Email vs. Direct mail vs. SMS: which will work best for your customer engagement strategy?

Topic: SME
SMS beats OTT

SMS is one of the most popular and engaging ways for businesses to interact with customers. Here’s how it stacks up against the competition and some great ways to get more from the humble text.

It’s essential that every business finds the right way to communicate with their audience. A lot depends on the demographic with which you are trying to connect – a 2015 survey found that over 65% of over 65s welcomed postal communication, compared to less than 30% of 18-34 year olds. The trend reverses on social media, as you might expect, with 89% of 18-24 year olds using Facebook Messenger, compared to 35% of 75+ year olds (source).

Some of this gap comes down to smartphone adoption; while 95% of UK households own a mobile phone (source), whether this device is a smartphone or not depends on your age. 96% of 16-24 year olds have a smartphone, compared to 47% of 55-64 year olds (source).

If your customer base varies in age, and you’re looking for a catch-all communications solution, then, your best option could well be SMS. It’s a bold claim – and here’s why we feel able to make it.

Email vs. Direct mail vs. SMS

KPIs Email (averages) Direct mail (averages) SMS (averages)
Message open rate 20.9% 75% 95%
User response time 2.5 days Up to 17 days 90 seconds
Link CTR 4.2% n/a 19%
Conversions* 3.26% 5.1% 32%
Messages received each month 1,216 20 178
Proportion that is spam 90% 57%** 1%

*Conversions are measured as someone taking the desired action: a sale, coupon use, form completion etc. The percentage is the proportion of people who clicked who converted, or received the direct mail and converted.
**We’ve defined unsolicited post as spam for the purposes of this comparison – but it’s worth noting that direct mail is not subject to the same regulations as email and SMS.

Data sources: OracleRemarkety | Adobe | EsendexDigital Doughnut | DMN | Compu-Mail | American Express | Royal Mail | Ofcom

What’s missing from this table is, of course, cost: email is virtually free, direct mail is relatively expensive, and text messages cost a few pence each. The material point is that if you want the best chance of catching your customer’s attention, whether that’s for alerts, reminders, promotions or to gather feedback, SMS should be integral to your multichannel strategy.

What can businesses do to make their existing SMS strategies even more engaging?

Know your customers’ rights under GDPR

If you’re contacting individuals with whom you have an active customer relationship (which you define yourself), you do not need an opt-in to send them text messages or emails; provide an opt-out if it’s a marketing message, and as long as you have completed a Legitimate Interests Assessment (more on that here), you should be compliant with the law. It’s different for prospects – for people who’ve never utilised your services, you need their consent to send them marketing messages. Realistically, no one would advocate sending bulk messages to people who’ve not expressed an interest in hearing from you – GDPR simply means you can’t. 

Make it personal

Most SMS portals now make it easy for businesses to create a more tailored and personal feel for their messages. Simple details like using a customer’s name can make a massive difference in engagement rates. In fact, a study showed that 79% of consumers would only engage with a business if their content was personalised (source).

Have a clear call to action

Customers expect to understand what your message is all about straight away. Failing to do this will only mean the delete button gets hit sooner. Every message should have a clear instruction at the start of the message which tells audiences what the message is about, what to do next and how to do it.

Timing is key
You don’t want to miss the mark when it comes to the timing of your message. Many messages will be triggered by an action – the completion of a service provided for example – but if you’re sending out a bulk message, according to our research, customers don’t respond so well to messages sent on a Monday, or at weekend either. Sending bulk communications between Tuesday and Friday between 9am and 12pm may yield the best results. 

Like to know more?

If you’re interested to know more about how your business can use SMS to increase engagement with your audience please get in contact with our team today on 0345 356 5758 or email us at [email protected].

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