Is SMS Marketing Dead? New Research Says Not Just Yet

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Pamela Bump
Pamela Bump



Whenever I share a screenshot of a friend's funny text on social media, someone always points out the huge number of unread text messages I have.

a woman receives a text from a brand's SMS marketing campaign.

iphone upper navigation on text app showing 45 unread messages

"Why do you have so many unread texts? And, who are you ignoring?", my friends often ask.

The truth is that most of the texts I ignore aren't from actual people. They're usually quick marketing messages that I signed up to receive at some point and ended up forgetting about.

Whether you signed up for a mobile service, pharmacy alerts, furniture store promos, or another list, you've probably also received a few texts you've either deleted, opted out of, or blatantly ignored.

With experiences like those above in mind, you might think that SMS marketing is no longer effective. But, in 2021, as people are more attached to their phones than ever before, we might be wrong about the strength of text message promotions.

As it turns out, a recent study from SimpleTexting shows that text message marketing might still be alive and well.

The study, which surveyed over 1300 consumers and marketers, revealed that more than 76% of brands plan to invest in text-message marketing in the next year, while 62% of consumers subscribed to receive texts from at least one brand in the last year.

Below, we'll dive into the study's research, explain why some marketers might still want to consider SMS strategies, and note a few takeaways for an effective campaign.

Free Download: 30 SMS Templates for Marketing, Sales and Customer Success

Why SMS Could Be Coming Back Strong

While members of our blogging team once said SMS needed to be "put out of its misery" due to all the other messaging tactics in the world at the time, no one could have anticipated the changing landscape brought on by COVID-19. During the pandemic, which caused most people to get stuck in their homes, people gravitated to their phones and electronics more than ever, with 76% of consumers reporting increased screentime.

When it came to texting, 61% of consumers either increased or significantly increased the daily time they spent on their text apps.

a chart shows that most consumers increased screentime in 2020 during the covid 19 pandemic

Image Source

SMS Marketing Effectiveness in 2021

According to SimpleTexting, 62% of consumers have opted into texts from at least one business while 43% of consumers specifically have subscribed to one to three brands.

When it comes to text messaging effectiveness, consumers reply to marketing texts that require a response much faster than email. While most people reply to emails within a half-hour to an hour, 72% of consumers respond to texts within 10 minutes.

Aside from quick response rates, text messages can also receive very high engagement. 43% of surveyed business owners and digital marketers who use SMS marketing report click-through rates between 20% and 35%.

One interesting piece of the SimpleTexting survey reveals that 52% of brands reported increased opt-in rates between 2021. However, nearly 10% reported decreased opt-ins in the same year.

While the increased opt-ins are in line with screen and text-message time increases, the opt-out increases do hint that consumers could be as quick to unsubscribe from text message content as they are to subscribe from it.

The SimpleTexting study and other research points to reasons why people might opt out.

  • Too many text messages from one brand: 60% of SimpleTexting respondents say they've unsubscribed from SMS alerts from brands that send them too frequently. Furthermore, 56% of those consumers prefer to receive just one text from a brand per week.
  • Too many texts from multiple brands: If you do up your text cadence to two, keep in mind that your subscribers might be inundated with tons of texts from other brands as well. While your texts might still be meaningful, you might see more sensitivity to opt-outs simply because subscribers are tired of all the text alerts.
  • Meaningless content: Like email marketing, you'll need to hook your reader and keep them engaged with the content they've signed up to receive. Sending too much over-promotional content, boring content, or content that isn't what they signed up for might cause you to see unsubscribes.  

a chart shows that most people unsunscribe from text message alerts because they receive them too often.

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Tips for Launching a Great SMS Strategy

While SMS certainly isn't dead, text message or conversational marketing platforms can be hard to master. As you consider or build out a text-based strategy, keep these quick tips in mind.

  • Know your persona: Although people might quickly sign up to receive your messages, it won't take much to get them to opt out. Be sure you know exactly what your audience members are looking for and how often they want to receive that content to avoid sending meaningless texts that go ignored. 
  • Give subscribers what they've signed up for: Remember, subscribers are trusting you with their contact information, and if you aren't transparent about what you'll be sending or how often you'll be texting them, they might quickly opt. out. Be sure you stay consistent with what they're expecting.  
  • Automate what you can: Leverage tools and technologies to automate bulk SMS sending, manage SMS Marketing Campaigns and provide better scalable SMS marketing campaigns.
  • Remember, less is more: No one wants to get their phone blown up with tons of meaningless over-promotional tests. Before you launch an SMS campaign, ask yourself questions like, "Am I contacting people too often?" and "Will they even engage with this content?" If you worry that the content will be ineffective, consider streamlining your SMS schedule and only sending the most important text content. 

To learn even more about message-based marketing and SMS strategies, check out the great resource below.

SMS Templates for Marketing Sales and Service


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