Texting may be built on basic technology, but its relevance as a marketing channel may just be starting to take root — especially where omnichannel strategy is concerned. As Internet Retailer points out, brands have recently found that text-based communications can drive repeat sales from loyal consumers.
Referred to as “chat commerce,” texting and social messaging are being used to sell everything from food to vinyl records. One company founded to drive this commerce, called ReplyYes, has used text-based communication to drive more than $1 million of sales of record albums, and is expanding to other commodities that enjoy a dedicated base of consumers — many of whom are collectors of the products.
Other similar services focus on interactions and communications through Facebook messenger and other social media interactions. Facebook even envisions a future in which artificial intelligence bots engage directly with consumers, fielding customer service queries and helping drive sales of various products.
Proponents cite the intimacy of texting versus other forms of marketing, as well as the relationship forged through two-way communication.
Balancing Optimism and Uncertainty
Early efforts to leverage texting for increased digital selling have been successful, in part because this form of marketing is unfamiliar to consumers. They aren’t jaded by repeated selling over this medium, which makes texting more engaging and interested to those consumers.
That presents a mix of good and bad for retailers. Texting could wield enormous potential, but it’s unclear how well it will age over time, especially as consumers get used to texting as a selling channel. And early pioneers haven’t demonstrated the full potential of chat marketing, which makes it hard to prescribe specific goals or measures of success.
Still, SMS should be explored as a potential selling tool, even if chat bot functionality isn’t advanced enough to provide any present-day value. Brands should seek strategies that incorporate texting into omnichannel selling — an alternative to push notifications delivered via mobile apps, for example, or another form of communicating with sales associates outside the confines of a brick-and-mortar store.
A sales associate could follow-up on a request for a product, for example, and text links to related or similar items to the interested consumer. Building a chat commerce strategy that leverages existing personalization measures can further increase the intimacy of that branded experience, building better user experiences in addition to sales.
The challenge for retailers will be similar to what they face when delivering email or in-app content: Finding a balance where consumers are engaged but not overwhelmed with content. But with such a new, fast-evolving channel, retailers will be faced with a period of trial-and-error.
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