When it comes to email marketing vs. text message (sms) marketing: What’s the difference, and which is more effective in the realm of eCommerce?
It’s a big question, and we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Let’s start at a high level.
Both email marketing and text message marketing are powerful tools for driving sales. But when it comes to email, marketers are often working within a noisy, crowded environment.
Text message marketing, commonly referred to as SMS marketing, however, offers an opportunity for brands to connect directly with consumers in the place where the eyeballs are…all the time. Pew data shows 95% of Americans own a mobile phone today, and that dependency on smartphones is at an all-time high.
What’s more: These two spaces are increasingly being used in different ways. While the average email inbox is becoming more personal (used for work, family, finance, etc.), the text (sms) inbox is more focused on activities like shopping, social events, and notifications.
Let’s look at both channels in a bit more detail.
There are a few main areas where email marketing and text message marketing differ in terms of effectiveness within the eCommerce setting: Volume and competition, conversions, and response time. Looking at these areas, we can see where a few key opportunities lie for online merchants.
In the world of email, there’s quite a bit of competition for consumers’ attention. In fact, data shows that there are upwards of 293 billion emails sent per day. That means that marketers have to work hard to stand out within the crowded inbox environment.
What’s more: The email inbox poses other hurdles related to reach, like Gmail’s promotions tab, which sorts marketing messages into a secondary inbox folder. According to research, only 45.1% of email users check this tab each day, meaning it’s even harder for brands to leverage email marketing effectively.
In comparison, only about 26 billion texts are sent worldwide on average every day as of 2017.
And texting is becoming more the norm than the exception: Pew data shows that adults who text typically send and receive a median of 10 texts a day; teens who text send and receive a median of 50 texts per day.
Because there are less competition and volume of messages sent, there’s a more significant opportunity for marketers who are early adopters around this form of marketing.
Next, let’s look at the difference in these to marketing platforms around conversions and performance.
For email marketing, the average click-through rate is relatively low, with only 2.78% of subscribers clicking on an offer within an email, according to Marketing Insider Group. Additionally, only about 30% of retail email list subscribers have completed a purchase from the retailer whose email list they subscribed to.
Text messaging offers some promising alternatives, however.
Gartner data shows that response rates on phones are as high as 45-98%, while the global average open rate for SMS texts is 94%. LiveRecover data also indicates that while cart abandonment emails convert at around 7%, text messages convert at 21% on average. Not bad, right?
But that’s not all. Two-thirds of customers are on board with text marketing as well, with surveys showing that 75% of people would like offers sent to them via text.
What’s also interesting is the number of marketers who feel that text messaging presents a compelling opportunity for improved marketing performance: 65% of marketers say text message marketing is “very effective” for them.
In the realm of performance and conversions, text messaging opens doors to customers (and sales) in a way it never has before.
Last, we also need to consider how response time factors into the overall effectiveness of these two types of marketing.
For email, you’re largely using a broadcast style format, wherein a message is pushed out to a list of subscribers from an email service provider, largely in a one-way format. This works well for long-term engagements, but it’s not always great for real-time response rates, as people may have push notifications turned off or only check certain emails at certain times of day…if at all.
On average, data shows that most people only check email one to three times per day.
Text messages, on the other hand, work with much more urgency. There’s a stronger connection to the text message inbox, as these messages come right through a user’s mobile phone (and most people keep their phones nearby at all times.)
People check their phones far more than they do their inboxes as well. Some insights indicate that the average person checks his/her phone upwards of 80 times per day, even while on vacation.
But the tie to these devices is even stronger still: According to a survey from ReportLinker, 46% of Americans admitted to checking their smartphones before they even get out of bed in the morning, while 65% of adults with cell phones say they have ever slept with their cell phone on or right next to their bed. The speed texts offer is impressive, too: 91% of texts are read within three minutes of being sent.
The takeaway: while email is great for long-term communication and less timely interactions in the eCommerce world, text message marketing creates an opportunity for near real-time interaction with potential customers.
When it comes down to which of these marketing tools is better, much like anything in life, the answer is: It depends.
It’s smart to use both platforms and let them complement each other, recovering as many eCommerce sales as possible and staying in touch with consumers across touch points and channels. Just keep in mind that experimentation is the only true way to know for sure which will work best for your unique audience.