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President of Sinch Engage.
The ability to connect has never been more vital. Now, it’s imperative we look for new and creative ways to relate and engage with each other — and our customers. Technology can facilitate new ways to communicate from the tips of our fingers. From 5G connectivity to data-driven AI and rich messaging features, lightning-speed communication sits in our back pockets. This hyperconnected world creates exponential opportunities to communicate, but it also presents a new challenge: breaking through the noise of a crowded mobile landscape.
With mobile marketing, brands can reach customers in real time wherever they are. But this means that to capture attention, marketers need to work harder to stand out. Tactics that once worked, such as email, are no longer enough. In fact, our research found that almost half (40%) of respondents had 50 or more unread emails in their inbox. Meanwhile, only 4% said the same for mobile messages, proving their impact.
A paradigm shift in direct-to-consumer marketing is coming — and fast — to brands across the globe, disrupting our traditional ideas of marketing.
The iPhone era began over 10 years ago, changing mobile communication and messaging forever. Since then, the way we engage and digest information continues to evolve. Now, there is an appetite for more compelling methods to engage consumers in a way that truly resonates. I believe the next generation of SMS in mobile messaging is Rich Communication Services (RCS), which enriches two-way, interactive conversation with features such as rich media and dynamic video.
In my experience with this innovative evolution of SMS, there are three things brands must understand about RCS:
1. It’s already driving the mobile experience.
RCS enables marketers to target consumers in a direct and timely manner on their mobile devices through messaging tools that see billions of loyal users. And the technology is already available on several popular applications — a new normal for consumer communication. From WhatsApp to Google’s Android Messages, these apps utilize enriched messaging features that create a more dynamic experience while engaging consumers on a platform they are comfortable using. Most importantly, since RCS is native to the device and inherent in the carrier-supplied messaging application, it’s able to take advantage of tools and technology that already drive the modern customer experience.
Rich media raises the SMS experience to the next level by reaching consumers in the palm of their hands, anytime and anywhere, with content they value. The power of rich media, such as video, cannot be overstated, with its ability to immediately trigger emotion through sight and sound. Brands can harness this power in many ways. For example, an automotive manufacturer can create a demo video of the specific car its prospect is interested in — and customize it based on the color, model and features the prospect designated. Retailers can use a carousel tool to send a customer all the available options for any given product.
According to App Annie’s State of Mobile 2020, consumers are spending more time on their mobile devices, up 35% in the past three years alone. This is especially true for younger demographics like Gen Z, 60% of whom had a higher per-user engagement on mobile last year compared to older generations. Plus, 98% of Gen Z report owning a smartphone. App Annie also projects mobile ad spend will reach more than $240 billion in 2020, a 26% increase from 2019. As mobile use increases, so does the opportunity for brands to capitalize on mobile marketing.
2. Personalization is essential.
Today, it’s critical to deliver value and contextual relevance in what is communicated to consumers, and the key is personalization. The most effective way of gaining and retaining customers is offering a personalized conversation that thrives on data-backed, individualized content. Knowing what message matters most to your target audience is essential or you risk being put on “mobile mute” — a boundary that is hard to reverse once consumer trust is lost.
Brands have the opportunity to shape their rich media content using explicit and implicit data that’s readily available. Leveraging this data could be as simple as using the customer’s first name or pairing a complimentary item against the knowledge of a recent purchase. The ultimate goal of data-informed personalization is to engage with customers, including grabbing their attention by connecting to something familiar and then holding that attention by communicating what is relevant to them.
Hyper-personalization empowers consumers to feel more in control of the relationships they build with brands, especially with those they can trust to respect their preferences. Our research also found brands that build consumer trust outperform those that don’t prioritize it. Through conversational messaging, brands can inject personality as well as value into all customer interactions. When marketing acts more human, brands can create more natural, attention-grabbing and interactive engagements directly with customers. Thus, the end result of personalization is more leads, greater loyalty and lower churn.
3. Enriched messaging is here, but it’s just the beginning.
Brands must prioritize the future of messaging now as mobile use continues to climb. According to a recent report, desktop traffic has slowly decreased, down 3.3% since 2017, while traffic on mobile web has increased 30.6%. Simultaneously, the consumer attention span is shrinking, making it even more difficult for brands to break through the noise to effectively reach customers and produce results.
As consumers face more distractions on their mobile devices than ever, brands cannot afford to ignore the demand for personalized messaging, and instead should take advantage of the technologies leading the next generation of mobile marketing.
Recent events and industry updates are ushering RCS into the U.S. market, such as the formation of the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative. The acceleration of the mobile messaging market is moving full speed ahead and is projected to skyrocket from $10.5 billion in 2019 to $25 billion by 2024, more than doubling market opportunity.
Looking ahead, the winning brands won’t just settle for SMS but capitalize on innovations like RCS to rethink the customer journey and break through the noise.
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