Is B2C SMS dead?
It’s a question that some companies and marketers are being forced to ask themselves while planning their marketing and communication strategies. They have depended on this powerful channel for years now. Their methods are tested and the approaches are ingrained into their communication strategies. Even the thought of making a drastic shift is daunting.
But the good news is that B2C SMS is still alive and relevant.
Whether it’s sending real-time updates about the delivery status, OTP, or announcing new deals and offers, businesses continue to use SMS to reach out to customers.
There are various reasons why SMS seems to work better than other messaging tools.
- Customers don’t have to download a separate app to receive or send messages. SMS is a default feature in every handset.
- You don’t need an internet connection to receive messages.
- SMS has a 98% open rate, and the messages are read within the first 90 seconds -something that’s unimaginable with other communication tools such as emails and push notifications.
Even customers seem to prefer receiving SMS from companies. 75% of customers are comfortable receiving SMS from companies. However, they want it to be opt-in messages, i.e., they should have opted for receiving messages.
Although it’s clear that SMS is still relevant and is likely to stay in the future, it’s true that companies cannot rely on it alone. Customer preferences are evolving and so is the messaging that companies need to send out. This is why companies need to find other ways to communicate with customers.
Why Is B2C SMS’ Position In Danger?
In India, companies were able to send bulk SMS to customers at just 1 paisa! The conditions are no different across the developing and developed world. No wonder, SMS was so popular with organizations. However, the side effect of this was that customers were bombarded with irrelevant and spam messages. Most regulatory authorities have tried to bring some order to this chaos. For instance, in India, the TRAI has intervened and introduced DLT, a blockchain technology that prevents SMS misuse. TRAI also increased the SMS costs by 25% to 30%.
Similarly, countries like the US, Europe, and Canada have laid down rules to protect customers’ privacy. In the US, companies have to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and CAN-SPAM Act to ensure that customers are not bothered by spam messages. These laws have also made it mandatory for companies to seek consent from customers before sending them messages.
While these rules are particularly for companies that send bulk spam messages, there are chances that the customer might miss the relevant messages. Recently, Indian customers failed to receive important messages such as OTP when telecom operators were implementing the new TRAI rules.
To avoid such unplanned disruptions and to ensure compliance, as well as to accommodate new types of messages, companies are looking for alternatives to SMS.
Some of these alternatives include:
- Instant messaging apps: Many companies have been using instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and Telegram to send messages to their customers. There are various benefits of using these apps. First, these apps are widely used by customers for daily communication. So, it’s unlikely that customers will miss the message. In fact, WhatsApp messages get 40% more responses than calls. Second, companies can send rich text messages with images, videos, and links to the customers. Most importantly, these messages are secure as they are end-to-end encrypted, and any unsolicited message can be blocked with just a single tap on the block option.
- Social media messengers: Facebook has over 9 billion monthly active users worldwide, and overall there are 4.48 billion social media users. That’s why most companies find social media to be a lucrative option to communicate with users. Some companies also fully leverage options such as Facebook messengers to have personalized, one-to-one communication with customers. Social media messengers can be more engaging and interactive than SMS by sending useful resources, attachments and answering queries in real-time.
- Web chatbots: Many companies are integrating chatbots with their website to communicate with customers in real-time. They can address customer queries and provide product information to customers. They can also be integrated with social media messengers to generate and convert leads into sales.
So, does that mean that SMS will be permanently replaced with the above alternatives?
SMS Is Still The King Of B2C Communication
Although new alternatives are emerging and businesses are looking for new ways to communicate with customers, SMS remains the undisputed king. According to Fortune Business Insights, enterprise SMS is poised to become a $64.24 billion market by 2028. SMS may have limitations such as character limits, restrictions in message richness, and lack of scope for customer engagement. It’s also difficult to stop receiving spam messages. However, SMS continues to revamp and be more compliant with local and international regulations to stay relevant. For example, companies can adopt SMS 2.0, i.e., Rich Communication Services that are similar to instant messengers to send images, videos, links, and rich text to customers. They can be branded, so customers can determine if it’s genuine. Similarly, companies can send messages in a pre-defined template suggested by the regulatory authorities to customers to stay compliant and avoid getting listed as spam. These small changes will help SMS communication to thrive in the future too. There’s no doubt that the king still occupies the messaging throne.