The Humble SMS – Still a Highly Effective Mobile Marketing Tool in South Africa

Posted on: in Mobile Marketing The Formula Digital Marketing

‘Mobile text messaging, the same 160-character dispatches first popularized by nimble-fingered teenagers, may be the closest thing in the information-overloaded digital marketing world to a guaranteed read.’

 This is the opening line to an article regarding SMS marketing that was released in the New York Times in 2009, and this statement stands as true today, as it did then.

The fact is, that as far as marketing mediums go, the mobile medium is the only one which South Africans carry around with them all of the time, and most South Africans own a mobile phone. According to a recent article by KPMG, 29 million people in South Africa use a mobile phone of some description, out of a population of just over 50 million.

While some of us sitting in the cocoon of our offices and mid to high end environments may feel that everyone must surely own some form of Smartphone by now – this is not the case. Despite the fact that smartphone penetration in the country is on the increase, the bulk of the population still uses a basic mobile phone with recent stats showing that 65% of South Africans still use a feature phone.

So the one common form of mobile communication that everyone has access to, is the humble old SMS and many people do still use it. According to the same KPMG article referenced above, 69% of South Africans prefer to receive text based messages than they do a phone call.

While other text based communication platforms such as WhatsApp, MXit and 2go are hugely popular among South Africans, the one common platform we all use remains SMS.

For marketers or business owners wanting to incorporate mobile marketing into their overall marketing strategy, they will need to either be 100% familiar with the mobile statistics relating to their target audience (phone make, model and usage) so that they can tailor their campaigns to the devices their audience uses, or they will need to capitalise on one common medium that everyone uses to ensure that they are able to hit the mobile marketing mark every time. As smartphone penetration increases, so will mobile marketing opportunities increase, but for now, SMS remains the most universally acceptable and effective mobile marketing medium for many organisations.

Personalisation is key to SMS marketing success

The mobile phone, regardless of how technologically challenged or advanced it may be, remains a highly personal device with even the most basic phones offering options for personalisation. It stands to reason then, that our approach to SMS, or text based mobile marketing needs to be highly personalised in order to achieve the highest levels of engagement with our audience.

When you therefore ask prospects to opt-in to receive your communications such as newsletters or special offers, or even when you simply obtain customer information through a transaction, be sure to capitalise on the information that they give you, to help you make your messages more personal.

Drive Opt-ins:

When you engage with your customers, be it in person or electronically, always ask them if they would like to receive information from you. In fact any form of digital marketing requires the customer to opt-in to receive communication, or your messages will be considered spam. Read our earlier article ‘4 Steps to Building a Solid Opt-in Mobile Subscriber List’ for more insight.

Address customers by name:

Every SMS that you send to your customers should be addressed to that individual by name. For example ‘Hi Mary, we’re delighted to have you on board! Regards John | XYZ Company’. Customers are more likely to read on if they see their name when they receive an SMS from you, than they will otherwise.

Take note of preferences:

The more personalised the approach, the more engaged your customer will be, which is the reason why collecting customer information is often synonymous with successful marketing. Basic information such as whether the customer is male or female is mandatory, however you should also work closely with your agency and your team to find ways to collect and use information regarding customer preferences. For example, receiving an SMS that alerts a customer of a special offer related to Halaal food products is a better way to engage a Muslim customer, than to just send ad-hoc special offers that are not specific. To obtain this information, you would need to ask the customer whether they have any dietary restrictions. Of course there will be those messages that are more generic, however you should pepper your SMS communications with targeted messages as far as possible.

Be creative and service oriented in your approach to mobile marketing

Consider the many ways in which you could enrich and delight your customers using mobile marketing. Here are a few examples to get you going – but we encourage you to let your imagination run wild. Just remember to always address the customer by name in any text messages that you send out.

Welcome customers:

When a customer opts-in to receive your messages, or when you have captured customer information as a result of a product or service transaction, be sure to send them a welcome SMS.

Keep customers updated:

If a customer is in the process of engaging with your company for any form of product or service, keep the customer up-to-date regularly, to let them know the status of their transaction. For example, if the customer has placed an order and is waiting for delivery, let him/her know what the status of that delivery is, or if a customer has booked an item in for repairs or servicing with you, keep him/her updated with progress reports.

Thank your customers:

Once a transaction has been completed, be sure to thank your customer for their patronage and encourage them to rate your service. This leaves the impression with your customer that you are efficient while it reflects a higher standard of customer service and care.

Advise your customers of special offers:

This may seem obvious, but a regular SMS containing special offers is a great way to up sell and cross sell. As we discussed earlier, try to ensure that

promotions are tailored to the preferences of the individual. Sending an SMS promoting wine to a non-drinker or an offer for men’s personal care products to a female customer, has a good chance of alienating them which means that in future, you’ll struggle more to get your customers to read your messages.

Send out reminders:

We’re all busy, so a personalised reminder to encourage returning customers to partake of whatever product or service you have on offer can be a good way to not only upsell but also offer great service. Also consider sending reminders for appointments or bookings.

You mobile marketing campaign should be based on the solid foundation of a thorough mobile marketing strategy. If you would like to find out what mobile marketing solutions would best suit your organisation, why not contact Garth Dahl or Shiraz Khatib on 021 556 5661 or email us: to set up your FREE consultation. We look forward to helping you and your business to flourish! 


Comments are closed.