Universal coverage and unmatched open rates mean old-fashioned SMS can help dealers engage more effectively with a wider audience
Text messaging celebrated its 25th birthday at the end of 2017, and many people wondered if it would see many more. But rumours of its demise are wide of the mark. For marketers, SMS (short message service) texts remain a simple and cost-effective tool. For dealers, they can be especially potent.
In terms of personal communication, texting has been superceded by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, among others. People don’t receive many text messages anymore, but that means when they do they tend to take notice. Statistics show that a well-crafted, well-timed text message drives audience response in a way other marketing channels just can’t match.
For that reason, SMS is now the fastest growing marketing platform in the UK. By 2020, it’s estimated that 48.65 million consumers will have opted in to SMS business communications (automatically complying with GDPR stipulations).
That isn’t surprising. SMS open rates of over 90% put email to shame, and most text messages are read within three minutes of receipt. What’s more, the average response rate for a bulk SMS campaign is 32%, significantly above email at less than 23%.
Which is not to say that SMS can replace email, social media, or any other channel. But when used appropriately it is a highly effective and underused cog in a dealer’s marketing mix.
Simplicity is strength
SMS seems almost quaint compared to the sophistication of modern instant messaging. But simplicity is also its greatest strength.
Texts don’t require any specific app, and work with any level of data coverage. They reach phones that are smart, dumb, or anywhere in between. They’re cheap to send, and because consumers now rarely use SMS for general chat, a text message won’t get lost in the flood. In fact, SMS messages now feel special, which is why consumers tend to open them straight away.
That’s why your dentist reminds you of an upcoming appointment by text, or why your bank will notify you with an SMS if you’re nearing your overdraft limit. They know that the message will reach you, and that you’re likely to read it.
Consumers also like text messages. A text message is less likely to be spam than an email, and companies are working on reducing spam SMS even further. Many customers prefer a text message to a more intrusive phone call.
That said, be careful not to overdo it. Bombarding shoppers with text messages is both annoying and counterproductive—and in many places, SMS marketing need to meet certain legal requirements. Even if not mandated by law in your jurisdiction, it’s a good idea to give consumers a convenient way to opt out of future messaging.
SMS works for dealers
Texting works particularly well for certain types of marketing communication. As luck would have it, these are exactly the sort of communications dealers need to be engaging in.
Like banks and dentists, dealers who send reminders of upcoming appointments by text (for a test drive or service, for example) reduce the number of no-shows while also providing a useful customer service. Capturing phone numbers by promising to remind customers of important dates also helps create an SMS database.
Text messages can be used to nudge interested buyers towards a sale. After a test drive, an automated text offering customers a £100 discount if they buy within a certain length of time can give waverers the final inducement they need. Keywords and shortcodes in printed media and advertising—”text CARDEALS to 123456 for our latest offers”—can nurture interest and encourage opt-ins.
SMS can also be used to share useful tidbits of information, linking to more complete content and driving visits to your website. It can capture passing traffic, letting casual browers—and even just people who happen to be passing your showroom—text a stock number to receive vehicle specifications.
Finally, SMS is a quick and efficient way of soliciting the kind of customer feedback that can improve your service and, in the long run, increase sales. Ask your contacts to answer a series of short customer service questions and encourage participation with the promise of a money off voucher.
Easy and effective
None of this is difficult and there are plenty of low-cost tools on the market to help dealers create opt-in lists, send messages, and track results.
They are worth investigating. SMS gives dealers a real opportunity to engage their audience in an effective and efficient way, sending useful information or tempting offers that will reach any mobile phone and most likely be opened and read. And it is one digital marketing channel that many competitors—blinded by social media and messenger apps—choose to ignore.