For marketers around the world, 2023 is the year of getting back to basics: focusing on core, measurable marketing activities that deliver business revenue. With a drive to maximize budget and an eye on results, the focus this year can be summarized in one word: performance.
At the same time, brand-to-consumer communication continues to evolve and become more and more conversational. Driving this change is the ubiquitous presence of the mobile device among global consumers, and a desire for marketing and brand messaging to fit into the consumers’ day-to-day life.
SMS is the preferred mode of communication to facilitate that conversation between consumers and brands, and the channel to create conversations that convert, through which marketers can deliver measurable and revenue-driving performance.
Attentive surveyed over 900 brands across global markets to gather insights on what’s top of mind for marketers today and how they are using SMS. This report outlines the goals of marketers globally in 2023, the role SMS is playing in marketing strategies, and the opportunities for brands to maximize the performance of their SMS program.
For 44% of marketers, their budget is consistent with 2022, and for 42%, it’s increasing. But, the top marketing goals for 2023 do reflect a return to basic marketing functions that drive results: retaining existing customers by building loyalty (74%), and acquiring new customers (73%). The next highest goal—brand building—is a distant third (38%).
The leading reason for focusing on retention is that brands are aware they are leaving money on the table:
Despite this cost, and while global macro environment challenges make maximizing existing customer value logical, brands are still tasking marketing with finding new customers in 2023. For marketers, both retention and acquisition are must-dos this year.
A focus on performance means brands are reassessing their marketing budget and allocating to channels that best deliver lower funnel results: leads and conversions. Overall, there's a lot of stability in budgets, with a high percentage of all marketing channels ‘staying the same’. Due to all the macro uncertainty, this may reflect an unwillingness to too greatly shake-up marketing strategy this year.
52% of marketers surveyed are planning to increase their SMS marketing budget in 2023, on average increasing investment 14% year over year. This percentage of marketers expecting to increase SMS budget is greater than any other paid channel, with 45% expecting to increase their social media budget and 38% expecting their email budget will grow this year.
Given the direct and measurable nature of SMS marketing, it’s not surprising to see strong growth this year. Conversely, the greatest budget declines are predicted in channels known for lower levels of marketing efficiency and less direct lead generation and conversion: social, influencers, and non-digital modes like linear TV and print.
SMS is an effective channel at retaining and growing customers for brands. For 53% of marketers surveyed, SMS is a top 3 revenue driving channel. For 22% of those respondents, over 20% of their revenue is coming from their SMS marketing program.
SMS acts as a direct revenue-driving channel, with 73% of marketers surveyed saying SMS drives incremental revenue for their business. Additionally, almost one-third of marketers see SMS increasing their average order value, and/or growing overall customer lifetime value.
SMS is a perfect fit for today’s top marketing goals. 79% of marketers using SMS use it as a retention channel. With its direct access to the consumers’ primary inbox and timely manner, SMS is an effective channel to keep customers coming back and reengage lapsed customers.
SMS is a powerful zero-party data source, and this feeds into its role in retention—powering personalization and segmentation to send relevant and targeted messages to keep customers feeling engaged, connected, and purchasing. Our internal data shows that on average, over 50% of subscribers to an Attentive SMS program purchase more than once from a brand. And more than 20% of a brand’s subscribers are repeat customers monthly (Attentive, internal data, 2023).
Despite the high adoption for retention, there are opportunities for brands to better leverage SMS for loyalty. Less than a quarter of marketers using SMS today have made it part of their loyalty program, instead using SMS as a standalone retention channel.
Connecting an SMS program to an existing loyalty program can expand and enhance outreach and impact, especially if integrated with a loyalty or reviews partner to connect data and coordinate touchpoints. Of the marketers surveyed, only 22% integrate SMS with a loyalty platform and only 18% with a review platform (see examples of loyalty partners Attentive has integrations with).
An opportunity also exists in customer service, a powerful way to convert customers into loyal advocates. 25% of marketers surveyed use SMS as a customer service channel. But globally, far more consumers wish they could connect with a brand for customer service via SMS. 86.6% of consumers want to have a 1:1 conversation with a brand when having checkout issues, and 88.4% for any shipping questions (Global State of Conversational Commerce, consumer research, 2023). SMS is an immediate and convenient way to respond to and resolve customer concerns. But a large majority of brands continue to miss out.
93% of brands surveyed have some integration with SMS, underlining the connective role SMS can play across a marketing strategy.
But in other areas where SMS can enhance efficiency and enable data collection and personalization, there is a significant opportunity for marketers to integrate more of their marketing tech stack. From loyalty to customer service platforms and CDPs, marketers have a wide range of options when it comes to enhancing both the impact of their SMS program, as well as leveraging data they’re collecting across other tools.
Marketers do see the complementary value of coordinating SMS with other marketing channels to grow performance, especially between email and SMS. 79% surveyed orchestrate their SMS program with their email marketing. Interestingly, only 25% say they have an actual technical integration between their SMS program and ESP, suggesting a more manual effort to align these programs, rather than leveraging the automated and connected benefits of an integration.
Another 33% align their SMS program with their social media efforts, highlighting the natural connection between reaching and engaging consumers across the two channels.
The global impact of the Apple IDFA changes has been clear: a pronounced decline in paid ad performance that's based on third-party data. Google’s cookie depreciation is set to hit in early 2024. Marketers know the value of zero- and first-party data in powering personalized marketing, so planning how to collect and use this data is more important than ever.
With the decline of third-party identifiers like third-party cookies and mobile IDs, the marketing industry has been in search of a new gold standard replacement to identify consumers for marketing purposes. Email emerged as the most likely successor, and 80% of marketers surveyed are using email as an identity solution today.
But after a few years, some of the limitations of email as an identity solution are becoming apparent, especially that the average person has many email addresses over their life, and often more than one active email address at any given time—think personal, work, school, college, even the trend of an email address just for shopping purposes.
The phone number is emerging as a valuable alternative to email. 49% surveyed say their business uses a phone number as a way of identifying consumers for marketing purposes. Of those that don’t today, an additional 38% are interested.
The survey results also suggest that marketers may have learned the lesson from past unabandoned data collection and usage, and the media and consumer backlash that followed. Brands want to use data to personalize, but not get too personal.
In terms of preferred zero-party data, brands’ top preference is data to personalize and add relevance to marketing messages. The preferred data is focused on location and product preferences. Ranked lower is requesting gender and age data, and an even lower preference to ask about height, weight, or hair and skin type.
Brands’ use cases for zero-party data center on sending the most relevant content to customers. The top use case is segmentation—sending text messages based on subscribers’ interests or preferences that the recipient is more likely to find helpful and actionable. Other top use cases are understanding consumer trends and personalizing content. Overall, this suggests a trend in using data to make marketing more valuable to consumers, and reducing waste for brands.
With the variety of options to grow SMS as a retention channel, there has never been a better time to understand what good and great SMS performance looks like, and the actions marketers can take to get there.
Read on to explore Attentive’s global SMS marketing benchmarks, across standard campaigns and conversational journeys, broken down by sub-vertical and message type to provide actionable insights.
Explore Attentive’s global benchmarks to understand what it takes to get SMS marketing to good, and onwards to great. Along with data, we’ve included key insights and recommended actions.
We’ve broken the benchmarks out by message type and by vertical, taking into account the different products, services, and assortment of purchase journeys across different industries. Some verticals also have benchmarks for conversational messaging, like Two-Way Journeys™ and Attentive Concierge™, where we found enough data to provide even more helpful insights. For all message types, we’ve included a range from the median to the top 25% to help showcase how performance varies.
Check out these helpful metrics and messages definitions below.
Attentive’s Benchmarks Report survey of 902 Attentive customers globally (US, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom) was conducted from January 11, 2023 to January 23, 2023.
Benchmark data included in this report is from Attentive internal data and covers active SMS campaigns between January 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023. Data for campaigns and journeys was included for messages sent to a minimum of 10% of the total number of subscribers in the program.
Data for Two-Way Journeys™ was included only for messages with a minimum of 10 clicks and 100 sends.
Conversion rates (CVR) for standard campaigns and journeys and Two-Way Journeys™ is based on an attribution window of 30 days for a click and 1 day for a view.
Data for Attentive Concierge™ was included only for messages with a minimum of 10 sessions.
The benchmark data is provided as a range from the median performance (50th percentile) to the top quartile performance (75th percentile) for most metrics. Opt-out rates are provided as a range from the median performance (50th percentile) to the bottom quartile performance (25th percentile) as this represents the cohort with the lowest message opt-out rates. Learn more about SMS metrics and definitions here.