American Marketer


Is texting going extinct?

August 27, 2013

Tom Cotney is CEO of mBlox



By Tom Cotney

What do VCRs, CD players and rotary phones have in common? They are technologies that have all but gone extinct.

Broadly applying Moore’s Law, technology continuously evolves and improves rapidly, becoming obsolete faster and more frequently – often in the blink of an eye.

Naysayers predict that text messaging will suffer a similar fate.

Long and short of it

I am surprised by how many articles I have read that proclaim SMS (short message service), or texting, is dying or, worse, that it is dead already, and its being driven into extinction by an avalanche of free push messaging services.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to technology visionary Mary Meeker ‘s most recent report, the average mobile phone user checks their phone 150 times per day. Messaging accounts for 23 of those 150 times, and is the highest-performed task on smartphones, even above talking.

What is more, SMS offers a unique way to communicate on mobile devices. Text messages are essential to every mobile phone, and people check them frequently and almost immediately.

According to The Guardian, more than 4 billion people send text messages. This means SMS has more users than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn combined.

Does that sound like a technology going extinct? The answer is, no.

Billions served

From a person-to-person text message perspective, the popularity of this technology as a communications medium cannot be denied. The same thing can be said for businesses.

Since 4 billion people are tapping into SMS, there is a huge opportunity for companies to send business-to-person marketing messages.

While businesses are trying to figure out their business-to-person strategy on mobile, our advice is this: Take a hybrid approach and leverage SMS and push messaging.

As a part of your organization’s overall mobile strategy, SMS will provide a unique and powerful differentiator over other marketing strategies. Not only does it allow you to cast a wide net, but also it enables you to reach a variety of mobile devices.

Roughly, 80 percent of mobile devices used worldwide are feature phones, not smartphones. So it is crucial to reach feature phone owners on a global scale and, thus, execute a fully developed and comprehensive mobile marketing plan.

Although push is immensely effective on smartphones, you cannot rely on this technology alone. Take a hybrid approach by combining SMS and push to ensure the farthest-reaching customer engagement possible.

With this combined strategy, no matter what sort of high-tech mobile device and data plan your customers may have, you can reach them via SMS messages.

This is true even in third world countries, where people own phones that support texting. Plus, SMS is baked into international carrier standards, further proving that it is not going anywhere anytime soon.

AS BUSINESSES continue to find the right balance, they must also think about mobile marketing best practices for increasing engagement.

At the center of this are new technologies such as geofencing and offer-based solutions, which enable a two-way conversation between businesses and people. Companies are only beginning to scratch the surface in this regard, but such technological advancements will perfect over time.

The more convenient and efficient a technology, the more likely people will become reliant on it.

Such is the case with mobile messaging in the form of SMS and push too and, as the above demonstrates, this mobile technology, at least for the time being, is here to stay.

Tom Cotney is CEO of mBlox, Sunnyvale, CA. Reach him at