Today, we’re announcing the results of a survey on mobile messaging in the enterprise that Message Systems commissioned Harris Poll to conduct. The survey has a focus on who is embracing mobile messaging, how they are using it, and what they are spending on it – presently and in the future. We moved forward with the assumption that most business were aware of the marketplace changes being driven by mobile, and that most were already adapting their marketing, engagement and customer service practices to address the new messaging environment. But to what extent? That is what we endeavored to find out in our mobile survey, and we’ve outlined five key takeaways from our survey below.

 

Survey Finding #1

At least eight in ten customer messaging decision-makers report that their company currently has or plans to adopt the following in the next year:

  • SMS text: 89 percent
  • Mobile-optimized email (responsive design): 89 percent
  • Mobile apps: 86 percent
  • MMS text: 86 percent
  • IM chat: 83 percent
  • Push notifications: 80 percent

Key takeaway: The move towards mobile

In our view, sizable majorities of marketers realize that the communication landscape is rapidly changing toward mobile channels, and they are acting accordingly to accommodate their mobile customers. Not surprisingly, text and mobile email – the longest established messaging types – are leading the way as channels for reaching mobile customers. At nearly 80% adoption, push notifications are not that far behind, however. We were a little surprised to see 89% of customer messaging decision-makers say their companies have adopted or are planning to adopt mobile optimized / responsive design for email. Our very unscientific personal experience is that the vast majority of commercial email today is still produced in standard HTML. But it’s great to see such a high number of these companies understanding that mobile optimization is a concern to be addressed. 

MessageSystems-Most-Popular-Enterprise-Mobile-Messaging-Types-Aug2014_600x315

 

Survey Finding #2

Ninety-one percent of customer messaging decision-makers report that their company currently supports, or plans to support in the next 12 months, time-sensitive reminders and notifications through mobile channels.

Key takeaway: Time-sensitive messaging (reminders and notifications) will be a key mobile tactic

In our view, we see this widespread intention to adopt time-sensitive notifications as a realization that mobile is a more time-sensitive environment than the desktop web. More so than with TV or the PC / laptop experience, timeliness and immediacy are key to the mobile experience. Marketers understand that getting information in front of customers at the most opportune time is critical, and they are embracing mobile messaging as the ideal channel through which to do so.

 

Survey Finding #3

Seventy-two percent of customer messaging decision-makers say that their company currently uses location-based mobile strategies or plans to use them in the next 12 months.

Key takeaway: Location, location, location

As with timeliness, our belief is that marketers understand that location adds an important dimension to communicating with customers on the go. Fewer customer messaging decision-makers say their companies are embracing location-based strategies than those embracing timely reminders and notifications, but the percent is still a strong majority. It should be noted that these customer messaging decision-makers were from a very wide range of customer-focused industries. Based on how it’s usually depicted in the media and analyst reports, location-based messaging would seem to always revolve around retail scenarios or service-oriented interactions, such as with banking. But even while the survey found variable and not necessarily large percentages from each industry (but rather collectively a large number) it’s clear nonetheless that customer messaging decision-makers from various industries such as publishing, media, telecommunications and e-businesses also perceive location-based messaging as potentially valuable for their businesses. 

 

Survey Finding #4

Large percentages of these marketers say their companies either are now or are planning to send messages to customers based on each of the following types of information:

  • Preferences (e.g., a customer has indicated, through a preference center, that she would like to receive snowfall prediction alerts from the local ski facility, but on weekends only. When snow is predicted for Saturday, send her a message on Friday.) – 78% currently plan to deploy; 50% currently do
  • Context (e.g., a repeat shopper could be offered a discount, or if inclement weather is predicted a store could promote umbrellas and raincoats) – 7% currently plan to deploy; 48% currently do
  • Location (e.g., when a shopper walks by a store location, send them a coupon for a limited-time offer available at that particular store only) – 73% currently plan to deploy; 47% currently do
  • Behavior (e.g., a shopper who abandons an online shopping cart could be sent an incentive offer) – 73% currently plan to deploy; 39% currently do

Key takeaway: New options for relevance

The marketers surveyed understand that they have many new techniques and possibilities for reaching customers, whether in retail situations, service situations or conditional situations, e.g., weather.

2014 Mobile Survey Finding 4

 

Survey Finding #5

Eighty percent of customer messaging decision-makers consider it a critical/high priority for their company’s mobility and engagement strategy to support a wider variety of mobile devices and platforms over the next 12 months, with 31% calling it a critical priority.

Key takeaway: Device compatibility is a major concern

Our takeaway is that the rapid pace of change in mobile is generating a high level of concern among these marketers that they could get left behind the curve, and potentially not be able to reach their customers as freely as they can today. Device vendors, OS platforms and messaging infrastructure providers would be wise to ensure that the mobile Internet continues to evolve as a standards-based environment. Vendors that can remove complexity from the mobile equation are likely to be at an advantage.

What’s Next?

Clearly, the changes to the customer communication landscape being driven by mobile technologies are top-of-mind for a healthy majority of the customer messaging decision-makers participating in the survey. It’s worth repeating some key finding from the Meeker Report we mentioned in the previous post on this survey: 25 percent of all global Internet traffic is now traveling over mobile devices, and most emails are now opened and read on mobile devices also. The odds are strong that these figures will continue to grow in the years ahead. The marketers we surveyed, in large part, indicate that they are adopting or plan to adopt the mobile messaging strategies that they will need to get out in front of these changes.  Overall, it’s Message Systems position that companies that don’t already have a mobile messaging plan in place today are likely find themselves playing catch-up at a later date.

Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Message Systems between April 23 to May 19, 2014 among 208 US full-time employees of companies with an annual revenue of $100M or more, who are employed at the director level or higher in key departments (administrative/executive, customer service, e-business/e-commerce, production/operations, IT, marketing, communications, or advertising), and have at least a major influence in decisions regarding their company’s mobile messaging efforts. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact mobilesurvey@messagesystems.com.

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My colleague Irina Doliov and I were fortunate to attend a seminar on push notifications earlier this month put on by Urban Airship, one of the leading providers of push notification / messaging services for mobile app developers. It was a highly informative look into the world of mobile app developers, and the central role that automated messaging is playing in the smartphone / tablet revolution.

Urban Airship CMO Brent Hieggelke discussed the most important practices for earning your way onto a consumer’s screen, and how to keep engaging once you’re there. We also heard from Chris Sweis of JunoWallet, who recounted how his company courted disaster when it had to disable push notifications for a short period of time due to server issues. And finally we heard from Scott Michaels from Atimi, which is a leading app development shop for leading consumer brands and sports franchises.

Coming from the world of email and mobile text messaging, it was fascinating to hear firsthand of the challenges companies face in mobile app development and push notifications. Some key takeaways:

  • Push is growing faster than any other messaging channel – by a lot. [Tweet This!]
  • The smartphone/tablet screen is now seen by major consumer brands as the most valuable real estate in the world. Not TV. [Tweet This!]
  • If it hasn’t happened already, it will soon become the case that consumers spend more time interacting with mobile apps than they do watching TV.
  • Push is essential to mobile app engagement. [Tweet This!]
  • Apps without push have only half the retention rate of those with push. [Tweet This!]
  • Apps with push have four times the engagement rate of those without. [Tweet This!] Chris from Juno related that when they had to turn off their push capability for a few months (they were running an in-house server that couldn’t scale) and the outage drove engagement rates into steep decline. Essentially, an app without notification capabilities just will not drive the kind of engagement rates you need to establish a successful app business.
  • The key engagement metrics for app developers are:
    • App downloads
    • Push opt in
    • Location opt in
    • When app developers get all three, it pretty much opens the Pandora’s box of marketing possibilities – location is a whole new world.
    • Apps have an average lifespan of 1 month. [Tweet This!]
    • Apple leads the way in the app business and everyone has to play by their rules: eg, no sales pitches in your notifications!
    • Google/Android tends to follow Apple’s lead within a 3 – 4 month lag time.
    • Apple Passbook is seen as the next evolution in the app / push world.

Maybe the most important point that I walked away with came from Scott from Atimi who said (paraphrasing): anyone who claims to know what’s going to happen with the apps/mobile business beyond 12 months is blowing smoke. Everything is just moving too fast to know with any certainty what’s coming down the pike.

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Permission marketing? We’ve all heard of it. This is the story of what happens when businesses decide it’s okay to bend those rules.

It’s also a warning that businesses are still liable for laws their third party vendor breaks.

A national pizza chain is being sued for 250 million for sending out more than 500,000 text messages to customers who did not opt into the service. These customers received up to 16 messages in a row in the middle of the night.  If found in breach, that’s a penalty of $500 to $1500 per text.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 mandates that businesses require opt-in permissions before texting customers. This calls to mind the CAN-SPAM Act that governs email marketing where opt-in/out options are also required.

Confused? While text messages are a powerful marketing tool and enjoy some of the highest open rates at over 90%, it’s really important to avoid being on the wrong side of the law when it comes to . How so? Ensure customers who receive promotional messages actually did opt in for the service. Equally important is providing them with an option to unsubscribe should they change their minds about receiving these messages.  For anyone still struggling to grasp the concept, Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing is a groundbreaking read.

Here’s another case, where the judge ruled that the provision of a mobile phone number was tantamount to an opt-in where promotional messages are concerned.

Marketers could also consider engaging message automation capabilities to reach out to customers via email or text only if a certain customer action triggers it. That ensures customer communications are both customized and personalized which goes a long way to enhancing customer service.

While a penalty of $250 million dollars makes a pretty deep dent in budgets, what is far worse is the loss of customer’s trust, goodwill and damage to brand reputation.

Now that’s a pretty steep price to pay.