Do Consumers Want Retailer Texts?

Oct 30, 2013

As long as they can opt out, consumers appear at least open to receiving text-messaged ads from retailers, particularly when the ad includes a coupon to a nearby store.

According to a survey of 1,572 mobile users in eight countries conducted by Millward Brown Digital:

  • Sixty-eight percent of global respondents (66 percent U.S.) find SMS and push messages sent to them from a company to be valuable;
  • Fifty-nine percent of global respondents prefer SMS and push campaigns over other forms of mobile marketing, including video advertising, banner or standard display ads, and e-mail;
  • Eighty percent would share location data with brands in order to receive SMS or push messages.

The caveat: 88 percent said they want to be able to opt in to receive messages from a company to make sure they are relevant and targeted at them. The types of marketing messages respondents said they are willing to receive on a mobile device include:

  • SMS/text messages offering coupons or deals for a brand based on a consumer’s location (23 percent);
  • SMS/text messages offering coupons or deals for a brand (20 percent);
  • Push notifications with updates, coupons or deals relevant to an app (16 percent);
  • E-mail marketing messages (14 percent).

A new white paper from Textlocal, based in the U.K., similarly found that almost four million shoppers there were "keen to hear from retailers by text at least once per month." The survey found that 38 percent of consumers claimed discounts or promotions from a retailer were most relevant to receive as a text.

Both surveys mark a dramatic shift since a survey by Harris Interactive in May 2012 that found only 33 percent of mobile users who didn’t receive marketing texts were "somewhat interested" in receiving them. At the time, only four percent of the respondents received marketing text messages.

MBlox, the mobile messaging company that sponsored the Millward Brown Digital survey, said the findings should reverse the perception that mobile messaging is just another form of "interrupt marketing" and the feeling that if consumers are unwilling to click on a banner ad on a website, then they won’t open a text. They also believe marketers should downplay privacy and security concerns many believe are making consumers hesitant about sharing their location to receive such text offers.

"When consumers are telling you they want to, if not expect to, be contacted just by downloading an app, it would be foolish not to take advantage of that," said mBlox CEO Tom Cotney in a statement. "If you’re a marketer, why wouldn’t you engage people via the channel and methods they prefer?"

Do you agree with the study findings showing that consumers are open to receiving text-messaged ads? Is the appeal of localized mobile coupons enough to offset concerns around unsolicited ads?

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27 Comments on "Do Consumers Want Retailer Texts?"

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Dr. Stephen Needel

I’m betting the results are overstated – it’s the nature of most surveys like this. That said, if it is an opt-in process and someone wants it, why wouldn’t you give it to them?

Zel Bianco

Yes, text, especially when one opts in and the messages are relevant, is indeed a great opportunity for both marketers and the consumer/shopper. In fact, as has been the theme with many recent discussions on mobile technology, is the preferred method of communication by the younger crowd. Remember, e-mail is now considered very old hat by that group.

There seems to be no issue with location-based tactics as this again is the norm. If I can receive a bogo on items I will use and need on a regular basis and a text alerts me that I can take advantage of it by walking into the Walgreens I’m about to pass, it’s a good thing. Right?

Ryan Mathews

Um … let’s see … studies sponsored by mobile texting companies found people really like mobile texts …

I’d really have to see the methodologies of these studies before I’d be able to make a comment other than survey sponsors often get what they pay for.

Clearly, opt-in, is critical but there are a number of variables that need to be added to give a complete picture of consumer attitudes.

For example, how many of these messages do consumers want and what is the upper limit they are willing to opt-in for? What is the integrity of the lists, i.e., does opting-in to one program open the floodgates to others? What are the demographics (especially physical location) of the opt-iners?

Based on the smattering of quasi-data points in the article, all I can say for sure is there probably is a need for a broad-based, objective study by a company that doesn’t have a direct business interest in the outcome.

Jason Goldberg

For many consumers it comes down to a signal to noise issue. If you are getting dozens of non-relevant e-mails a day, e-mail doesn’t seem like the best vehicle to get a message you want to make sure you notice. So you may opt in to an SMS message for something you perceive is relevant/valuable. Unfortunately, what seems relevant today when you opt in, may not be as relevant a year from now, so the signal to noise cycle renews. This is the reason some savvy marketers have been able to get a great ROI out of SNAIL mail, now that the amount of “junk” mail in our physical mailboxes is way down.

Particularly in the US, a large percentage of smartphone users are still on plans that charge an incremental fee per SMS message, so there is an extra financial impediment to opting in for SMS.

And as of October 16, 2013 there are new stricter SMS Opt-In requirements in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Businesses now need prior unambiguous written consent to send a consumer a SMS marketing message. The “previous business relationship” exception no longer applies. Marketers who violate the TCPA can face up to a $1500/message fine.

Ron Margulis

I wish the studies went a bit deeper with the results and presented the findings by age group. It’s a huge understatement to say a 60-year-old is going to respond to text messaging campaigns differently than a teenager. The key is to determine the target audiences, segment them, develop messaging that “speaks to” and distributes the message in the way(s) they will be most receptive to them. Much, much easier written than done.

Bill Davis

Consumers are open to receiving text/SMS messages if they specifically give their permission. That being said, I am going to disagree that downloading an app in and of itself is an opt in for SMS or Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) messages. Unless the person specifically states they somewhere by checking a box, typing their signature in, etc. that they are open to receiving SMS, MMS and/or Rich Media Messaging (RMM), then this does not constitute an opt in.

This is like the early days of the Internet in the mid/late 90s where companies were learning they couldn’t just send people emails without their permission as it was considered spam. Fully expect some abuse of texting people early, but the companies that are in it for the long haul will abide by getting people’s explicit permission.

Chris Petersen, PhD.

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.” Mark Twain

Push messages from retailers is still relatively new and low volume. There will come a tipping point where too much, too frequent becomes “spam.”

Mark Twain hit the nail on the head. The key is what the consumer “values.” There must be perceived value from the retailer for the consumer to pay attention, or even opt in to receive them.

Mark Heckman

Like all things marketing, certainly there are shoppers that love SMS and using their cell phone to aid in their shopping. To the extent the content is relevant and compelling, that will continue to be the case. However, I find it hard to believe that SMS will thrive or be among the leading communication options in the next 5 years given advancements of technology and other more robust targeted media.

Ed Rosenbaum

Why would we not expect a study done by a mobile messaging company would tell us anything but people want to receive mobile messages? Another mission fulfilling survey?

Shep Hyken

Typically, a quick reaction from the typical consumer is, “I don’t want them (the retailer) texting me ads.” However, that seems to be changing. I advocate that if the consumer really loves the store, they will give permission to the store to communicate with them via text. The key is permission and the way the consumer is asked. Once permission is granted, the text messages need to deliver value, which can be in the form of mobile coupons and value added information.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.

What were the samples and methodologies of the two studies? 68% of consumers in the current study say they find text messages to be valuable in one study and the May 2012 found that “only” 33% were somewhat interested in receiving text messages. One conclusion was that there is a big difference in 2013 – really? Another conclusion is that consumers want text messages ads?

The way I read the report is consumers want coupons, not ads or messages. Without information on the methods and sample I can not comment on the authenticity of the results. However, I am not surprised that consumers like coupons.

Tim S
4 years 23 days ago

Must have a real VALUE on something I want, AND opt out must work quickly. With e-mail blasts it sometimes takes awhile for unsubscribe to work.

Anne Howe

The issue here is not about the technology but about the fact that shoppers are open to having deeper relationships with retailers they choose to shop on a frequent basis. The relationship needs to be flexible and relevant to that shopper’s value equation. For some it may be all about offers, for others it may be about newness, quality, special events or whatever.

The point of the relationship is that it is individual and follows the guide rails set by the consumer.

Many retailers are getting smarter about this by the minute. Those that master it will be leading-edge winners – regardless of the technology they use – because they will respond to what the shopper desires from them.

Nikki Baird

RSR has been doing some work on this (more coming soon), and we’re finding that consumers’ willingness to receive texts is directly related to how immediately relevant those texts are. So, almost everybody wants a text if their package is going to be delayed or there is something wrong with their order that requires immediate attention. Less so, but still popular is receiving text messages about offers as a shopper walks into a store (where they’ve opted in, of course), and then less popular is receiving general texts about offers, with no context – just basically spam, even if the offer is relevant.

And we found that there is more of a relationship between how “connected” the consumer is – how many mobile devices they own – than age.

So the message to retailers once again is to make sure they can be targeted and relevant, but they need to define relevancy with not just personalization decisions, but also time decisions and location decisions, if they want to be successful in reaching consumers.

Adrian Weidmann

The percentages reflected in the study were surprisingly high to me. The key insight that is often overlooked is that despite the overwhelmingly favorable response, 88% made it very clear that their openness was directly related to the relevancy and VALUE of the brand communication. Bring real value to my world and I will allow you into it! Brands need to understand and learn how value is defined by their customers and not their own definition of value.

Digitally empowered consumers are in control of who, what, when, where and why brands communicate with them through the channel(s) of their choice! When brands understand this dynamic and learn how to deliver relevant and valued content through all of those relevant channels, then consumers will allow a dialog to commence. Smart brands will learn and continually bring new and valued content to those customers and begin the ‘customer for life’ journey.

Ed Dunn
4 years 22 days ago

Push notification has a significant lower TCO than SMS/text messages and if there is just a 4% difference in favorability, then push notification should be pursued.

I believe consumers are open to receiving messages, but I do not believe consumers care whether the message is a push notification or SMS/text message.

Brian Numainville

In our just released 2013 U.S. Supermarket Experience Study, we asked if shoppers wanted to receive text messages on their mobile phone regarding “tonight’s dinner specials” and found that just 8% of those surveyed indicated they were very likely to sign up, 19% somewhat likely, and 73% not at all likely. Email registered at 27% very likely, ad social media at 16% very likely. While given that this is just one potential use and it relates to supermarkets, the numbers are not overwhelming for text messages in this case.

Robert DiPietro

Consumers like receiving relevant text based offers – especially when they can opt out at any time. It’s a good thing to pulse the consumer with an text offer, especially if it comes while you are in close proximity to the retailer. The question is whether consumers want the message and whether it drives action when they are not in proximity.

Lee Kent

I parrot much of what has been said in this dialogue. It’s all about the opt-in. But, let’s go this one further. Give me some choices on that opt-in. If I’m at the location, do I want to know deals, etc? If I’m not at the location, how often do I want texts from this retailer? Give me some choices and I’ll be happy receiving texts.

Ralph Jacobson

Even if the findings of this survey are discounted, we have found, for several years actually, that shoppers are more than willing to give personal information (including mobile phone numbers) to brands and retailers in order to receive relevant offers via text messages. If the frequency of texts is not annoying and the offers are tailored and compelling for the shopper, this is a very viable vehicle for marketing and promotions.

Larry Negrich

The results in these studies of consumer acceptance of text messages appear to be in line with a number of other studies I’ve read on the subject.

Mobile is a more personalized form of communication, be it in the form of push, SMS, in-app, etc. The mobile opt-in rules are actually very helpful in making this a more valuable engagement vehicle both for the retailer and the consumer as it establishes the rules of engagement.

An earlier poster stated the most important factor in mobile success: relevancy. The engagements (offers, coupons, contests, etc.) must be relevant to the individual. (A major failing of email) Retailers can’t treat mobile like another mass channel with variations of ads and coupons previously sent via email, snail mail, flyers or the consumer will simply text STOP and that channel and relationship will cease to exist for that retailer.

Matthew Keylock
Matthew Keylock
4 years 22 days ago

Text may be fine in some markets where it is a dominant channel. In other markets, consumers will be receptive while it is novel and if it can remain relevant and valued.

If marketers could start realizing that a 5% response rate means a 95% non-response then we might start overcoming the junk effect and abuse of channels we have seen in the past.

Mark Burr
4 years 22 days ago

Along with other commentators, I find the results simply not believable. Be honest, how many emails from retailers do you receive that you simply hit the delete key? Do you really think that consumers want that sort of noise hitting their phone?

Ask a question in a certain way, you can always get the answer you want. Sponsored consultant surveys are worth about as much as the paper they are written on and reading this one didn’t even involve the paper!

Kai Clarke

No. Lumping users across multiple countries to define a preference is not only poor statistical analysis, but faulty reasoning. What users want in the UK often has nothing to do with a user in Dallas, TX. Most people are not open to receiving unsolicited ads, and the personal privacy issues it raises becomes even more of an obstacle when considering the real benefit that any advertiser may want when associating with this type of marketing.

Alexander Rink
4 years 22 days ago

I would have to agree that the results of the study are probably overstated, but if the system is opt-in and not overly costly, I don’t see a reason that retailers would not want to at least try it. That said, as with any form of communication, they will want to assess feedback to ensure effectiveness and that it is not perceived as overly spammish by consumers.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
4 years 22 days ago

Slippery slope. Text messages can cost consumers money (they have limits). So now a person is not only being interrupted with an ad, but they are actually paying for it.

Retailers need to use all channels available, that is true, but not every channel should be treated the same. Retailers will need to find the right offers to offer using SMS/text. If they treat it like mass mailings of the past consumers will revolt in my opinion.

One thought. Offer people an opt in (invite only), but after not responding to two or possibly three text messages they are deleted from the list and have to request a new invite. Makes it exclusive and “hard to get.” People generally want what they can’t have.

Bryan Pearson

Our LoyaltyOne’s consumer privacy research showed that consumers want relevant offers and they want to be in control of what information gets sent to them and what channel is used. If consumers opt in to receive text messages from a retailer it would be prudent for the retailer to specify whether those messages would be triggered by their location/proximity to the store. A majority of consumers do not like the idea of being tracked without their consent.


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