For SMS marketing, the future is unclear, with marketers today divided on where exactly this highly personalized (and occasionally overly personal) approach to addressing customers will belong in the landscape.

As it stands, the future of SMS marketing has two main paths, and which one will win out (or where both can coexist) isn’t yet known:

First, traditional campaigns are becoming increasingly advanced through added statistical support from increasingly in-depth data.

Second, SMS chatbots are taking on a larger role in improving customer experience and generating leads.

Why SMS Marketing Works

For the first path, it’s important to note some of SMS’s strengths as a medium for marketing campaigns.

– SMS boasts an open rate of over 90%

-It’s minimalist—requiring no design elements and no ad space purchases

-And, perhaps most importantly, it’s perceived as highly personal 

But that last point can also be a problem. Since SMS messages arrive where personal texts from families and friends do, the medium is inherently is more personal than email marketing, print, or mobile ads. Add onto that the growing amount of data marketers have on hand to tailor messages to each subscribers and you can run into some issues with overly familiar, overly intrusive SMS marketing.

Where we should be careful with SMS

With this in mind, it’s crucial that SMS campaigns never make potential customers feel as though their privacy is being invaded, or that marketers are overstaying their welcome. And part of avoiding issues with overstepping the bounds of personalization starts with adhering to the appropriate rules and regulations, including.

-Keeping opt-in and opt-out records for at least 6 months

-Not directly advocating the use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs

-Only contacting people between 8am-9pm their local time.

But this highly personal channel and its extensive personalization capabilities can also be used for good.

The Future Of SMS Marketing

Leveraging AI and Machine Learning, marketers can target subscribers based on their purchasing habits. So, if a customer typically buys a coffee between 8-10am between Monday-Thursday, but doesn’t typically buy on Fridays, you can use location data and purchasing habits to incentivize them to stop by your coffee shop while they’re walking through your neighbourhood at 8:30 AM on a Friday.

Down the other path, SMS chatbots could potentially create a very different future for SMS. These bots are set to dramatically improve customer service, and customer experiences in stores and environments. A great example is from Kik founder and CEO Ted Livingston, where he imagines being at a sporting event and instead of downloading an app, signing up, adding payment info, browsing the info, ordering, and confirming the order you could simply text the stadium instead. The stadium chatbot would then communicate with the customer over SMS to seamlessly get their order and seat info—making the whole process as easy as sending a text.

And that’s just the start of possible SMS chatbot applications. There are endless opportunities to use SMS for easy information retrieval—including allowing users to text for more information on an ad they’ve seen, or letting them sign up via SMS to receive discounts, or employing SMS codes to collect leads for SMS drip campaigns.

For both data-driven personalization on SMS campaigns and increasingly employment of chatbots, marketers have an immense opportunity with SMS as channel. Whether campaigns or chatbots will win out—or whether both will find a place in the landscape—only time will tell. Whatever comes, respecting the personal nature of SMS, following current rules and regulations, and ensuring optimal customer experience will be key for marketers looking to master this medium.

Marketing is always difficult, and mastering techniques takes a lot of time and practice. Don’t be left in the dark, download our Consumer Expectations guide:

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