First, let's consider the data showing the growth of mobile marketing - specifically commercial mobile messaging. Estimates put the number as high as 6.1 trillion text messages sent worldwide in 2010. Text messaging now is the preferred mode of mobile communication for many mobile subscribers. A study from Merkle showed that 18-29 year olds prefer to text rather than talk for their personal communications. With the widespread adoption of text messaging for communications, it would be a logical assumption that text messaging adoption for commercial messaging should follow. But more on that later.
Even though actual advertising dollars spent on the mobile medium still remain orders of magnitude less than the other advertising media, it remains the one having the highest growth rate. According to the DMA's Statistical Fact Book 2011 Edition, advertising dollars spent in the mobile medium grew at a whopping 63.4% over a four year period from 2006 to 2010. This was during the same time period when total advertising spend shrank by 2.5% due to dropping expenditures in the traditional media channels including direct mail (catalogs, newspaper, magazines, inserts, etc.), radio, and television. Even though social media marketing has been the darling of the press, reality is that advertising spent in this channel grew at less than a third the rate of that for mobile. The projected growth rates through 2014 for the two channels are expected to come closer together; but mobile is still expected to grow faster than social.
Now let's consider the data that indicates commercial mobile messaging still has a long way to go before it reaches the level of mass adoption. In the Merkle study I mentioned above, the same 18-29 year old age group that prefers to text rather than talk for their personal communications are absolutely loathe to accept it as the medium for commercial communications. Quite surprisingly, a definitive 74% of this age group surveyed use email as their preferred medium for receiving commercial messages.
Email is the preferred medium for commercial messages over SMS because of three important factors:
- There still remains a sizable population of mobile subscribers who are still paying for each text message while email is free,
- Unlike the ability to set up multiple email accounts, a person has only one mobile phone number.
- Mobile devices are highly personal. People jealously guard their SMS inbox more than they guard their email inbox.
Let's consider this latter point. Mobile devices are highly personal. People jealously guard their phone numbers from the marketers' clutches for fear of receiving spam messages that they perceive to be highly personal intrusions. For this reason successful commercial mobile messaging places an extremely high premium on trust. Only when people start trusting the integrity of the brand will SMS marketing reach mass adoption on the scale of email marketing, search, display advertising, and mobile apps.
Marketers having successful email programs are in a perfect position to have successful SMS campaigns. The hard-won foundation of trust established by the email program can now be built upon with the SMS marketing program. For this reason, if you are a marketer looking to pilot your SMS marketing programs, start with your email subscribers. Best of all, start with your "mobile responders," those that tend to read your emails on their mobile devices. These are people that are already engaging with your commercial messaging campaigns in a mobile context. The barrier of adoption for your SMS marketing campaigns is lowest with this group.