Expanding on the bit about text messaging in my previous post, a panel discussion at i2G likewise expanded on the topic.
The idea is that despite its lack of sex appeal (compared with other things happening in the mobile world), SMS is where the action is today. Less than 20 percent of mobile users have smartphones, according to TKG data, meaning the vast majority of mobile users are primarily talking and texting.
It’s more the latter, according to Nielsen, which reports that the average mobile user sends 357 texts per month compared with 204 calls. This is a surprising figure to many, and it’s clear that younger users are skewing the average.
“If you’re 25 or younger, it’s the language that you speak,” said Greg Hallinan, VP of marketing for Verve Wireless. This is a point that’s been echoed before. But another segment to which SMS can appeal is small businesses, added Hallinan. Its simplicity lowers the barriers to entry for resource constrained SMBs.
“Their threshold for sophistication is lower and they’re used to direct response [advertising] in print,” he said. “They don’t have mobile Web sites but they do have promotions and a need to get people in the door in a time sensitive way. That can be done easily in SMS in 160 characters or less.”
By time sensitive, Hallinan is referring to promotions that can be turned on and off with SMS campaigns that Verve and others like 4info provide. These can include two-for-one promotions at restaurants, event announcements at dance clubs, etc.
A campaign Verve ran for Boston Magazine for example involved a “brand name distiller” that sponsored a roving happy hour in different bars. Users who opted in received texts containing happy hour details, drink discounts and “front of the line privileges.” Texts were often sent to about 500 users, resulting in 30 percent response rates.
“That’s not a lot in a city like Boston but it was a hit record for these bars, a hit record for Boston Magazine and a hit record for the distiller who sold promotions into these bars,” said Hallinan. “We just provided the service to make it happen.”
Though a lot of potential lies in mobile search and application engagement, it will be contingent upon continued smart phone penetration. Until then, SMS can’t be discounted, as the current leading search input. It sure hasn’t been discounted by the VC community, with very recent funding rounds going to ChaCha ($30 million) and 4info ($20 million).
“It’s the gateway drug to mobile interaction,” said MoVoxx CEO Alec Andronikov.
Related: Verve Wireless President Tom Kenney will be a speaker at TKGs Marketplaces conference, March 16-18 in Los Angeles.