If 2013 was the year of the OTT mobile chat app, 2014 will be the year of the value-based SMS message, says Adrian Sarosi of OpenMarket.

One of the big mobile stories of 2013 was chat apps, such as recent Facebook acquisition WhatsApp, overtaking traditional person-to-person SMS for the first time. According to research firm Informa Telecoms & Media, consumers worldwide prefer chat apps to SMS: in 2012 nearly 19BN chat messages a day were sent, compared to 17.6BN text messages. Informa also predicted that consumers will send nearly 50BN messages daily using mobile chat apps by 2014, compared to just over 21BN traditional SMS messages.

SMS and MMS still rule OK
But for all of the much-charted progress of chat apps in 2013 – WhatsApp’s active user number currently stands at more than 450 million globally – SMS remains the only truly universal service that works instantly across all phones at any time, worldwide.

Consumers still prefer to receive communications from their favourite brands and companies via SMS and MMS: a 2013 survey by Millward Brown Digital found that consumers worldwide continue to welcome engagement with companies via mobile messaging. 68% of consumers receiving SMS or push messages find them valuable.  Furthermore, they’re willing to provide personal data – including location – in order to receive offers relevant to their interests and preferences on their mobile.

The research also showed that most consumers prefer SMS and push campaigns over other forms of mobile marketing – including video advertising, banners, standard display ads, and even email. This year, therefore, expect brands and enterprises to make more use of SMS as a tool for effective mobile engagement.

It’s all about ‘Small Data’
Importantly in 2014, mobile will no longer exist by itself in a silo. Smart marketers and agencies will begin to abandon one-off mobile marketing campaigns in favour of an ongoing, joined-up approach across multiple channels.  Different types of businesses will use SMS more and more to complement (and even replace) other modes of communications that enhance their interactions with their consumers – be they existing customers, new prospects, staff, or any other addressable audience.

As part of this expanded role for SMS, we’ll also see greater value attached to consumer data. Brands and agencies will take all consumer data from previous engagements – whether mobile or non-mobile – and properly analyse it internally for use in their next campaign.

Rather than “big data”, the emphasis now is on “small data” – that is, identifying the personal details and particular preferences of an individual end-user by scrutinising data taken from a variety of unconnected sources. Having picked out the preferences of single end-users, companies can then use mobile messaging to deliver relevant, timely and useful offers and information to each one on their mobile phone.

Quality over quantity
Previously, most brands have used SMS largely for basic high-volume broadcast advertising. Until now, they’ve been more interested in minimising their mobile spend than delivering value to their audience.

Expect this to change in 2014, when brands and organisations recognise and adopt SMS as an essential part of their ongoing customer relationship management process. Rather than get hung up on finding the best deal for the cheapest price per message, smart companies will recognise the significance of mobile messaging as an affordable, flexible and scalable resource. They’ll focus on incorporating business intelligence into their mobile strategy to create genuinely “valuable” mobile interactions with end users.

The rise of value-based messaging
These interactions will harness the familiarity, versatility and universal reach of SMS to deliver a broad range of new features and extra functions, for a broad range of industries and sectors.

Banks can use SMS for a two-step authentication login to a secure website; insurance companies, meanwhile, can remind customers about the expiration of a policy with a time-sensitive service renewal text message that also includes a renewal quote tailored to their personal circumstances. Similarly, bricks and mortar and online retailers can send customers timely alerts that keep them informed about their order: or target them with personalised, timely promotional offers and coupons based on their previous purchasing habits.

This year, companies who successfully use mobile messaging will be those who see past the individual unit cost of a message and understand and appreciate mobile as a mean to deliver extra value to their customer. Furthermore, they’ll avoid the temptation to use mobile just because they can: if the message is not relevant, timely and valuable to their audience, then they simply won’t send it.

It’ll be these companies that properly invest in mobile as an extension of their brand, and who’ll take full advantage of the extra functions, opportunities and value that SMS offers, both to end-users and the efficiency of their own business.

Adrian Sarosi HeadshotAdrian Sarosi is Director of Marketing and Business Development for EMEA at mobile engagement company OpenMarket. In this role, he works with customers to deliver strategies and solutions for better, more effective mobile engagement. Adrian has almost 20 years of experience helping companies in the UK, Europe and North America use technology to make their businesses run better.

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