The humble SMS is the ideal tool to deliver Content-as-a-Service

In today’s fast-paced environment, where a multitude of brands compete for consumers’ attention, providing relevant and personalised information is no longer a luxury, but a prerequisite. And, in a more decentralised working environment and a critical time for government updates about restrictions and vaccine rollouts, app-to-peer (A2P) messaging services are being used more and more to enable businesses and governments to deliver, at scale, whatever message they need to disseminate to the market, through a simple SMS. This not only frees them up to focus on their core competencies, but perfectly suits a Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) market that is growing both globally and here in South Africa.

As Africa’s largest content platform as a service (CPaaS) provider, SMSPortal has seen the Covid-19 pandemic exacerbate the demand for CaaS, as indicated by the fact that some 1.3-million businesses began using A2P SMS in 2020.

This takes the total number of businesses using the channel globally to just under eight million and represents an increase of 20% on the number using A2P SMS prior to the pandemic. More crucially, the forecasts for A2P are that it will continue to skyrocket, and we are certainly seeing the same from our data.

GSMA statistics indicate that Africa’s smartphone adoption will continue apace, with some 475-million people in the region expected to be mobile internet users by 2025. This highlights that the majority of consumers in Africa will soon be able to access rich mobile content delivered as a service — and the appetite is definitely there.

While the types of SMS being sent will still include the standard one-time-PINs (OTPs) and alert notifications, the big change will be those with additional rich content.

Such content already constitutes more than 30% of SMSPortal’s own traffic and encompasses things like shortened links to brand websites and landing pages. The latter are mobile pages built for a specific campaign and are designed to enable easy access by the consumer and provide an easy channel through which to engage.

Results show that SMS has a 95% read rate — way above any other similar forms of communication — and the trend with a rich content SMS is to give the consumer a complete journey to engage and convert, without them having to do any of the heavy lifting themselves.

Essentially, it is about giving consumers a way to act on the message with the minimum of effort, access the relevant information, browse and then check-out and make a purchase or take action. The pandemic and government news alerts as well as the subsequent Electronic Vaccination Data System are perfect examples of this.

To this end, such an SMS will contain a shortened URL so that consumers have access to a personalised branded web page, whenever they choose to access it, easy access to information and a mobile friendly call to action are embedded in the page. It is clear that by making consumers’ lives easier in this manner, you can dramatically increase consumer conversions, simply by delivering content-rich engagement on an always reachable channel.

It stands to reason that if an SMS is an effective tool in a pandemic, a true SMS customer journey is revolutionary for business marketing. Consumers today expect to be given the tools to execute their journey, as and when they choose, leading to a frictionless interaction and a completed customer journey. In fact, the art of CaaS is being where the market is and being able to engage with consumers in the manner that is best and most accessible for them.

The bottom line is that consumers — and more importantly, mobile consumers — want to be able to engage or convert when the time is right for them, not when it’s right for the brand. This is why rich content engagement that is omnipresent and always ready to engage when the consumer is, has become so vital. More to the point, because of its wide reach and ease of access, SMS is an ideal tool to communicate easily and effectively with the largest possible number of consumers. It is a consumer-first strategy, with mobile at its core.

Now, more than ever, consumers want convenience and information at their fingertips, and businesses and governments are looking at a cost-efficient direct channel to their audience. Already the ideal tool to deliver CaaS, the humble SMS will continue to evolve. In fact, it has the power to become an entire engagement channel and a direct e-commerce tool, as A2P messaging evolves further, and the rise of content hungry consumers continues into the future.

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James Pearce
James Pearce is the co-founder of SMSPortal and acting joint chief executive

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