New research and best practice guidelines from the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) highlight the importance and effectiveness of the ‘opt-in’ audience within SMS and MMS advertising.
The study found that whilst a fifth (21%) of consumers already opt-in to receive mobile messages from their mobile operator or brands, there are number of significant barriers to overcome before this type of marketing hits the mainstream – including perceived cost, lack of relevance and general awareness.
The IAB – the trade body for mobile and online advertising – and the DMA – the trade association for direct marketing – enlisted Brand Driver to investigate the attitudes towards SMS and MMS amongst some 1000 nationally representative UK respondents. In partnership with Orange, O2, Incentivated and Marks & Spencer they also tested the effectiveness of various mobile messaging techniques, and created guidelines to ensure marketers are using mobile messaging effectively, ethically and responsibly.
Consumer attitudes towards mobile messaging and opting-in
The research found consumers are already receptive to the idea of mobile messaging – with a fifth (21%) of consumers already opted-in to receiving SMS and/or MMS from brands and their own mobile networks. Three quarters of respondents stated they would be happy to opt-in to such services, given the right incentive, such as attractive offers, money off vouchers or priority service from a brand.
In addition, once opted-in, respondents were found to be 234% more positive about mobile messaging techniques, with a around quarter (24%) of opt-in mobile customers believing this is the best medium through which to receive relevant and personalised information about brands, products and services. The attitudinal survey also emphasised the immediacy of mobile communication, with 62% opening a text message from an organisation or brand (i.e. not a friend or family member) within just five minutes or receiving it.
The research also found that opt-in consumers were 122% more likely to view SMS and MMS as a timely form of advertising communication, 71% more likely to see mobile messaging as relevant and suitable to their personal tastes and 43% more likely to see the benefits of location-based brand messages on their mobile phone.
Effectiveness of SMS and MMS advertising
The research tested ads from Marks & Spencer – including their first MMS campaign – to identify how consumers respond to different types of mobile messaging, both SMS and MMS. The results show that in terms of awareness and recall, mobile messaging amongst opt-in consumers is a success – almost 100% of Marks & Spencer contacts on their CRM database recalled receiving the SMS and MMS messages.
However, the study found that consumers favour the richness and creativity of more sophisticated techniques, and responded more positively to the MMS format. Whilst both the SMS and MMS to opted in operator databases drove an increased awareness and recall of the brand, MMS recall rate amongst the opted in operator databases was over 3 times that of the SMS. The study also showed how well placed the operators are to provide a trusted place for advertisers to send their messages to new customers. Consumers trust of operators was second only to friends and family.
The 5 barriers to consumer opt-in and solutions
The study found 5 main barriers to getting consumers to opt-in to mobile messages from brands, which form the basis for a series of guidelines from the IAB and DMA to help advertisers and agencies engage further with the mobile audience.
Awareness. 32% of consumers did not know about this type of service, or the benefits associated. The IAB and DMA recommend promoting the offering using existing relationships and touchpoints, and welcoming consumers with an initial message once you have their details.
Perceived cost. This remains one of the most significant barriers to getting consumers to opt-in, with many believing that it will cost them money to receive messages from brands – 71% of respondents were wary of any costs that may be associated. It is essential that marketers are exceptionally clear in their communications with consumers of the costs associated with mobile messaging, which are often zero and should consider making responses also free.
Relevance. If consumers are to accept brand messages on their mobile devices, they remain adamant that these offers should be relevant and targeted – 71% saw unwanted messages from brands as a real barrier to opting-in. Brands have a real responsibility to let consumers know what kinds of messages they will be receiving, with a clear activation and retention programme.
Control. As always, consumers are keen to retain control over the mobile messages they receive from brands – 70% of respondents were concerned about having no control over what was sent to their phone, whilst 61% were worried about not be able to opt-out once having opted-in. Whilst reassuring consumers about the frequency of mobile messages is important, brands are required to adhere to the ‘Universal Stop’ policy, which makes unsubscribing easy.
Privacy. In line with digital communications in general, consumers are very conscious of sharing personal information – 64% of those surveyed did not want to opt-in to SMS or MMS because they thought they may have to share personal details. From the outset, brands need a clear communication to give consumers confidence that their privacy will be protected, and ask permission before sharing details with any third parties.
Mark Brill, chair of the DMA Mobile Marketing Council, said: “It’s hugely encouraging to see how responsive consumers can be to mobile marketing messages. However, the report also highlights the importance of both directly opting-in customers, along with the need to give them the right marketing incentives. Mobile is the most personal of channels and failing to get the right permissions or offers can be damaging to a brand. Best practice advocated by the DMA and the IAB can help marketers realise the untapped potential of both SMS and MMS.”