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SMS Strengthens Customer Relationships in Retail

More and more retailers use SMS to strengthen customer relationships. These retailers send SMS with two aims, to gain new customers and to increase business with existing customers. But why do this via SMS, and what lies behind the increasing interest in this channel? Christian Hasselström is Chief Communication Officer at Lekab, one of the Nordic countries’ leading suppliers of enterprise SMS. He offers his view on how the market is changing:

“An incredible amount of change has taken place in retail during the last decade. New technologies and digital platforms have made it easier for businesses to offer their products and services online. Our purchasing behavior as consumers has changed, and the shopping journey looks completely different today than in the past. For example, we look products up online before buying them in store, and vice versa. We also use our phones to find more information about products while we’re looking at them in the store. To put it simply, today we use several different channels – the internet, our phones, and physical stores – which means we shop in entirely different ways than we used to.”

New opportunities, and new challenges

For established retailers, the new opportunities also mean new challenges. With today’s tools, the barrier has been lowered for new actors to enter the market. A new e-store pops up almost every day. Local retailers are being forced to face competition both on their home turf and internationally, via the internet.

It’s natural to ask how today’s retailers should act in order to remain competitive and grow their businesses. Christian Hasselström reflects:

“The key to success is to continue the work that many retailers are already good at: building close and long-term customer relationships. A competitive price and great product aren’t enough. The winners in today’s market are those who provide the best customer experience. In the future, personalized customer dialogue will become more important than ever. This means that you have to be where your clients are looking, at any time, physically or digitally, in order to create the kinds of customer experiences that make it easy to shop.”

The cell phone’s increasing importance for retailers

In the new consumer’s life, the cell phone is in a unique position. For most of us, our phones are our go-to helpers for so many daily tasks, including shopping. We use our phones to look for information before making a purchase, to pay for things, and to carry things like coupons, tickets, invites and digital cards.

“Phones are bridges between the digital and physical worlds. This makes them important tools for creating multi-channel buying experiences that simplify, inspire, and engage consumers,” explains Hasselström.

One way to take advantage of the prevalence of cell phones is to use SMS. SMS is a long established communications channel. Some see as old news, but its use within retail is on the rise, and for good reason. According to Hasselström, it is the simplicity, flexibility, and effectiveness of SMS that makes more and more businesses interested in using it.

“SMS is a standard function that works on all phones, regardless of mobile operator or network. The 160 character limit can be a challenge, but is also part of the reason that nearly all SMS are actually read by recipients. And an SMS reaches your target groups directly on their phones, without the need for an app or the barrier of email filters.”

SMS – part of retailers’ multichannel strategy

Is it realistic to believe that SMS will remain a competitive alternative to mobile apps and websites? According to Christian Hasselström, the future isn’t about one technology or platforming dominating over the others.

“I see SMS as a complement to physical campaigns, email communication, apps and paid marketing channels. Each channel has it’s own advantages. The way to succeed in retail communication is by using a multi-channel strategy that lets you offer the best customer experience possible.”