Many say marketers’ mobile alerts aren’t useful or relevant

Jun 03, 2014

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from MarketingCharts, a Watershed Publishing publication providing up-to-to-minute data and research to marketers.

Sixty-six percent of respondents to a Hipcricket survey say they have received a text message or mobile alert from a brand in the last six months. However, only 45 percent found the message or alert to be useful. Primary complaints include the messages feeling "intrusive or spammy" (52 percent), not relevant to their interests (46 percent), and failing to offer any value (33 percent).

These appear to be common complaints not confined to mobile marketing.

Indeed, early this year, a study from Janrain and Blue Research found that almost all respondents claimed to have received information or promotions not relevant to them, including offers that:

  • Show the company doesn’t know who they are (71 percent);
  • Contain mixed information across different methods of communication (51 percent);
  • Include basic errors about the consumers’ identities (41 percent).

The same study indicated that more than nine in 10 respondents have developed an unfavorable attitude to the company or taken some kind of action to limit such messaging, including deleting the e-mail and unsubscribing from the messages. And in a new Science of Email 2014 report from HubSpot and Litmus, 58 percent of survey respondents reported reacting to an unwanted commercial email by unsubscribing, suggesting that relevant and useful content is a priority.

Returning to the survey by Hipcricket, a mobile ad company, the results indicate that motivating consumers to engage with brands on their mobile devices isn’t a pressing issue for marketers. While six in 10 respondents reported engaging with up to 10 brands a month across various mobile channels, the most popular of those channels were emails and newsletters, with 81 percent interacting with brands through them during the past six months. Beyond that, respondents also engaged with brands via mobile by liking them on Facebook (47 percent), opting in to receive text messages (47 percent), receiving push alerts (19 percent) and following them on Twitter (12 percent).

However, marketers looking to tease more data out of consumers to better personalize their mobile interactions should look to incentivize them with relevant coupons or offers, per the study, as 41 percent of respondents said they would share more information with companies via mobile in exchange for those benefits. The most common forms of data respondents are willing to share are location data (20 percent) and demographic data (19 percent).

Is the bar on personalized offers much higher around text messages than e-mail and other digital mediums? What types of marketing messages do you think work best with texting?

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20 Comments on "Many say marketers’ mobile alerts aren’t useful or relevant"

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Cathy Hotka

The industry is still struggling with this, in part because it would rather guess what customers want, rather than simply asking them. The other symptom of this is daily emails from retailers. (Gap, you know who you are.)

When retailers figure out personalization, they’ll make a lot more money. Involving the customer has got to be one step.

Zel Bianco

Yes. It is more personal. Texting is generally reserved for close friends and family only. Most marketing messages seem like intrusions, save for “your prescription is ready to be picked up at CVS” or “Your table is ready.”

Max Goldberg

Text messages are more immediate and intrusive than email, so marketers need to better target their messages. One message does not fit all. And if you are going to interrupt a consumer, a strong value added offer should be attached.

Marketers should:

  • Make sure the message is going to the right person
  • Keep the message brief
  • Make sure that the message fits the recipient
  • Has an immediate, strong value
  • Be judicious in the use of text messages

If marketers can engage with consumers rather than push messages to them, they will find consumers to be more receptive.

Bob Phibbs

“Nine in 10 respondents have developed an unfavorable attitude to the company…” I can’t imagine any TV ad, newspaper ad, newsletter or email would provoke such a response. The way forward with mobile is not as clear cut as many would hope it to be.

Saying more discount coupons would make it better continues to rely on 1950’s marketing practices. If and when mobile can deliver a personal, not algorithmic message, it holds great hope.

This study confirms that using a smartphone to GEO spam your customers has very high risks.

Joan Treistman

The consumer complaints seem to connect into one basic concept. I’m annoyed when marketers try to reach me on my personal devices with messages that aren’t relevant or relatable and could in fact be interpreted as spam.

I don’t think that suggests a high bar for personalized offers. It suggests the tried and true mantra for effective advertising: generate attention and involvement and convey a relevant message. Moreover it suggests that marketers aren’t paying enough attention to the behavior of their customers and prospects but more attention to digital marketing experts who close their sale pitch with “trust me.”

Adrian Weidmann

The bar should be higher for text messages than for e-mail because text messaging is a personal communication channel and should be highly respected. These statistics once again show that many marketers are simply “digitizing” old school, traditional analog marketing schemes, like coupons, that weren’t all that effective in their analog form. Why should it be a surprise that they aren’t that effective in the digital world?

Marketers need to stop believing that they can force their messages onto an unreceptive audience. The digitally empowered shopper has the power and control to let everyone know what brands are invasive and out of touch. Take the time to “know” who and what your intended audience is for every message. It may take more than one single message to resonate with everyone. The time spent crafting the correct message, to the correct audience, through the correct and relevant channel will pay wonderful dividends.

Gib Bassett

I think offers are just one dimension of SMS text messaging and marketers shouldn’t confine their thinking about text to an offer delivery channel, personalized, location-based or not. Instead, view the mobile channel as part of a broader engagement strategy where text messaging can facilitate personalized offer delivery.

The most successful use of text messaging is as an application or interaction channel where a consumer can look up a store location by submitting their zip code, transferring money from their checking account, or getting flight status updates. These other interactions are not focused on offers or coupons, and can help develop the consumer relationship and understanding to a point where a relevant and targeted offer will have value to the receiver. Otherwise, it just looks irrelevant, and possibly like unsolicited spam in the case where the text permission was received a long time in the past, and the offer comes out of the blue. Then the consumer replies with STOP and you’ve lost the opportunity to communicate via text.

Dan Raftery

Text message marketing should be off-limits for corporations, who really are not people, no matter what you hear from the legal profession, and shouldn’t try to act like us. Do we really want a Fedreal Do Not Text Registry?

Janet Dorenkott
Janet Dorenkott
3 years 3 months ago

The bar should definitely be higher for texting. Solicitations and offers via cell phone and text messages cost the recipient money. If I get a marketing call via cell, I am very annoyed. I rarely get texts from companies that are not solicited.

Most companies are smart enough to use apps like Groupon to push promotions. People using apps like Groupon or Coupon Shirpa are obviously opting in because they have downloaded, and sometimes even paid for the app. Unless an individual has specifically requested coupons via text messages, this is the only way a company should be distributing offers. Anything else is not only a personal invasion, but a personal cost to the consumer.

I can’t think of a single person who wouldn’t frown upon this. I’m surprised the results weren’t 100% annoyed. I’m guessing maybe some of the participants do opt in via apps and were confusing texts with the apps that are delivering the offers.

Li McClelland
Li McClelland
3 years 3 months ago

To everybody outside the marketing department, it looks like spam and it feels like spam and it is invasive and annoying. In addition to the already mentioned “your table/prescription is ready” I’d add “the service on your car is done and the invoice amount is XXX at pick up” and “tonight’s concert has been cancelled due to health issue of performer and tix will be refunded” as welcome texts. Update me about our existing relationship, but don’t hijack my mobile device to try to sell me stuff.

Lee Kent

At this stage of the mobile game, I would go out on a limb and say that the consumer still regards their text messaging as personal, one on one communication. NOT for marketing.

With that said, smart retailers will figure out how to put the texting at the store level to enable employees to communicate, add services, and add value to the consumer one to one. And that’s my 2 cents!

Larry Negrich

For text messaging to be effective and personalized, it requires integration to the loyalty system, which is hopefully populated with item-level sales history. That, an analytic system tied to the promotions system with a side order of a predictive solution (to derive next best offer or most likely offer for action for that individual), and a customer-edited profile will give the marketing team what they need to send personalized promotions via SMS.

It would be helpful if this solution is tied to a merchandise management system to guarantee stores have the promo item in stock.

The more common path is for the marketing team (or outsourced service) to accumulate mobile numbers by giving POP discounts and then using those “anonymous” mobile numbers as targets to receive a generic blast/message every Thursday afternoon with whatever promo the retailer is also running in their email, print, etc. Is it any wonder that the mobile channel isn’t meeting the expectations of the retailer or the consumer?

Kenneth Leung

Mobile text messages are very personal and intrusive and therefore, unless a message is timely and context sensitive, it will be viewed negatively. I rarely sign up for text message alert for retail deals because I don’t act on it in real time. I use it more in travel or event situation whereby time and location based information (your flight is delayed, here is your hotel confirmation) or maybe during a trip (in Las Vegas the Fashion Show Mall offers limited time text message promotions based on trip length.)

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
3 years 3 months ago

I’ve got to hand it to for practicing restraint regarding promotional text messaging. They text me updates about my orders and email me with recommendations on books. But that’s all. Although they know what I’ve ordered in the past, what I’ve looked at on their site, what’s on my wish list, and what’s “saved for later” in my shopping cart, they never text me about those items. I could be categorized as a target rich environment for promotional texting, but Amazon resists the temptation. I appreciate that.

gordon arnold
When a student of sales and marketing is learning about features and benefits, selling the need for information relevant to consumer needs and wants is hammered over and over to level of exhaustion. Throughout the internet coupons and free trials or free shipping is force fed relentlessly to the consumer with a result of low interest or low margin. By now you would think that there is no need to discuss the importance for relevant marketing messages, but here we are saying the same things to rooms full of marketers with no way of knowing what alternatives there are for messages that get better results. The evolution, acceptance and user participation of the internet is and will continue to expand for some time to come. The platform may change for security and content needs, but this will appear as growth and enhancements to the user. What is noticeable from a marketing perspective as a result of the internet with or without surveys, is the obsolesce of many go-to 20th century advertising media mainstays. Television news and weather programs, news papers and magazines have been dying of as fast as the dinosaurs did some 65 million years ago. I demonstrate this… Read more »
Ralph Jacobson

Texting is very personal. The challenge, of course is to make these messages welcome in the eyes of the one receiving them. So there is more of an opportunity to fail with your audience than with other, less intrusive channels. Conversely, if you succeed in conveying your brand value to your audience, then you most likely will have an even stronger bond via text, than with other methods.

Keep texts non-promotional…at least at first blush. Make them more about the social lifestyles of your audience. Find ways for your brand to integrate with those lifestyles. No one wants to hear how great your brand is. They do want to hear how your brand is organizing a great, free event for them to attend, however.

Shep Hyken

If a company has the personal cell phone number of the customer, they had better use it properly. Want to lose a customer? Abuse the information that they have on the customer. Overt marketing to something as personal as a customer’s cell phone will kill a relationship.

Regardless of the product or type of retailer, the key is:

1. Permission – The customer gives you the information (phone number)
2. Personalization – Promotions are appropriate for that particular customer
3. Timing and frequency – Balance: When and how often

Jeff Hall

The clear lesson from the Hipcricket survey, and others referenced, is that text-based marketing initiatives should absolutely be undertaken with care and restraint.

The immediacy, and perceived intrusiveness of text messages deserve a greater level of customer understanding, and unfortunately three-fourths of the time, this isn’t the case. By behaving badly with irrelevant and generic communications, brands risk permanently alienating their otherwise engaged customers. Today’s connected customers will then amplify their sentiment, creating a cascading negative impact.

Mark Price

I do not think that the early results suggest that the bar for text promotional offers are any higher than emails – the problem is that marketers are using the same, tired, spray-and-pray approaches that fail in email, in their text messages. And guess what? The offers that failed in email fail in text as well, and annoy consumers even more.

The best text messages, like the best email messages, are personalized. Location will be one of the most valuable elements to personalize on, since it captures the immediacy of customers very close to the point of purchase.

Kevin Fredrick
Kevin Fredrick
3 years 3 months ago

This is a great discussion. I find it fascinating that the concept of “reply” has not been mentioned. We have found that by making SMS notifications interactive, that they become more user-friendly and useful to the business. Imagine, for example, getting a notification of a new deposit, and being able to reply to the message and text with an agent who is replying through a web-chat client. What do you think?


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