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Consumers and small business owners both say they find value in two-way text-messaging between customers and businesses, and want to engage in the practice more frequently, with 56% of consumers and 53% of small business owners expressing a desire to text with each other more often, according to cloud-based two-way business SMS software provider Zipwhip. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

The survey, entitled 'The State of Two-Way Business Texting 2018', polled over 500 consumers and 250 small business owners to gain better insight into the consumers' and small business owners' attitudes and practices relating to two-way text message communication.

Today, texting is a ubiquitous form of communication: the majority of American consumers (95%) own a cell phone, with 77% owning a smartphone. This market penetration, coupled with more than 200 million business phone numbers currently registered in the US, has established a strong demand for conversations via that platform.

The study found that text messaging (SMS) not only drives customer engagement and loyalty across nearly every consumer-oriented industry, but that it also brings some much needed efficiency to business communication channels and provides consumers with a personal and streamlined experience.

Among the key findings from the study:

  • When asked about business communication preferences, over 50% of consumers prefer text message over the phone, while one third prefers text message over email
  • Over two thirds (71%) of 30- to 44-year-olds said they would text a business more frequently if they had the opportunity, followed by 65% of 18- to 29-year-olds
  • Almost half of consumers (41%) believe the FCC ruling will neither increase or decrease the likelihood of receiving a fraudulent text message
  • Two thirds of small business owners (63%) expressed they would be unlikely to text-enable landlines if they were required to pay $100 upfront and $100 annually.

In the US at least, most small businesses are able to text-enable their existing landline, VoIP or toll-free phone number, allowing for an affordable and familiar communication channel via a medium that customers are familiar with and that many even prefer.

"As we move toward a mobile-first world, consumers want to communicate with businesses in the same way they do with friends and family, and one of those ways is text messaging. Texting is easy, fast, and boasts a 98% open rate," said John Lauer, CEO of Zipwhip. "While texting was once a tactic embraced for small-scale communication needs, it is now a preferred method for communication and an invaluable part of the customer journey."

A possible hiccup in the process
But despite continued innovation and heightened consumer demand, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently voted to take comments on proposed rules to alter the text-enabling process. These rules would require toll-free subscribers to inform RespOrgs or voice service agents to text-enable a toll-free line, and would cause businesses to face new reporting obligations, incur additional expenses, and waste precious time enabling new phone lines. While the proposed rules aim to prevent fraud, of the small business owners surveyed, almost half (42%) said they would be unlikely to text-enable landlines if it required more than two steps (as would be the case with the FCC's proposal).

"While the FCC claims its proposed rules will aid in preventing fraudulent communications, in reality, current industry safeguards already do this effectively," Lauer said. "Our study proves both consumers and businesses want to communicate with one another, but they want it to be an easy and familiar process."