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Text Message Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021

Text Message Marketing Trends to Watch in 2021

These ten text message marketing trends can help drive engagement and revenue growth for brands in an unprecedented 2021.

Back in April, the Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled, “Texting Customers Is No Longer Taboo When Everyone Is Stuck at Home.”

While we’d argue that texting for businesses was never taboo–just underutilized–like many online communication channels, COVID has accelerated its growth.

This means that 2021 promises to be an interesting year for text message marketing

Now that more businesses are texting, we can expect savvy marketers to tweak their strategies using automation, brand campaigns, and personalization.

We can also expect to see marketers–impressed by texting’s high engagement–to use it for other means such as customer retention and influencer marketing.

So while we can’t predict the future, we are confident that these are ten trends to watch:

Widespread Adoption of SMS

We touched upon this in the intro. But it’s worth stating again: SMS will continue to grow in popularity.

A new report from Forrester Research predicts consumers will get more texts in 2021 than ever before as brands try to develop more direct relationships with customers amid the pandemic and economic fallout.

This is also confirmed by our SMS marketing report for 2020 where over 60% of businesses we surveyed planned to increase their budget.

Circle graph outlining plans to increase or decrease text marketing budget

If you’re still not convinced, global spending on SMS marketing is set to grow from $57 billion in 2015 to $83 billion by 2024.

Integrating SMS With Other Channels

Omnichannel is set to move front and center as part of customer experience (CX) strategy in 2021. This broader trend will influence text marketing strategies too.

A lot of brands have traditionally approached SMS as a standalone direct marketing channel. They collect phone numbers––usually on their website––and then send one-off campaigns to these numbers.

Next year expect more brands to use the flexibility of SMS to integrate with other marketing channels. For example, we expect to see more:

SMS as a Customer Service Channel

All of our operators are busy. Please stay on the line for the next hour listening to elevator music, and we’ll accidentally disconnect your call just as you say hello to an agent.

If that sounds familiar then you’ll be glad to know that 2021 is the year more brands chat, text, and use social media messaging platforms. 

This has been a long time coming. Back in 2018 70% of people chose a ‘message us’ button over a ‘call us’ button on a company website or app.

Businesses will benefit too from the increased efficiency. Employees can handle multiple text conversations at once — but only one call at a time. 

It’s why large brands like Clinique are shifting their customer service strategy to focus on messaging.

💡 If you’re interested in learning more, this article covers the steps involved in setting up text-based customer service.

Automated Text Messages

Slowly but surely brands are realizing that they can apply their approach to email marketing to SMS. It’s why we expect to see more businesses take advantage of different text marketing automation strategies.

These automated text messages will come in the form of abandoned cart SMS, appointment confirmation texts, SMS renewal reminders, and more.

The end goal is not only to create less work for the sender but use SMS across the entire customer journey. Timely, personalized, and hyper-relevant texts are too powerful not to send.

The Use of SMS as a Brand Marketing Channel

Some brands, like cookware startup Equal Parts and furniture brand Burrow, see SMS as a brand marketing channel. More brands will follow their lead next year.

We’ll see businesses use texting to answer more complicated customer questions that require a human response.

The goal for these Text-an-Expert hotlines is to talk more frequently with both existing and potential customers. 

More SMS Personalization

According to SmarterHQ, 72% of consumers say they now only engage with marketing messages that are personalized and tailored to their interests.

So, today’s brands are expected to do more than shout sales pitches at their audience. They’re expected to forge a personal connection and to remember who the customer is, what they like, what they think, and what they want.

As a result, expect marketers to send more personalized text messages using subscribers’ data: time, age, country, gender, etc. for the sake of providing them with more valuable offers and news at the right time.

Adoption of B2B SMS

Over the last couple of years, B2B companies have started to incorporate SMS into their marketing and sales strategy.

Last year, 61% of people recommend contacting them by text message at work—an increase of 56.4% from 2014

We expect to see this trend accelerate in 2021 as more businesses use SMS for lead generation, sending valuable content, and communicating with existing clients.

Using SMS for Customer Retention

There’s been a broader trend in marketing that can be summed up as follows: retention is the new conversion.

More business owners and marketers are focused on keeping existing customers. It’s the number one reason why spending on loyalty and retention marketing will increase by up to 30% next year, according to Forbes.

In 2021, we’ll see more brands send:

  • SMS renewal reminders
  • Membership reminders
  • Refill reminders for subscription service
  • Missed payment notifications

Using SMS for Influencer Marketing

The influencer industry has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. Despite the hype, clients are getting smarter. 

In 2021, we’re likely to see more performance-based deals, i.e. based on the number of sales or clicks. That’s where SMS marketing will come into play. 

Imagine you have an influencer named Meghan who’s offering her fans 10% off your product. She could tell her fans to text in “MEG10” to 900900. (MEG10 is a keyword, a short word or phrase that fans can text to a phone number to sign up for text messages.)

When they do, they’ll get a discount link, and companies have a valuable phone number they can remarket to. 

The Rise of 10-Digit Numbers

We’re such big fans of toll-free texting that we give all customers a complimentary toll-free number with their SimpleTexting account.

We’re not the only people that are enthusiastic about these numbers. Two factors are driving their rise in 2021, which we can categorize as push and pull:

  1. Push: One of the biggest reasons companies are shifting away from short codes is that their future is uncertain. Many carriers have announced they plan to discontinue shared short codes. Dedicated short codes are still an option–but not in every business’s price range.
  2. Pull: As we mentioned above, businesses plan to expand their use of SMS. Toll-free numbers are ideal for this as you can message 1-on-1 with customers and send large campaigns.

There are other reasons why more businesses want to text from a toll-free number. For one, they can use the same number for both voice and text messages. Plus, customers often feel more comfortable when communicating with you through a 10-digit phone number. 

Toll-free numbers aren’t the only long codes worth watching next year. Carriers are in the process of launching 10DLC (10-digit long code) numbers. These are standard 10-digit phone numbers that support the high volume messaging throughput required for business use cases.

With 10DLC (10-digit long codes) you can message millions of people at once using a local, recognizable 10-digit number that’s just yours.

SMS Marketing Trends in 2021

This cartoon from the Marketoonist sums up 2020 accurately

It might be tempting to think of 2021 as a return to more familiar times. All indicators point to this not being the case.

That’s why it’s important to take into consideration the

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