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5 clever ways how businesses are utilising SMS despite all the new tech popping up


With all the new tech and apps frequently emerging, you could be forgiven for viewing SMS as a platform of the past. This couldn’t be further from the truth however, with application to person SMS traffic expected to reach 2.5 trillion by 2020!

And for good reason; over 98% of SMS messages are opened, 90% of these within the first three minutes of being received.
Having worked in SMS for nearly a decade, I’ve seen the impact of a well-considered SMS campaign, and the benefits it can provide for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

To illustrate this point, I’ve pulled together a list of five innovative ways businesses are using SMS to engage, inform, delight and reward their customers.

Vending machines

When you think of a vending machine, SMS probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. In Mumbai, however, Cadbury changed this perception when they released an SMS-enabled vending machine that allows people to select their preferred item by sending an SMS to a short code number on display.

The machine then displays the customer’s mobile number and asks for the choice of chocolate. Once the chocolate has been dispensed, the customer receives an SMS confirming the transaction and the cost of the chocolate is deducted from a pre-paid account. The process is hassle-free (unlike most vending machine experiences) effective and engaging.

Virtual gifts

Everyone loves a surprise gift, especially on Valentine’s Day. Recognising this, AT&T – one of the largest GSM carriers in the US- partnered with 1-800-FLOWERS to give users the opportunity to SMS a free virtual bouquet of animated flowers to their loved one, in their ‘Cupid Goes Wireless’ campaign.

As a part of the campaign, AT&T created a link in the 1-800-FLOWERS mobile shop that allowed AT&T subscribers to send the virtual bouquet directly to their partners mobile device. Those who received the virtual flowers were also able to enter for a chance to win a $50 gift card from 1-800-FLOWERS.com.

Coupons & vouchers – with a twist

There’s nothing new about businesses utilising SMS to distribute coupons and vouchers as a marketing tool. There is, however, something a little different though about the way Mukuru.com utilises SMS to help people.

Mukuru.com is a company that enables transfers of money to Zimbawe without banks fees, to assist customers in supporting their loved ones living in the country. One of their initiatives allows customers to pay for food, groceries and fuel for their friends and family using SMS technology.

Once an account has been set up, customers can choose the amount of fuel, for example, they’d like to send, and the location where it will be collected. As soon as the order is paid for, an SMS is sent to the Zimbabwee recipient’s phone, containing a 10-digit number that the person can exchange for fuel.

Compelling VIP offers

While giving customers discount coupons may not be enough to compel them to engage with your business, discount coupons coupled with a compelling free service is a recipe for success, as Girlfriend Magazine found.

To make members of their ‘Girlfriend VIP Club’ feel valued, the magazine sent monthly discount coupons via SMS for popular cosmetics and clothing items, which could be redeemed in store. To make them feel truly valued, they followed this up by offering members free SMS messages, which could be sent via their website. This offer resulted in 40,000 member registrations.

Emergency services for the deaf and hearing impaired

Perhaps one of the most well considered uses for SMS I’ve seen is by The Magen David Adom emergency health service, who introduced a service using mobile messaging technology that allows those who are deaf or hearing impaired to call an ambulance simply by sending a text message.

This example also highlights what I believe is the key to a successful mobile campaign for any business. That is, by using SMS in a way which adds value to your customer.
It’s perhaps a bit of a cliché, but it certainly rings true. If you want to get the most out of your marketing initiatives, SMS included, be sure to consider your customer and how you can add value to their life and enhance their experience with your business.

Carl Krumins is the 34-year-old founder and CEO of SMSGlobal, a leading international provider of mobile messaging technology.

Carl Krumins
Carl Krumins