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  • Writer's pictureFreda Smit

SMS Marketing: Meeting Consumer Expectations in 2024

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Validity Research Shows Consumers are Ready for SMS Marketing - But Brands are Falling Short

Consumers are saying YES to SMS
Consumers are saying YES to SMS

A popular marketing mantra states: Meet customers where they are...and these days modern consumers are on their phones!


Research done by Validity recently showed that people check their phones, on average, 96 times a day! That means if you’re a company that uses SMS and WhatsApp to reach your audience you have 96 opportunities to excite and delight your target audience!


However, with great power comes great responsibility! Instant messaging is a high-risk, high-reward addition to the marketing mix that can deliver an experience that captures the hearts (and wallets) of your subscribers or could annoy them so much that they never buy from you again.


96 opportunities a day - make the most of instant messaging marketing!
96 opportunities a day - make the most of instant messaging marketing!

The truth is consumers like SMS marketing, with 19% of respondents in the Validity Report listing SMS as their preferred brand communication channel (ranked second only to email). However, some brands are falling short of consumer expectations causing 96% of people to add that they felt annoyed at least occasionally by SMS marketing and 59% saying they stopped buying from the brand for good.


While email and SMS marketing can complement each other beautifully, they are still distinct ways of communicating a message. What often happens is marketers of various backgrounds (mostly email marking) suddenly find themselves responsible for SMS as well and sometimes don’t understand what customers expect from this communication channel.


Where attention meets convenience


The perfect storm of an explosion of e-commerce, the adoption of a mobile-first mindset, and the ever-shrinking human attention span have created consumers who act differently from any we've seen before. These consumers are starting to favour SMS marketing, with email only barely getting the top spot.


Consumers are willing to engage with multiple brands over SMS and opt into an average of eight SMS programs from brands they follow. However, they have strong preferences for their texts, favouring practical messages such as shipping notifications. Success relies on a brand's ability to meet subscribers' expectations. Overall, SMS marketing has vast potential as a still-emerging channel.


SMS is not the next big thing!


SMS is already here, influencing purchase decisions all around the globe. When used properly, this type of messaging encourages long-term consumer engagement and spending. It keeps brands top of mind and reminds consumers about abandoned carts, promotions, and limited offers.


A great way to start is with a stellar welcome message. These messages contain information about the types of MSMs you can expect, how to unsubscribe, and whether there are any costs involved.


Given the highly personal nature of the SMS channel, consumers have firm standards for how and when they want to receive messages. This means marketers can’t simply rinse and repeat winning strategies from other channels (like email) and expect success with SMS.


The costs are higher, the character counts are smaller, and the risk of seeming intrusive is far greater than with any other channel.


It's crucial to ensure your SMS stands out positively amidst daily message bombardment
It's crucial to ensure your SMS stands out positively amidst daily message bombardment

Brands using SMS Marketing are falling short of consumers’ expectations


As mentioned previously, A staggering 96% of respondents to the Validity study reported feeling annoyed at least occasionally by text messages they received from brands with most citing “messaging too frequently” as their number one pet peeve.


On the other hand, 57% say they have intentionally waited for SMS messages hoping for incentives before making a purchase, only to go a long time without hearing from the brand. This often caused them to turn to a competitor.


It becomes clear that many brands are not equipped to walk the tightrope that is effective SMS marketing. Some do even more damage by going as far as using dubious ways to send their customers messages they never signed up for!

The consequences of these unmet expectations are hitting brands where it hurts most…their bottom lines. According to the Validity study:


  • 28% of consumers stopped buying from the brand

  • 52% of customers deleted further messages without reading them

  • 14% left a negative review


This means brands need to button up their approach to SMS Marketing quickly! So, how can marketers avoid the curse of unmet subscriber expectations? It’s all about figuring out how SMS complements messaging from other channels rather than thinking about it as a channel in its own right (it is not just another form of email marketing).


As SMS is a more personal channel, the social contract is slightly different. Marketers are strongly advised to use SMS less frequently and more tactically depending on their brand’s unique customer journey. Most marketers agree that SMS is best used for urgent, time-based communications and for transactional messages.


Annoying subscribers can hurt your bottom line!
Annoying subscribers can hurt your bottom line!

SMS allows marketers to contact subscribers at any moment…but should they?


While many consumers cite getting too many messages as their biggest problem with SMS marketing, other factors also lead to subscriber burnout. Texting at inappropriate times, like late at night, and not respecting opt-outs can be equally damaging to customer relationships.


SMS is one of the most personal ways to reach out to customers, and unlike messages on email or social media, it’s difficult for people to tune out messages sent straight to their phones.


To prevent subscriber burnout, SMS marketers should give their subscribers more control over the frequency of brand messages, especially during peak sales periods like Black Friday. Validity found that 97% of respondents would prefer to customize/control the frequency of messages from brands, and 81% say having this ability would increase their likelihood of doing business with a brand.


The success of an SMS campaign relies on how well marketers listen to their subscribers. Giving subscribers the power to say when and how often they’d like to receive messages can make the difference between an SMS program that moves the needle and one that drags down the revenue number.

Validity found the following results related to SMS frequency
Validity found the following results related to SMS frequency

What makes a winning SMS approach?


It's simple really:

  • Start from the ground up

  • Make it an opt-in experience

  • Use sign-up incentives to get those ever-guarded digits


Subscribers tend to protect their phone number more than their email address but are receptive to SMS marketing if it adds value to their lives. Financial incentives, like promotions and discounts, work well but even something as simple as shipping notifications can incentivise someone to sign up.

This highlights SMS's effectiveness in transactional communications, guiding marketers on where to focus
This highlights SMS's effectiveness in transactional communications, guiding marketers on where to focus


Who is most responsive to SMS?


As we’ve seen, opt-in incentives are critical for building a high-quality SMS list. But even the right opt-in perks won’t have the desired impact if brands aren’t targeting the right audience.


According to the Validity study, young, female consumers are most responsive to SMS

Marketing. Female respondents were 37% more likely than their male counterparts to sign up for messages to support their favourite brands.


Gen-Z respondents (born between 1997 – 2012) were 21% more likely than millennials (born between 1981 – 1996) to sign up for messages for the same reason.


SMS marketing should be an urgent priority for brands whose target audiences fall within these age ranges. And as SMS marketing becomes a more dominant force, marketers with audiences of all ages should keep a close eye on shifting audience preferences among older generations to see if they follow their younger cohorts.


No marketing channel is one-size-fits-all…SMS included
No marketing channel is one-size-fits-all…SMS included

What is consumers' number one concern?


When it comes to SMS marketing, people worry about their data privacy. They are concerned that handing over their number to strangers could pose a data risk and wish for greater transparency.


While many people are cautious about scams and companies selling their data, many also still say they sign up if the rewards outweigh the risks. So what kind of benefits incentivise consumers to allay their fears and sign up for SMS marketing?


Given today’s economic climate it comes as no surprise that discounts top the list of preferred rewards. However, consumers should not have to risk their privacy to save money! Marketers should make data privacy a priority in 2023.


It’s important for marketers to educate themselves on relevant data privacy laws and regulations, as well as to be transparent when asking consumers for personal data. They should be clear during sign-up about their intentions for using consumer data and ask subscribers for explicit consent before taking any action.


Validity reveals key incentives for consumer SMS sign-ups
Validity reveals key incentives for consumer SMS sign-ups

What should marketers do next?


It’s simple if marketers fall short of consumer expectations it can hurt their brand and bottom line but if they use it thoughtfully SMS can strengthen other marketing initiatives and help marketers meet consumers where they are in 2023.


So, what actionable steps can you take to improve your SMS marketing?

  1. Clean your lists: SMS messages cost more than email so don't text invalid numbers.

  2. Learn from the pros: V5 Digital, an African marketing agency, uses SMS to boost local and global brands and businesses. Take a look: Here

  3. Consumers want personalized experiences: Give it to them via SMS by using segmented data that you asked for via an opt-in process.

  4. State your intentions: Consumers feel comfortable sharing their data with brands that explicitly state what they will use it for.

  5. Determine the most effective use cases: Send different types of campaigns and see which ones perform the best.

  6. Prioritize consumer privacy: Adhere to privacy laws to build customer loyalty.

  7. Promote your SMS program: Promote your SMS program through email and social media to build awareness and get people signing up!


There’s a clear appetite for SMS marketing but if marketers aren’t meeting or exceeding consumers’ expectations, it won’t be long before the time and money spent implementing this channel go down the drain.


Boost Your Reach with V5 Digital's Expert SMS Marketing Solutions!
Boost Your Reach with V5 Digital's Expert SMS Marketing Solutions!

SMS Marketing is a powerful tool that you can use to connect with your customers in a more personal and effective way.


Does the prospect of increasing sales, improving customer engagement, and driving traffic, sounds exciting but the implementation and risks sound a little daunting?


V5 Digital is a certified SMS provider. Our Team of experts can help you:

  • Send bulk SMS messages

  • SMS Push notifications

  • USSD Codes

  • Segment audiences

  • Schedule texts

  • Idiate and run competitions

  • Analyse campaign performance

Get started by clicking the button below!


This article was written for www.validity.com and adapted for the V5 Digital audience.



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