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Catering to the Young - and Not-So-Young - on Mobile

Teens love texting. No seriously, they love texting. A recent survey by Pew Internet found that the average teen sends 50 texts per day.


That means, assuming they sleep 8 hours a night, on average teens are sending a text every 20 minutes for the entire 16 hours they are awake. Every day. What does that mean for marketers?

Teens are emailing less and texting more. So if your business targets teens, don’t email your promotions or offers - text them.

The most common way to use Short Message Service (SMS) in advertising is an opt-in program. For example, Subway can invite people to text the word SUBWAY to 12345, and be rewarded by receiving a 50 percent discount on their next Subway sandwich.

Once Subway has customers’ mobile phone numbers in its database, the company can send out promotions to these customers. Typically, a retail food company like Subway will send out texts once or twice a week to help drive store traffic and sales.

The Future of SMS Advertising

Companies are moving beyond the simple opt-in SMS advertising model into highly targeted, location-based offers. This careful targeting depends on increasing ownership of smartphones with built-in global positioning systems (GPS).

Location-based targeting is an exciting new way to offer immediate offers to people who are window-shopping or strolling in a store’s immediate neighborhood – a kind of targeting that’s called “hyper-local.”

Here’s how it works: a retail store chooses to participate in an SMS advertising program that generates an electronic “geo-fence” around a location. When people who have opted in to the retailer’s marketing program cross the geo-fence, they receive a text message with a special offer at the nearby store.

The geo-fence can be set up in a small radius of just a few city blocks, or extend a few miles, depending on the retailer’s preference.

Hyper-local programs are opt-in at present, meaning that people must actively let their cell providers know they want to get these ads. In future, it’s possible that people will receive ads by default, and have to opt out if they don’t want to see them.

Don’t Forget About Mobile Email

Texting teens get a lot of attention because they’re going to be buying even more as they get older and increase their purchasing power. But email is still king among the more “seasoned” generations. If you’re targeting these older consumers, you will want to optimize email for their mobile phones. Here are a few tips and tricks of the trade:

  • Send mobile-optimized emails after work or on the weekends. Mobile email is most popular when people are away from their desks.
  • Don’t send an all-image email. They may look pretty, but folks don’t want to download all of those images over a 3G connection, especially if they have a tiered data plan.
  • If you include a link in the email, make sure it links to a mobile-optimized landing page and website. Do not link to a site that makes heavy use of Flash. The highly popular iPhone cannot display anything rendered in Flash.
  • Make the email simple, short, and to the point. People are even more impatient on mobile phones than they are when using desktop or laptop computers.
  • Track your results, test different versions of your emails, and make adjustments for mobile delivery. Tools like Litmus can help with this.

Both text and email offers can be highly effective – but not if you send the wrong type of medium to your target audience. Be sure to keep audience demographics in mind, and send your people information they’ll find useful, in the format they like best.

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