One of my retail clients was just pitched by a local marketing firm on paying for text marketing services. For $1,000/year, the retailer can send unlimited text messages to their consumers. My client wanted to know if it was worth the money.
Here's how I responded:
Regarding text marketing, the jury is still out. While mobile marketing is definitely where marketing is going, I do not believe that text marketing will be how mobile marketing ultimately evolves. Research indicates that youth users of mobile are as offended by text ads as their parents are by getting telemarketing calls at the dinner table. Youth text users view text the way their parents view phone conversations. So text marketing is a good way to alienate the youth crowd. While their parents aren't quite as offended by text messages (which isn't to say that they aren't offended - they just aren't AS offended), they are also much less likely to use text messaging than their kids.
When does text marketing work? When it comes from within the community - to tell their peers to gather for events, parties, etc. Mass texting is happening, but in a social context rather than a marketing context.
I know the agency said the text users would be "opt in," but part of the problem with building an opt-in text list is all the people you irritate while sending out texts to them to see if they want to opt in! I haven't seen any case studies yet to indicate that text marketing is actually yielding strong sales for any given retailer. All we have at the moment is a lot of testing.
Your reach as a local brand would be better focused on building social media relationships, doing opt-in email messages to people who have provided their email address to you in the first place, and hosting lots of events and other reasons to come into the store. I think it is more likely that a mobile app is in your future than that we want to do text marketing a'la telemarketing.