In the past two decades or so, the way we communicate has fundamentally changed. This includes communication between individuals, as well as the interaction between brands and consumers. Think back to the days before cell phones (let alone smartphones) when you had to actually call your friends at home to set up a meeting and imagine how difficult it was to change the time and place of that meeting in the last minute. Nowadays it is as easy as a text message that says “sorry I can’t make it” just a few hours (or in some cases minutes) beforehand.
The convenience and low cost of emails and text messages has created a shift in the way marketers think about their strategies as well. The days of capital intensive print marketing campaigns are long gone thanks to the widespread availability of Internet connection in most places. Now that we have constant access to our emails and text messages all in one device, an interesting question is whether the two channels are differentiated anymore. It turns out that they are!
According to a recent study, the response time for a text message is 90 seconds, compared to 90 minutes for an email! I am sure we can all relate to this in our own lives. How many times have you seen an email coming through, read it and then marked it unread to deal with it later? Now think about receiving the same information in a text message. It is likely that you will respond to it much quicker than you would to the email. Why is that? A Morgan Stanley study aiming to answer this question revealed that text messaging is a far less spoiled landscape in terms of spamming. The research concluded that 90% of emails are considered to be spam, whereas only 1% of text messages are! Because of this association between email and spam, it is likely that we perceive text messages more valuable and they create more urgency when we see them popping up on our phone screens.
As pristine as the text messaging landscape is, it has its limitations from a marketing perspective. Image integration issues, character and styling restrictions to name a few. In addition to this, text messaging is far more intrusive from a consumer point of view and it is perceived more as a violation of privacy than spam emails are.
In looking at the pros and cons of each method, it is not easy to deem one better than the other entirely. What is important is to use each method whenever and wherever appropriate, in a way that will not make the recipient feel that his/her privacy is violated. They both have their merits and cannot be used interchangeably (at least not yet). This is why it is important to understand both and use them in conjunction with one another.