things for you to consider that will help mold your direction. First, start with a few pillars: Message type (use-case, transactional, marketing, support…), Geolocation(s), Staffing, and Existing Partners. Consider,

  • Are you currently offering text transactional or marketing messaging?
  • Which markets and countries are you looking to reach?
  • How much is your social media advertising budget?
  • Are you considering messaging for support (don’t just think SMS, think OTT)?
  • Do you have internal staff to manage your messaging programs?
  • Are you currently using a Marketing Automation platform?
  • Are you working with external guides and mentors (Remember: coaches and mentors are required if you want to be an expert )?

Enter Personal Data & Identity

It is critical for you to remember that all effective commerce starts with a meaningful connection and relevant and consistent communication. The path to relevance is through data, particularly personal data, in fact, a new asset class that you need to wield with precision.

The Bottomline

For the majority SMS (text) will be your first entry into the messaging space. But, depending on how you answered the questions above, the odds are you will be a perfect candidate to implement one of the other messaging channels too. Your next step is to evaluate your current programs and roadmap of “Needs” vs ’Wants” and map out the use cases, i.e., the experience you want to offer your customers, prior to finding a good technology and solutions partner.

Your “Needs’ may have to do with driving revenue, loyalty sign-ups, gathering preference data, support efficiencies, personalization, and could be as simple as mapping out your KPI’s and creating efficiencies of your current messaging strategy. Day, time, type of message, MMS vs. SMS, frequency, and more have a say in the results in your program. Remember, planning before tactics!

Messaging has proven to be the most effective tool, especially when used in a thoughtful and meaningful experience, for people-centric engagement programs. But in the age of the connected individual, the bottom line is that it is a necessity, not a nice to have.

There is a lot to navigate, but this is nothing like any other part of your business. You can do it. Create a roadmap. Find your partners. Take one step at a time!


Data 2030: What does the future of data look like? | WPP. (2020). WPP.—what-does-the-future-of-data-look-like

Harrison, T. (2021). Todd Harrison, SVP Digital, Skechers. In LinkedIn.

Most popular global mobile messenger apps as of July 2021, based on number of monthly active users (Most Popular Global Mobile Messenger Apps as of July 2021, Based on Number of Monthly Active Users, 2021)

Most popular global mobile messenger apps as of July 2021, based on number of monthly active users. (2021). Statista.

Ruppert, P. (2021, September 15). PD&I Market Assessment Interview with Paul Rupert (M. Becker, Interviewer) [Zoom].

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