Today, my attention was piqued when I read how a WalmartLabs hackathon created an SMS concierge service. The service, ultimately, will add to the in-store shopping experience. From a tech perspective, the product seems fairly simple and not particularly earth-shattering, but I did love seeing it. Here’s why:
1. Potential Ownership
I haven’t verified Walmart’s app ownership, but let’s assume about 20-25% of their customer base have downloaded the Walmart app. I get this approximate number from the 2015 Comscore Mobile App Report stating Walmart has 22 million unique app users. Walmart company filings have published that 1 in 3 Americans shop at Walmart (~106M people). Comscore has smartphone penetration at 75%, so this puts Walmart’s app downloads in the 20-25% range, which is significantly more than the typical single-digit penetration for most retail apps. In fact, Walmart and Amazon are industry leaders when it comes to app penetration – they are the only 2 retailers in the top 25 apps in unique users.
InMobi research found that 46% of mobile internet users only actively use 1-5 apps of any kind, and almost 75% only use 1-10 apps. More recently, Forrester research found that 40% of consumers only have 1 or 2 retail apps on their phones, 63% have 1-5 retail apps, and only 13% have 6-10 retail apps on their phones. Even a retail giant like Walmart with 20-25% app customer penetration still leaves 75-80% of their customers out of the loop. With their new SMS tool, however, they have the potential to reach nearly 100% of their customers with the offer to opt into their customer service messaging. There are few phones in use today that cannot receive text messages, with SMS available and ubiquitous to nearly every mobile user.
[Tweet “SMS enables companies to reach 100% of customers. See how WalmartLabs creates SMS innovation.”]
2. Ease of Use
We all text friends and family and expect them to get back to us sooner rather than later. Wouldn’t it be useful and convenient to text your favorite brand a question and get a reply in less time than it takes your friend to get back to you? Aside from basic operational messaging that reduces the number and cost of voice calls to customers (password reset, order/delivery status, confirmations), businesses today haven’t fully adopted SMS for the wide range of customer service communications possible. The use of conversational SMS between a consumer and company or brand is exciting. We see amazing potential as all brands begin adding this feature to their call center and customer service interactions.
3. Speed of Service
Depending on the number of people asking questions, this could be challenging. However, if we think about the typical email/phone/sales associate response times, text response times are exponentially faster and much more efficient. This is particularly important when we take into consideration the length of a typical customer question. They’re usually short, time-sensitive and require an immediate response, something at which SMS messaging excels.
4. Cross-sell & Upsell
While SMS may not be the ideal choice for a detailed product description or a monthly newsletter, what SMS is perfect for, however, is sending a link to that product so that your customer can click it and be taken directly to that page. Whether it’s product information, instructions, cross/up-sell, it’s a win-win. Walmart gets direct traffic to its website and pages with the critical “Buy Now” button, and the customer doesn’t get lost searching through multiple pages or messy navigations. The value is obvious to both the customer and the retailer. If a retailer or brand is looking for immediate product awareness, then MMS is an ideal choice to deliver a compelling product video, image or animation viewed directly in the SMS message inbox itself. It’s truly magic, there’s nothing more instinctual to a consumer than the impulse to tap a “play” button when it’s presented.
This is obviously a much larger and deeper subject, but these are the key reasons why SMS is such a useful customer service addition for all brands. From the customer’s perspective, when you have a quick, simple question wouldn’t you rather use the same method you use for quick personal conversations? They don’t want to sit on hold for 15 minutes or try to find a store associate. They want a quick answer to their specific question—something SMS can provide them in seconds.
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