A report from Forrester Research projects a significant increase in the usage of text message marketing services in 2021 as brands try to create more direct personal relationships with their customers. This projection is associated with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for businesses to maintain their current customer relationships and drive new purchases. Many customers noticed an increase in communications during the early days of the pandemic, when businesses were communicating often about closures, new protocols and policy changes.
The report predicts that this higher messaging volume will continue throughout 2021, with marketing message volume increasing by 40% over the next year. The report anticipates that brands will focus primarily on loyalty programs, retention marketing and digital shopping.
Consumers should expect to see a shift in focus to "local-first" marketing strategies in response to customers moving away from urban hubs, with campaigns focusing on smaller, more targeted audiences.
Privacy and tracking rules will be more strict.
Text message marketers will see effects from major companies changing their policies on cookies and data privacy. Cookies track users, inform targeted ads and provide information on ad performance. Google has announced that it will be phasing out support for third-party cookies within the Chrome browser over the next two years, and Apple is rolling out an anti-tracking tool called Intelligent Tracking Prevention for the Safari browser. Mozilla Firefox has also launched a tool that blocks third-party tracking cookies by default.
"An unprecedented pandemic rendered B2C marketers' existing plans and strategies moot, and new announcements from Apple and Google put data deprecation on a fast track," the Forrester report reads. "But these trends aren't a flash in the pan. In 2021, marketers must prepare for an ecosystem without third-party cookies and device identifiers, all while navigating an unpredictable economy and reduced budgets and headcount."
Rich communication services will continue to grow.
Rich communication services, or RCS, is a modern form of traditional SMS texting that provides options and features for richer, more nuanced text communication. RCS offers features such as group chats, video, audio, high-resolution images, read receipts and real-time viewing. Text message marketing brands will incorporate more RCS features into their products to offer customers a more interactive and immersive texting experience.
Brands will use direct, conversational marketing.
In 2021, some brands will have a designated channel where customers can reach out directly to speak with a real representative of the company, who responds in a conversational manner that makes the customer feel a stronger connection to the brand. This method of connecting with customers can also provide key information on what questions your customers have, how they shop and how they interact with your business.
AI will feature heavily in texting.
Artificial intelligence has been steadily growing in use across industries, and text message marketing is no exception. In 2021, businesses will use AI to respond quickly and effectively to general customer questions, direct them to the proper channels, and collect pertinent data from business audiences.
Customers will engage with businesses via texting.
EZ Texting's 2020 Holiday Shopping Survey found that texting is a highly effective way for businesses and customers to engage with each other. Text messaging provides an easy way for businesses to share important updates and information, and also offers incentives to customers to visit stores or shop online. According to EZ Texting's survey, 49% of consumers said they would visit a retailer after receiving a text coupon or promotion offering a significant discount. Survey respondents (53%) also reported that a texted coupon is more trustworthy than a digital advertisement. Savvy brands will leverage SMS marketing to deliver discounts and promotions to customers in 2021, boosting brand loyalty and customer retention.
Omnichannel will be heavily featured in CX strategy.
Traditionally, SMS marketing has been used as a stand-alone marketing channel. That will change in 2021. More companies will integrate SMS with other marketing channels, such as text newsletters linking to blog posts or other company information, combining email and text promotions and social media and text message marketing campaigns.