Mitto: The psychology of messaging (choose your words wisely)

Omnichannel communications company, Mitto, has published the results of its ‘Psychology of Messaging’ research, which examines how and when consumers want brands to message them. The survey of 2,000 Americans aged 18+ revealed generational differences and similarities in preferred tone, content, frequency, timing and opt-in preferences while also indicating a deep reliance on texts for important reminders in daily life.

For brand marketers, the results support a flexible omnichannel approach to customer engagement to meet today’s diverse, digital-first consumer.

Take a low-pressure approach, but choose words wisely

Overall, most respondents (55%) prefer a lower-pressure approach when brands text them, with 63% of consumers aged 55+ agreeing. When breaking down what a low-pressure approach looks like, 42% are ok with brands using slang, though Millennials are more receptive (48%) than consumers aged 55+, only 29% of whom are ok with slang in brand texts.

Not all slang words are created equal, however; some are more recognized and deemed acceptable for brands to use in their texts than others. The word “extra,” for example, is acceptable to 55% of Americans while “flex,” “FOMO,” and “slay” are deemed acceptable by just 43%.

But while slang language is largely accepted, abbreviations and exclamation points should be used sparingly: two-thirds of respondents (67%) dislike it when brands abbreviate words in their text messages and two-thirds (64%) of the 55+ age group say generous use of exclamation marks in a brand’s messages makes them want to opt-out.

When segmented by industry, certain behaviors from brands are expected more than others:

  • When it comes to humor in texts, only 15% of Americans think it’s appropriate from healthcare businesses but that number shoots up to 43% for entertainment brands.
  • Asked about brands displaying trendy behavior, 44% welcome entertainment brands to do so in their texts, but the number drops to 19% for healthcare and financial services

Additionally, over half (56%) said they respond better to texts including an emoji from brands. The 55+ age group responded less favorably to more dynamic graphics in brand texts: Only 40% respond better to emojis and 65% said they don’t want brands sending them memes/animated GIFs.

Avoid weekends, delays and too many texts

When asked what might cause them to opt-out of texts from a brand, the top reason was receiving messages too frequently (72%) followed by annoying tone/language (45%) and irrelevance of the content (53%).

In response to the question “What length of time do you think it’s okay to wait to receive an SMS,” respondent’s said:

  • Within 5 seconds: 21%
  • Within 10 seconds: 31%
  • Within a minute: 31%
  • Within two minutes: 10%

Timing also matters when sending texts to customers. Brands sending non-essential texts on weekend mornings is a big no-no, according to 42% of respondents. The biggest no-no for those 55+ is weekend evenings, which 52% agreed isn’t appropriate. The most universally preferred time is weekday afternoons, which 30% of all respondents agreed to, although those 55+ have a slight preference for weekday mornings.

Respondents rely on texts for reminders and want more opt-in control

Respondents admitted to being reliant on the text messages they receive from brands:

  • Half (49%) said if they don’t get a text reminding them of a healthcare appointment, they’d likely miss it
  • 43% said if they don’t get a text reminding them when their order is arriving, they’d likely forget it was coming
  • 39% said if they don’t get a text reminding them they left items in their cart, they likely wouldn’t checkout
  • A third (36%) said if they don’t get a text prompting them to re-order a good, they’d likely run out of it

But brands shouldn’t take text reliance for granted. To give a general idea of content likes versus dislikes, while consumers most appreciate receiving texts with promo codes/discounts, Happy Birthday messages, and one-time passwords, most agree texts for feedback or review solicit requests (58%), re-order prompts (55%) and inspirational or motivational messages/stories (53%) are annoying to receive.

Text message open rates have remained incredibly high, upwards of 90%, for years, indicating they continue to be a tremendously valuable channel for marketers to communicate with their customers.  But marketers cannot expect to blindly blast them out to customers and expect strong engagement. To truly leverage texts as a customer engagement tool and avoid opt-outs, brands need to understand text message pet peeves and how to avoid them. This research provides a window into the psyche of American consumers’ preferences around how brands engage with them on text.

Andrea Giacomini, CEO, Mitto