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In today’s fast-paced world, we are always on the go and looking for ways to simplify our lives. As a frequent traveler, I can attest to the convenience of receiving real-time updates on my flights and hotel reservations through SMS and push notifications. These channels have become essential tools for businesses to engage with their customers in real time, providing valuable information and personalized experiences.

According to a survey by eMarketer, over 60% of consumers say they have opted into receiving push notifications from brands they like.

A friend of mine recently shared a success story about how she received a push notification from her hotel offering a discount on a spa treatment during her stay. This personalized message improved her experience at the hotel and encouraged her to book the spa treatment, increasing revenue for the business.

However, there are also potential downsides to consider. Customers may feel overwhelmed if they receive too many messages or if the messages are not relevant to their interests. Additionally, businesses must ensure they are compliant with regulations and protect customer privacy when using these channels.

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of connecting with customers through SMS and push notifications.

SMS

SMS, or Short Message Service, is a widely used communication channel that enables businesses to connect with customers via text messages. With billions of mobile phone users worldwide, SMS offers an unparalleled reach and immediacy that can help businesses drive engagement, sales and customer loyalty. However, to succeed with SMS marketing, businesses need to understand the nuances of this channel and follow best practices to ensure they deliver relevant, valuable, and personalized messages that resonate with their audience.

  • High open rates: SMS messages have an average open rate of 98%, which is significantly higher than email marketing. This means that the majority of your audience is likely to see your message, increasing the chances of conversion.
  • Immediate delivery: SMS messages are delivered instantly, making them a great way to share time-sensitive information like flash sales, limited-time offers, and event invitations.
  • High engagement: SMS messages have an average response rate of 45%, which is significantly higher than other marketing channels. This high engagement makes SMS a great way to communicate with customers and build loyalty.
  • Personalization: Personalization is a key advantage of SMS marketing. By using customer data, businesses can craft messages that speak directly to their audience’s interests and preferences. In fact, studies have shown that personalized SMS messages have a 209% higher response rate compared to generic messages.

CONS

  • Be mindful of character count: SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, so make sure your message is clear and concise. Avoid using slang or abbreviations that may be confusing to customers.
  • Opt-In requirement: Obtaining customer consent before sending SMS messages is essential, but it can be a barrier to reaching a wider audience. Offer value to customers and build trust over time to increase opt-ins.
  • Using SMS in combination with other marketing channels: Email and social media can amplify your message and reach a wider audience. Businesses can follow up with an SMS message to those who clicked on the email or engaged with the social media post, reminding them of the offer and encouraging them to take advantage of it before it expires.
  • SMS messages can be more expensive than push notifications, particularly for businesses with a large customer base. This is because SMS messages often incur a per-message fee, while push notifications are typically free.

Push Notifications

Push notifications have become a popular way for businesses to engage with their customers. These notifications are short messages that pop up on a user’s phone, even when they’re not actively using the app. With the ability to include rich media, such as images and videos, push notifications offer an effective way to grab your audience’s attention.

But how do push notifications work, and what are some benchmarks to keep in mind when using them for your business? Let’s take a closer look.

PROS

Instant communication: Push notifications provide real-time updates, ensuring that your target audience receives your message immediately, fostering instant engagement. (Example: Flash sales, limited-time offers, or breaking news.)

Enhanced user retention: Push notifications have been shown to increase 30-day app retention rates by 3-10 times. By re-engaging inactive users with personalized content or offers, marketers can improve the long-term success of their apps.

Geofencing and location-based marketing: Marketers can leverage location data to send contextually relevant push notifications. For instance, a retail store could send a promotional offer when a user is near their physical location, increasing the chances of a store visit.

A/B testing and optimization: Marketers can conduct A/B tests with different messaging, creatives, and timing to optimize push notifications for better engagement and conversion. Marketing automation software like Unica Deliver allow for easy experimentation and performance tracking.

CONS

User annoyance: Inappropriate or excessive push notifications can lead to a 71% uninstall rate (Leanplum). For example, if a news app sends too many notifications, users may get annoyed and uninstall the app.

Limited reach: Users must opt-in to receive push notifications, and the average opt-in rate is around 53%. This means almost half of the users may not receive your messages.

Platform restrictions: Some platforms, like iOS, have stricter rules for push notifications, limiting their use for promotional purposes. In addition, iOS users tend to have lower opt-in rates (41%) compared to Android users (91%) (Airship).

Message overload: With numerous apps sending push notifications, users may experience message fatigue, leading to decreased engagement and notification blindness.

Push Notifications and SMS: When to Use What?

Use Cases for SMS:

  • Sending time-sensitive information: SMS is great for delivering urgent messages that require immediate attention, such as flight cancellations or emergency alerts.
  • Sharing promotions and coupon codes: SMS is an effective channel for sharing limited-time offers and discount codes with customers.
  • Providing order tracking info: SMS can be used to provide customers with real-time updates on their order status, increasing transparency and customer satisfaction.
  • Sending appointment and billing reminders: SMS is a reliable way to send reminders for appointments or bill payments, reducing the risk of missed appointments or late payments.
  • Providing technical support: SMS can be used to provide customers with quick and convenient technical support, such as password resets or troubleshooting tips.
  • Collecting user feedback: SMS can be used to collect feedback from customers through surveys or polls, providing valuable insights for businesses.
  • Helping users take the next step: In a series of actions, like clicking a link to complete their online check-in, SMS can be used to guide customers through a series of steps, such as completing an online check-in or downloading a mobile app.

Use Cases for Push Notifications:

  • Sending real-time order updates: With services like meal delivery,push notifications are great for providing real-time updates on order status, such as when a meal is being prepared or is on its way.
  • Reducing abandoned carts: By reminding customers to come back and complete their purchase, push notifications can be used to remind customers about items left in their cart, encouraging them to complete their purchase.
  • Sharing company news updates: Depending upon the user’s content preferences, push notifications can be used to share company news and updates that are relevant to the user’s interests.
  • Alerting users about upcoming events: Push notifications can be used to remind users about upcoming events, such as a concert or a webinar.
  • Promoting new content: Like a just-published blog post or a free guide, push notifications can be used to promote new content or resources, increasing engagement and driving traffic to a website.
  • Adding value: Push notifications can be used to suggest products or services based on a user’s browsing history or purchase history, providing a personalized experience and creating buy-in.
  • Communicating service updates: Push notifications can be used to communicate service updates or alerts, such as weather updates or power outages in a specific area.
  • Sending discounts or limited-time offers: Push notifications can be used to share limited-time offers or discounts with customers, increasing the chances of a purchase.

Both SMS and push notifications offer unique advantages and challenges when it comes to connecting with customers. While SMS provides high open rates, immediate delivery, and a wide reach, push notifications offer cost-effective, engaging experiences with rich media support and geo-targeting capabilities.

With Unica Deliver and Unica Campaign, you can create, optimize and manage your campaigns across both channels seamlessly. With Unica Deliver and Unica Campaign, you’ll have access to advanced targeting, personalization, and analytics features, enabling you to reach the right audience with the right message, at the right time. By leveraging their capabilities, you can enhance your marketing strategy, boost customer engagement, and drive better results across both SMS and push notification channels.

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