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Should You Use an App or SMS Messaging? Or both?

Should you use an app or SMS messaging?

It’s an app world out there. The average mobile owner has about 40 apps installed at any one time. But they usually use approximately 15 regularly. That’s all according to the Harvard Business Review. Personally, that’s about right. Though I would bet I’ve had many more than 40 apps before, but I get around to deleting some eventually.

And that’s the point. Most apps aren’t used and are often deleted. As a mechanism to engage your customers, an app may not be all that you think it will be. The Harvard study also showed that app usage tends to cluster around five major types:

  • Social
  • Entertainment
  • Communications
  • Navigation
  • News

Shopping doesn’t make that list because only 5% of consumers spent time in shopping apps. If you’re a retailer, that has to give you pause when you think about creating an app to reach out to customers. But for the moment, let’s say you have an app and it fits into one of those categories.

You still have the issue of getting the customers to open and engage with the app. Currently, notifications are the most used way to get their attention. But is that the only way?

Do notifications work?

At first blush, notifications are awesome. You get updates right on your screen without having to open the app. But it doesn’t take too long before they become the bane of any existence. If you have the average 40 apps, you’re notification screen is probably on fire most of the time – at least it can look that way as the messages pop up over and over. That is, until you turn them off.

A study by Brand Quarterly shows that consumers turn those notifications off about 50% of the time (for me it runs closer to 80-85%. But I’m very particular). The phrase “notification spam” is rampant on the web where you’ll find all sort of articles telling you how to turn them off.

Even if your customer sees your notification among the sea of messages scrolling across the screen, another study, this one by Acengage suggests only 6% of notifications succeed in getting people to open the app mentioned in the message.

That really isn’t a great open rate. The conclusion is you may get a small percentage of your customer base that is enthused about your app to the point they use it regularly. The rest are lost to you on mobile. Unless you get smart about how you connect with them.

How SMS messaging can fit in too

If you’re determined to engage customers on mobile, and through your app, you may want to consider a multi-channel approach. First, segment your customers into one group that uses the app and responds to notifications, and another group that doesn’t do either. The second group is prime ground for SMS messaging.

Despite the growth in use, consumers still aren’t jaded about SMS messages. It’s a primary form of communication for them so they still read nearly everything that comes through. And they read it fast. Here are a few more benefits of SMS:

  • Consumers already know it. There are no new apps to learn and navigate
  • It doesn’t rely on a high speed internet connection which many apps can (video and images primarily)
  • Recent studies show consumers want to be contacted via SMS by brands

By using SMS messaging to contact customers that don’t use the app (or haven’t for a long time), you can get them engaged again. You can drive them back to the app or try sending links to mobile websites to see if they prefer that. Or you can even interact directly using SMS (with two-way messaging).

This two channel approach means you still have the opportunity to reach all your customers on some level. If they ignore your notifications, text messages will probably get their attention. So the question isn’t notifications vs. SMS anymore. The question is: how do I use both?

Do you have an app for your business? Does your experience resemble these latest studies? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject in the comments.

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