Don't send advertisements to mobile, send value to customers

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Cezar Kolodziej, president, CEO, and cofounder, Iris Mobile
Cezar Kolodziej, president, CEO, and cofounder, Iris Mobile

We all know that email runs the direct marketing world, but how effective is it? How often does email actually provide value to the customer? Is there a better way to engage your customers using mobile?

When we use a generic email to connect our brand with customers many will ignore it or even mark it as spam. The email lists we purchase are often not well segmented. This makes it difficult for us to customize content that targets a specific audience. One solution: mobile technologies like SMS and rich media messaging. Using those tools we're better able to personalize messaging and create engaging content for our audiences.

SMS has revolutionized the way we connect and communicate with customers. Brands can't just purchase mobile numbers the way they're allowed to purchase email addresses. To contact customers using SMS, the customer must give your brand permission to send them content by joining an opt-in list.

Opt-in lists create a personal channel between your brand and customers because they can choose whether they want to receive promotions. Usually, they sign up because they do want them. In fact, according to ComScore, SMS open rates are an average of 97%, with 90% of the messages being read within the first 15 minutes of delivery. This shows that customers take the time to actually open and read text messages—unlike email, whose open rates hover around 20%, according to Silverpop.

But don't let these high open rates for SMS lull you into a false sense of security. If you don't provide relevant, engaging messages, customers are just as likely to opt out of your SMS communications as they as they are your email lists. For example, if a customer has opted-in to receive bar deals in Chicago, then they should not be receiving bar deals in New York. So, it's important to build a communications strategy that will keep customers engaged and interested in receiving your texts.

Even with its high open rates and suitability to targeting messaging, SMS has limitations that prevent it from being the best option to use for mobile advertising. SMS can only include 160 characters, making it difficult to create effective and engaging content that will fit in one message. Additionally, customers may not be able to view the content you send if it's not optimized for their specific devise. For example, even if your brand sends a link in plain text, less than 50% of users who have data plans enabled will be able to open that link. This does not guarantee successful ROI if put into your mobile marketing initiatives.

This is where rich media messaging (RMM) comes in. Unlike MMS—which suffers from such issues as low penetration rates, limited content optimization, high costs, and sparse support from operators—RMM allows marketers to deliver fully optimized rich content (videos, images, and text longer than 160 characters) to any mobile device on any carrier without requiring a data plan. RMM optimizes content by detecting the type of phone the customer is using and then sending appropriate content that is suited for that device.

RMM campaigns are more effective than SMS campaigns because they engage customers with rich content instead of using just text. You've heard the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so you know that sending a 160 character-based message to a customer is less effective than sending the same message in video or picture form. The Room Place, a Chicago based furniture retailer, sent an image-based RMM campaign in September to their opt-in list with the intent to drive store traffic.

The list was first carefully selected for customers interested in value-based offers. Additionally, the content was image-based to initiate an immediate consumer response around the offer and call-to-action. Customers receiving the RMM visually saw the value proposition of 20% off and the direct result was an increase in user engagement.

The image-based campaign was shared and posted on social networks, and forwarded to friends with comments like, “Amazing deal! The sofa on sale is beautiful.” These emotional based responses and increased proliferation of messages would simply not have been possible using SMS alone.

Email and SMS have their own unique benefits, but RMM is becoming a valuable mobile marketing technology. It provides unlimited possibilities on how we can send personalized communication to customers with real value, not just another ad.

About the Author: Cezar Kolodziej, Ph.D. is president and CEO of Iris Mobile

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