Apps vs. Mobile Internet vs. Native SMS: Tips for Mobile Engagement

More than two-thirds of Americans now own a cell phone, and we use it several times a day for almost everything. And we’ve all heard reports that have shocked us with the extent of our obsession with mobile devices, suggesting that people are willing to give up beloved addictions like chocolate rather than give up the phone.

If we know the importance of mobile in our daily lives and, honestly, in our personal identity, how can brands communicate effectively with customers to achieve results in a way that respects the user? And what methods should we use to achieve this? Can brands just make a mobile app and give up?

It’s not that easy.

Opportunities for companies to engage with mobile users go beyond just building a mobile app or website. Mobile communications must be informed, responsive, intelligent, and attentive to the unique user experience on mobile devices compared to other platforms such as the desktop.

Simply put, they all serve a purpose based on why the user chose the specific medium. All three should be used as part of an effective mobile messaging strategy. Let’s look at each one in a little more detail.

Mobile Internet: Reach the Largest Mobile Audience

The most compelling reason to pay attention to the user experience in mobile browsers is the size of the audience, which is estimated to be twice the audience for mobile apps. With more eyes and fingers touching eyebrows every day, this is an important part of the mix.

But we also need to consider the main reasons users are there: reference information, shopping, and general training. It is also important to note the fickle nature of the Internet user, who tends to visit many different sites without having a strong affinity for a particular site or desire to repeat visits or purchases. Welcome to the world of the temporary eyeball.

The easily deducible nature of this audience should guide the design of the customer engagement element:

  • Make it transparent: The engagement window (chat and auto-engagement) should be somewhat transparent, as the typical mobile web user can browse multiple sites and get distracted easily. These passing eyes must ensure that they are not removed from the website and must be able to see the website content during the conversation.
  • Design right for your brand: The mobile web browser’s customer engagement design elements should be fully integrated into your brand design. For example, page-specific custom, built-in click-to-chat buttons should be supported where relevant to the context (such as on the Contact us page or next to the call-to-action in sales).
  • Anchor: Targeted users should see a pinned button that opens an easily accessible toggle window (for a chat or automated tools). Usage testing has shown that the ideal location for this button is in the upper right corner and the button is locked in place, but the button stays in place while the user scrolls down.
  • Make it smart: Due to the transient nature of user behavior, it’s better to attract new visitors to the mobile web and not queue them up; therefore, the button should not appear if the agent is not immediately available.
  • Respond quickly and easily: Because user presence is fleeting and the user is task-focused and expects immediate results, agents must respond to each user’s questions in less than 15 seconds. Agent replies cannot exceed 160 characters, which is the default maximum length of a text message.

Mobile Apps: Engage with the Highly Engaged Mobile User

Unlike their approach to mobile internet usage, consumers are very selective when using apps. They tend to download and interact with just a few apps, but they use the apps regularly and spend most of their mobile time on those few apps.

In fact, we love our apps so much that by some estimates, more than 80% of consumers visit at least one app in the morning, sometimes before getting out of bed.

With all this in mind, here are three tips to engage the mobile app user:

  • Focus on App Control: Focus more on live assistance with task completion and education about other available resources to make sure customers know how to use them for self-service.
  • Make it a permanent option: Engagement windows should appear as a fixed button element in the app that is shown to all visitors, based on agent status and preferably on the standard app navigation toolbar. For example, the chat button should use button conditions, meaning it should look different when agents are available than when agents are available.
  • Be responsive: The brand needs to be as responsive as mobile web users, as app users are often on the go when talking on the phone and the phone has limited space. Real-time representatives must respond to each user’s request within 30 seconds, with a maximum of 160 characters, which is the standard maximum length of a text message.

Native SMS: Building Customer Loyalty

Perhaps no medium offers more opportunities for personal-level communication than mobile text messaging or text messaging. This is probably the most personal conversation you can have with a consumer over a cell phone.

Mobile text messaging is the most common feature of a smartphone for personal and business communication needs, and texting is used today in the same way that consumers used email about 10 years ago: face-to-face conversations.

Customers who choose mobile messaging are highly engaged, and the ability to connect to a business through the native messaging app makes the brand “more accessible” to consumers.

Consumers are more likely to read a message if it is a text message than an email. Thanks to its highly personalized approach to customer engagement, SMS delivers significantly higher engagement rates than email, with an average click-through rate for URLs in SMS messages exceeding email industry estimates.

However, customers only appreciate the use of this private label communication channel if the message sent is highly relevant to the consumer. We see this in most of the favorite activities that consumers perform via SMS: checking the status of orders, scheduling or changing appointments, and making or confirming reservations.

There are no design considerations for brands as customer engagement takes place within the mobile text messaging interface of the phone. However, the labels must respond to each text within a standard time interval of 90 seconds. And brevity is necessary, as text messages contain a maximum of 160 characters. This means that not all conversations belong to a text message. If the content is complex and long, then SMS chat is not ideal and should be redirected to the mobile web, mobile app, or in relevant cases perhaps a phone call.

The key lesson here is that the user appreciates having more access to the brand for a private conversation, but only if it’s relevant. To build loyalty, brands must focus on building customer relationships that respect the user.

It all boils down to this: Businesses need a strong mobile engagement strategy as the use of mobile devices is growing at a rapid pace; However, consumers use the mobile internet, apps, and text for different purposes.

That’s why companies need to think about how to use each of them, not just what to use, so pay attention and design for the best real-time communication experience.