Marketing & Advertising

Is Text Messaging a Game-changer for Ecommerce?

Mobile devices are ubiquitous. I don’t go anywhere without mine, and I bet you have a smartphone with you now. In fact, you may be reading this on a mobile device. But are you doing everything you can to connect with shoppers on mobile? Because according to a survey from Quiq, a provider of chat software, 66 percent of consumer-respondents ranked mobile messaging as their preferred channel for contacting a company.

I recently spoke with Chris Albro, head of enterprise sales for Quiq. What follows is my entire audio conversation with him and a transcript of it, edited for length and clarity.

Armando Roggio: Could you introduce yourself and Quiq?

Chris Albro: Absolutely. The company is based in Bozeman, Montana, and I’ve lived in Bozeman for about 15 years. All of those years I’ve spent in the enterprise software customer-experience space, in a variety of roles, ranging from sales, which is my current capacity, as well as professional services, implementation, pre-sales support, and customer success.

Quiq is roughly three years old. Our management team is well over the century mark in terms of direct, hands-on experience in the enterprise software space. We’ve all built, deployed, sold, supported, and enabled customers on enterprise-class platforms.

Roggio: What is mobile messaging?

Albro: The “messaging” part is what most people would consider as texting — SMS [short message service] and MMS [multimedia messaging service]. The “mobile” part is where it gets interesting. Mobile users operate differently than people sitting at a desktop computer and or a landline phone.

Mobile message conversations might take hours to conclude, but they’re happening in eight and 10-second increments that fit our lifestyle patterns.

SMS is the most common form of mobile messaging. But there are texting apps in certain geographies or demographics that have come to play an important role for the people in those geographies and demographics — Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, LINE in Japan, KaTalk in Korea.

Roggio: How can digital messaging drive sales for ecommerce companies?

Albro: The most typical is with a pure outbound marketing message, such as a coupon code or a promotion code. The reason it is so popular is that text messages have something like a 98 percent read rate.

There are more advanced ways with some of the brand-specific messaging apps. For example, using Facebook ads as promotions and turning them into Facebook Messenger conversations. Or putting a “text us” link in your Google AdWords ad and allowing somebody on a mobile device to just text your brand from that ad.

Roggio: Walk me through an SMS-aided sales process.

Albro: A consumer would start the messaging conversation while on a mobile ecommerce site — requesting assistance is some manner. The agent from the brand would help. The agent could build a shopping cart for the consumer and then SMS the link to that shopping cart. And all the consumer has to do is click on that link, which goes to a secure mobile web page. She can confirm the contents of the shopping cart, the price point, and then complete the purchase securely.

Roggio: How would the consumer know that messaging was even an option?

Albro: Putting a “text us” link on a mobile web page entails exactly 24 characters of code, 10 of which are the phone number for the text. That 24 characters of code create a clickable link, which could include a label such as “Text us for help.” When a mobile browser receives that click, it opens the native, default messaging app on that device.

If you have an IVR [interactive voice response], you can also play a message such as, “We’re busy now, but if you’d prefer text messaging, we can help immediately. Press 1 to use text messaging.”

Roggio: What sort of infrastructure is necessary to respond via text to customer interactions?

Albro: None. Much of technology today is delivered in a software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service model. Our software is no different. We provide it as a service. We provide the underlying infrastructure, including the SMS telephone numbers. We connect it to gateways. We handle all of the underlying fees associated with getting messages on and off the carrier networks. From an infrastructure perspective, there’s nothing additional needed.

To broaden the definition of infrastructure to include the tools that a brand would need to be successful in the messaging space, the answer is a bit different. They include things like routing and queuing engines, management of service level agreements, agent statuses, and sophisticated capabilities around handling spam and PCPA [private cloud platform appliance] compliance.

Roggio: Will text messaging go the same way as email?

Albro:  The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 — TCPA — governs the use of SMS. It contains rigorous mechanisms for enforcement. Those of us in this space have to comply with those regulations. So a little bit of governance and a little bit of stewardship from participants will go a long way to help prevent texting or SMS from becoming the next email.

Roggio: Are there restrictions on whom we text or how often we send?

Albro: To send somebody a commercial text message, he has to have opted in. There are various ways to do this — explicit being the safest. That could include the consumer initiating a text message. For example, consumers would have opted in if they go to your mobile site, find a “text us” link, and send a message. The TCPA requires the ability for somebody to opt out. The brand and the messaging enabler have to comply with that.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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