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SMS chatbot: the undervalued marketing tool

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An SMS chatbot can be one of the most powerful marketing tools in skillful marketers’ hands. Statistics speak clearly:

  • 5 billion people (65% of the world’s population) use SMS, and the rate of growth of text messaging has never slowed down in the past few years.
  • 85% of customers prefer to receive a text message and hate voice mails or phone calls: the preference of users for SMS is neat.
  • 70% of users would opt for text messages to troubleshoot anything, 64% to place a booking.

I stop here, but there are other interesting figures & stats to study that clear up that text chatbots can be very interesting tools for marketers.

SMS chatbots are far to have exhausted their potentialities

Probably, the reason for the success of SMS as a way of communication lies in the spread of mobiles and similar devices. Today, almost everybody that has access to the net has got used to sending and receiving text messages.

Therefore, SMS chatbots, text bots, and text chatbots should be seen as just a branch of the more general SMS industry, and they follow its positive trend. In 2019, Survey Monkey estimated the rate of the growth of the chatbots market at a surprising 136%.

Yet, organizations are still far from fully exploiting SMS. Again, statistics speak out: 65% of brands do not have yet worked out a text-messaging marketing strategy and 90% still stick to voicemails (even though customers massively prefer text messages).

Same for chatbots, the perspectives of growth of which look high and still far from exhaustion. This is the reason why some observers consider chatbot an undervalued marketing tool, despite its growing fast.

In conclusion, it seems that we have a great opportunity in front of us with SMS chatbots, especially if we consider that a good 40% of customers state they prefer interaction with a bot to one with a human.

Surprised? The reality is that SMS bots can handle basic and easy routine requests faster and better, with expected higher satisfaction rates. Let us see why.

Differences between SMS chatbots and web-based chatbots

As I stress in my article: “Chatbots for customer service”, customer service is the area of any organization where the SMS chatbot benefits are most evident.

Yet, there is a difference between SMS chatbots and web-based chatbots that is important to catch. They both use text messages, but while an SMS chatbot sends only short text messages to mobile devices, a web-based chatbot can have something similar to a real conversation with customers and interacts with users through any kind of device (laptop, pc, web tv, and so on and so forth) that is connected to the net.

On the contrary, an SMS chatbot does not need the internet to work. An SMS can be dispatched to the ordinary telephone network, and, in this way, it also reaches the users that are web-disconnected.

The reader could think that the percentage of users that are without a web connection is minimal today. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It seems that 22% of Americans do not have home internet and a good 7% refuse to use the internet for some reason.

And for those who love the net and wish to stay connected the whole day, network technology can be a limit. In many countries, the connection to the internet is often bad in rural and remote areas, while the ordinary connection to the telephone network works acceptably.

The other two important differences between an SMS chatbot and a web-based text chatbot are the open rate and the personality of the use of the device.

  • Personality: A cell phone is hugely personal, as people are not willing to share their phones. By sending an SMS, we are 100% sure to target the right person.
  • Probably this is the reason why SMS has a very high open rate, reaching 98%. It is difficult to resist the appeal of an SMS and refuse to open it and see who is writing us.

In conclusion, while SMS chatbots are simply a subdomain of the more general category of text chatbots, they cannot confuse with web-based bots, as the range of the reach and the kind of usage of the two instruments are different.

Some interesting SMS chatbot examples

Among the main usages of SMS chatbots, we have confirming and tracking orders, and quick surveys or promotions. In all these cases, we target customer phone numbers, as we wish to be sure to reach customers personally.

But SMS can also be used for fund-raising (for charities) and promotions (for business organizations). In many countries, this way of collecting money is very popular for health organizations, like foundations that finance the scientific research on cancer and other similar topics.

Among the charitable institutions that frequently use SMS and SMS chatbots to raise money, we remember:

  • No Kid Hungry, an organization that tries to ensure children healthy food and in the necessary quantity
  • The Jewish Federation of America, for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

An interesting example of an SMS chatbot is a campaign of the Humane Society of the United States. They sent people a simple remind SMS and discover that people were 77% more willing to donate after getting this message. Red Cross is another institution that asked people to donate through SMS.

However, there are also many other examples of marketing usages for SMS. Among the most common ones, we mention:

  • A welcome message when a new user buys a service.
  • The notification of the availability of the services of a new telecom company when we landed in a new country during an international trip.
  • Event invitation.
  • Promotion and sales: these are usually accompanied by a promo code.
  • Sending security codes. This is frequent with banks when users log in.
  • Billing reminders and other kinds of reminders.
  • Booking confirmations.

In almost all these cases, the personality of the message is important, as we observed above. And sending an e-mail could be dangerous for security reasons, for example when a code is necessary to verify access to our bank account.

The last observation leads us to a conclusion. Despite the fast growth of text messaging technology, it is hard to think of a way to replace an SMS in these situations.

The trend, at least in Europe, goes to the opposite. Confirmations using a temporary code are compulsory for sensitive services like banks, and SMS is the only way to reach the user without the risks of safety breaks.

All these SMS chatbot examples give evidence of how vital and promising text chatbots are. Despite the age of this technology (over 50 years have passed since IBM prototypes), SMS chatbots still show great vitality and endurance.

To summarize what I wrote, the secret of their success lies in multiple factors, among which the fact that today users are addicted to written communication, the personality of this kind of medium, the poor state in some areas of internet connections, and security concerns.

In conclusion, SMS chatbots are far to have run out of gas, despite the rise of new cutting-edge technologies. This undervalued marketing tool will certainly surprise us again in the future, and it must be always present in the repertoire of any customer-oriented organization.

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Written by
Marco La Rosa

Marco La Rosa is a blogger, writer, content creator, and UX designer. Very interested in new technologies, he wrote Neurocopywriting, a book about neurosciences and their applications to writing and communication‍

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