Everyday it seems I get more and more emails from retailers like Fab.com, Gap, and Gilt Groupe. While I’m sure there’s something nice inside, like a new deal or sale, I don’t bother to open it. I simply get too many of them. Like many relationships, this started out exciting and intriguing, and I just couldn’t get enough (ask my Amex card)! Recently though, it’s different; I’ve been feeling overloaded and suffocated by my retail friends. When this happens I tend to shell-up and avoid the situation, neglecting them all together. When I open my email, I can see them there, staring at me amidst the pile of other personal inbox mail that I have not the time nor energy to sort through and clean. I look at them and say “I’ll get to you when I have time,” and somehow they always wait for me (to delete them), like a neglected pet rock.

While dust collects in my email inbox, I’ve been able to find my fix with some new friends who text me offers and send push notifications to my mobile phone. These friends know that my phone is always with me and it vibrates to show me every message they send. This led me to ponder the effectiveness of SMS marketing messages vs other methods of marketing and advertising. Certainly, I can’t be the only one who is more likely to respond to texts vs email.

Thankfully, I happen to work at Signal, and with our 500mm+ text messages sent to date, I have the perfect database of response metrics to help answer these questions. I analyzed a random sample of text messages sent via Signal that included a URL, with the goal of compiling benchmark stats on click-through rates (CTR) to not only satisfy my curiosity, but also to help our customers understand if their campaigns are below, at or above the industry average. Here’s what I discovered based upon a random sample of 20 large scale messaging campaigns.

The average CTR across all of these text messaging campaigns was 6.16%. Compare that to email marketing campaigns, which average a CTR of 2.8%. The comparison looks even more favorable when stacked up against CTRs for Facebook ads (0.051%), display/banner ads (0.09%), and pay-per-click ads (2.36% for Google Adwords, 1.61% for Yahoo!/Bing search ads).

It’s clear that SMS’ intimacy has something to do with the increase in CTR. It’s incredibly easy, and natural, to reach for your phone every time it chimes or vibrates the news that you have new text .

As such, marketers who include text message offers and content in their marketing mix have a clear competitive advantage. These engagement levels may not last forever, as SMS inboxes may reach the same saturation levels of email in the future. The time to act is now.

While I admit the sample size was small, it’s clear that engagement rates at this level indicate consumers’ willingness to interact with brands via SMS signaling a huge opportunity for marketers. By incorporating text and push notification offers to existing email & ad campaigns, retailers will have increased opportunities to drive conversions and/or store visits. Brick and mortar retailers can deliver messages to individuals right when they are in store or near one. Make text message offers your MVP of 2012.

Data Sources:
Mobile Benchmarks: Signal
Email benchmarks: Epsilon Q2, 2011 North America Email Trends
PPC Benchmarks:  Emarketer.com
Facebook Benchmarks: Webtrends Facebook Advertising Performance Benchmarks
Display Ad Benchmarks: Jonsteinberg.com