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Text messaging and marketing automation tools are clear favorites for marketing and customer support professionals to engage their current customers.

Since 2013, 2River has surveyed advertising, customer service and marketing professionals in the United States about the tools and technologies they used to connect with their customers.

2River asks them what tools they use and how well the tools perform. 2River also asks them to identify emerging trends in their industry. The results of our 2016 survey are in.

Text messaging – a rising star

Of marketing and sales professionals who communicate with their customers via mobile text messaging, 49% find these tools to be extremely or very successful. Only 5% reported not being satisfied with text messaging to engage their customers.

This is a big change since 2013, when only about 40% of the marketing and sales professionals who used text messaging said it was extremely or very successful (compared to 49% in 2016). Also in 2013, 10% of survey participants using text messaging reported not being satisfied with it (compared to 5% in 2016).

Large businesses are jumping on this bandwagon — increasing their adoption of mobile text messaging for customer engagement. In 2013 only 51% of large businesses in our survey communicated with their customers via text messaging. In 2016 this jumped to 63%. Small and mid-size businesses may have been early adopters of text messaging, but large companies recognize that text messaging tools are key to a “mobile-first” communication strategy.

Marketing automation – a consistent winner

Marketing automation is still a winner. Of our survey participants who use marketing automation technology, 51% find these tools to be extremely or very successful to engage their current customers – on par with 2013 results.

Although the use of marketing automation has been relatively flat since we started the survey in 2013 (with 51-56% of survey participants using it), we see significant growth in the 2016 survey in the financial services and insurance industry. In 2013 only 55% of financial services survey participants reported using marketing automation. In 2016 81% of marketing and customer support professionals from financial services and insurance companies reported using marketing automation. This jump in usage has also followed a corresponding bump in satisfaction (69% reported it as extremely or very successful in 2016 – up from 40% satisfaction in 2013).

Online coupons – a fizzled firework

Satisfaction with online coupons continued a significant drop. In 2016 only 27% of the marketing and customer support professionals using online coupons for customer engagement were satisfied. This is a big drop from 2013 when 49% felt it was extremely or very successful. While hand-written coupons offering free Coca-Cola in 1887 may have launched 100 years of successful coupon strategies, the digital version does not look like it will have a similar century long impact.

Making customer engagement tools work

Regardless of which technology works for your company, the goal is to create a call to action. Each year, we hear stories of how marketing and customer support departments find successful ways to engage their customers. Successful techniques run the range from high-touch phone calls and in-store visits to high-tech outreach via social media, text and email.

As companies continue to use more customer data to pinpoint their customers’ needs and behavior, it is critical that marketing and customer support professionals access the right tools to engage and activate their customers. Knowing that certain types of customers are key candidates to purchase a new product is more effective if you also know which customer engagement technique is most likely to motivate them.

Successful companies will increasingly combine customer relationship management software, data analytics/AI and customer engagement tools to engage customers in relevant relevant ways across all communications channels. The full research report from the 2016 Customer Engagement Tools survey is available at www.2rcg.com