Cell phones have given digital marketers a direct link to their customers in the way that email and traditional advertising methods never could. When a customer can send a message, deal, etc. to a customer and have it show up directly on a smartphone home screen, visibility goes way up. Currently, there are two methods for a company to send a message to customer smartphones: SMS and push notifications. While these may appear relatively similar at surface level, they actually have significant differences that must be observed.
SMS messages have been around for quite some time, predating even the earliest smartphone platforms. In short, SMS messages are essentially text messages sent from a company or application to a user or customer. They behave for all intents and purposes as a text message from a customer perspective. However, they have more in common with email marketing than smart messaging technologies. The biggest problem with SMS really lies in perception and permissions.
While by law customers are required to opt-in to SMS messaging, it is not uncommon for lists of customers to be shared between companies or sold, precisely in the same manner as email lists. In addition to increasing the perception that SMS messages in general are spam, misuse of SMS have actually led to lawsuits, perhaps most significantly the recent spam lawsuit against Viacom which was settled out of court. Issues such as these are exacerbated by the fact that customers can not directly opt-out of SMS marketing. Again, like email marketing, they are forced to request to be taken off of the list, which in the case of negligent companies can turn into a hassle. Of course, this also requires more careful list management for companies who do make a point to adhere to the letter of the law.
Push notifications offer similar functionality from a customer perspective. Again, a company or application can send a message directly to a customer’s phone, and it will appear on their home screen. The difference is that push notifications are clearly sent from an app (the app icon will show up beside the notification when it is sent). In addition, customers have complete control on their end over which applications can send them push notifications at any given time. This is beneficial for both customers and companies. Customers can opt in or out of messaging at their leisure, while companies can be sure that any messages they send are received by customers who have already expressed a direct interest in their offering, increasing the value of those messages significantly.