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Is it time to write an epitaph for SMS marketing?

18-July-2013
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Is it time to write an epitaph for SMS marketing?

In the ultra tech-savvy age of services such as Whats App and BBM, it is easy to forget the older Short Message Service (SMS) that once came to the rescue of almost every mobile user and hence, marketers.

However, the first hit that the SMS business received was when the Government introduced the DND (Do Not Disturb) service, wherein users could block out promotional calls from various sectors, including BFSI, real estate and education. It was later followed by a number of rules (major one being allowing only 100 messages a day), which further reduced the scope for marketers to reach out to their consumers.

With increasing smartphone penetration and data plans, SMS has not been the most convenient form of communication for users. So, does this imply that SMS marketing is on the wane in the country?

You have one new text message…
SMS marketing in India is a clear example of ‘too much of anything being harmful’. What began as the most convenient and crucial way of marketing, soon took the path of spam, due to which TRAI took to message caps. However, while this step managed to curtail advertisers, it did not kill the marketing medium, say experts.

“SMS marketing is not dead,” affirmed Vishwajeet Sukhija, Director – Innovations and Marketing, Mobilox Innovations. “Personally, I still feel it’s one of the better ways of engaging with your audience (provided you do it correctly), simply because of its simplicity, non-dependence on handset make and the internet,” he added.

According to experts, TRAI regulations cleared the SMS marketing segment. The barriers help marketers reach out only to the right niche, thus creating apt SMS campaigns.

“TRAI has not made a big difference,” said K Ramakrishnan, President, Marketing, Café Coffee Day. “The barriers just stopped spamming and helped marketers get in touch with the right people who want to improve customer service.”

Cafe Coffee Day runs the Cafe Moments programme, which heavily relies on SMS service. Also, SMS still forms an integral part of polls, contests and opinion creating process across television and radio.

Prior to the regulations, it was very easy for anybody to run a text message campaign at cheap rates. However, TRAI rules helped change that situation, explains Ravi Sundararajan, Chief Revenue Officer, SMS Gupshup. “The rules set up by TRAI in October reduced the marketers a little, however, SMS services are now costlier and thus, marketers use it effectively and for the right niche,” he pointed out.

How to send out the right ‘message’?
SMS marketing can be a disaster if not executed efficiently, leading to spamming and other such results which can prove suicidal for a brand. A few elements can help brands get not only their strategy right, but also help them create a strong form of communication.

Get permission: In case of chain stores or hotels, it very necessary that the brand takes the consumer’s permission through elements such as a feedback form.

Connect it to a higher marketing strategy: A banal text message with brand communication might not create any call for action. Thus, marketers should connect the message with some kind of a poll, contest, news or to their social page so as to create clicks.

Resort to regional traits: SMS marketing has now become all about the right niche and thus, marketers should track the demographic features of the niche and tailor the message accordingly. For instance, text in the local language can really help.

SMS marketing plays a very integral role in the C and D category towns, where even television penetration is weak. Creating awareness or call to action for brands through text messages can be very effective in these areas, which are prominently dominated by basic mobile handsets.

SMS marketing has moved on from its initial mass marketing nature due to the cleansing procedure by TRAI. While text message marketing might not be that visible in larger B2C campaigns, the marketing option is still running strong in niche brand communications, voting, polls and contests. With communication options such as social media, missed calls (for voting and polling) and voice-based OBD calls (for promotional messages) foot set strong, SMS marketing is not likely to take consumer’s preference for larger campaigns.
 

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