Digital marketing is facing yet another disruption, this time at the hands of SMS. As text marketing technology has evolved, it's become increasingly accessible and affordable for every level of sender, giving marketers unprecedented access to their customers' attention.

It's hard to discount the power of the platform: Text marketing messages receive six times the engagement of email, and more than half of consumers check their phones five or more times per hour.

Text marketing's efficacy extends beyond marketing messages; employers are using it to communicate with their employees, too. And as AI improves effective messaging and analysis, better informing marketers about how users engage with and respond to their messages, campaigns are becoming more focused and successful.

In short, text marketing is becoming a popular marketing channel, and the industry has been building toward a productive and groundbreaking year in 2020 (and beyond).

Here are six things to keep in mind about the future of text marketing, including how senders and recipients alike will see their experience enhanced in the coming years.

1. MMS is the new SMS

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is becoming more popular as marketers embrace text as a platform. MMS allows senders to also share images and video, giving it immediate marketing appeal by allowing recipients to engage with content far beyond the capability of a text-only SMS message.

However, MMS will create pitfalls for marketers who don't remain mindful of their recipients' expectations. Right now, 86% of businesses report that texting receives higher engagement than email; but, if marketers start sending irrelevant content, that percentage could suffer and regulators could take notice.

By sharing images and videos that enhance the recipient's experience with a brand, MMS will make texting even more powerful and impactful.

2. Consent is (and will remain) key

As marketers ramp up their use of text marketing, they need to keep consent top of mind. Just as changing regulations and industry standards accompanied the growth of email over the course of more than a decade, text marketing is looking at a similar evolution. Senders should prepare now by engaging with their contacts in an appropriate manner, scheduling their messages at a reasonable cadence, and sending content their customers want to receive.

They also need to regularly ensure their contacts want to receive their messages. Marketers must respect the opt-in list and adopt double-opt-in as a best-practice. They must also keep in mind that their contacts' preferences may change over time.

In 2020, the practice of senders' checking in regularly with contacts—to ensure they still consent to receiving marketing messages—will continue.

3. Texting is also for internal communication

In 2020, businesses will find new ways of communicating with their own employees. By thinking of their employees as customers, businesses will begin thinking of new ways to communicate with them, and texting will become a clear option.

It's already a proven option for customer service outreach, and its ease of use and high engagement rate make it a natural candidate for managing everything from hiring updates to office closures.

Internal senders must obey many of the same rules as their marketing counterparts. And, if it's used correctly, texting will become a valuable resource for internal communication.

4. Text and email will continue to work together

Though text marketing dominates email with six times the engagement rate, marketers shouldn't assume all email campaigns can migrate to text.

Though texting is becoming increasingly sophisticated through embedded images with links and automatic text responses—so much so, that it may sometimes feel more powerful than email—but the two need to work in tandem.

Text marketing can enhance top-performing campaigns and replace poor-performing campaigns completely.

5. AI's role will increase in text marketing

AI is transforming many industries, and text marketing is no different. Although there are still many questions about its role, one thing is certain: AI in text marketing will not replace senders; rather, it will inform them, analyzing how recipients engage with messages and making recommendations to improve performance.

AI will pull data across all campaigns, initiatives, and messages, and provide suggestions ranging from wholesale recommendations on overall messaging strategy to allowing easy access to granular information.

It can also better identify disengagement, helping marketers avoid sending to contacts who may no longer be interested but haven't technically opted out. Though senders should get affirmation of consent fairly often from their contacts, AI can help identify the behaviors of customers who may have slipped through the cracks.

6. Optimize the customer experience

The customer experience is poised to vastly improve in 2020 as companies adopt text-to-landline, which allows for businesses to receive and respond to text messages directly from their landline number via an online platform. That software will also be powerful enough to support AI, which will be able to instantly respond to basic text requests for store hours and promotional information, replacing the need for chatbots and doing away with worries about the timing out of a chat session or the loss of an Internet connection.

* * *

All signs point to an explosion of innovation and adoption in the text marketing industry throughout the year as consumers take more control of how they receive information.

Whether you use texting as a marketing tool, for customer service, or as a means to communicate with employees, businesses using texting as a communication platform must keep in mind that messaging should be crafted specifically for the medium and recipient.

By keeping the end-user top of mind, the sender can deliver better images, links, videos, and promotions, keeping customers engaged and informed.

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Text Marketing: 2020's Digital Disruptor

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image of Matt Reid

Matt Reid is CMO of EZ Texting, where he oversees global marketing. He has 20+ years of marketing, strategy, and management experience at various technology companies.

LinkedIn: Matt Reid