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direct response texting

Texting, 1-2-3, Texting

As part of a Thought Leader Thursday series of articles, DirectAvenue will be publishing articles from the archive of the agency’s CMO and SVP Client Services that still have relevance today. The following originally appeared as a Dish column in Electronic Retailer magazine.

For years, direct marketers have relied on two primary mechanisms for response: telephony and the Internet. Now a third response channel has come of age: text. The emergence of text as a means of communication between marketer and prospect makes perfect sense because it aligns the desire of the advertiser to capture a lead with consumer behavior that is prevalent and rampant. Text is a reflection of the need for marketers to quickly move from their reliance on an interruptive advertising model into a participative one whereby the consumer raises their hand, opts in, and gives the marketer a direct line of communication. This ongoing give-and-take helps to create stickiness that drives leads further down the sales funnel and, ultimately, increases conversion. To obtain a greater understanding of just how formidable the potential of text is, it helps to examine the numbers.

Marketers understand that the mobile phone has become an essential part of daily life for many consumers, but just how ubiquitous is it? According to Statista, U.S. smartphone penetration is now at 84 percent and represents a domestic audience of 257.3 million. An average of 3.4 hours per day is spent on the devices reports eMarketer and, naturally, a good portion of that time is spent texting. An astounding 95 percent of text messages are opened within 3 minutes, reports SMS Comparison. SMS is not the only form of text, activity on Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp is at 60 billion messages per day.

Enter Stiki (, a platform that uses short codes that allow consumers to respond to marketers’ direct offers with immediacy and ease. Here’s how it works:

  1. Advertisers include a text option in their advertising. So, for example, in addition to a toll-free number and/or a web address, the advertiser would include a graphic message and voice over call out such as this one for a toy product called LaserX: Text LASER to 86329 (TODAY).
  2. Consumers text the keyword and the marketer can then respond with a link that takes the prospect immediately to their website.
  3. The marketer can then continue to send messages directly to the consumer whether that be for remarketing purposes, coupons, consumer polls, or other offers and promotions.

Using text as a response mechanism gives advertisers some powerful advantages, including the following:

  • Bypass Search: Text allows advertisers to avoid having their prospects diverted by competitors which may include fake review sites aimed at steering leads into another product.
  • Dialogue Directly: Text enables marketers to have direct dialogue with their consumers, without relying on a third-party such as a telemarketing center. It is essentially a shortcut that eliminates much of the distraction that can potentially subvert a customer’s attention.
  • Know Thy Customer: Once a prospect has opted in, a marketer can identify who they are based upon key demographic characteristics. This can help identify market segmentation and allow advertisers to create look-a-like campaigns that will drive traffic with similar qualities.
  • Remarket: Brands can remarket to consumers who have expressed an interest in their products or services through conventional online advertising means such as display advertising or by texting additional offers.
  • Enjoy Rarified Space: According to a study by Deloitte, Americans check their phones 14 billion times a day and one of the things they are no doubt looking for is whether they’ve received any text messages. That’s 14 billion mobile moments where advertisers can be sitting in the text cue, the equivalent on a smartphone of beachfront property.
  • Ease of Recall: Through the use of short code words such as Stiki’s aforementioned TODAY, marketers can take advantage of easy-to-recall numerical patterns that are simple for prospects to recall. This can be a decided advantage in a world where many URLs now rely on phonetic spelling that is hard to remember and only encourages a reliance on search.

Compared to email, which has an average open rate of 20 percent, texts enjoy a staggering 90 percent open rate according to VoiceSage. As Robin Shapiro, CEO of Stiki explains it, “Texting is a low-anxiety medium–consumers will text even when their interest is tentative and preliminary. It’s casual and conversational. Basically, it’s what people are already doing while living their lives.” Anyone skeptical of the notion that consumers might not want to invite such digital discourse should take note of this: 56 percent of consumers wish they could have a text conversation with a business according to Zipwhip; 67 percent of leads prefer to be texted compared to being called according to MediaPost; and finally texting with a qualified lead can increase conversions by over 100 percent!

As savvy marketers are well aware, it is incumbent upon them to meet the consumer at a time and place of the latter’s choosing. With nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults now watching TV with a second screen, advertisers can leverage a direct channel that is literally sitting in the palm of their hands – the hands of their prospects, that is. In today’s hyper-distracted world, anything that can cut through clutter and make it easy for the curious to learn more should be whole-heartedly embraced. With direct response text, the time is now. Why? Because the answer to increased response is literally at our fingertips.

Rick Petry
Rick Petry

Author: Rick Petry is the CMO/EVP Client Services of DirectAvenue and a seasoned direct marketing professional and thought leader with experience spanning three decades. He has had a hand in campaigns generating over $1 billion in sales and is conversant in all facets of performance-based marketing including off-line and on-line media planning and buying, research, analytics, creative, production, and back-end management, Rick is the author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, and is a past Chairman of the Board of the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) and a recipient of ERA’s Volunteer of the Year award, as well as the Direct Response Marketing Alliance’ Member of the Year award as voted by his peers.