SMS is the New Email

We’ve seen the way people prefer to communicate shift drastically as more and more consumers shift away from email to texting. From a business perspective, it’s essential to follow these shifts and adapt to current trends to reach your desired audience.  

But sending your customers and prospects a text isn’t as simple as it sounds. Text messages, like email, are often filtered, flagged, and sometimes even blocked if they don’t meet specific criteria. That’s why it’s critical to implement a thoughtful, conversational, SMS strategy. 

We’re here to walk you through the process and make sure you don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Here are some quick tips:  

  • Don’t Let (Email) History Repeat Itself
  • Understand How Spam Changed Email Forever
  • Break Through the Noise With SMS
  • Go With Two-Way Over Push

Don’t Let (Email) History Repeat Itself 

Although email has been used since the 1970s, it wasn’t popularized until the 1990s due in part to a few different factors: adequate internet speeds, trust, and enough people “buying in” to the idea that email was more convenient and useful than phone calls. But sure enough, people started seeing the value in getting things in writing and having convenient, digital ways to keep their correspondence organized. Some of the things that cemented email as an essential service were:   

  • Microsoft’s launch of Outlook in 1993  
  • The rise of popular webmail services (like Hotmail and Yahoo) in 1996-1997 
  • Hollywood hype with the 1998 romantic comedy You’ve Got Mail (which serves as a frustrating example of email limitations in the 90s)  
  • The rise of social media and online shopping in the early 2000s  

The early 2000s is also when most businesses made the full transition to email. The benefits were clear—emails were more reliable and less expensive than traditional printed mailers—and they could reach the audience in less time. But questions started to arise from this new convenience: what was the right frequency needed to communicate? How personalized should these emails be? And what time of day should they be sent?  

Some companies did things the right way… but others did not. That’s when a new word started popping up in email inboxes: spam.

 

Understand How Spam Changed Email Forever 

 In 2005, ExactTarget reported that emails sent to people had an open rate as high as 42.1 percent with a click-through rate of 6.8 percent (ExactTarget). Compare that to 2019’s average open rate of 21.33 percent and average click-through rate of 2.62 percent (Mailchimp).  

So, what happened? Why were early 2000s numbers so good, and why is it a struggle to reach your audience by email today? Here are the most significant reasons:  

  • The number of emails people received drastically increased  
  • Increased cybersecurity and the addition of the “junk” folder blocked emails  
  • Email became mobile in 2007 and could be accessed at any time 
  • With the rise in email popularity, businesses had to compete with global enterprises as well as local companies 
  • The introduction of new rules and regulations including CAN-SPAM and GDPR compliance 

The ability to access email at all times caused a shift in behavior. The regular consumer was no longer willing to tolerate 12+ emails from businesses. Naturally, unsubscribes increased steadily in the mid-2000s, making it even harder for businesses to reach the audiences they experienced great results with only five years prior.  

TL;DR With open rates steadily decreasing, reaching your audience is becoming a much more difficult task.  This is where SMS enters the picture. 

Break Through the Noise With SMS  

Even though cell phones made it easier to talk on the go, phone calls generally decreased in favor of text messaging. A major reason for this was an increase in unwanted calls and unknown callers. Couple that with the busy nature of our society (face it, people would rather be doing something else than taking your phone call) people became less likely to pick up a phone in favor of listening to a voice mail and calling back when necessary. Learn more about that shift in communication culture on our blog post on “Why Nobody Answers the Phone Anymore – Not Even My Mom”. To communicate with others, they turned to a less intrusive way, and more widely adopted way to communicate: texting.  

It became easier and the norm to reach someone via text, and the additions of emojis, GIFs, and memes made texting the most dynamic way to interact with someone. It’s often considered rude in this day in age to call someone before texting and is equated to someone walking into their living room without knocking on the front door first. Also, a phone call couldn’t feature a cameo consisting of a notorious movie character saying, “Get in the car, let’s go shopping,” but a text could.  

While many businesses have tested making the jump to texting in 2020, we’ve noticed that the texts are treated more as one-way push notifications or alerts, which don’t resonate with the platform’s two-way communicative nature. The messages are often robotic and don’t follow the conversational style of texting the way people text with their friends and family members. And just as the email service providers like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL began blocking emails, phone carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon are now doing the same to texts.

Go With Two-Way Over Push

Since 2020 was the year many companies tested SMS, 2021 should be the year they invest in SMS the right way. If you don’t text your audience yet, you need to. But more importantly, you need to do it conversationally so that your audience engages with your messaging rather than deletes it (or worse, blocks you).

As more brands adopt text messaging, the channel is going to continue to evolve. SMS will follow in the same footsteps of email—if you’re not careful. That’s why you should partner with a company that’s innovating ahead of that change. Drips can harmonize the way businesses speak with their audience, instead of talking at them. As the founders of Conversational Texting®, we recognize that leveraging SMS the right way is the best way to engage your audience at scale and drive them to meaningful outcomes.

Drips is a pioneer in Conversational Texting® technology. But more than that, we’re also up to date with the latest federal/state regulations around communicating with your audience (for example, check out our coverage of a 2019 law in Pennsylvania). Drips helps you create messages that reach your audience in a way that resonates with them and encourages them to take action. We make messaging conversational, humanized, and to whatever scale you need.