What should you look out for in your SMS campaigns? We speak to a digital marketing company in Singapore and get its take on the SMS landscape in Asia.Marcel Lee Pereira: What is Tactica Labs' business model?
Donny Soh is chief data officer of Tactica Labs.
Donny Soh: Our solutions range from email or SMS marketing to full fledged CRM solutions. We believe in providing value to our customers. For every dollar you put in, our aim is for you to earn back at least that dollar. It can come as new sales, cost savings, brand exposure or consultation.
Pereira: Why did you venture into the digital marketing industry?
Soh: Being computer scientists, we have always been intrigued with technology. Since graduation, we dabbled around with data analytics, SMS and email marketing. It was until three years ago that an advertising friend pointed that out to us! We are just doing something we enjoy, which is technology. We help companies connect to clients with technology. And because technology is involved, our solutions are usually cost-effective, fast and accountable.
Pereira: How has SMS marketing evolved in the region this past year?
Soh: Certainly, the market has been a lot more receptive to SMS marketing. It used to be an avenue used only by large institutions like banks or telcos. Yet over the past year we have seen many smaller retail shops doing it as well. A lot of education has to be provided to these shops.
One of the very interesting trends is the willingness to open websites from phones. Some of our SMS messages embed URLs in them. (And our system allows webpages to be automatically resized to that of a phone screen.) Our clients are extremely pleased that their click-through rates in Indonesia and Malaysia have been as high as 8 percent. That is extremely high compared to that of 1 percent in the online click-through industry.
Pereira: How do you see SMS marketing developing in the region in two year’s time?
Soh: I think I will answer this with how I wish SMS marketing should develop in the region in the next two years:
1. Greater value
Let’s talk about our own experiences. The last time you received an advertising SMS on your phone, you probably had it deleted immediately. Why so? We attribute it once again to its value to customers. Customers are not receiving enough value from the SMS offers and SMS marketing is very quickly degenerating to the level termed “spam”.
As we always tell our clients, SMS marketing is an avenue to connect with your clients on a very personal level. We hope that companies interested in doing it devote more time to targeting proper clients and giving offers which provide more value to them, rather than just mass spamming everyone on their list. It is actually a lot better for the industry because these companies save money with a smaller list and their clients benefit from the better value offered.
2. Interactive campaigns
One of the ways we can improve is by doing interactive SMS campaigns. There was this campaign we did for a pub: Their members received an SMS invite to attend a party, and when they replied “Yes”, they received an SMS ticket. Showing the ticket on the day of the event granted them free entrance into the party with two free drinks. These campaigns are much better in terms of interactivity and fully utilize the strength of SMS advertising.
3. Web integration
As mentioned above, one thing teenagers enjoy doing is viewing webpages on their mobile phones. (This is true in Malaysia and Indonesia, but not so much in Singapore). We will love to see more SMS campaigns encouraging users to click through and view websites directly on their mobile phones.
Pereira: How do you ensure SMS messages do not become a hindrance to people or be seen as junk mail?
Soh: This is an excellent concern. We see this happening because of indiscriminate SMS marketing. We need to ensure that the value to consumers must be real.
SMS marketing must not be seen as a pure propaganda tool. It is a way of connecting to your clients on a very personal level. If you are able to provide consistent value to the right target group, you will be able to keep your clients as well.
For example, I have received queries from the public to be informed if certain offers come out from certain companies. On the flipside, I have also received requests to be excluded from all campaigns from certain companies.
Pereira: Which countries do you have a presence in and what are the challenges in the marketplace for these countries?
Soh: We are able to deliver SMSes to anywhere in the world. We have users from Southeast Asia, USA, Europe and even the Middle East. Our stronger bases are in SEA, namely Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and The Philippines.
The main difficulty is language and culture. Across these four main countries we have at least four or five different languages. If a client wishes to carry out a campaign across these countries, we have to ensure that the translations are done properly so that the intent of the message remains intact.
The Philippine market has a total of $4 million in ad revenue for online marketing. We have a SMS portal in the Philippines which is extremely popular, reaching close to 40,000 members, but we have yet to successfully break into the market to monetize these members.
Pereira: How has the economic downturn impacted the SMS marketing business?
Soh: Like all other advertising businesses, budgets for SMS marketing have been cut.
One interesting market has emerged though. We have managed to get more business in the corresponding market of corporate SMS/CRM solutions. There are actually more companies seeking to automate their systems and business processes via SMS. These corporate SMS solutions actually help them cut down on operational costs during this downturn.
Marcel Lee Pereira is editor of iMedia Connection Asia.