You may be forgiven for thinking mobile marketing is all about adverts on web pages seen on a mobile device or in-app advertising or sponsorship. For those of us who’ve been in the game for longer than we care to remember, SMS started the whole mobile marketing sector off back in 1999 yet it is often overlooked for newer ways to use mobile (i.e. mobile adverts) or for older formats (email, print, TV).
But it isn’t quite dead yet. I still use it – although not nearly as much as I used to. My sister is an avid texter and my nieces are still at it. However, for the first time, there has been a downturn in text messaging in the UK.
The main culprits for the downturn is the rise of messaging services like WhatsApp. It makes sense. As we find other, cheaper, more convenient ways to chat to each other, SMS services will get replaced. Why pay for SMS when you can have WhatsApp for free and you’re paying for mobile data anyway? I suspect Facebook messenger and email also have a part to play in this picture.
Let’s look at this growth with a bit of historical context… According to the Mobile Data Association (and they got their figures direct from the network operators), annual consumer usage 1999-2009 was as follows:
1999 - 1 billion; 2000 - 6.2 billion; 2001 - 12.2 billion; 2002 - 16.8 billion; 2003 - 20.5 billion; 2004 - 26 billion; 2005 - 32 billion; 2006 - 41 billion; 2007 - 56.9 billion; 2008 - 78.9 billion; 2009 96.8 billion
As you can see from the graph, SMS was still growing, year-on-year, at a healthy pace in 2010 and 2011. And even though there has been a drop-off, we’re still looking at about 120 billion SMS every year in the UK or thereabouts. That’s 4.5 times more than what we were using 10 years ago. That’s a lot of SMS.
So let’s not dismiss SMS quite yet. When you look at the annual figures, they’re still very healthy so I encourage you to think about SMS as part of your marcomms effort. After all, plenty of your customers are still using it and there may still be value in connecting with them via SMS – especially for customer service – another area often overlooked.
What is particularly exciting for us mobile marketers though, is how much activity is happening on mobile devices. Check out that email figure – 65% of us are accessing email on our smartphones. It really is huge. So if you haven’t ‘gone mobile’ yet, I really think it might be time for you to do so.
I was asked a few years ago what my advice would be to the first time mobile-marketer in terms of ‘going mobile’ and I said to make sure their email marketing was mobile friendly. I think the advice still stands. If you do nothing else in mobile, please make sure your email works on handsets – and test for lower end devices. Not everyone has the latest iPhone or Samsung Galaxy!