Text Message Marketing to Millennials

New research confirms that millennials prefer using their phones for everything but making phone calls. Now numbering at 80 million, this group comprises a quarter of the US population. Businesses in every sector are looking for ways to win their hearts and minds. A survey conducted by OpenMarket showed that when given the choice between texting or calling, 75 percent of millennials would rather lose the ability to talk than sacrifice texting. They find texts more convenient and less intrusive than talking on the phone.

A vast majority of respondents in the survey say they love getting texts and warmly welcome the SMS marketing messages sent by retailers and vendors. But businesses aren’t taking full advantage of this affinity for the texted word. The same survey claimed that only 30 percent of millennials are receiving texts from companies they do business with regularly. That leaves plenty of room for clever mobile marketing strategies.

Given the extreme attachment to text interactions, are businesses fully exploiting this dopamine-rich mobile channel for all its potential? It seems like we are just beginning to tap into this promising channel. Today text message marketing is being used mostly by retailers and banks for such things as:

  • Mobile coupons delivery
  • Loyalty program signups
  • Routine appointment reminders
  • Delivery notifications
  • Payment confirmations
  • Dual-factor authentication
  • Fraud alerts from credit card use
  •  Customer feedback surveys

Assuming that consumers are willing to opt-in to receive texts from businesses, what are some other likely strategies for SMS marketing programs and engagement? A look at four industries shows plenty of potential room for options.


Retailers already know there is no better way to announce a product sale or make promotional offers than via SMS marketing. In-store specials, especially impromptu “on the spot” sales lasting just a few hours or a limited number of days, can be made via SMS. Digital coupons and mobile coupons can be delivered instantly; just flash the phone to redeem. Letting a customer know their favorite item on back-order is now in stock or that their special order has arrived is a natural fit for promotion text messages.

Retailers can also steal the playbook from Walgreens and other pharmacies that have been at the SMS forefront. Pickup and refill reminders, seasonal wellness offers like flu shots are common text applications. Retailers that stage special events like fund raisers or storewide clearance sales can use text to get the word out.


The hospitality industry has a limited number of rooms at any one time. This makes SMS marketing programs particularly affordable for them. Because hotels generally have their guests’ mobile numbers, they have the opportunity to easily be in contact and can for example send a text message to all guests in advance of their arrival, with a reminder of check in time, and for an added bonus, a link to book a dinner table. Savvy establishments can include links to review sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, or can include a mobile coupon offer for their next stay.


Rather than passing out a buzzer nobody really likes to carry and limit mobility, restaurants in malls can let their waitlisted customers keep shopping until their table is ready by using text message marketing. Restaurants can also build text marketing lists to announce new menu items or daily specials, stoking interest in the brand and driving traffic.

Broadband Internet

In industries with a high volume of complaints like cable services, a single customer service representative can use SMS marketing  to send out alerts for a host of services. For example, the cable provider could text the serviceman’s arrival time, notifications of service outages could be texted before the avalanche of angry phone calls arrive. Status updates and instructions to “reboot the modem by switching it off” could avoid a lot of irritated customers and unnecessary phone calls.

Whatever the industry, the number of mobile marketing strategies and text message engagement activities are limitless. Like the current crop of political candidates running for office, businesses too should make it easier (and more obvious) for customers to opt-in by simply posting the short code and calls to action wherever they do business.