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By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com. Uploaded on: 01 June 2010.
SMS, the happy accident of mobile technology that turns 17 this year, shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, maintains Pieter Streicher, managing director of BulkSMS.com, if anything, SMS is going to accelerate its stellar trajectory thanks to increased business adoption.
Figures released recently by mobile maven Tomi Ahonen show that SMS is the most
widely used data application on the planet, with 53% of the total world’s
population and 78% of the world’s mobile phone users texting. Even in the USA,
which was famously late to the SMS game, more than two-thirds of Americans send
text messages. If you look at the number of users, SMS eclipses email by 2.6
times, despite email having been around for 39 years.
And all over the world, people increasingly prefer to send SMS messages than to
make voice calls. Back in 2007, JD Powers reported the first ever decrease in
number of voice calls had taken place in the UK while the number of text
messages continued to grow. In 2009 Lightspeed Research reported that 11% of
mobile phone users surveyed in the UK don’t initiate voice calls at all, but do
send texts. In the US this number is 13%.
There is a range of reasons for this shift, and Streicher argues that one of
them is that in this day and age of information overload, SMS is simply better
suited to the way we want to communicate, and be communicated with.
Unlike with landlines in previous generations, we aren’t as compelled to answer
a mobile phone and are happy to let a call go to voicemail, especially with
call volumes increasing. But voicemail is problematic – we don’t always pick
them up immediately, it’s not always convenient to take down phone numbers, and
sometimes details get garbled. Indeed, the younger generation often switch off
voicemail all together.
Compare this to SMS. It’s a simple matter to quickly skim text messages and it
can be done very discreetly. All the details are there and can be used
immediately or saved for future reference. A 160 Characters study showed that
we respond to text messages in five minutes, while we take up to 24 hours to
reply to email.
So it seems to make sense that if you are arranging a meet-up with a friend,
you’ll text her, the message will get to her even if she is otherwise occupied,
she’ll reply as soon as she is able to, and the message will get back to you
whether or not you are available at the same time. SMS makes this type of
asynchronous communication incredibly interactive and effective, even though it
is not strictly taking place in real time.
Increasingly we are seeing this type of asynchronous communication being
adopted by businesses. And it’s not only for marketing messages but for
day-to-day business communications to customers. This is demonstrated by
BulkSMS’s own traffic reports, which show an increase in single SMS messages
from companies rather than bulk send-outs. If you need to reach a client, you
could make multiple phone calls until you get hold of them, or you could send a
single SMS, to be read as soon as the customer is able to.
More and more people are refusing to answer calls that come up as a “private
number” because they have been the victims of too many unsolicited marketing
calls. But if your company uses a least cost router that doesn’t display an
outgoing number, your legitimate calls may also be ignored. Provided an SMS is
sent with clear details in the message identifying the sender, and provided
your company has a track record of using messaging responsibly, your message is
unlikely to be ignored.
In addition, the stats quoted in this article show very clearly that Jane and
Joe Soap prefer to communicate via SMS. So it’s madness to try to force them to
communicate with your company in a different way to their choosing, especially
if it’s a customer services issue.
And SMS isn’t just playing a role in customer-facing communication. The Mobile
Data Association, quoted by Ahonen, reports that UK executives receive as many
as 40 work-related text messages daily, and considers SMS to be their most
valuable time management tool.
Business communication is going to lag consumer behaviour. But modern managers
and businesses see the value and necessity of this type of communication – and
this will further drive the already rapid growth of SMS.