Mark Hay, CEO/CTO of HSL Mobile, discusses why retailers need to consider mobile messaging at the heart of their internal and external communications strategies
Retailers invest a great deal in reaching customers and effective communication is a crucial factor in driving business success. With research from consulting group Deloitte finding that more than 7 in 10 Britons now own a smartphone, mobile communication has undoubtedly been a game-changer for retailers. Retailers know that people are likely to pay attention to marketing messages, offers, and updates if they are relevant and targeted. Many retailers have incorporated a mobile strategy into the core of their marketing plans, and it has proven to be an effective channel to reach consumers. Whilst retailers are seeing ROI from investment in external marketing communications, they should also not overlook the value of mobile for internal communications. By developing a streamlined mobile strategy for both internal and external communications, retailers stand to gain not only market share but increased customer loyalty.
Cutting through the noise to reach customers
Driving sales, delivering on purchases and removing barriers to completing sales are all of tantamount importance for retailers. Mobile has transformed the retail industry by becoming an integral part of the purchase journey, enabling consumers to research products, view offers, and compare items. However, retailers need to think beyond just using mobile to market to consumers. Providing good customer service and attention to detail are equally as important to closing sales and sending attractive offers. SMS messaging is the most personal, immediate and ubiquitous mobile communication available today. In addition to being used for marketing purposes, it can be used to inform customers that their order has been received, inform of stock availability and of delivery of goods – all important factors in ensuring customer satisfaction. For example, you could receive alerts updating you on the delivery of a gift and confirmation that it has arrived with the recipient, or opting to receive an SMS when an out of stock item becomes available again.
But do they work? Frost & Sullivan cite that 98% of text messages are opened, compared to just 22% of emails. Emails can be lost in spam folders, deleted or ignored, whereas SMS is seen as more personal and less likely to be ignored. Furthermore, SMS has been shown to have a much quicker response time, so any issues with an order can be resolved quickly. Such personalised messages are customer service best practice; they keep the customer informed in real-time, which ultimately increases customer loyalty. For retailers seeking effective ROI strategies, these statistics point powerfully in the direction of SMS adoption.
The power of joined-up internal communications in a retail environment
In addition to being a key component of external communications, mobile is an effective way for retailers to improve internal communications. It’s equally important to recognise that strengthening internal communications and processes can indirectly benefit the customer offering.
In fact, internal communications in retail are vital – they ensure that employees, partners and suppliers are fully up to speed with activities, orders and strategy. Large scale retailers often have groups of staff members, working across different departments. It is imperative that such employee groups communicate effectively so that information reaches everyone at the same time, regardless of role. This can be difficult when you have people working in the head office with constant access to email and others on the shop floor without.
Thanks to SMS, numerous issues that require urgent communication with different staff members or suppliers can be dealt with rapidly. It’s a quick solution whereby information can spread quickly so that it can be actioned at once. Some examples of where this is useful include: emergency notifications; urgent requests such as stock that needs filling or escalators needing repair; and urgent matters like a defective product that needs to be pulled from shelves.
Using SMS to drive internal actions not only protects against a loss of service and revenue, but also maintains levels of customer satisfaction by dealing with any internal issues as quickly and efficiently as possible, before they affect the consumer. Mobile messaging is often the quickest, cheapest and most effective method of reaching these disparate groups of employees – especially if the matter is urgent or requires immediate response, such as an IT or website failure.
For example, retailers are dependent on IT systems for a number of critical processes from logistics and supply chain management to customer service. Failures of such systems have the potential to cause a customer backlash or PR disaster. Therefore, automating the system to immediately alert engineers and request a receipt of ownership of the issue is essential. Preventing such incidents helps to eradicate significant revenue losses and more importantly the potential damage to retailers reputation amongst existing and prospective customers.
When we consider that smartphone penetration in the UK is predicted to rise to 75%, it’s clear that retailers seriously need to look at mobile as a form of effective communication in reaching anyone at any time, whether that’s providing customers with useful information or aligning employees to provide superior service.