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Face it: we live on our phones. According to one estimate, we check our screens on average once a year four minutes (we admit that).
In fact, more than half of Americans have never been without their cell phone for more than 24 hours, nearly half say their phone is their most valuable asset — and more than a third would even prefer their phone over their pets.
There is no doubt that we are in a mobile-first world. So it’s critical for brands to be proactive and tactical in reaching them through the channel they use and prefer the most, said Andrew Boni, CEO and founder of the cross-channel marketing platform. iterable.
To help marketers reach and engage with customers on their phone, Iterable today released a range of new features, including Iterable SMS, artificial intelligence (AI)-powered channel optimization and custom shipping control.
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“SMS is incredibly effective as a channel for certain use cases,” says Boni. “SMS will definitely be related in the future.”
Automation: the future of marketing
AI-powered customer engagement platforms like Iterable are booming in popularity. The global retail omnichannel trading platform market will reach $16.9 billion by 2027, as forecast by ReportLinker. This represents a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.4% as of 2020. Growth has been largely driven by the COVID-19 crisis, according to the company.
All told, according to Markets and markets, the global customer engagement solutions market will grow to $32.2 billion by 2027, representing a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 11%. The main driver for this is to reduce customer churn, the company reports.
Companies competing for that market share include Adobe Marketo Engage, HubSpot Marketing Hub, Pega, Blueshift, Braze and MoEngage.
As Boni put it, automation is where the customer communication platforms are going.
“Brands want to be able to reach customers wherever customers are, whatever channel customers choose and respond to,” he said. In particular, when using SMS, “from a consumer point of view, it’s just a better experience.”
The power of SMS
The majority of consumers (55%) subscribe to receive text messages from one to five companies, primarily for shipping notifications, appointment/reservation reminders, special offers, and promotional codes.
All of this makes it a no-brainer for marketers to engage with customers, Boni said. But due to the cost, complexity and limited data capabilities of the mobile channel, many have been slow to add SMS to their strategies.
He pointed out that email programs are “the easiest to use, the oldest channel” and have a high ROI.
But texting is highly interactive simply due to the fact that consumers spend several hours a day (if not all day) on their phones.
“The instant nature of SMS is really exciting for brands, very easy for them to leverage,” said Boni. “It’s really just seeing this huge surge in popularity over the past few years.”
Automate tedious tasks
The new capabilities announced today will be part of Iterable’s existing AI optimization suite. By using predictive analytics based on historical data and patterns, brands can determine in real time which communication channel is best to reach customers, when to contact them and how to align channels, Boni said.
For example, they can alert them when an item they follow or favorite is back in stock.
“It can automate a lot of the tedious work, a lot of the little details that our practitioners have to do,” he said. For example, “brands no longer have to think about choosing a specific time or day to send a text.”
It’s also important to think about how much to send, and not “bomb customers with different messages,” he said. For example, if a user is a big takeout and delivery fan, they probably won’t mind a lot of posts about promos and deals; but if it’s a mom who’s only used Doordash (an Iterable customer) once or twice, it makes more sense to message her sporadically.
Iterable is currently working on a future AI/ML-powered feature to solve that particularly tricky problem, Boni said.
Ultimately, he noted that automation frees brands and marketers to focus on higher-level goals, initiatives, strategies, and campaigns, focusing instead on questions like, “What high-level APIs should we set up for the fourth? quarter?”
Fishing for success
In the case of the Georgia Aquariumhelped the use of SMS to resolve kinks in ticketing, significantly increasing customer satisfaction.
Previously, ticket delivery relied on an old email service provider (ESP). However, the aquarium ran into issues with delays or tickets not arriving in the inbox at all. Also, the content was sometimes flat and detached from personal brand experiences, Boni said.
“If you buy tickets and don’t receive them for a few hours, that really hinders your experience,” he said.
Now tickets are sent via Iterable SMS, where tickets are delivered via a QR code. Customer satisfaction has improved significantly since implementation, with issues tracked during call center interactions and social media monitoring reduced by 96%. The location has also seen a nearly 4% increase in customer transactions and a 2.5% increase in average order value.
“The power of providing an SMS channel to our guests is enormous,” said Josh Cherfoli, senior director of marketing and digital engagement at Georgia Aquarium. “It allows us to engage the guests when and how they want to receive information, while providing a seamless experience to enjoy the aquarium without having to navigate multiple channels.”
Iterable’s full suite of new capabilities includes:
- AI-powered channel optimization: Allows marketers to determine which channel performs best for each user. This is based on predictive analysis of past response data, recent behavioral signals, and historical data and trends.
- Messages in browser: Helps direct and navigate website visitors. This includes actual user data in the call-to-action and delivers individualized messages to customers at each stage.
- Silent Push Notifications: Instead of showing a standard push notification, iOS or Android devices pass JSON data, allowing marketers to reach customers with messages even when the notifications are turned off.
- Quiet hours: Allows marketers to configure campaign deferred shipping during nighttime hours or a specific time window to help comply with SMS regulations and maintain brand trust.
- Custom Shipping Management: With Last-Mile Control, Iterable sends message payloads to a customer-defined endpoint, mitigating security and privacy risk by allowing customers to send messages through their own internally managed Message Transfer Agent (MTA).
- UserID based projects: Marketers can use their own unique identifiers for customers when designing a journey, consolidate multiple user IDs under one user, and manage users anonymously.
- Leaving rules and holding tiles: Instead of manually searching for a change or update at each step of the customer journey or user profile, this feature can be applied to delay a customer event or leave a customer when an event occurs or when there is an update from a user profile.
- Version history: This allows marketers to view a historical log of all customer journeys published in Iterable, including when they were published, who published them, a log of changes between versions, and a view of each of the versions. This feature also allows users to revert to previously published versions.
The journey to a new customer journey
Boni founded Iterable in 2013 after working for Google. He got the idea when he was at the headquarters in Mountain View, CA. worked and watched the tech giant struggle to send marketing, messaging, product notifications, emails — and most importantly, SMS.
“They really struggled with sending notifications and executing them,” Boni said, calling it a “clunky process” with “a lot of friction, a lot of bureaucracy.”
And, he explained, he thought that if a company like Google is having trouble, many other organizations must be too.
Now the 9-year-old series E “centaur” company has more than 1,000 customers. These include retailers, streaming services, sports leagues, ticketing services, financial services, online banks, cryptocurrency, software companies such as Zillow, Doordash, Fender, Bombas, Seat Geek, Curology and Calm.
“This release is very important and crucial in a number of different ways,” says Boni. Notably, “it advances our AI capabilities and our AI story.”
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