A Gold Medal Customer Engagement Strategy with SMS

The Games of the XXXIII Olympiad have been a roller coaster so far, and they haven’t even started. Initially slated for 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Olympic games by […]

The Games of the XXXIII Olympiad have been a roller coaster so far, and they haven’t even started. Initially slated for 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Olympic games by over a year. Although we are in July 2021, we are still officially referring to them as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It has been a whirlwind for the athletes, the citizens of Japan, and of course, the fans. Now, much like the 2020 European Football Championships, we have an anachronistically named world sporting event, and a lot of us are asking a straightforward question: where and when do I watch?

Anyone scheduling events in the past 18 months knows that calendars, in general, have been a somewhat fluid situation. Most of us have been invited to at least one postponed wedding, purchased tickets to a now-canceled concert, or eagerly awaited a baseball game that ended up taking place in the morning two days after it was scheduled. It’s becoming harder and harder to keep track of live events. Fortunately, we have an arsenal of digital channels we can weaponize to keep users in the know.

A familiar channel for coveted alerts

SMS is the most natural starting point for alerts, reminders, and notifications for live sports. Nearly every cell phone in the world is SMS-enabled, messages are typically read in under 90 seconds, and the open rate hovers around 98%. With live events, time is clearly of the essence. Using an email to remind someone of a game that starts in 30 minutes won’t be effective when the receiver opens that email tomorrow. 

Let’s use the Olympics as an example. Athletes from across the globe are competing in 339 events across 33 sports, all in the span of roughly two weeks. Good luck finding the women’s epee fencing final, my fellow sword-fighting enthusiasts. In America alone, events will be broadcast live and on tape delay across eight different broadcast channels. Let’s not forget all these events will occur during the day in Tokyo, nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. This time difference means depending on where you are, and it’s likely the games will be broadcast at odd times for you. 

A simple SMS can cure all these ills. The Olympics themselves could send you a brief note, their broadcast partner could send you a reminder with a link to watch, partner brands could be – scratch that, SHOULD BE sending you notifications when an athlete they endorse is about to perform. It’s a win/win situation for everyone involved. The athletes want exposure, the games want viewers, you want entertainment.

Why SMS trumps apps

You may be thinking, “isn’t there an app for this?” Yes, of course, there is an app for everything. But that’s also the problem. A person who wants updates for the Olympics, the St. Louis Cardinals, the New York Giants, and the Milwaukee Bucks would need four apps. This problem leads us to a conversation on app fatigue.

Any guesses on how many apps the average American installs on their phone every month?

The number is zero. And that might be because the average user is getting 46 push notifications a day. This figure is why 29% of users uninstall apps. Why do they do this? Because they are deemed inessential. They are taking up space, pushing ads, or useless notifications. Do you need to install the NFL app to be reminded 16 times a year what time the Giants game is? Probably not. An SMS could do the trick, and no one is uninstalling that!

Likewise, downloading an app for an event that will last two weeks and then be gone forever could be a tough sell to end-users. In contrast, brands should be asking users to opt-in to a channel they already use and love: SMS. It’s pretty simple. Set your algorithm to send SMS to users for a customized set of conditions: when a team plays, when a team wins, when there is injury news. This method also enables you to acquire a user’s phone number and text for other use cases such as marketing promotions or customer support. Simply put, including SMS in your customer engagement strategy is an easy way to win gold every time.