Survey shows texting is vital for retailers marketing strategy in 2021

Popular non-essential retail shops are set to reopen in a few weeks, in line with rules for shoppers returning to the high-street easing on 12 April. For those without an online offering, this means welcoming back customers after months of uncertainty.

With retailers looking to increase their marketing efforts to ensure footfall meets their expectations, new research shows that screen time has increased by over 60% since the start of the pandemic. This comes as no surprise given the reduced options when it comes to face-to-face communication.

To help retailers attracting customers back after rules relax next month, SMS communications provider TextAnywhere surveyed more than 1,000 people about how they engaged with marketing messages, to understand how business owners can use text messaging within their communication strategy roadmap.

The research found more than three-quarters (76%) of Brits read every single SMS they received, while 1 in 5 (21%) admitted they only read messages from people they know. The remaining 3% said they didn’t read text messages at all.

However, these statistics do vary across age groups. The data showed, 25-34-year-olds were found to be the most likely to read every message they received (81.1%), while those 65+ needed a little more reassurance about who the text was coming from before proceeding to open. However, the top-level stats suggest that the average open rate of text messages in the UK is 96.95%.

Commenting on the results, Will Hoare, communications specialist at TextAnywhere, said: 

“The challenges for businesses throughout the pandemic have been unique to each industry and business. However, what is prevalent for retail businesses is the importance of communication during such unprecedented times. For many this has been key to retaining loyal customers as we hope to return to some form of normality in 2021.

“Maintaining a great level of customer communication has never been so pressing, as companies have already had to adapt both how and what they send to customers. The rise in SMS messaging, in particular, may be in part due to businesses trying to ‘cut through the noise’ and content saturation, preferring a method that has significantly higher open rates when compared to other channels such as email. However it’s vital that messaging is not interpreted as low quality or spammy and consequently, should be tailored to the individual as much as possible.”

As retailers will be debating how best to navigate the UK’s emergence from a third national lockdown, we’ve outlined three key takeaways for retail businesses wanting to get started or continue to optimise their communication strategy before they reopen. 

Use your customer's preferred communication channel

While the average open rate for an email in the UK is actually decreasing, currently standing at just 17.5%, this latest research suggests that the open rate for SMS is on the up – from 95% to almost 97%. 

Coupled with recent research that suggests 69% of consumers want to contact a business via SMS, and the fact that just 13% of small to medium-sized businesses are set up to use text messaging to communicate with customers, there’s a clear opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. Wherepossible, think mobile-first and prioritise technology that facilitates two-way SMS communications. 

Personalisation is key

Like most forms of marketing, the goal for any business is to ensure their messaging is as personalised and targeted to customers as possible and this needs to be evident when using SMS as a channel.

Customers need to know a brand has considered them as an individual and while a generic blast of messages to the masses can be effective, often the best conversations begin with carefully crafted copy that makes it clear that the text has been specifically written for them. This could be done by referencing a previous order, a follow-up to previous engagement with a newsletter or even an offer code bespoke to them to reflect brand loyalty. 

While more than 75% of recipients reported they open all text messages, given the additional boost from individuals who open messages from a known sender, it’s clear just how important the sender ID is, so ensuring this is clear to recipients is crucial. Tailoring the sender ID from a generic 11 digit unrecognised phone number to a brand’s name with accompanied messaging is an effective way to drive engagement. 

Identify your buyer’s persona and adapt to this

The demographics of your customers is bespoke to every business so it’s crucial that marketing teams have a really clear understanding of who these ‘brand personas’ are and how they engage with your own company as well as other brands. Once you have this information, use this insight to guide your communications strategy - this is something worth gathering over the next few weeks as lockdown begins to lift across the UK and attitudes start to once again shift. 

For example, evidence shows that the older demographic in the UK are becoming increasingly tech-savvy. 80% of individuals aged 55-64 reported they personally use a smartphone and during the first national lockdown, over-65s were shopping online twice as much when compared to 2019. 

Given that many businesses continue to communicate with older customers via channels such as voice and direct mail, both of which are often associated with higher costs and time delays, we’d recommend businesses reevaluate the channel preferences of their audiences – there may be some surprising changes. 

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