Have mobile apps replaced text campaigns?

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The gloves are off
The gloves are off

Mobile apps are all the rage, with technology companies boasting about which phones offer the widest selection. Have they replaced text messaging campaigns for marketers?


Azita Arvani
Founder and principal, Arvani Group
More than 20 years of mobile experience

Yes. In the US and most of the world's developed countries, three developments have created a perfect storm for the answer to be "Yes, they have." We no longer have to settle for the least common denominator of text campaigns.

The first is the mercurial rise of smartphones. Worldwide sales of mobile phones have been flat in the last two years, while smartphone growth was in double digits, 23.8% from 2008 to 2009 alone. This growth resulted in the greater popularity of mobile apps among consumers. In turn, that provides a growing installed base for marketers to target.

The second is the death of push marketing. Consumers don't want to be sold. Hard marketing and promotional tactics are less effective. Instead, those tactics are being replaced by more interactive and engaging experiences. Marketers take a much lighter hand in these dialogues with their potential customers and let the community of users adopt the product or the lifestyle on its own. Mobile apps are the perfect vehicle for creating these interactive experiences with consumers. In contrast, it is harder to create engaging interactive experiences with text campaigns alone. Hence they are mostly used in push marketing initiatives.

A third and final development is "dream customers." Smartphone and mobile app users are generally more affluent and have a higher capacity to buy. By developing mobile apps on smartphones, marketers are targeting customers with deeper pockets than those that only have text capability on their phones. l

Jay Emmet
GM, Open Market
More than 13 years of experience in mobile marketing

No. Mobile applications are immensely popular among consumers and marketers alike, representing an impressive $4.2 billion market in 2009, according to Gartner. For marketers, apps offer an opportunity to provide useful information and create engaging branded environments for consumers. However, mobile apps are best used as an extension of text campaigns. They will not replace SMS programs.

Today, text messaging is ubiquitous and available to more than 90% of US mobile subscribers, offering far greater reach than any other communication method. Reach is a key concern for marketers looking to gain the greatest ROI from their campaigns, and smartphone-only mobile apps can be limiting.

Also, enterprises, brands and retailers have recognized the value of SMS in marketing and communicating to their customers. SMS is direct and can provide a flexible solution for marketers whether they want to send a coupon, an alert or other service. Text campaigns will continue to evolve and include advanced mobile technologies, such as MMS, location-based services and more. This will open the door for even more creative and engaging mobile initiatives.

Most importantly, marketers should create programs that are relevant and specific to their marketing goals. They should take care to use the proper medium, avoiding trendier methods like apps if they are not appropriate for the target audience. Marketers should always keep in mind that just because you build something, that doesn't mean consumers will come.


Smartphone apps are wildly popular, so much that Apple has designed entire marketing campaigns to them. However, for the most effective mobile effort, they're better used in conjunction with text campaigns and other marketing methods in a multichannel environment, rather than on their own.

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