SMS, or short message service, is an aging technology that still thrives as one of the most successful mobile marketing channels. It is immediate and has the instant attention of more than 70% of consumers who sign up to receive texts from businesses they favor.
However, the timing of marketers’ messages plays a crucial role in engagement rates. Vibes, a mobile engagement platform, cautions that retailers and advertisers who text customers at inopportune times or on the wrong days will likely go ignored.
According to Vibes Co-founder Alex Campbell, brands that rely on SMS marketing to maintain customer engagement often fail to realize that their scheduling cycle may dictate sales success or failure with each message volley they release.
Using SMS to have a direct one-on-one relationship is normally an excellent way for brands to reach out directly to shoppers during the chaos of the holidays to cut through the advertising clutter. Effective timing can affect how consumers digest those messages differently than marketing emails.
“Ninety-seven percent of all text messages are read within the first three minutes, so people read texts very differently than email and social channels. That reality is particularly true with major holiday shopping,” Campbell told the E-Commerce Times.
After completing last year’s Black Friday marketing analysis, Vibes noticed a drastic increase in the volume of SMS ads. However, recipients often did not open these messages immediately, making their success rate more comparable to marketing emails and dependent on timing.
That led to Vibes urging its marketing customers to alter their frequency and sending schedules to gain a more successful engagement result.
SMS Scheduling for Better Engagement
Ongoing research revealed the average person could get 30 text messages from brands on Black Friday and other holidays. Patterns emerged of optimum versus ineffective message delivery times that charted new ground from prior industry standards.
In years past, marketers decided that 10 a.m. local time is the ideal time to send a marketing text. Yet, when Vibes looked at engagement rates at 10 a.m., Campbell observed that they were much lower compared to other hours of the day.
According to Vibes, engagement rates are influenced by two key factors: the day of the week and the time of day. The data shows that people are most likely to read text messages almost instantly if they arrive at the right time. However, messages sent outside this optimal window risk going unread or being quickly deleted by consumers.
“The engagement rates in the afternoon were almost double the morning rates, which was interesting because we had not really seen that in the past. Another piece of advice is don’t send it at the top of the hour,” Campbell said.
He recommended that with the approach of Black Friday’s start of the 2023 year-end holiday shopping season on Nov. 24, marketers should start their texting campaigns in mid-month.
Vibes used artificial intelligence (AI) to facilitate finding optimum engagement patterns. The company’s AI model culls through marketing data on the fly to discover the best engagement schedule. Based on what AI sees, it recommends suggestions for the best days and hours.
According to Campbell, the AI model provides a score based on Vibe’s tracking data of its customer’s marketing efforts. So far, the prime engagement days are Saturday and Sunday after Black Friday and all of Cyber Week, which this year starts on Nov. 27.
“Our models tell us not to do anything during the week leading up to Thanksgiving, which we thought was really interesting. It is clear that shopping habits are very different at that time of year,” Campbell offered.
Text Marketing Works, When Done Right
The engagement factor with marketing by email is less productive for retailers, according to Campbell. Business email bulk rates tend to be more costly and frequently end up in the spam folder. Industry reports show that email marketing has a significantly lower open-and-read rate of between 20-30%.
Further analysis revealed that SMS messages have an open rate of 97% or 98%. That is the highest of any marketing channel. Studies also show that 90% of text recipients read them within three minutes.
“When I send a text message, somebody gets it. That is what makes this really different. If I send an advertising email out, I do not control when people read them. I actually have a brand control when the person sees my text message, which is a big deal,” he explained. “Text messaging is relatively spam-free and clean.”
It is worth pennies on dollars to send out properly targeted text messages. That is another lesson the AI models are showing, emphasized Campbell.
Leveraging AI for Time-Sensitive Marketing
The bottom line is not that letting AI control text marketing generates higher profits through more sales. Rather, it is the efficiency improvements and better engagement that result from what the AI models discover, noted Campbell.
For example, AI told Vibes that one of its marketing customers was sending 10 text messages a day to the retailer’s consumers all the time. The retailer was targeting new mothers. Vibes alerted the marketing department about delivery time optimization and recommended sending messages only between 7:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m.
“The retailer started doing it and saw the response increase double. Why? New moms put their kids to bed at that time and sat down to shop. So, what AI did was look at the data to find what you should be doing,” Campbell provided as an example of AI’s effectiveness.
Another discovery that AI has offered in marketing suggestions is a consumer preference for liking the word “save” over “sale” — and other language nuances, he added.
“We have seen success on that and shifting to time optimization. We see increases of 26% in engagement rates, which is huge. So, I see it working well,” said Campbell.
Real-Time Optimization of Text Marketing Tactics
The Vibes AI-driven platform is also helping its customers improve their content in marketing texts. It suggests strategy changes on how marketers develop their advertising campaigns and when to run them.
The software is not a one-time use and forget-it process. It runs all the time, analyzing customers’ marketing activity and engagements.
“AI can do that much more quickly because it looks at the engagement response and all those other non-human feely factors. It literally updates all the time. Every message sent feeds into the model to make the next move even better,” he concluded.