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As we head into the home stretch of the 2022 fiscal year, sales teams everywhere are looking to close as many deals as possible. Deloitte expects 2022 holiday retail sales to increase by 4% to 6% from the previous year.
Given inflation, the firm also expects consumers to shop early and take their time finding the best prices. According to GE Capital Retail Finance, consumers spend an average of 76 days researching major purchases, meaning there might be just enough time left in the year for a sales push.
Knowing when and how to contact consumers with an offer or deal is a fine art. Having the right content at the right time and delivered on the customer’s preferred channel is key, especially in the later stages of the customer journey — this is where an omnichannel communication platform comes in handy.
Omnichannel communications — a strategy that uses a combination of websites, apps, social media, phone calls and other ways to reach an audience — have become a necessity for businesses looking to deliver the best experience along the entirety of the customer journey. Leveraging additional platforms such as chat and messaging apps on top of the standard web, social media and app channels provides frequent opportunities to get in front of potential buyers at the right point in their journey.
Compared to email, the more personal nature of SMS is one of the leading reasons these messages have an incredible 98% open rate in the U.S., with 60% of those messages being viewed within the first five minutes they are received. Meanwhile, chat apps like Discord, Line, Telegram, Viber, WeChat and WhatsApp are especially popular in countries like Brazil, China, India and Nigeria, where more than 80% of consumers reported using chat apps to interact with brands.
Buyers want a tailored experience as they progress from first hearing about a service or product all the way through to their purchase. Understanding the needs and expectations of busy consumers and communicating solutions to those needs in a time-efficient and effective way can convince them to buy. Chat apps and SMS provide more opportunities to personalize communications with a specific buyer and require less effort on their part to reply than returning an email or visiting a website.
When to leverage messaging
To be clear, a chat app/SMS strategy for engaging your audience should be brought in methodically, and it should never be used to reach out to a net new buyer.
An unsolicited chat or text message can be seen as “spammy” and risks the consumer feeling ambushed on their personal device, ending any potential relationship then and there. Deeper into the customer journey, however, these messages can work wonders once relationships have been established in other ways.
Take the case of a typical consumer sales process. The GE Capital Retail Finance survey found that consumers start researching a product or service online more than 60% of the time, and they visit two to three online sources and a comparable number of physical stores before deciding to buy.
Capturing customer information from website visits or app downloads can provide marketers with a window into their preferred channels. Providing follow-up information, offers or other communications based on their previous activity personalizes the interaction between brand and consumer.
The power of messaging
For many, SMS is the most powerful engagement tool during the buyer’s journey. According to my company’s research, marketers cited SMS’s primary benefits as real-time delivery, high open rates and global reach/ubiquity of mobile devices. Additionally, marketing professionals plan to use digital communications to support their customer engagement efforts, including forging meaningful connections with consumers, improving accessibility and improving omnichannel communications.
And it works. The same survey showed that 80% of B2C marketers reported SMS performed much better than any other channel, especially for advertising and brand awareness. Additionally, more than three-quarters of marketers who send promotions or offers through SMS reported revenue growth in 2020-21, a time when connecting with consumers was challenging due to the pandemic. SMS might just be the future of marketing — our research showed that two-thirds of Gen Z favor text messages over email when interacting with a brand.
This makes sense. When we want to get a quick note off to a friend or family member, we don’t log into our email and compose a long note — we text them. It is no different for brand engagement. Meeting your customer in the moment with a message that resonates on the device that rarely leaves their side is the most effective way to move the sales forward.