Category Archives: SMS Marketing

Hello 2021 – Let’s recall our top 10 blog posts from 2020

It’s January, which means the somewhat stunted festivities are over. No more excuses for eating excessive amounts of chocolate and cheese. The decorations have been put away and we’re back in our home offices. So… we imagine, like us you’re glad to see the end of 2020.

2021 comes with a fresh start, new goals, new beginnings… and a new lockdown. However, it’s not all doom & gloom, we’re here to share our top 10 performing blogs from 2020. We’re pretty proud of them and hope they’ll give you some ideas of how to best maximise your business’s SMS marketing efforts for the year ahead.

Marketing campaigns of lockdown: The good, the bad and the ugly

A fairly clever chap named Albert Einstein once said: “Failure is success in progress”. Marketing campaigns are no different, but the good news is we’ve already found what you shouldn’t be doing. So have a read and see what you can learn from the good, the bad and the ugly campaigns from lockdown 1.0.

Using SMS to enhance back-to-business for hairdressers and barbers

Lockdown hair was a serious issue and every man and his dog wanted to sort out their DIY haircut with a professional. As such communication from businesses to customers needed to be effective. This post details all the ways SMS could be used to achieve just that, helping hairdressers and barbers prep for reopening. 

How to use SMS web pages to communicate during a crisis

Crises can come in all shapes and sizes, and 2020 required businesses to remain agile and navigate a number of different challenges. It’s important for companies to be fully prepared so they can react as quickly and efficiently as possible. This blog details all the ways SMS Web pages can be used to convey helpful information in an emergency. After all, combining the speed and reach of SMS with the old saying a picture is worth a thousand words, can be particularly useful in a crisis situation. 

How to track the ROI of your SMS campaigns

We like to spout the importance and effectiveness of SMS, but don’t just take our word for it. You need to track the results to measure your return on investment (ROI) to know what your customers respond to best. Here we detail 3 main ways you can achieve this with your future SMS campaigns.

Technology can help pubs and restaurants during COVID-19

Pubs and restaurants, remember those? Many have adapted to doing takeaway and pick-up options to keep revenue coming in. For these services to be successful, businesses must be able to effectively communicate with customers, whether it be opening times, menus, or delivery updates. Find out how SMS can help cut through the noise.

eCommerce trends for 2020

This one might seem a little outdated but it’s worth considering some of the key changes of 2020 and how that may have affected your business. Maybe it’ll spark some thoughts about the big eCommerce trends for 2021.

How hospitality businesses can bridge the revenue gap

Arguably, hospitality has been one of the most disrupted sectors during the pandemic. So to help our hospitality customers maximise customer engagement and drive revenue in these uncertain times, we outlined the campaign ideas which proved valuable for our clients back in July.

Best practice guide: Creating a business continuity plan

2020 didn’t exactly go to plan for a lot of businesses, but it did get us thinking. How do you prepare for the unexpected? Check out the helpful guide and see how you can integrate SMS for an even better business continuity plan.

What business practices are here to stay?

In many ways last year was a learning curve for businesses. There were some practices enabling companies to remain agile and effective, which it makes sense to continue with. See a quick rundown of our learnings and the things we think are worth maintaining moving forward.

How to successfully manage remote teams

Teamwork is as important as ever, but it’s also probably the hardest it’s ever been with remote working. Not having to sit in rush hour traffic or on the busy tube is great, but there are some challenges too. Here we delve into how to better manage your remote workforce. 

Well, we’re glad to see the end of 2020 and say hello to 2021. Hopefully, some of this content was useful to you. If you’ve got any ideas for topics you think we should cover, drop us a note at info@textmarketer.co.uk

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Are your campaigns Santa approved?

Finally, some good news – 2020 is nearly over. Like us, you probably can’t remember the last time you were so excited to see off the end of year, albeit with slightly less pazazz than we’d like.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Statista found that over 70% have reported increased usage of their smartphone during the pandemic. This year, it’s fair to say we’ve relied on the mighty mobile more than ever. Just think about the number of video calls you’ve had this year, messages sent to friends and family and not forgetting the emails and messages from businesses too.

Spreading Christmas cheer seems more pertinent than ever before and this is echoed in the sales of Christmas cards, which Google data shows had already increased significantly in August, when compared to 2019 (4.61k in August 2020 versus 3.65k in August 2019).

In fact, a survey by John Lewis found that this year more than 70% of respondents said they intended to post either more or the same number of Christmas cards and 51% were planning to send more or the same amount of virtual greetings.

Whether you’re thinking of sending a virtual Christmas ‘card’ to your customers and staff this year or are promoting a winter sale and offer, we’ve put 5 top tips together to ensure that your campaign meets Santa’s criteria, to make it onto that all-important ‘nice’ list.

  1. Spelling and grammar

We don’t want to come across like a grammar nazi but no one wants to come across as sloppy. It’s easy to make mistakes and it’s even easier to overlook them yourself, so we recommend that you send a test message to someone within your team so they can check for errors.

2. Shorten urls

Tracking performance of your campaign and how it has driven traffic to your website can lead to long urls that take up valuable characters in your message. We’ve thought of that for you as there is a fantastic ‘shorten url’ feature built into MessageBox which instantly makes your links shorter and it has built-in tracking so you can find out exactly how many times people clicked through from the ‘Analytics’ section of your account. Of course, you’re welcome to use any external shortener too.

3. Message length

The beauty of SMS is that it’s short and sweet, the clue is literally in the name ‘short message service’. We get asked a lot about the character limit of text messages and as standard, a single text message is 160 characters but can be extended to include 4 message parts. Each message equals a credit so it can soon add up when sending long messages to people.

75% of messages have 160 characters or less

4. Get creative

As they say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and a mobile web page is a perfect way to send a Christmas message or include extra information about your plans for the new year.

5. Always include an opt-out

When it comes to marketing messages the same rules apply for SMS as they do for email, so when sending texts to customers remember to include a way for them to opt-out or unsubscribe from your campaigns. And don’t be discouraged by customers opting out – they are effectively helping refine your database to interested and engaged customers only, which is actually a good thing.

Finally, this list is for life not just for Christmas so refer to it when you send your next SMS campaign, and track your results to see how you get on. If you have any more questions please do not hesitate to get in touch, and if you’re thinking about sending your first Christmas SMS campaign you can sign up for your free Text Marketer account here today.

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How world leaders have used the humble SMS to help combat Covid-19

So 2020, among many other things, is the year a large telecoms business (we can’t say who) managed to get Barack Obama to speak at one of their online events. And while politics to telecoms may seem quite a leap, this year has seen leaders all over the world harness the power of SMS, to effectively communicate with the public. Given the unfolding situation regarding the pandemic, the reach and speed of SMS has made it an ideal choice: 

  • 95% average open rate in the UK and 94% globally
  • 90% of all text messages read within just 3 minutes

But before we get into all that good, slightly more serious stuff, we thought we’d have a little fun. What started out as I wonder what mighty mobile is Barack Obama approved, turned into a rather joyous google hunt. So, to spread the joy in what has been a rather turbulent year, we have detailed our three favourite world leader mobile discoveries:

Jacinda Ardern

Starting off easy and a touch predictable – the New Zealand President is an iPhone user. But what we like about this fact, is the accompanying anecdote that the US comedian Stephen Colbert managed to disable her phone, entering multiple incorrect passwords and failing to get close enough for facial recognition. Better luck next time Colbert.

Vladimir Putin

Now for Mr. Putin there are mixed reports. According to one of his spokesperson’s, Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin literally doesn’t have a mobile. If he needs to make a call, one of his assistants will hand him a smartphone. But, he has been photographed using a MTS-Glonass 945 and other reports say this was specifically designed for him and boasts airtight security. And really, the latter seems a little more convenient. 

Angela Merkel

For the German Chancellor, it’s not one, but two mobiles – the Nokia 6260 Slide and Blackberry Q10. We know, a blackberry. They still exist and apparently have been quite popular among world leaders in the past. Who knew! 

Fun right? Now, back to the topic at hand – how have world leaders across the globe used SMS to help combat Covid-19? Well, let’s start with a recap of how the UK government has used text messaging during the pandemic. In addition to using SMS to deliver Covid-19 test results, the government also sent a bulk SMS to all citizens urging people to stay at home, with a link to the government’s dedicated coronavirus website page – illustrated on the right. Moreover, an SMS was also sent to all of those who had been identified as high risk, again reiterating the importance of staying home.

These messages enabled the government to recite the original message of – 

Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.  

And this consistency went some way towards making people feel more secure, and by including a link to the government coronavirus webpage, also helped ensure that people had access to correct information.

Beyond this however, SMS has been used in many different ways by governments further afield and below, are just a few of the most interesting use cases we found.

Utilising SMS to share accurate information – Philadelphia, United States

To ensure the citizens of Philadelphia remained informed, the City of Philadelphia used it’s text alert system to send daily coronavirus updates to the public. The simple opt in required individuals to text the keyword COVIDPHL to a dedicated shortcode, and the service attracted nearly 32,000 people. Messages varied from updating citizens on restrictions, to educating them on potential symptoms.  Great example of a government body taking a more proactive approach to combatting fake news.

Monitoring citizen movement during lockdown – Greece

Residents in Greece are required to obtain permission via SMS to leave their home during the country’s second lockdown. Individuals must send an SMS to a five-digit shortcode, that includes their name, address and the reason why they need to leave their house. This is required for everything from walking a pet to going food shopping. While this may seem a little intense, it has proved very effective and well, wait until you read our use case from South Korea.

Emergency alerts and prevention instructions – South Korea

For people living within South Korea, emergency texts from officials are delivered roughly 3-5 times a day. Sounds relaxing right?! These messages vary from reminders and instructions on how individuals can prevent the disease from spreading, to detailed accounts of exact locations and movements of those who have tested positive for Covid-19. To an extent, this doesn’t seem that surprising, however some of the movement accounts do seem scarily detailed. But the one thing we loved about this messaging service was the fact that one of the district’s, is also using this to educate citizens on how to care for seniors during the pandemic. And well, we think that’s just lovely.  

Providing local health information – New York, United States

Finally, New York City has also set up a dedicated COVID keyword, but this was specifically for local COVID updates. Although we think this is a great idea as it helps ensure citizens aren’t confused by changing and differing restrictions, e.g. under what circumstances they can travel, the main reason we have included this use case is because interestingly, the city actually has 11 different SMS alerts citizens can opt into. Our favourite? The one used to ‘find farmers markets near you’. Because no one wants to struggle to find great produce. 

To conclude, the humble SMS really has been working overtime and continues to prove what an effective communication tool it can be. 

If you’d like more information on how we’ve helped local governments and businesses more generally improve the effectiveness of their communications during this difficult period, simply get in touch with one of our friendly team at info@textmarketer.co.uk

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How to track the ROI of your SMS campaigns

Whether it’s your first time sending SMS campaigns or you’re a seasoned professional, the only way you can see the value of your campaign is by tracking it and measuring its return on investment (ROI). 

Calculating the value of your SMS sends can help you make improvements going forwards, and can help you understand what your customers respond to the best.

Before sending you should have an idea of what you are looking to achieve with each campaign. A few common goals are:

  • Increase the number of sales and revenue
  • Increase the number of customers claiming an offer 
  • Increase the number of leads 
  • Encouraging the number of downloads of asset
  • Increase number of new subscribers 
  • Increase traffic to website
  • Collect feedback and obtain responses

A successful campaign should help you achieve the goals you’ve got in mind. So where do you begin?

The best place to start is with your contact data. At the core of a successful SMS campaign is accurate recipient numbers. The cleaner your data is the higher your delivery rate will be. 

To find out your delivery rate you’ll need to calculate:

Number of Delivered / Total sent x 100 = Delivery rate. 

A low number would suggest that a data audit should be considered before your next campaign.

An improved delivery rate should also lead to an improvement in the open rate of your campaign, so the next step comes to tracking the performance.

Click-throughs
If you’re looking to send traffic to your website whether it’s to fill out a form, check out a page, or make a purchase, we have a free feature that you can use to track the clicks on your URL within your text message. By simply including a URL to your destination page within the text message and then clicking ‘URL Shorten’ icon, you will be able to view how many people have clicked the link within the ‘Analytics’ section of Messagebox. You can see exactly who has clicked your link and how many times which is perfect for any follow up campaigns or reminders.

Sales
If you’re looking for something a little more sophisticated and want to track sales and revenue, you can use something called UTM parameters. This is a little extra information at the end of your URL that you can customise yourself inline with your business’s tracking structure. You often find this tracking on marketing emails and it can similarly be applied to URLs.  For more information about how to use UTM parameters read this article by Google.

Conversions

Measuring conversions relates to your goal and will generally look like ‘the number of people who took action’ divided by ‘the number of recipients’ x 100 and that’s your general ROI. In terms of a monetary value, finding this is as simple as taking the cost of your campaign send and comparing this to the number of goals that were achieved, i.e. the number of appointments booked, the number of items sold, the number of coupons used etc.

As with email, there are sweeping statements about the average click-through rate or response for a campaign but the best way to make improvements is to set your own baseline and work from there and you’ll see how SMS can help you meet your goals.
We’re keen to help you enhance your campaigns and see the true value of the humble SMS, so don’t hesitate to ask us for help with your future campaigns, drop us an email at info@textmarketer.co.uk or give us a call on 0117 205 0202.

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What will Black Friday look like in 2020?

No one could have foreseen a year like this and many of us are looking forward to brighter days that lie ahead where tiers are only referred to in relation to celebratory cakes. But the show must go on and as usual, we’re looking ahead to Black Friday and although this year will be very different (Black Friday in lockdown, how very 2020) we’re outlining our predictions ahead of November 27th.

But first, let’s take a look back at what Black Friday looked like last year.

For starters, Black Friday is the most anticipated retail event of the year and since 2018 it has overtaken Boxing day sales as the most participated consumer event. Many UK shoppers see it as a fantastic opportunity to get Christmas gifts early at more affordable prices. 

As an event, Black Friday gets bigger every year and we’re not just talking about the fact that it’s no longer a weekend event but the whole month. Last year’s estimated spend was at an all-time high of £8.57billion!

The top product types that have the biggest draw for bargain hunters are electrical, fashion and toys and games (Retail economics) which is of no surprise when smartphones, games consoles and televisions are reported as Amazon’s top sellers during this time, amongst its own products of course.

Though it may be the busiest shopping event of the year, some argue that there is a growing sentiment among brit’s regarding whether we’re truly getting a ‘deal’, which has left some quite polarised when it comes to participating. However, only 8% are said to be actively avoiding Black Friday and for any business to be successful, they must be able to demonstrate the value of their products and services to customers. This does not change on Black Friday and it is a great excuse for brands to engage with their audience and find out what types of offers and content they would find worthwhile.

While massive e-commerce companies such as Amazon cash in on the event, given that recent retail trends suggest we are entering the ‘golden age’ of retail localisation, many customers will want to ensure their money is spent on supporting local business. This year Small Business Saturday comes the day after Black Friday and presents an opportunity to attract shoppers who are more conscious of where their money goes.

We predict that electrical purchases are still going to be the biggest category of sales but with current and future social events put on hold, we’re believe fashion retail might fall below other categories such as toys and games. 

We’ve already seen a sharp increase in e-commerce this year due to the pandemic. Unsurprisingly our shopping behaviour has moved even more into the online space and with the recent government announcements regarding the second UK lockdown, we’re expecting mobile ecommerce to soar. In fact, last year 71% of UK shoppers participated in Black Friday deals using their smartphones. And with screen time having grown this year and all non-essential shops being closed, we’re expecting this to rise yet again.

This year has been difficult for many, but as we head towards Black Friday and holiday season more generally, businesses will be keen to pull back any lost revenue due to the pandemic and creative, effective campaigns, can help them achieve this. And given that your customers are already going to be on their mobile phones looking for the best deals, an SMS campaign to grab your customers attention, could prove valuable.

If you’d like any advice for getting your campaigns Black Friday ready, simply view our latest webinarBlack Friday campaign masterclass, or get in touch with the team at info@textmarketer.co.uk

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Black Friday sale! 20% extra credits FREE

Black Friday 2020 is set for November 27th, and it is predicted to be an even larger commercial event than previous years. Given that 2019 saw sales soar, Barclaycard reporting a 7.2% increase in overall volume and 16.2% increase in transaction value – more people were buying and they were spending more; it’s safe to say that Black Friday promises to be a huge opportunity for businesses.

Furthermore, given that 67.2% of all online shopping occurs on mobile, and that in 2019 the order rate achieved with an SMS campaign was nearly 7 times that of a email email campaign, it’s fair to say that Black Friday is largely a mobile affair.

So, to help our Text Marketer family make the most of this opportunity, we have put together a video of our recent webinarBlack Friday masterclass. Which not only includes tips and advice on send times and content, but also has a full demo of how to organise an SMS web page campaign. Because, well, sometimes brands want something a little fancier than the humble SMS. And…

… we’re running our famous Black Friday sale! As the extra credits can go a long way in making your campaign a success. Afterall, a follow-up campaign as a reminder message, could help make sure that your message is making an impact amongst the noise.

Introducing our Black Friday offer – 20% free SMS credits on every top-up*.

Any purchase *between 1,000 – 250,000 credits made between Wednesday 28th October – Cyber Monday 30th November will receive an extra 20% SMS credits for free!

So, the more SMS credits you purchase, the more we will give you completely free – it really is that simple.

To claim, forward your invoice to support@textmarketer.co.uk with the header BLACKFRIDAY – the offer can be used multiple times during the period, on message bundles of up to 250,000 but CANNOT be used with any existing offer or discount.

If you wish to purchase message bundles larger than 250,000, discounts may be available, simply contact our sales team for details.

Please see our T&Cs for more information.

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Rise of the staycation: Holiday minus the quarantine

With more aeroplanes being grounded, an increasing and rapidly changing list of countries requiring isolation upon return, and many insurers no longer covering for pandemic related cancellations; unsurprisingly brits have been looking closer to home for their holidays.

In June alone, staycations had risen by 127% and following the confirmation that we have entered the second wave of the pandemic, we expect to see this figure increase even further. And really as 2020 marks 250 years since Ross-on-Wye launched tourism in Britain, it’d be rude not to bundle our suitcases and wellies in the car, and head for a UK-getaway. 

Moreover, last year 40.9 million overseas visitors came to the UK and spent and estimated £28.4 billion and the leisure, tourism and hospitality industries are responsible for employing over 1.72 million workers. So, especially for businesses who may be feeling the impact of this, we have pulled together some tips on how to attract staycationers. 

Market the experience

Most people going away want to treat themselves for working hard, or spend quality time with friends and loved ones. Staycationers are less likely to want to go sightseeing, so you need to give these potential customers a compelling reason as to why they should visit your establishment and area of the country. One of the most effective ways of doing this, is to market the product or service as an experience. By making it less transactional, and talking about the experience holiday makers can expect from your city or town as a whole, you are more likely to attract them. 

For example, if you run a B&B in Dorset, it makes sense to not only market your B&B, but the relaxing weekend with fantastic views, that potential customers can expect from a weekend in Dorset. In some instances, it may even make sense to partner with various activity businesses or nearby tourism operators to create holiday ‘packages’ for customers. 

Introduce local discounts

One of the best ways to grow any business is through word-of-mouth. By introducing a discount for locals you can hope to attract the very people who may be interested in your businesses products and services all year round, and may also bring friends and family members from near and far. 

Give people a reason to return

Especially when marketing to a domestic audience, it’s possible they’ve already visited your leisure centre or escape rooms, so think about what you can offer, to keep customers coming back. This may be a potential discount, or simply a campaign to market a new escape room, spa treatment, or even menu. By continually switching it up, you can ensure even returning customers thoroughly enjoy their experience with your business. 

Harness the power of SMS

There are so many use cases for the humble SMS when it comes to businesses in the leisure and tourism, and hospitality sectors, but if we had to name just three…

1. Marketing campaigns 

Not only do text messages boast an open rate of 98%, compared to email’s rather piddly 20.9%, but with SMS, businesses also benefit from a click through rate between 8-32%. So it’s also a great way to encourage those all important customer conversions.

2. Loyalty schemes 

For businesses hoping to reward local customers and encourage repeat business, it’s worth noting that 90% of mobile users who participated in an SMS loyalty program felt they gained value from it. What’s more, SMS marketing campaigns opt out, is less than 5%

3. Booking reminders 

Plain and simple, booking reminders reduce no-shows. But for businesses willing to get a little creative, they can also help manage customer expectations for instance if you require them to scan the track and trace app upon arrival, or begin to enhance and get customers excited about their booking prior to arriving at your establishment. 

By prioritising marketing efforts to domestic travellers, businesses are able to not only enhance revenue during this uncertain time, but better position themselves for the future. Afterall, attracting a domestic audience reduces reliance on seasonality and is particularly useful for SMEs, who may be positioned in more remote locations and therefore overlooked by overseas visitors. 

If you’d like to discuss how SMS could help your marketing efforts, please get in touch with one of our friendly team at info@textmarketer.co.uk.

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Marketing campaigns of lockdown: The good, the bad and the ugly

Marketing during and after the immediate coronavirus crisis, has been difficult to navigate. Rapidly changing consumer behaviour and government guidelines, presented marketers with some challenges. Be sensitive, but be funny. Reference the situation, but not too much. Show you care, but in a different way to every other brand already overcommunicating with their customers. In truth, for many brands it’s probably felt a bit like a minefield.

So, to celebrate this rather awkward time coming to an end (fingers crossed), we’re going to take a look at 3 examples we believe truly represent the good, the bad and the ugly of marketing campaigns from during lockdown, and what we can learn from each one. 

The Good

Now this easily could’ve been KFC’s ‘We’ve missed you’, but, well, we’ve already spoken about it and there are only certain topics we like to repeat *cough* humble SMS *cough*. So instead, The Good is Emily’s outdoor campaign from April. 

Emily’s had booked an outdoor campaign, a first for their company, hoping to target individuals around the Easter bank holiday. However, as you know, April 2020 was a little different to planned. The original campaign was centred around encouraging consumers to ditch the usual, ‘dull’ crisps, and instead try a bag of Emily’s. But, the company was concerned it may look as if they were making light of the situation and implying that lockdown was dull. As opposed to cancelling, they decided to continue with the outdoor advertising as planned, but showcase a completely fresh campaign. In less than one week, their marketing team and creative agency created a new concept whereby the brand poked fun at itself, with advertisements donning the following comments: 

‘Our first ever poster, seen by a runner and one pigeon. Typical’ 

‘Hmmm… maybe we should have made a TV ad instead’

The campaign was humorous without making light of the situation and unsurprisingly, the few eyes that did see the campaign, shared it online and the results were very positive.

Lesson #1

If circumstances change and a campaign no longer feels appropriate, change it. As Adam Draper, Nurture Brand’s managing director said to Clear Channel (the company responsible for the outdoor advertising), –

“I don’t want my money back, I just want to make sure it works for us”. 

So whatever the campaign, make sure it works for your business. Even if that means changing the entire concept last minute. 

The Bad

Now perhaps bad is a little strong. It was just a little awkward. But unfortunately the good, the awkward and the ugly isn’t quite as well known… so, The Bad is British Airways’ ‘Dear Britain’ advert. The TV advertisement ends with them saying ‘we love you Britain’, not once, not twice, but three times. Admittedly the vast majority of flights were grounded at the time, so we imagine creating any effective air travel campaign would’ve been hugely difficult, but still. We just feel they missed the mark a little, and well, we’re not the only ones.

Lesson #2

If your brand doesn’t have an angle that naturally fits with a given trend, in this case, the ‘we’re all in it together’ more empathetic mood of the country, then do something else or do nothing at all. You don’t need to jump on every trend. Do what feels true to the brand and relevant to your target audience, even if that means missing a few ‘opportunities’.

The Ugly

We saw this particular marketing campaign blow up online and not in the good way, in The Ugly way. Airbnb’s ‘Kindness card’ campaign, sent an email to guests asking them to write a digital comment card with an encouraging message to Airbnb hosts, with the option to add a monetary donation.

Consequently, this left the company in hot water with customers, with many asking why they would donate money to individuals who often own multiple properties, especially when they themselves are struggling. It’s worth noting that the company did say that hosts could choose to pass on these monetary donations to a charity of their choice, but well, to the left is just one tweet of many following the campaign.

Lesson #3

Know your audience! We appreciate that Airbnb was simply trying to support their network, but read the room. A simple campaign targeting those who want a change of scenery which doesn’t involve DIY, would’ve likely been received far better. As Mark Ritson states – “Customers’ benevolence won’t keep brands alive – we serve them, not the other way round”. 

In short, brands always need to offer value to their customers and post-Covid19, things are no different. 

Speaking of value, if you would like to see how amazing and easy to use our online SMS platform is, why not sign up for a free account and get 10 free credits to trial the platform, with absolutely no obligation to continue afterwards.

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The EU-US Privacy Shield has been struck down: what are the implications for EU companies using US software?

The EU’s rules around data privacy state that data cannot be transferred out of the EU unless appropriate safeguards are in place. On 16th July 2020, the European Court of Justice ruled that the current safeguards around the transfer of data from EU countries to the US were not adequate; that citizens’ privacy was not properly protected. The “Privacy Shield”, the name given to these safeguards, was struck down.

The main reason that the challenge was brought before the European Court of Justice was because a private advocate argued that US national security laws did not protect EU citizens from government intrusion.

What does this mean for EU businesses using US software?

US software companies use US-based data centres; that means that when you use these services, your data is stored in the US. However, this does not mean that your data is now unsafe. US companies can add what are called ‘SCCs’ – standard contractual clauses’ – to their contracts, which effectively replace the Privacy Shield on a company by company basis. 

As you might expect, many US-based technology companies have either added SCCs to their contacts, or in many cases, already had them in place, just in case something like this happened.

However, SCCs on their own are not enough to transfer data to the US. Supplementary measures are needed. These measures ensure that the US government cannot impinge upon the adequate levels of data protection that the US company provides. 

It’s important for all users of US based software to check that your provider not only has SCCs in their contracts, but also that their supplementary measures are fit for purpose. 

As it is not uncommon for EU-based software companies to partner with US-based companies for some services (called sub-processors), it’s worth checking your software provider to ensure that their partners are protected by SCCs and supplementary measures, too.

Where are Text Marketer’s data centres?

For all of our SMS services, Text Marketer’s data centres are in the UK, which, although when it withdraws from the EU will no longer be governed by the GDPR, has incorporated this into UK law with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the Withdrawal Bill. So the data standards are the same in the UK as they are in the EU, and data can flow freely between the EU and UK. There is currently no requirement for SCCs between the UK and EU.

If you would like to know more about our rigorous approach to data protection, please read our Information Security Statement, or get in touch with us on 0117 205 0202 or at info@textmarketer.co.uk.

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How hospitality businesses can bridge the revenue gap during recovery

So, we’re going to talk about THE instagram post. You know the one, Tom Kerridge’s post addressed to no show restaurant customers. In the post he warns individuals that no-shows can potentially be putting peoples jobs more at risk, as hospitality businesses continue the road to recovery. Albeit a little less politely. 

Now, the Text Marketer family are lucky enough to service hundreds of hospitality businesses and well, we have to know… Tom did you send diners an SMS reminder prior to their booking? We mean no disrespect, but honestly, they work wonders! In all seriousness though, the pandemic has had a huge impact. Even now that hospitality businesses are open, due to the guidelines around capacity restrictions, social distancing among customers and staff and PPE requirements, there has been a significant impact on revenue. 

The government has announced a VAT tax cut – from 20% to 5% – on eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafes and pubs, and the ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme will be introduced in August. But our advice to Tom, and businesses within hospitality is quite simple. Utilise the humble SMS. There are many creative ways to bridge the revenue gap during recovery but none of them will work without effective communication between your business and customers. Since we are fortunate enough to have seen many successful bulk SMS and SMS Web page campaigns over the last couple of weeks, we thought we’d share some ideas proving valuable for hospitality businesses now.

Continue with take-away services

It’s a no brainer right?! Some individuals might not feel 100% comfortable returning to your restaurant or cafe just yet, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to facilitate more customers without breaking capacity restrictions. Moreover, you can increase brand awareness by introducing branded packaging and if we’re being completely honest, we’ve become quite accustomed to a take-away afternoon tea. 

Top Tip #1: With a simple SMS Web page campaign, you can market your take-away service to customers visually, and include an enticing photo of one of your menu dishes.

Increase delivery options

Introducing multiple delivery and collection options is proving very popular with customers. Branching out from deliveroo to include delivery options via local taxi firms, curbside pick-ups and even implementing delivery services of your own, has been successful among businesses. Ultimately for these services to add-value, they need to be convenient for as many customers as possible. Furthermore, by utilising the humble SMS to support safe deliveries, you can guarantee deliveries will not be left going cold on anyone’s door step. 

Booking reminders

Tom, this one’s for you. And no, this isn’t strictly a campaign idea. But it is worth repeating, especially in the current climate. To maintain social distancing and reduced capacity, for each booking, customers are given a set window for service. As such, it’s more important than ever before that customers arrive on time and are able to make the most of their 90 – 120 minutes. A simple SMS reminder can ensure customers are able to make the most of their booking or alternatively, if their plans have changed, prompt them to cancel their booking in advance, so businesses can amend staff rosters as appropriate. 

Introduce meal kits

As an extension to take-away services, introducing meal kits allows individuals to purchase chilled or even frozen versions of their favourite meals, to cook at home. This option enables businesses to handle more trade, as they can prepare orders in advance and give customers an appropriate collection timeframe. 

Top Tip #2: 160 characters can go much further than you think. So get creative. An SMS campaign introducing or reacquainting customers with your online ordering system, for take-away or meal kits, could prove really valuable.

Boost gift card sales

After more than 100 days in lockdown (yes, it’s really been that long), vouchers may prove to be the perfect pick me up gift for individual’s friends or family members. What’s more, encouraging voucher sales is a great way for businesses to increase revenue in the current climate, and offers customers another opportunity to support their favourite independent businesses.

Reward customer loyalty

Customer retention is key to business success. Afterall, you are far more likely to sell to an existing customer, than a new one. Perhaps now, more so than ever it’s important to show your customers just how much you value them. Businesses can achieve this in a number of ways. To name just a few, thank customers for their patience and support, continue with customer loyalty schemes and offer discounts on repeat bookings or purchases. Making sure your business remains top of mind, for the right reasons as trade returns to normal, will be key to ensuring business survival and success over the coming months. 

Ask for feedback

For many businesses, these new offerings will be exactly that, new. To understand how these are being received by your customers and identify any areas for improvement, it makes sense to ask them. This could be particularly useful if you have opened with a limited menu, and want to know which items to add.

Top Tip #3: SMS surveys are a great way to get feedback from customers. The conversion rate is much higher than that of email, and answering text messages is far more convenient for customers as well. Meaning businesses can base decisions on the answers from far more customer responses. 

If you need any help getting your business campaigns ready, don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our friendly team at info@textmarketer.co.uk, they’ll be happy to help.

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Retail trends gaining momentum post-Covid19

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic’s impact on the retail industry was swift and significant. Consumer behaviour literally changed overnight with the government implementation of lockdown, and even now stores have reopened, retailers have a lot of work to do to reclaim the revenue lost during lockdown.

That being said, initial signs are positive, with the Office for National Statistics reporting a 13.9% growth month-on-month for June; and arguably retail more so than any other industry, is expertly equipped to adapt to changes in consumer behaviour. So, while things are still relatively fresh, we thought we’d highlight some of the retail trends which have gained momentum during and post-Covid19. 

Golden age of localisation

Local convenience stores have experienced a huge surge during lockdown, with many individuals wanting to avoid large queues and public transport. As such, Co-op won a 7% share of the market in April (last achieved in 2011) and George MacDonald, Executive Editor of Retail Week, was recently quoted saying we may be entering the ‘golden age’ of retail localisation.

The way MacDonald describes this ‘golden age’, is as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for independent stores to strengthen and secure their unique place on the highstreet. And with a recent study revealing that 55% of polled UK adults want to shop more locally, this certainly seems to be the case. 

Brand communities

For this one, we’re simply going to reference the weekly ‘clap for carers’. As Izzy Ashton, deputy editor of insight puts it –

Marketing is now less about the hard sell, and more about pulling customers into a brand’s community”. 

Creating a community among customers is a great way to promote customer engagement and retention. It can be achieved in a number of ways – loyalty schemes, customer competitions, for example best use of a product or best caption for a brand post.

Really how this is achieved will be dependent on your business model, brand and customer audience. But with a recent survey reporting that 8 of 10 recipients considered their local high street vital to their community, it’s easy to see how valuable this could be for local retailers.

The continued rise of eCommerce

Naturally, eCommerce has experienced significant growth during lockdown. The way we see it, this has been largely driven by two main factors.

The first and obvious is that lockdown forced the closure of any store deemed ‘non-essential’ and the second, is the growing number of silver surfers getting on board with online shopping.

Only time will tell if the older generation will continue to adopt a more digital approach, but interestingly, in June when stores were able to reopen, online retail sales continued to surge, reporting a 33.9% year-on-year growth. So the data does suggest that consumers will be sticking to online shopping, for the immediate future at least. As such, enhancing eCommerce offerings is essential. Just two great examples include – extending returns policies and diversifying delivery options. 

Additionally, this serves as a reminder of how important it is for retailers to provide customers a smooth omnichannel experience:

Not a recent quote, but the point still stands. 

Green consumerism

Early on in lockdown, many consumers were struggling to buy their usual, favourite products. While this does relate mainly to food purchases (does anyone remember how difficult it was to find flour and eggs?!), it has definitely impacted purchasing behaviour more generally.

Ultimately, not being able to buy the usual food shop for the week, left some questioning how much they actually need. Additionally, as many individuals have had to take voluntary pay cuts, been furloughed, or may have even lost their jobs, it logically follows that individuals are being more mindful of their spending. This has led many consumers to trade off, or trade down on some of their favourite products.

But perhaps most remarkably, 47% of customers identified as trading off are focusing on more environmentally friendly brands. Thus it’s likely this will continue to be a focus for consumers and consequently retailers.  

Fashion subscription businesses

Fashion retailers were one of the hardest hit when the coronavirus crisis first emerged, with a reported 23.1% year-on-year decline for March. But with retail sales picking up and stores reopening, many are thinking about how best to safeguard their business for the future. In recent years, fashion retail subscriptions have really grown in popularity, and as 33% of Brits reported that the main reason for not using a subscription style service was that they enjoyed shopping in person, this group of consumers could be much more open to the idea post-lockdown. Given that retailers are still reporting a significant decline in footfall, it’s certainly worth investigating. 

As the title suggests, none of these trends are new to the retail industry, the pandemic has simply emphasised them. To businesses already benefiting from the changes, it’s paramount marketing efforts are focused on how to retain the additional revenue, and for businesses elsewhere, it’s time to adapt.

As always, any change a business makes is only as effective as the communication of said changes, to their customers. So when your business is ready to launch a customer campaign, remember our experienced team is on hand to help. To get in touch, simply email info@textmarketer.co.uk or call 0117 205 0202.

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Are these business practices here to stay?

It’s fair to say that the pandemic has globally impacted every single industry. Though this impact has expressed itself differently in each industry and continues to develop as we head into recovery, change has been universal. In the UK we are still in the earliest stages of easing lockdown restrictions and have a long way to go before we truly understand what the post-COVID19 landscape will look like, but… 

As lockdown measures were first announced on 23rd March, in 12 weeks certain trends and hits and misses have been noted. During this wild and woolly time (our alternative to unprecedented – you’re welcome) each organisation has approached the situation differently and for many, it has been a learning curve. So while we’re keen to leave behind some of the more eccentric hobbies, in this post we’re going to talk about some of the lessons and business practices we’re going to hold onto post-coronavirus.

1. Remote working works

Remote working isn’t a new concept. However before lockdown, the Office for National Statistics found that just 5% of workers in the UK worked mainly from home. Lockdown has seen this figure rise dramatically and with positive affect. Not only do staff report that they are more productive when working from home, but employees score their happiness 8% higher than those based in the workplace. Furthermore the Working from Home survey conducted by Engaging Works, found that the ideal working week for 60% of recipients, would be one split between remote and office-based working. 

But remote working has benefits above and beyond employee happiness. It enables businesses to recruit further afield increasing the talent pool, potentially reduces financial costs attached to an office space, and perhaps most importantly, also has a positive impact on the environment. We certainly expect to see many businesses making more permanent moves towards flexible remote working. 

2. A thesaurus is not just for university students

It might be just us, but it felt like the pandemic came with quite a lot of vocabulary lessons. Phrases we’d never really heard of became normal run of the mill. For instance flattening the curve, and R-nought. While certain terms are necessary, there are a few words and phrases we’ve grown a little weary of. For example: unprecedented and the new normal. When words are overused they lose their effectiveness, and from a reader’s perspective variety is appreciated. So it’s worth coming up with a few alternatives to keep your customers’ attention. 

3. There is such a thing as over-communication

Okay, so this one may not be a new lesson. But it is always worth repeating. A recent YouGov study highlighted that not only did 51% report that they felt brands were over communicating with them during this time, 43% also felt brands’ current messages and advertising is inauthentic. Authenticity has become a bit of a buzz word in recent times, but ultimately not all topics and trends will be relevant to your brand or product, and audiences can tell when something has been shoehorned. Whenever you are planning a campaign or comms strategy, ask yourself 3 simple questions:

  1. Is this relevant to my brand and / or product? 
  2. Is this relevant to my audience?
  3. Will the content of the comms add-value or interest my audience?

This is where segmentation works wonders. For instance, the answer to question 2, may not be the yes across your entire audience. But by utilising segmentation you can ensure only those who a piece of content is relevant to, receive it. Customer engagement will always be valuable but there is definitely a right and wrong way to achieve this. 

4. It pays to know your audience 

KFC’s recent “We’ve missed you too” campaign has received glowing reviews. The advertisement features images from the brand’s social media campaign #RateMyFKC, which encouraged individuals to make their own version of the chicken dishes at home to be rated by the brand. The video showcases the varying degrees of success, before ending by reassuring customers that they will take it from here. 

The advert has proved popular among both the KFC audience and the public in general. This slightly more tongue-in-cheek approach may have been considered a little risky in the current climate, but following research which found that customers had grown tired of empathy from advertising, the brand were confident it would be well received and they were right. The campaign serves as an important lesson of how important it is to know your audience.

5. Video calls will never replace face-to-face

Video calls are great. They have enabled businesses all around the world to continue to communicate and innovate. However, nothing will ever fully replace face-to-face interaction. Zoom fatigue is a new term which scientists have coined to describe how individuals are tiring of video calls. There are many reasons for this but to highlight just two:

  • 93% of communication is non-verbal and unfortunately not all of these cues are available on video calls
  • It’s not the norm to be able to see a large version of your face during a meeting. And if we’re honest, we’re hoping it stays like that. 

So yes, video calls will always have a very important place in business but so will face-to-face interactions.

6. Community spirit still exists

The weekly ‘clap for carers’ has been a highlight for many during lockdown. It has seen neighbours, who previously may have never properly spoken, connect on a weekly basis. And it has been lovely. The same premise has also been adopted by some brands who have used this time to drive their marketing efforts into turning their customers and members into brand ambassadors. Creating that community feeling among your customers and members is a great way to achieve this and has been particularly successful for businesses in the fitness industry.

If you would like any advice on how your business might approach its recovery strategy, please head to our Business recovery hub or talk to one of our team at info@textmarketer.co.uk.

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Back 2 work campaign ideas

As the UK continues to ease lockdown restrictions and more businesses reopen, we’re finally starting to see what the post-Covid19 landscape looks like.

However, with a u-shaped recovery predicted for the UK, we’re told to expect a lingering effect over the coming months, before trade returns to normal.

During this time, it’s more important than ever before to ensure your business effectively communicates with both customers and employees. Ultimately, you’ll want to ensure your business stays top of mind to customers and that staff remain fully engaged.

With this in mind, we thought we’d outline a few back 2 work campaigns we’ve seen work really well over the past few weeks.

External campaign ideas

Reopening announcements

These messages are key to a business’ reopening success and they create a softer way to begin marketing to your customers again. As businesses are adapting to changing customer demand, even once open again, it can be difficult to keep track of what services are available, opening times, protocols for booking appointments and sessions etc.

A simple bulk SMS can update all of your customers within minutes and as you may already be aware, SMS benefits from an impressive open rate of 95%. What’s more, with Hubspot reporting an increase of 44% in email sends since lockdown began, utilising SMS is a great way to ensure your messages aren’t lost among the noise.

Market online and take-away services

During lockdown many businesses showed great creativity, reacting to the pandemic digitally. To name just a few examples, restaurants, cafes and bars introduced take-away options, beauticians ran online consultations and sent bespoke facial kits direct to customer homes and fitness businesses streamed sessions online.

As individuals may not feel 100% comfortable returning to a business’ premises, for example a store or gym, where online and take-away services have proved popular, it makes sense to continue offering them. For this, customers need to be aware of which services are available and any subsequent changes. For example, if your take-away service was launched with a limited menu, you might want to look at extending this.

To ensure customers know what is available and how they can book or place an order, we’d recommend using an SMS web page. After all, a picture says a thousand words and this allows you to go above 160 characters, which may be required to properly relay booking instructions.

Ask for customer feedback

As face-to-face interactions are limited at the moment, businesses will unfortunately be receiving far less feedback than usual. And this at a time, when businesses have had to implement far more changes than usual.

As feedback can be invaluable, it makes sense to simply ask your customers a few questions to gauge how these changes have been received and identify any areas for improvement. For example, you could ask customers whether there is anything more you could do to make them feel more comfortable about returning to your business premises, and if you are planning on extending or adjusting your opening hours, asking what would be most beneficial to customers, could enable you to make a more informed business decision. SMS surveys can be a great way to collate feedback from customers, as they are convenient, quick and boast an average click through rate of 19% vs just 4.2% of email.

Furthermore, we understand businesses may be very busy at the moment. So for those who think their business could benefit from customer feedback, but don’t have the time to organise this themselves, we are able to arrange managed surveys via our experienced team. For more details, simply email info@textmarketer.co.uk.

Internal campaign ideas

Schedule regular check-ins

While we would always advise against over-communication with customers, with employees, especially at the moment, we’d advise the opposite.

Keep communicating.

A recent survey found that 56% of adults in the UK, said that their mental health has deteriorated during lockdown and we understand that not all managers will have the time to organise, continual and individual check-in’s. A bulk SMS campaign, asking if staff members feel they would benefit from a check-in call, could allow managers to prioritise their time more effectively. Ensuring that employees that are struggling receive appropriate support. What’s more, as the average response time to a text message is just 90 seconds, you can ensure this information is collated efficiently.

Provide transparent updates

In the aforementioned survey, the number one concern among recipients was redundancy. The economic impact of the pandemic is undeniable, and as such, businesses have a duty to make regular and transparent updates a priority. Often, there will not need to be a large amount of detail, so the humble SMS is an ideal choice. For instance, a quick:

Well done team, another fantastic week ending on a sales figure of x. Keep up the good work.

could work towards keeping staff motivated and reduce worrying. Moreover, as 90% of all text messages are read within just 3 minutes, utilising SMS, you can ensure these updates are sent, received and read, almost immediately.

Ask for staff feedback

This may seem obvious, but it is often overlooked in businesses. Have you asked your employees if they are happy with the changes implemented? Do they feel safe returning to the office? If not, is there anything you could implement to make them feel more comfortable? All of these questions are really important and could lead to invaluable feedback. With an SMS survey, you can quickly and easily gauge how employees are feeling and make sure your business remains proactive in supporting employee happiness and well being, through this difficult period.

As mentioned above, we appreciate businesses may be incredibly busy right now. So, if you are interested in implementing a campaign but would like some support on the creation or management, get in touch with one of our friendly team members at info@textmarketer.co.uk, they will be happy to help.

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The automotive industry: Back to business communication strategy

Traditionally the automotive industry has played an important role in supporting the UK economy, contributing an impressive £20.2 billion in 2017 alone. However, as with most industries, Covid-19 has impacted and disrupted this highly profitable industry over the past couple of months. 

According to Deloitte, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a swift and severe impact on the globally integrated automotive industry. Symptoms include a disruption in Chinese parts exports, large scale manufacturing interruptions across Europe, and the closure of assembly plants in the United States. This is placing intense pressure on an industry already coping with a downshift in global consumer demand. 

However, as life begins to slowly return to some form of normality and government restrictions begin to lift, we need to now take some time to look at how the automotive industry can get back to business. What messages do they need to communicate with their customers? How can they entice consumers back to their showrooms and instil confidence that all health and safety measures have been put in place? 

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Using SMS to enhance back-to-business for hairdressers and barbers

Hairdressers and barber shops were among the businesses to close their doors on March 23rd 2020, when lockdown in the UK officially began.

That was over 14 weeks ago and with the search term ‘DIY haircut’ soaring in google search trends in March and April, it’s fair to say it’s been a difficult period.

Thankfully however the government confirmed this week that these businesses will be able to reopen on 4th July 2020 – so we’re preparing to say goodbye to the mullet. 

Businesses will need to reopen while adhering to various safety guidelines, but as the hair and beauty industry employs over 250,000 people in the UK, it’s important these reopenings are a success.

Since there can be no business without customers, a large part of this success will depend on your business’ comms plan. So to help you make your comms plan as effective as possible,  we thought we’d highlight a few ways SMS can be used to enhance business post-COVID19:

Come back with a bang!

You need to let your customers know when you’re reopening and explain how and when, you’ll be taking appointment bookings. Though social media and email can be great communication channels, with the humble SMS your messages benefit from an unrivalled open rate of 95%.

As these messages, potentially above all others, are vital to a successful reopen it makes sense to ensure as many of your customers receive and read them as possible. And those 160 characters can go further than you think. So if you have any exciting reopening plans, you can detail them in your messages to help generate a buzz among customers.

Use SMS to support safety guidelines

As businesses will need to reopen with safety guidelines in place, you need to make sure you communicate with your customers any new protocols they need to follow. For example, if there are restrictions around numbers allowed in your waiting area at one time, and you may mask that customers wear a mask.

Here an SMS Web page could be really effective as you can visually show customers what to expect on their visit. Furthermore, as the coronavirus has caused a lot of uncertainty there may be some customers who are slightly uncomfortable about returning.

A recent survey said only 48% of individuals said they would feel fully comfortable returning to a hairdressers or barbers. So communicating what measures your business has implemented to ensure it is safe for customers and staff, could go a long way.

Communicating with your customers

The various guidelines for reopening are currently being confirmed, but some have said that to maintain social distancing, salons may be looking at a maximum capacity of 50% compared to pre-lockdown. Clearly safety is the first priority, but this does mean it will be important to keep communicating with your customers, especially those who are struggling to get an appointment.

This is where the mighty SMS can help. A quick bulk message to thank your customers for their patience could prove valuable. What’s more, SMS can also help you manage various admin tasks which may help free up some time. Below we’ve listed just a few SMS use cases to help your salon or barber shop post-COVID19:

Bulk SMS

Bulk SMS really is as easy as 1, 2, 3 and it allows you to contact all of your customers in just a few clicks. Should your salon decide to introduce longer opening hours, or open up more appointments, you can easily update your entire database within minutes. What’s more, with SMS you are sending your messages straight to the mighty mobile phone, which individuals pick up an average 58 times a day. So you can be confident your message will be seen by your recipients. 

Engage with your customers

Especially in cases where you are planning on reopening with a restricted number of services, or are thinking about increasing your opening hours, it’s worthwhile using a tool SMS surveys to collect customer feedback.

This way you can use recipient feedback from the SMS survey, to help you make informed business decisions. Furthermore, as mobile conversion rates are up 64%, you will receive the largest response possible to help you structure your back-to-business strategy.

Appointment reminders

Upon reopening, appointments are going to be like gold dust. Appointment slots will need to be carefully spaced to maintain social distancing, so where possible, you need to try and avoid customers missing their appointment slot and ensure they arrive on time.

For this, a simple reminder could be really beneficial – particularly early on, while customers get used to the new set up. And since 90% of all SMS messages are read within 3 minutes, you can be sure your message is delivered and read almost immediately.

To find out how TextMarketer can help with your back-to-business strategy, please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly team at info@textmarketer.co.uk or call 0117 205 0202.

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How healthcare practices can use SMS to cancel non-urgent appointments

According to the Financial Times, the NHS is about to face its largest challenge in a generation. The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented situation, and has led governments all around the world to ask the public to do their bit to support the healthcare industry.

Arguably the NHS was already stretched and so the government is looking to quickly implement changes to help support our health service during this time. In preparation for the situation ahead, 65,000 former doctors and nurses are being asked to return to the medical front line. Additionally, many manufacturing companies – Nissan and Smiths group included, have been working on plans to quickly produce ventilator machines in a national effort to tackle the crisis.

While helping with these actions may seem beyond our control, there are smaller steps that can be taken to help ease the pressure on our health service, one of which is the NHS cancelling non-urgent appointments. This is being done with the utmost care and consideration for patients, but it works in two key ways. Firstly it frees up time and space for urgent cases to be seen and secondly, it ensures that as few people as possible are visiting highly populated venues such as medical practices.

SMS communications are almost immediate

There may be some cases where appointments need to be cancelled relatively last minute, and this is where SMS can really help. While an email or missed call may go unnoticed for hours, or even days, 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes. Considering individuals pick up their phone, an average of 58 times a day, this is not surprising, but it does mean appointment updates sent via this channel are almost guaranteed to be received immediately.  

SMS is wide-reaching

According to Statista, approximately 95% of all households within the UK own a mobile phone, which is even more impressive when you consider that only 79% have a landline. Furthermore, as 95% of all SMS are read by recipients, healthcare providers can be confident that their message has been received. 

At present, this is most frequently used by healthcare providers to send time-critical information. An example includes identifying whether a patient should attend a pre-booked appointment, by understanding whether they have started to develop a range of symptoms, such as a persistent cough or high temperature. Furthermore, by using two-way SMS, patients are able to quickly and easily reply to their medical practice and alert them if they need to cancel or amend their appointment due to the development of these symptoms. 

Individuals are already familiar with SMS

Last year, it was reported that missed appointments cost the NHS £216 million. However, in practices where SMS has been implemented, sending recipients a simple text message to remind them of their appointment, reduced the number of no-shows by 50%. With this in mind, it makes sense to communicate appointment cancellations via a channel people already respond well too and are familiar with. By adding an option with your SMS message for individuals to cancel or call to reschedule, healthcare practices can ensure they are being as efficient with their time as possible and reducing the risk of other patients becoming infected. 

In addition to sending text messages to notify recipients of appointment cancellations, healthcare practices can send individuals contact details for those wanting further information or even basic advice. For instance, you could remind individuals to make urgent appointments over the phone rather than in-person, to keep personal contact to a minimum.

To find out how your healthcare practice could implement SMS today, please get in touch with one of our friendly advisors on 0117 205 0202 or at info@textmarketer.co.uk

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How can gyms successfully communicate with their members post-lockdown?

According to a survey conducted by Sport England, the British public misses going to the gym more than doing any other sport during lockdown. In fact, 87% of those surveyed said they’d resume their membership post-lockdown and a further 27% of people, who are not currently members of a gym, said that they are likely to join once fitness centres begin to open again. 

As the spread of Covid-19 begins to reduce, lockdown restrictions are easing, alongside them is the much anticipated opening of gyms. However, despite the easing of lockdown restrictions, safety measures are still a priority for the British public. 

Consequently, the focus for gyms needs to be around how to balance sharing the new safety protocols while ensuring their members feel safe and content enough to return to the gym. 

The success of this lies in effective, clear and tailored communication. We’ve put together the below infographic to help to support you in communicating the key safety measures during the opening of your gym or fitness facility. 

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How to use virtual mobile numbers for staff communication during a crisis

There are many effective channels available for businesses to communicate with their workforce, such as email, phone or letters. However, during a crisis, speed and reach are two of the most important factors to consider when looking to send emergency communications, two qualities that play to the strengths of SMS.

Most people will have a smartphone to hand throughout the day, in fact according to The Guardian the average person picks up their phone 58 times a day. This close connection to our phones makes SMS one of the most effective ways to communicate time critical information to your staff. With an impressive 95% open rate, your emergency message will be received and read in record time. 

Business continuity plans normally include messages that need to be broadcast to all staff. However, a call to action or the ability to respond are often overlooked, leaving the recipient unable to interact with the message and the sender unsure if the message has been read and understood.

However, in a crisis situation, you may need to hear from your staff immediately after that initial broadcast message has been sent. This feedback enables you to make a quick assessment of the team’s readiness and gauge reactions to the developing situation.

For this to be most effective you will need two-way messaging.

Using alphanumeric originators, such as your brand name, will stop recipients from being able to reply to your SMS. However, a Virtual Mobile Number (VMN) is an 11 digit number that can be used instead of your brand name and will allow you to receive SMS replies directly back from your recipients.

Communication strategy comparison

Here is an example of a typical crisis communication broadcast that does not include a VMN or two-way messaging.

“Hi George. This is a message from the Cactus Energy business continuity team. We will be closing all of our offices and changing to working from home. This affects all staff from tomorrow morning.”

How do Cactus Energy know how prepared George is after sending this message? And how do they ensure that all feedback to the message is stored in the same place? George might text his manager a response or send an email to the BCP team – but how do you ensure that nobody gets missed and all responses are recorded?

The VMN channel enables you to drive a response down one channel and have a single, less chaotic view of the situation.

Below are two examples of how replies to your VMN can instantly update your crisis management team with vital information. 

“Hi George. This is a message from the Cactus Energy Business Continuity Team. We will be closing all of our  offices and changing to working from home. This affects all staff from tomorrow morning.

“Please text back to this message with ‘Ready’ if you are able to work from home. Alternatively please respond with ‘Need assistance’ if you are having any trouble working from home.”

The inbound responses that come back to your dedicated VMN can be:

  • Downloaded into a report by a crisis coordinator 
  • Added to a report via an automation
  • Added to your own employee management systems via our API

Alternatively, here is a conversational strategy which utilises the real-time aspect of two-communication.

“Hi George. This is a message from the Cactus Energy Business Continuity Team. We will be closing all of our offices and changing to working from home. This affects all staff from tomorrow morning.

If you are ready to work from home please do not reply. 

However if you need assistance, please text back quoting your employee reference number and share any issues with us. We will respond as soon as we can via this number.”

The inbound responses that come back to your dedicated VMN can be picked up within your Text Marketer account and employees can then make responses more personalised and ensure any issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently. 

Another important point to make is that you can advertise your VMN in internal communication channels such as your intranet or staff newsletter. This will help to drive even more employee replies and ensure that all employees are aware of the channel. 

If you are looking to improve or enhance your business critical communications over the coming months with a VMN, we may be able to help. Simply contact our team on 0117 205 0202 or at info@textmarketer.co.uk for more information.

The post How to use virtual mobile numbers for staff communication during a crisis appeared first on Textmarketer.

How retailers can use mobile messaging for better business continuity communications

Threats to modern retailers come in many forms. Whether it be from cyber attacks, competitors or natural disasters, retailers should consider what their communication strategy will look like should the worst-case scenario occur. How will you adapt to your new circumstances and reassure your customers? How will you organise your staff and protect your brand?

Adaptability is key, and as such there are two main criteria that need to be considered – speed and reach. This is where SMS comes into play as a powerful weapon for retailers in an emergency situation.

What are the benefits of using SMS for business continuity in retail?

  • 95% of SMS will be opened by your customers (Esendex)
  • 90% of your customers will read an SMS that you send them within 3 minutes (Techjury)
  • 95% of UK retail consumers own a mobile phone (Statista)
  • SMS can be received at any time or place
  • No internet connection required
  • Two-way chat communications can be deployed where required
  • No spam folder. Messages arrive directly in your customer’s inbox.

What are the applications of SMS for business continuity in retail?

Emergency/service interruption notifications


Store closure notifications, revised opening hours, stock availability updates, changes to delivery times. These types of messages and more are perfect for SMS messaging which can be delivered directly to your customers’ pockets.

SMS functionality for these types of messages can be integrated directly into your existing systems via API, or accessed via standalone online platforms

Message templates can also be used for large scale sends, with dynamic fields making it easy to personalise your message for every customer.

Comms with Staff


It can be difficult to communicate with staff in a fast and engaging way when some of them either work shifts, or are on the road as part of their work (E.g. delivery drivers).

SMS provides the ideal platform to retailers here by sending short, easy to understand messages which can be read at any time or place – and don’t get lost in inboxes. Given that on average we check our phones 58 times a day, there is no more effective way to get urgent messages about shifts opening, new mandatory practices etc. over to your team. 

SMS can also be used to have two-way chats with your staff to arrange shifts and overtime.

2 way SMS for customer service


In an emergency, your customers may want to speak with you – on mass at times. This presents problems for customer service teams who maybe weren’t ready for the influx, and can only deal with one customer at a time over the phone.

2 way SMS – using a virtual mobile number – allows you to receive replies from your customers.

It’s convenient for the customer as they can engage with you at their convenience, and systems like these are also very easy for call centre operatives to manage. They will be able to conduct multiple conversations at the same time using message templates and canned responses, and even bot interactions for the simpler questions, meaning faster responses for customers.

One step further with SMS Web Pages


SMS Web Pages allow retailers to send visually richer communications to customers, which can also include interactive buttons for secondary actions.

This means that for business continuity purposes, SMS Landing Pages can be used as a base to manage your relationship with customers in the context of that emergency.

Nearest store location, checking an item’s stock level, querying revised opening times, access to customer services – it can all be accessed via an SMS Landing Page.

It’s also a great way to protect your brand; as I write, the retail sector is being badly bruised by the coronavirus, in response to which we’re seeing some really creative messages from retailers like IKEA about supporting customers who are unable to leave their home. They’re not directly selling anything in these messages, they are showing their support for their customers in the hope that they will retain their loyalty through the crisis and out the other side. Business continuity doesn’t often get tested as much as this, and we can all learn from the leading practitioners here.

How retailers can get started with SMS with business continuity

We’ve worked with a variety of different retailers to provide better ways of providing business continuity communications.

To find out how SMS and our other powerful communication channels can form part of your strategy, please get in contact today with us on 0117 205 0202 or info@textmarketer.co.uk to find out more.

The post How retailers can use mobile messaging for better business continuity communications appeared first on Textmarketer.

How healthcare providers can use mobile messaging for better emergency communications

Healthcare practices need to consider what their patient communications would look like should situations out of their control arise, and affect the way that they care for patients. From adverse weather conditions leading to the suspension of services, or emergency health concerns requiring fast and widespread messaging, providers need to make plans now to limit the impact.

The speed at which communications can be sent to patients, and also making sure that all of your patients receive the communication, are the critical success factors. This is where mobile-messaging tools like SMS come into play. They’re delivered almost instantly and most of the UK population now own a mobile device that will support SMS.

What are the benefits of using SMS for emergency communications in the healthcare sector?

  • 95% of text messages will be opened by your patients (Esendex)
  • 90% of your patients will read an text that you send them within 3 minutes (Techjury)
  • 95% of UK residents own a mobile phone which can receive texts (Statista)
  • No internet connection required to receive SMS
  • Two-way chat communications can be used where required / feasible
  • Traceable messages mean providers can check when patients have received messages
  • There’s no spam or ‘promotions’ folder; messages arrive directly in your patients’ inbox.

What are the applications of SMS for emergency comms in the healthcare sector?

1. Emergency messages/healthcare centre closure notifications

Traditional means of communication are less effective when it comes to emergency comms. Either the patient isn’t at home to take that important call, and then fails to listen to the voicemail message that’s been left behind, or the letter that’s been sent gets ignored, or even lost in the post. Not ideal when patients’ health is at stake.

From practice closures and revised appointment details, to test results and emergency health advice, SMS is an ideal alternative. An added benefit of SMS for these types of communications is that they can include hyperlinks, meaning that you can link to more digital services like web pages and appointment booking platforms.

 SMS can be deployed in one of two ways. Firstly via API, which means that SMS functionality can be integrated directly into healthcare providers’ existing admin systems. Secondly via a secure online platform. This method also offers the benefit of being able to send texts (in bulk when needed) from any device with an internet connection – you don’t have to be at your desk.

In both cases message templates can be used meaning you can send consistent messages every time, which can be personalised for every recipient where required.

2. Communications with staff/arranging extra workforce cover

Situations may arise which require more healthcare professionals than you currently have arranged to be on shift. For example, an incident which has resulted in an influx of patients.

By setting up an SMS alert, you can send messages quickly and in an engaging way to relevant teams who may be on-call or able to provide cover. With SMS being delivered instantly and the majority of them being read within 3 minutes, this simple way to communicate will save time in an emergency.

3. 2-way mobile communications for conversations with patients

In many ‘crisis’ scenarios, there will be lots of questions from worried patients. This can cause big problems when we consider that most healthcare providers only have a finite amount of staff to answer those questions and a limited amount of phone lines through which they can be made.

Online mobile messaging through our platform can solve this problem by allowing staff to manage multiple conversations at the same time through widely used channels like SMS. This also provides a benefit to the patients in that they don’t have to wait on hold for immediate access to trained healthcare professionals, and it can all be done at a time and place that suits them best.

For simple enquiries messaging bots can also be deployed here, meaning that some questions can be answered completely autonomously, freeing up more time for staff to answer more complex queries.

4. Sending richer, more interactive messages with SMS Landing Pages

Healthcare providers may wish to increase their emergency communications engagement by offering comms which are more visually attractive and offer additional functionality. This is where SMS Landing Pages can help.

They allow healthcare providers to include any imagery, including all practice branding. Interactive buttons also make it easy to link to additional content like more in-depth healthcare advice and automated appointment booking platforms. Healthcare providers can also use buttons to add automatically add appointments to patients’ device calendars, and also link to interactive maps helping patients find the healthcare provider’s location.

How healthcare providers can get started with mobile messaging for emergency communications

We’ve worked with a variety of different healthcare providers to provide better ways of providing emergency communications.

To find out how SMS and our other powerful communication channels can form part of your strategy, please get in contact today with us on 0117 205 0202 or info@textmarketer.co.uk to find out more.

The post How healthcare providers can use mobile messaging for better emergency communications appeared first on Textmarketer.