While SMS is widely used by channels and radio stations, one untapped opportunity certainly lies for the retailers. The retailer may use it for announcing new schemes, or status of stock availability, among other things. For example, it may help the retailers if they use SMS to inform customers about new product launches, which may probably create more awareness than a full-fledged advertisement can.
In addition to this, facilitating interactive contests, communicating outstanding amounts as well as building relationships is also easily possible, thanks to SMS.
Talking of an interesting possibility, Harish Bijoor, CEO, Harish Bijoor Consultants, said, “Think of a format wherein before you enter a particular shopping complex, you get messages from various sellers and just need to weigh the options before entering the shop.”
Echoing the same thought, N D Badrinath, Director, Client Service, A C Nielsen, pointed out, “SMS is yet to be discovered by the local retailer advertisers, who may gain a lot from the medium. Moreover, with availability of superior technology like GPRS, they should grab the opportunity.”
However, there is one issue that seriously needs to be addressed – in the absence of clear cut legislation, the possibility of spamming through SMS can’t be ruled out. Experts agree on this.
According to Bijoor, “Local retailers must get sensitive and devise means of communicating with their customers only within a given radius around their outlets. This will bring sensitivity. There is a thin difference between sensitive SMS and SMS spam. There are technologies available that help do this.”
Meanwhile, Alok Kejriwal, Director, Mobile2win, termed the SMS spam as the push method, which according to him, was “being shunned by most respectable brand owners and also disallowed by telecom operators.”
In order to ensure that consumers are not disturbed, Bijoor suggested permission-based SMS marketing. However, according to Raj Singh, Executive Director, Active Media Technology, a company providing mobile solutions, “Mobile is an extremely personal space for many consumers. Companies have no right to intrude without the consent of the consumer. Regulation or laws are the best way to get companies to act responsibly. I feel something in this direction will definitely be a wake up call to otherwise reputable companies who indulge in unsolicited marketing.”
According to S P Shukla, President, Wireless Products and Services, Reliance Infocomm, “We do not send any SMS promoting or selling third party products to our subscribers. It is used only as a communication medium between Reliance and its subscribers.”
Jayant Khosla, CEO, Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd, (mobile division), Mumbai Circle, makes his point in this regard, “Airtel uses properly opted-in databases that pre-approve SMS communication. We are conscious of the difference between spamming and providing information. Spamming is unsolicited and unwanted information, whereas the message that we pass on have information that our subscribers would sure make use of. If we realise that our subscribers would be interested in a particular offer, we do flash it on their message boxes.”
Admitting the fact that a proper legislative framework in this regard was not in place yet, Bijoor said, “Service providers must be governed with strict rules not to sell databases for tele-marketing without using the permission marketing norms that are internationally accepted.”
Agreeing on the absence of a proper legislative framework, Singh said, “There really is no legislation in the area of mobile marketing. However, with court orders and increasing noise on the subject it can only be a matter of time before something comes into effect.”
The retailers surely need to look at the opportunities that lie, while industry bigwigs should direct their focus on setting up a proper legislative system that will protect customers’ interests.