Mobile and E-mail – Marketing on the Move

In my “2010 Trends” column this January, I predicted that 2010 would be the year SMS (define) would go big or go home. I’m starting to see more marketers embrace SMS, typically in conjunction with their e-mail marketing program. So mid-year, I’d put money on SMS going big. I also think that e-mail will continue to be the most important communication vehicle to the mobile handset.

There are over 270 million mobile subscribers in the U.S., and 96 percent of phones are SMS compatible, making SMS ubiquitous – you can reach almost any consumer with text messaging. Let’s look at a few ways marketers are using SMS and e-mail together to reach the mobile consumer.

Mortgage Rates and ATM Receipts on the Go

If you are in the market for a mortgage, Wells Fargo will send you a daily rate alert on the channel you prefer as a customer – e-mail or SMS (preference captured through Web preference center). Wells Fargo Mortgage Rate Monitor uses e-mail as the primary subscription vehicle, but if customers want to also get mortgage rate alerts they can receive those as well (see the screenshot below). I think this type of customer choice for marketing will become more prevalent; allowing customers to choose the communication channel that best fits their lifestyle.

Wells Fargo also now sends ATM receipts by e-mail. If you’ve ever been to an Apple store, you know how cool it is to get a receipt via e-mail on your phone, often before you’ve left the store. Wells Fargo is now providing that same level of service to banking customers, the first for any bank. The beauty of e-mail for receipts, formatted for mobile, is that the customer gets instant notification (via e-mail on their smartphone). In this case, e-mail is the preferred channel since you can also keep a permanent archive, where as you really can’t with SMS.

SMS Inbound for List Growth

SMS can be a great channel for e-mail and mobile list acquisition.

When someone first floated the idea of capturing e-mail addresses using inbound SMS, I thought it was a dumb idea. I was wrong. Southwest Airlines has seen tremendous success in using a short code to capture an e-mail address for its Click ‘n Save e-mail program. Ads promoting this are everywhere, including on the boarding pass, in the terminal, and on jetway signage. Southwest is a business where the consumer is “naturally mobile” while consuming its product. While this tactic may not work for everyone, it can work well for others in the travel industry (hotels, casinos, online travel agents). It also shows promise for supermarkets and consumer packed goods manufacturers. Imagine you see a short code call to action in the aisle of your favorite grocery store. You then enter your e-mail address and get a bar-coded coupon sent to the e-mail on your smartphone.

Delivery Heads Up – Point of Service Differentiation

Do you have a home delivery or installation service? If so, send a text message when the delivery truck is within 30 minutes from your house. If there’s a delay, then notify them through SMS as well. Expedia and Orbitz have text messaged flight departure and delays for years. Now companies like Schwan’s and Comcast will start bringing the same level of service (at low cost via text messaging) to the home. Why SMS and not e-mail? SMS is less cluttered, and most people who get e-mail and text on their phone will have the text messaging set to audible alert and the e-mail on silent. So, for a time sensitive alert like an arrival time, marketers and consumers will chose SMS.

E-mail Dead? Then Text Them!

Often e-mail is the low-cost channel of choice for marketers. What happens when an e-mail goes dead? Some marketers use dynamic messaging on their website to notify consumers to update their e-mail address. Others, like AT&T, send a text message to get the update.

SMS and e-mail. Working better, together.

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