The U.S. Congress passed the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to protect the rights of consumers when it comes to contact from marketers and robocalls. For business owners who want to engage consumers via mobile or their websites, TCPA compliance is key to long term success.
Congress has updated the TCPA, which first went into effect in 1991, many times over the years. One of those updates placed text messaging in with automated calls, treating them the same under law. Understanding how this works is especially important to those using SMS marketing or online chat.
That’s just one example of why you, or the digital marketing agency you hire, should thoroughly understand TCPA compliance.
The Value of Mobile Marketing
The focus on mobile marketing has intensified as consumers increasingly use smartphones to conduct their business. Consumers will spend an estimated $338 billion on mobile commerce (M-commerce) in 2020.
That’s made the 20th century marketing approaches no longer viable, such as “cold calling” people on their telephone. Many simply will not answer calls from unknown numbers. While it’s called a smartphone, people use it as an actual phone a lot less than they do other things.
Studies have found the most common use for smartphones is online shopping. Other popular uses include reading news, listening to music, banking, making purchases and setting up transportation.
While email is effective in many ways, it does not work in mobile marketing as it has limited ability to facilitate conversations. Online chat and SMS marketing are among the most popular options, but there are key differences.
Before looking at them in detail, it’s important to look in more detail at TCPA compliance.
Details on TCPA Compliance
The original TCPA eventually led to creation of the Do Not Call Registry, which allows consumers to place their phone on a list where marketers could not call them. This now also applies to mobile phone numbers.
The Federal Trade Commission makes it illegal for marketers to use a robocall to reach someone’s cell phone without first getting that person’s permission. This extends to text messaging. It also makes it illegal for a live person to call or text a person’s number before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
Under TCPA guidelines, businesses can also not send unsolicited advertising that promotes the “commercial availability or quality” of any property, goods or services without invitation or permission.
Online Chat Vs. SMS Marketing
Marketers use online chat and SMS marketing to interact with customers, but in very different ways.
In terms of TCPA compliance, SMS marketing falls under the rules above. Federal law governs texting very similarly to phone calls. Once TCPA compliance is understood, however, SMS marketing is a powerful tool for reaching consumers directly through their smartphone.
In addition to the fact it is mobile friendly, some of the advantages of SMS marketing include:
- It’s pre-installed on everyone’s phone, no need to download an app
- It has the highest open rate among digital marketing tools (some estimate it as high as 98%)
- Very cost effective vs. buying advertising
- SMS reaches every consumer demographic
- Immediate delivery to consumer
While still relatively new, SMS marketing is quickly gaining popularity as a marketing option.
Online chat is also a powerful marketing tool, although typically used differently. It also does not usually fall under TCPA, as it involves engaging with consumers when they come to your website.
A prompt typically asks them if they want assistance, and if they engage, then it is permissible to chat with them. Businesses often use online chat to offer consumers a convenient way to engage with customer service representatives who can fix any issues they experience with a product.
Online chat advantages include:
- Strengthening customer loyalty
- Increasing sales on your website
- Improving customer experience
- Gathering information on customer pain points
- Proactively supporting consumers
Business owners can use both SMS marketing and online chat to improve their business. An understanding of how to use both, and the importance of TCPA compliance, are keys to success in both areas.