Interview with Vibes co-founder Alex Campbell on utilizing SMS and messaging for ecommerce
In this interview, Darius Vasefi talks with Alex Campbell from Vibes, an SMS engagement platform, about the vital role of mobile communication, especially SMS, in retail and e-commerce. They discuss Campbell's mobile expertise, the evolution of technology's impact on customer engagement, and the essence of effective mobile marketing. They highlight the personal nature of mobile devices, understanding customer objectives, and delve into mobile wallet technology like push notifications, SMS, MMS, Google Pay, and Apple Pay for enhancing customer experiences. The conversation addresses challenges for B2C marketers, the need for valuable timely information via mobile, and how mobile wallet features can boost loyalty and participation in loyalty programs.
The interview highlights the significance of SMS communication in retail and e-commerce. It traces the evolution of mobile tech and its impact on customer engagement, underscoring the personal aspect of mobile devices. Understanding customers' objectives is key. The role of mobile wallet tech like push notifications, SMS, MMS, Google Pay, and Apple Pay in enriching customer experiences is discussed. Challenges for B2C marketers, especially the engagement gap, are explored, along with the importance of delivering valuable, timely mobile information. The potential of mobile wallet features for enhancing customer loyalty and participation in loyalty programs is emphasized.You can find a link to the full report below the transcript.
Darius 0:00 Welcome to the retail tech podcast. My name is Darius Vasefi. Today I am speaking with Alex Campbell, of a company called vibes, which is an SMS engagement platform. I hope I said that correct, but awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you, Alex. Welcome.
Alex Campbell 0:19 Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm excited.
Darius 0:22 So I heard about wives. And you know, SMS and mobile communication is really important. And it's becoming even more important for retail and ecommerce. So I was really interested to learn more about what you do. So maybe we can start by just giving us just a little background on yourself, and then diving into why you've been doing this for 25 years. Yeah. Interesting.
Alex Campbell 0:47 It's funny that when you say it's new, yeah. And then everyone needs to know about this. Yes, it is still, in fact, new. Yeah, a little bit about me. I've been in the space now almost 25 years. So I started the company, when I graduated college. And it's really, it's really interesting, because even back then we were thinking about mobile. And, you know, back then it was like the internet was coming out. In my thought process with my, with my co founder was alright, what's after the internet? Like, how is that going to evolve? And so the obvious idea was the internet is gonna go mobile. And so what does that really mean? And what does that mean for brands who want to talk to customers. And it's like, we had no idea it would evolve, that mobile would evolve into what it is today, you know, until smartphones came out. And again, remember, this is before smartphones, this is like flip phones. But it's really interesting how the core differentiators of mobile have stayed the same. And when I say that, it's about, you know, when I think about mobile, mobile is a very personal device. So there are there are many things that work in advertising on other devices that aren't so personal, that don't work on mobile. And my you know, the example I always give is the, you know, if I'm going to go check the news on an app or something like that, or the mobile internet, and I get that, like, takeover ad, that's usually for a car company. And I have to wait 15 seconds to get to what I wanted to do. That's a poor experience, right? So we always say that mobile is a mission driven device. So I pull up my phone when I have a mission to do. And great mobile marketing helps that mission, like the takeover ad, hurt the mission of I understand, like, I want to read a headline or sports score or something like that. So from a marketing perspective, it's really important to think about what are your customers missions? And why are they pulling out that phone? What are they trying to do? And how can I use mobile to help the end consumer do what they want to do? That makes sense?
Darius 3:02 Okay, yeah, that's great. So maybe what we can do is clarify what we mean by mobile. Because mobile can mean different things for different people. So let's clarify that. Yeah. So
Alex Campbell 3:17 what would we specialize in advise and have, you know, for all this time is on the not necessarily the app. So we'll do push notifications. But it's all about how a, a brand interacts with a customer through not through the app or the mobile website itself, but through messaging. So whether that's push notifications, SMS, MMS, which is is you know, media or pictures? A lot. There's a lot going on with mobile wallet, right now. Which when I talked about mobile wallet is the embedded wallet on iOS or Android. So it's you Google Pay or Apple Pay. That's actually been really interesting over the last count, I mean, really, since COVID, COVID, has really helped that, really, really push that along. So what we try and do is figure out, how do we help brands interact with their customers? Really, with everything other than building the app? That makes sense?
Darius 4:23 Okay. Yeah. So just being in this type of business myself, I know, like, there's like, you know, so many details under what you'd mentioned. Yeah. Which is like, it's a probably a simple concept. But it's very complicated to actually do it. Right. And do it. Yeah. Well, so we can talk about more of that.
Alex Campbell 4:48 Yeah. I mean, to me, like, it doesn't have to be right. To me. It's more of a mindset of where I think it gets complicated is when you have a Um, you know, other people from other channels like an email, if you think of SMS as, oh, this is just like email, but it's only 160 characters. That's where it's gonna get complicated, right? Because I don't know about you my inbox, in email, like, literally I'm looking at this right now has 6814 unread emails, I have zero unread texts, right. And so when you just think about that mentality, I can send someone an email, and if it comes at three in the morning, it's no big deal, because I'm gonna go check my email in the morning. But if I send you a text at 3am, like, you're gonna wake up, or you could potentially wake up. And then if it's for something that you didn't really care about, you're gonna get angry, right, you're gonna get pissed. So just there you can think through the one of the beauties of something like SMS is when I send you the message, you read it, you know, it's 97% of the people read it within the first three minutes. So that, and I think we can all think about this from from a personal standpoint, if you were to send me a message, like a text message right now that said, like, if you sent me something saying, hey, our podcast is starting right now, that's really valuable to me. If you sent me that last Thursday, saying like, Hey, can't like, like, don't remember, our podcast is, you know, Tuesday or whatever, that's less valuable. That's maybe better split sent via email. So to go back to your question, honestly, to me, it's a mindset of what information do I need to get to my customer right now that they will value? Right? You're going back to that mission driven, I think what we're seeing a lot of success with mobile wallet is I can see a an ad, or I see something online that says Save, I'm just gonna make it up, save 10% at this retailer, this weekend, I see it on my phone, I click it, I save it to my mobile wallet. And all of a sudden on Friday, that Wallet Object reminds me that I have 10% off this weekend. So when I get that message, it's like, oh, thank you phone for reminding me and helping me remember that I can get a discount, which I wouldn't have gotten in other ways.
Darius 7:18 Right. So that's interesting. I had not heard of that feature, specifically. So the mobile wallet actually is able to remember the sales that you were interested in.
Alex Campbell 7:31 So what I will do is to if I'm online, and I go, you know, to Amman, Chipotle is website or something like that. And they say, Hey, this weekend only will give you $1 off a burrito or an entree, I can actually click that Add seat and it pulls up mobile wallet, just like a boarding pass. I don't know if you've used it for boarding pass, I hit add to my wallet, it goes to the wallet in my iOS in my operating system. I can totally forget about it. Right. totally forget that I did that today. But what we can do from a technology standpoint is actually send a reminder to anyone who's downloaded that to say, hey, just reminder that this weekend, there's it's $1 off. Right? Okay, so And there's really interesting things where we can, working with loyalty cards. You know, if you save that into your mobile wallet, I can actually have it pull up on your phone when you get close to the store to help again to help remind you that you have a loyalty card for Chipotle and remind you to use it and get points. Right. And so as a consumer, it helps me right helps me actually participate.
Darius 8:40 Yeah, yeah. Okay. So that's an add on feature. On top of the mobile wallet functionality itself, it's not something that that Apple provides, for example, correct. Completely. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Cool. Yeah. I like one of the things that I'm always thinking about is like, how much of my phone Am I actually not using? Well, then this is another one. So yeah.
Alex Campbell 9:06 And I'll give I'll give Google and Apple credit for they like they're running into that too. And they're running into how do we make it easier for people to not have to like you probably don't even know where your wallet is on your phone, but it's there. And so when I'm paying via NFC, or I do do Apple Pay or Google Pay, I don't need to know where it is right. It just automatically presents itself and allows you to use it. That's great, right? Because then I don't have to go digging for anything on my phone. I use this as an example of like for mobile wallet, a boarding pass, right. Most people have used mobile wallet for a boarding pass, where you could have pulled up the email confirmation you got, you could have gone into the app to find your boarding pass. But the beauty of it is of a wallet is when it's either three hours before the flight or when you get to the airport because it's geofence it just pops up on your lockscreen so you You're going through TSA. And you don't have to go fumbling through and like screenshot or anything like that. It's just right there. And it updates when your gait changes. So it's just a much better experience. So take that to the loyalty side. And look, my vision is, if you're part of a loyalty program, anytime you walk into that store, you should have that loyalty card pop up on your lockscreen. Right? It's much easier to use. I mean, think of all the times when you're checking out. I know, everyone knows the same retailers where it's like, what's your phone number? It's like, I don't know what phone number I use. When I signed up. It's mine. Maybe it's my wife's move that hold my old home phone number, because I signed up 20 years ago. It's just It would be so much easier if my phone just again remembered for me. And I could just slide it, unlock it and present it, whether it's NFC or scan a QR code.
Darius 10:53 Yeah. Very interesting. Very interesting. So let's see. So I think you had some point about I think we were talking about the challenges that like, you know, b2c marketers are facing these days. And like this concept of the engagement gap. Can we go into that? Yeah,
Alex Campbell 11:16 absolutely. Yeah. And it's really interesting, because this happened, I mean, this started happening. I mean, years ago, right? With email, it used to be that like, you could just run a TV ad, and say, hey, here are the season's coolest jeans. And everyone was like, Okay, great. I'm gonna go buy those. You know, what, what's really happened over the last 10 years has been, you could run that same ad, and everyone's like, wait a minute, I'm gonna go check. I'm gonna go actually find out if that if that's actually true. And when you start combining that with the amount of ways people can check, it just starts to get overwhelming, right. So when you think about how a brand engages with their customer, you have we always think of reach and interactivity, think of the two axes like that, from the reach side, email is the way to reach, there's a way to get out to as many people as possible. That's just because it's been around for a while, everybody has email. But from the interactivity side, we're seeing open rates in single digits, and even have that click through rates even worse than that. So it's interesting that email has kind of, you know, yes, it's still effective. And yes, people will still seek it out of, oh, I remember, I got an email from so and so. And I'm gonna go find that. But it's just not becoming very effective with that interactivity, right? On the flip side, you have an app. Right? So app, you have endless aisles, I can go shopping, I can do all this great functionality. And it's very interactive, but you just don't have the reach. I mean, if you're a major brand, and you get 10% of your customers to download your app, that's a huge success. And if you get half of those, to actually use it, that's an even bigger success. So I always question like, What about the other 95% of your customer base? How do you actually interact with them. So that's where something like SMS and mobile wallet come in. Because SMS is a is a lighter version, I can sign up for it, you're not going to get the same numbers of email. But when when you send an SMS, people actually see it, and they can interact with it. While it being kind of a level up where you get a little more functionality. That will loyalty example, I said, I don't have to go download the app. So I don't have to like use my homescreen and use up space and all that. I can just download my loyalty card. And then that's good, right. And then I get a an app like functionality when I'm in shopping in a physical store. Right. So it closes that gap between the app itself, which is lots of interactivity, but not a lot of downloads, and then email, which is a lot of visibility, but not a lot of interactivity.
Darius 14:11 So if you're a marketer, and your purpose in life, I guess at work is to find customers like to bring in customers to make purchases, and then continue engaging them on the marketing side. The options you have these days are just massive. There's so many different options. Yeah, of course, you know, we've got the content side, which is completely different. Then you've got social and then you've got these direct messaging communications, which you're mentioning is email, SMS, push notifications, if you have you know, the an app. And the wallet is an interesting one that I I personally have not thought about, which is really interesting. And for so, like, the the challenge is how to balance these, right? Because you can't, you shouldn't really, like, should you just forget about one or two of these and just focus on one of them? Should you just do SMS? Or should you just do email? Or is it more of a balance?
Alex Campbell 15:26 I think it's really interesting. Because what we always say is your let your customer decide, right? So let your customer decide if they want to get. And that was the content out of it, because content can also change that as well. But if, you know, there are certain brands that I will sign up for the SMS message versus email versus wallet versus app, right, and it kind of goes, you get a little whittled down as you keep going. So email. Sure. I mean, emails got its own issues, because I didn't even sign up for all these right and my 8000 You know, emails, like I didn't sign up for half of those, but somehow I'm on. And so yes, that's great, because as reach, but you're starting to whittle down on like, how effective that is, if I get an if I get a text now, from a brand that I signed up for remember that text SMS is purely opt in. And I will give the carriers a lot of credit in the US because they have kept SMS relatively spam free. I mean, sure you occasionally get some some messages, but it's nowhere close to what email is. And the carriers that Verizon AT and T T Mobile have done a good job of preserving the integrity of that. Because technically, if I send you a marketing message that you didn't sign up for it, that is a violation of the law. Right. And so I mean, think about that for email, right? So, as a marketer, first and foremost, I would say, make sure you have the options available. Like make sure your customers can choose, how do they want to hear from you that's first, then start getting into content, and what content is appropriate for which channel and then frequency and all that comes next. But if you're not allowing your customers to choose, then you're kind of missing a channel anyway. Right. Right.
Darius 17:28 Right. Okay. So so your your recommendation is to have all the options, and let the customers use don't remove an option, because you think it's not right, let the customers decide if they want. Okay, right. Yeah, I mean, it's this is like becoming even more and more prevalent right now, like, you know, you go to a direct to consumer brand or website, especially the ones that are on I think like maybe Shopify, and you can see a trend, the first thing is, they'll just jump in, they want your email. As soon as you give them your email, then they want your text message, your phone number for text messages. So I think there's, as a consumer myself, I know, I'm a lot more relaxed about giving my email to someone than my phone number.
Alex Campbell 18:17 Absolutely. And what's great, yeah, so you just you just back me up what I just said, right? Yeah. So and that's where I am way more careful about my phone number, right? Because because it's so effective, right? Because if I get a message from somebody that I don't really care about, I'm gonna read that and spend time looking at from an email perspective, like, you know, I don't even notice that they come in anymore. Right, right.
Darius 18:45 And we have so many emails, we can easily use a fake email, but we can't do that with our phones, right? We just not yet at least, so. So the
Alex Campbell 18:56 point on that, though, is that, and this is what we've seen time and time, again, with results, is that you have to remember that if I'm sending anything to a phone, it is a personal device. So the second that I send you a text message saying, you know, Happy Mother's Day or something like that, that obviously doesn't apply to you. It's a boy, it's a bad message. Right? I shouldn't have gotten that. I mean, you know, that's kind of an extreme example. But there's also the examples of like, hey, 10% off sitewide next weekend, right? Why did you text me that? Don't do that right now? Right? Send, maybe send it to me on Friday, or Saturday as a reminder of like, hey, this weekend only. Now listen, you're getting into information that I actually want. And there's a higher level of expectation around personalization in something like SMS and mobile than there is an email, right? If I got that email saying, hey, this weekend, you know, see savings of 10% I'd be like, Alright, fine, whatever, that didn't really take much of my time. So it's okay to be a little bit less personalized. But we've seen it time and time again. I mean, we are number one most effective here. I'll let you guess what kind of a message always gets the highest response highest click through. It's a type of message. You mean,
Alex Campbell 20:27 SMS?
Alex Campbell 20:28 Yeah, SMS. Yeah, of all the SMS. Oh, there is one, that time and time again, whether it's like a Fourth of July weekend or Christmas, or, you know, like holidays or whatever,
Alex Campbell 20:41 the one for my wife always.
Alex Campbell 20:45 It's a birthday message. So when we send you a text on your birthday, that gets a probably a 10x response rate than any other message. Right? And I think it does a good job of showing. It's like, okay, I got a text on my birthday. This brand actually knows. Like, that's pretty cool.
Darius 21:07 So it seems like the the specific thing about the SMS communication with customers is the immediacy of it. Absolutely, yes. And send send a message, which is relevant, but it also has some level of immediacy, like, maximum like today, later today, or don't go to even tomorrow, or even the day after that, no, cuz it's gonna lose, it's like, probably the relevance of it for the customer
Alex Campbell 21:36 think through, like, Let's take something that we all do on our phone, the weather, right? So in the morning, I wake up, and I go, probably chicken app of like, hey, what's today's weather gonna be like, maybe I'm even planning ahead of like, seven days, like what tomorrow's gonna be like, That's great. I'll use an app for that, you know, maybe during the day, just to see if it's gonna rain. I'll use an app for that. If there's a tornado warning text. Is there something like that, that I need to know about right now? Please text me. Like, I want to interrupt my day for information like that. So take that same analogy to a brand. And if you're sitting there saying, here's something that's going to happen in back to school, and it's like, a month away, don't text me that information. Like, yeah, I'd love to know about that on your site or something like that. But if you have a, if you have something going on right now, that I would love, and there's a limited quantity texted me that, like, let me know, like that would be really helpful. Right? So it helps kind of think through the type. I mean, we didn't talk about content, but like when you get to content, the more immediate the more personal the more I mean, birthday again. Right? Right. Right, because that's kind of cool that you know, my birthday. Right, right.
Darius 22:51 The so when when you look at the design event, like when you sign up for when you give your phone number to a retailer. Yeah, they have the option to send you SMS or MMS, right? Or both? Correct. It could be either, I don't remember having like to select between like saying, you know, only send me SMS. So, and I, I've tried this, I'm like, I subscribed, I gave my phone number to some retailers to just see how they do. And I although I see the messages, I find myself maybe not engaging as much, because they're just not that personalized for both. So I looked at the few first few, and I mean, of course, like some of them are MMS. And I mean, the first thing that I see is like, you know, especially like on my watch, because I get a lot of those things on my watch. And I'm just looking on the watch face. And that basically I decide if I'm going to go check out that Best Buy message that just came in. Yeah. And I've kind of like grown to understand that it's not always that personalized for me. So let's say for example, I'm looking, I'm looking for a stereo like a receiver, an amp receiver. I don't have a way of telling that to Best Buy for that specific product and only get information about that I'm not looking for a new TV I'm not looking for anything else. I just want to hear about you have any interesting things about that or not
Alex Campbell 24:35 totally and here's where I'm both excited about the future because but I'm also I'm very interested how we're gonna get there because Best Buy probably knows you're in the market for receiver. They're not connecting the dots between how can I actually reach out to you in a personal way, but they probably know that that's what you're in the market for We did we actually did a program exactly like this where we had, there's a propensity to I can't name the retailer. But in their loyalty program, we did a propensity to buy modeling. So this is AI, right, that said, this weekend, Alex has a 68% chance of going out and buying, you know, Saad will say it was a home home improvement retailer. All sudden, it's like, alright, if Alex is gonna go buy that, I want him to come in and buy it for me. So I actually am going to use his mobile wallet, send them a notification saying this weekend, we're adding $20 in value to your loyalty program in points. We're going to take them away on Sunday. So now listen, it's like, alright, if I know I kind of know 60% is a pretty big number, that you're gonna go by something specific this weekend. What I just did is I gave you an incentive to come in to me, right? And so from a consumer standpoint, also think about that. Even if I don't know that 68% chance is happening in the background. It's like, oh, cool. They just offered me 20 bucks for this weekend. That's kind of nice, right? So when you think about going back to your Best Buy, I like like world. I want that to happen. I want BestBuy to understand enough about you that this weekend. Maybe it's not 100%, right? But you're probably in the market for this. It's nice weather, it's the spring, it's you know, there are many different factors going on. And that's where we've started to look into the AI modeling AI is actually pretty good at this because it can kind of cut through a lot of the clutter and kind of just treat you as a as a as a unit to bring the emotion in. It just says, Hey, it's nice weather out this weekend. Here's the story. Here's the customer you are maybe you're gonna like this, right? So, you know, to me, from a mobile standpoint, that personalization really helps. And it helps because then I don't have to send other people an SMS that they're not going to get value from. Right. That's it. That's it? Yeah. It's really the question is how can I? How it is about how do I capture people who are going to go do something that's kind of the the positive part of it. But there's also the, I don't want to send you a message that you don't want. Right? So if I can take that away, then when I do send you a message, you're really gonna pay attention to it.
Darius 27:27 Yeah, yeah. I mean, this whole concept of personalization. Yep. I think we're still at level one, from one to 10. Yeah, it is, it is still really, really impersonal. Yeah, and it's like, so, like, you know, so, so early on, in that, in that process, where I also think that agree, AI is, definitely has a potential to help on that. Because it just like can process so much more information. So much faster. So
Alex Campbell 28:02 well, and I'll say, like, when we look at, and we've always been really, really big on this is, is churn, who's churning from your database, if you're sending a message that, you know, you see a certain like a half percent of your people churn. There's actually two factors here, right. And I think, as SMS has become a much more popular channel, there is a, there's this desire of like, Hey, I just sent a message and made $3 million, I'm gonna send another one, I'm gonna send another, I'm going to send another one. And we from vibe standpoint, we've been very careful about this, because we know that an SMS database is an asset for your company. And anybody that churns you just lost a little bit of value in that asset, and they're probably not coming back. Because they churn for a reason, right? So when you think of like, our churn rates are in the like, point to 1% area. A lot of our competitors, though, because their brands are saying, Oh, I just made money just made money, or like 3% 5%. That's way too high. However, think about the marketer. If I as a marketer can hit a button and make $3 million. I'm gonna go hit that button. Right. So yeah, there's there is this kind of interest in short term versus long term thinking? And we've always been, like, I don't know if it's right or not, right. I mean, maybe our customers aren't making as much money as they could in the short term. But personally, I feel like this is a long term game, and you need to be playing it that way. So that if you if you you got to start watching those opt out rates, and if those opt out rates go higher, you need to rethink both your frequency and content. Right. Yeah.
Darius 29:51 So just just to clarify what you mean by churn is when somebody says stop, yeah, who a textbook such and that they just want you to stop. That's what you mean by turn on that. Okay. Let's talk about like this concept of maybe just a little bit about, we talked about Best Buy, first of all, I love Best Buy, I'm not picking on them. I'm doing this just so that they become better. So I get better like messaging from them. Why do you think what's what's not connected in their systems? That doesn't allow me to get that personalized have a like a real need that I'm thinking about type of messaging? Yeah, it's
Alex Campbell 30:38 the data component. Right. It's the data. It's a lot of retailer and by the best buy love Best Buy to you. They're not a customer of ours tools.
Darius 30:45 So do use as an example. Not yet. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Alex Campbell 30:49 So So what the focus of particularly retail, for a number of years was get data, get data, get data, get data. A lot of retailers got to the point where it's like, are we have a lot of data? What do we do with it? And how do we use it in the right way to make the customer experience better? That's a big key thing, where I can use data to show you that I know who you are. But does that make the customer experience better this is I go back to this loyalty idea, right with wallet. The thing that I love about this is, if I am a customer, I'll use another non like REI, right, and I'm in the loyalty program. When I show up at the store, if my phone can remind me, you're in the loyalty program, here's your card, and all you have to do is tap it when you leave, or when you pay, we automatically tap it. Right? That really helped. Like that helped me a lot to participate. Right. So that's an example of how I actually helped the customer experience by allowing you to participate in loyalty without even really having to do anything. Right. So I think going back to your question, I think a lot of the focus, in the last call it four of the last five years has been on get data, get as much data as you can. Now I think brands are realizing, okay, we have a ton of data. What do we do with this? Right? So that's where companies like our like visors will come in to say, you have data, let's use it in a really powerful way to get someone an SMS, when they really want it. Like, that's the perfect, that's the perfect recipe right there. Right? That's what we strive for literally on every message.
Darius 32:34 Okay, so So maybe a little more detail on how, why actually does that? Yeah, we can get into that. So you're not just a typical infrastructure player, you actually help us companies with the content as well,
Alex Campbell 32:52 we can Well, what we really try and do is create the software that allows our customers to do that. So and I won't get totally into like the nuts and bolts. But if you have if you want to send a message to like, we basically have custom fields, so you can have an unlimited custom fields. So if you and again, you can use your data to create custom fields. So if I have a custom fields of, you know, a certain age group that lives in a certain like suburbs who does this, and then and then all sudden, it's like, okay, that group, I want to send this type of a message this content to today, because it's gonna be relevant. But I want to not send it to people who aren't in that group, right? To me, it's funny, because like, we always view the segmentation is additive. I view it as subtractive. Right? I want to eliminate as many people from that audience that aren't going to find value in that message as possible, right? Because then I can send a message to someone who, you know, like a certain content to a person who actually is going to use that. That's what we want, right? So our software allows you to do that. We are starting to incorporate a lot of AI into things like send time optimization, which is just it's really interesting, as someone who's been in this space for so long. It's really funny because we saw this in on Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year where for some reason, someone said you should send a message at 10am. Right. And you should have seen the number of messages that went out at 10am. It was insane. When we looked at response rate, our AI was saying don't send it to 10am sending it the afternoon. The response rate in the afternoon was like two or 3x what it was in the morning, which was it was the first year we've actually seen that happen. And because that's because the saturation is so many you got so many messages at 10am That was like oh my god, like it was almost like there were too many. So what we're trying to do look at especially on the AI side is As the AI is great at look at coming in with no sort of emotion and saying, Hey, your customer base wants to get a message this time, we have a customer of ours who targets moms. And they were sending at 10am. Right? We brought it in, we brought it into the AI. And it said, Hey, you should send at 7pm. And it turns out it was because moms put their kids down. And then they go shop. It was like, I now that I see that. Yes, that totally makes sense. But I didn't think why. Right. So that
Darius 35:32 only applies to moms. I have to like other people at 7pm and expect the same result.
Alex Campbell 35:41 Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So that's what we're starting to get into it. And we're using this data, again, for good and to be more personalized, not just to kind of get an excuse to send you more messages. Yeah, and I think honestly, like, right now, one of the dangers we see is, because something like SMS is so effective, there is this, like, I mean, we had competitors of ours who were sending three messages a day, on Black Friday, that's just too much. Because every time you send a message, you're gonna get a certain number of people opting out. And that might be it might drive that short term revenue. And it might look great for just Black Friday or for just one day. But you just turned a bunch of people that aren't coming back. Right. And that's really dangerous to think from from a long term perspective.
Darius 36:34 Yeah, yeah. I think just like the example that you use, as far as like, if you make $3 million from one SMS, the reason you do is because you only sent one, exactly. If you had sent two or three, you would have made less on each one.
Alex Campbell 36:50 And in there's a branding component to that too, right. Like, like, I think it's funny, like, I did a bunch of panels early on, where where people were asking like, how, what's the right frequency when one of the right messages, go back to how you personally use SMS? Imagine if you had a friend that sent you a message at 10am saying, Hey, we haven't dinner, and you don't respond. And then he sent you another one to hey, we haven't dinner, and then another one for a or we haven't dinner, you'd like stop it? Right? Like that's what a brand is doing? Exactly. Right. Like your
Alex Campbell 37:27 practice is on yourself first, right? I mean, there's a
Alex Campbell 37:30 social component to SMS, which you just have to be aware of? For sure. Yeah.
Darius 37:36 Well, I mean, you know, this is the other thing is like, the concept of customer obsession, and customer centricity. They get a lot of like, talk, but not a lot of actual action and implementation when it comes down to it.
Alex Campbell 37:56 Yeah, absolutely. And I think a lot of it's been, like, a lot of the talk has been around data itself, and I need to collect and collect, and I need to know people. But like, our most successful customers are starting to realize, alright, I can use this data for a better customer experience. That's what it's really about. And how do I do that, and that is not sending someone three messages a day, right? It's sending someone a message when when there's something they would care about, that they may not know about, that they might miss, right? Like that, to me is where it's like, alright, that's, that's a brand that knows me, and actually wants to help me, right?
Darius 38:34 Yeah, that personalization is really important. becomes even more important on SMS. Yes. Because it's even more important on SMS than push, right? Because push isn't doesn't have that direct or emotional connection to people as SMS does. Right? Is that correct?
Alex Campbell 38:56 Yeah, I mean, push. So the carrot, the Apple and Google have kind of played around with push and how it actually displays on your phone. So because they realize that if I'm a brand, I have all the incentive in the world to just push you a message all the time, right. And so that's where it's really interesting, because again, compare SMS to push the handset providers started tweaking things to say, alright, certain brands are going to come into your like scheduled delivery, right? They you see, like, once a day, and I never looked at those anymore, right? Some of them, I actually want to see you right away. So it's because you had this the brand, say, oh, I can send messages Great. Go, go, go go go. The handset providers because Apple cares about the experience. Google cares about your experience with the phone. And if it's just a if it's just a relentless machine of messages, you're not going to like that. Right? So they're giving you tools to filter that SMS on the other hand, because a it's going through the carriers B you've opted in and see if there's a cost to it to you know, SMS is not free. So if I'm a brand, I am paying money to send you that message, I think honestly that, you know, as an economics major, that is, that is probably the thing that has kept it sane and worthwhile is, I have to think about sending you a message because it's going to cost me some money.
Darius 40:18 So per per unit sent, is SMS the most, I guess expensive, then from our email, email, of course, yeah. Okay.
Alex Campbell 40:30 So email, right. I mean, I almost wish. Yeah. And back in the early days of internet, there was talk around like, adding some sort of a fee, even if it's like, you know, triple 04 cents or something like that. I almost wish. Because, like, I wouldn't have 8000. So when he actually had to pay to send me some?
Darius 40:54 Well, no, I think there is a problem, there's a solution, coming to that email problem, probably with generative AI and some kind of an agent that Alex is going to install on his email, and he's just going to go through and absolutely, I would be interested in so that would be a really useful use case for
Alex Campbell 41:13 it. It's really interesting, though. Even how we use email in our company has changed, like, we use Slack. Right, which has zero advertising, pay for it. Email is almost reserved for external people reaching out to me, right. But I don't even really use email. I mean, I do, I would say, from a day to day basis, but like, I use something like Slack way more. So like, right, some of the email is absolutely out there to be, you know, like, disruptive, right? Because it's just becoming less and less effective, like literally every day.
Darius 41:49 Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about, like, the different use cases for SMS. So you can you can use it for marketing, which is what we've been talking about, mostly. But you can also use it as on the product side on transactional information and things that are important that can, which is more like, I think, like, you know, this, this, this, the team that is working at the company, as an E commerce or retail business is made up of marketers, designers, and of course, product people. So we've mentioned about, like, you know, product managers previously. And, like, the product managers, typically would not be using SMS for marketing. Right. But they would have some really important use cases for it. Yeah, absolutely. You also work on those types of use cases to get to that, and what are your thoughts on best practices for that?
Alex Campbell 42:59 I mean, yeah, again, I go back to you, if you're the product person, especially like E commerce, right. And anything that comes to mind is shipping. Right? So we had a customer of ours who did a lot of work with sneakers. So I don't know if you know about sneakers, but their sneaker, the sneaker world is insane. Like, it's awesome to see the passion behind a lot of this. But what was happening is, people would order sneakers, it would get shipped to their house and stole packages stolen. I'm like, quickly, because people are trying to know what a sneaker like all that our customer had to pay for that. Their own pocket, they couldn't get insurance, because the insurance companies said that's too much money, there's too much stuff going on, like talk to the Postal Service, or at FedEx, or whoever, like, all of a sudden, our customer said, I'm gonna send an alert, I'm gonna send a text message when that those stickers are delivered. And immediately, the theft went down so much that you get insurance. So that's one of those things that like, again, you're helping your end customer because it's like your product isn't there. It's sitting on your front porch. I don't if I ordered sneakers, I don't want them to get stolen. Right? So me getting a text, even if I'm sitting at work at home or whatever, it's like, Ooh, they're there somebody go get like, that's really helpful. So that's not a marketing message. That is a message that says like, hey, something has happened that you need to pay attention to.
Darius 44:22 Right. Right. Right. Or if something is late, you can let people know. And I think those are not direct marketing messages, but they go a long way to create a positive experience.
Alex Campbell 44:36 Absolutely. That's what it's about right is how do I create a positive experience? I think in Starbucks, I give credit to all the time right where they were talking about something you could you could sign up for in any different channels. Right. But like, and it was interesting I was in I was in the Starbucks here the other week and I was looking at mobile orders versus people coming in and ordering too. It was seven to one, mobile orders to actual people ordering at the register. And they had two people at two registers and two people doing mobile orders. So think about that, from an employee standpoint, I now have the same number of people handling seven acts, what I used to be able to do, that's a win for everybody. Right? And so when you start thinking through, like, as a as a as a product person, whether it's ecommerce, or whether it's a physical location, what what can I actually bring through the mobile channel? To have my customers do on their own that it used to take a person? Right, right. I think that's really interesting way to think about the product of how can I bring a little bit more of it to the customer? More of that functionality to the customer, rather than having to have someone or something actually take it, take it, take it down?
Darius 45:55 Yeah, yeah. So let's talk a little bit about the. So let's talk a little bit about the, I guess, the tier one aspects of your business. And then I want to get into maybe one or two quick, like use cases with some retailers that you are companies that you're working with?
Alex Campbell 46:18 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So the tier one that you're mentioning, and this is this gets into the kind of the guts of SMS. So and so within SMS you have, you have a certain number of companies, there's four of us who have direct connections to the carriers. So when I send them out, if you send a message using the Vives platform, it goes directly to Verizon, right, and then out to the consumer. What people don't understand is that in our space, there are a lot of other players who then connect to another person. Again, there's only four of those companies, you have to go through one of those four companies. So if I am, if I'm, usually the newer SMS providers, you send a message through their platform, it might go to three or four companies until it goes out to the carrier. And that usually isn't a problem until you have high volume, right. So something like, you know, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, but not only that, but like Fridays, Thursdays, those high traffic moments. And again, we were just talking about like timing is just so important for SMS. So if I'm a fast casual, and I want to get you a message at 11:30am, because it's about to be lunchtime. If that's going through multiple hops, it might not get out until 2pm. And now all of a sudden, we've seen this with with customers who have come to us from our competitors, is they say, I had a sale that was going on during the day, the message didn't reach the person until nine at night, we had these examples. And that's horrible. Because you just did. You just alerted one of your great customers that there was a sale that they just missed.
Alex Campbell 48:01 Like, that's horrible. So I think to him worse, yeah,
Alex Campbell 48:04 yeah. So So going back in we're, we're, again, one of those four companies, we focus in the marketing side as well. So the other three, just do that routing. And so this is one of those things that I think is a little unknown in our industry. And if you're a company and you're sending SMS and they're delayed, or they're not getting there, within seconds, right? It's because it's getting bounced around. And so I would encourage you to think through Who are you actually doing it through? And how many, how many stops are there? Right.
Darius 48:35 Okay. Yeah, so So I guess this point about being Tier one is a question that somebody looking for an SMS partner? Absolutely. Yeah, can ask as well, you can.
Alex Campbell 48:50 I mean, but there are a lot of players who say, Yeah, I'm tier one. But you got to really ask, and I would say, how do you verify if somebody is tier one or not? You've got to ask how many? How many hops are there until it gets to the carrier? Okay. Great. And lie about that. But like, you know, they shouldn't be able to verify that and understand that maybe they
Darius 49:11 just don't know. And I've been told that we are you know, that's that's what people didn't knows. Yeah.
Alex Campbell 49:17 Nobody knows to ask anything. But like, if you're an email, like, you don't know, and that doesn't matter, because it doesn't matter if you get an email, you know, four hours later, but with SMS, it really does matter. And I would argue if it actually doesn't matter, you're not sending the right content.
Darius 49:33 Okay, yeah. That's a good point. Yeah. Okay. Cool. So let's talk about a couple of examples. I think you had like The Container Store. Yes. One.
Alex Campbell 49:43 Yeah. So Container Store was was a really interesting, it was going around around like, you know, college going up because that's obviously a really big time for them. And so, you know, when Container Store, kids going to college is like, you know, is like the holidays, right? So, you know, when they started using SMS, they were kind of going through this right? Where it's like, how does SMS fit in? I had an email. When they launched, they got 94,000 subscribers within the first two months. So that's always, in my mind that like, a lot of our customers go through, like, is anybody even gonna sign up for this? Right? That's great. That's a great number, right? I mean, yes, the list is gonna get get much bigger. But to show that, especially college kids, like this is how they want to be want to be actually communicated with, right. So then we start on the content side of like, what messages actually resonate. And with SMS, they're seeing click through rates as high as 25%. Right. So that in my mind says if 25% of the people, I send a message to actually click that says, I've got content here, that's really working, that's really resonating, you know, if you send a message, and again, thinking email, like 25%, click through like that, like, click through. That's insane. Right? Yeah. So it's really,
Alex Campbell 51:04 really unheard. Unheard of. Yeah.
Alex Campbell 51:09 Yeah, that shows you your content, and timing and frequency, like all of those worlds are coming together to create a really, really good, engaging message.
Darius 51:20 It didn't happen just to in the beginning, right, they probably had to work it a little bit to get to that
Alex Campbell 51:26 you have to learn. Right, right. And I always say that too, right? Like, yes, I've been doing this for 25 years. But I'm still surprised sometimes of like, types of content or frequency, or, you know, what works with a specific customer group. And I almost take a step back and say, like, I could come in here and say, here's what we think is gonna work. But let's try let's test and learn and do it quickly. With with as much as you can, you can quickly learn what's going to work. So do that. Right? Because who am I to say, who your customer base is and what they respond to.
Darius 52:01 Okay, now, so let's take Container Store as the exam as an example, not naming any, like people or anything, but like, who was the team at The Container Store that you worked with?
Alex Campbell 52:14 So as the marketing team, so marketing team, yeah. So yeah, so it's really interesting. It's interesting, you bring that up, because some of our customers, it's the product team, some of our customers, the marketing team, some of the loyalty team. And it's really, it's really interesting, you mentioned that, because you're now seeing digital is part of the product is part of loyalty, it's part of marketing. And so we always say like, you know, yes, there's e commerce, but it's actually just commerce. Like, it's, it's just, it's how do you interact with with one of your customers and allow them to best engage with you how they want to engage? Right? I think right now you're seeing a little bit of a, we're not quite sure who it is in the organization that is responsible for that. I mean, even as you said, Yeah, product side, right. I mean, the products, product, people are gonna think of it differently than loyalty, people who are gonna think differently than marketing people. And again, and this is why when I try and talk about mobile, I always try and talk about like, like, think of it in the mission driven side. Like, it's not just something you want to just, you know, hit the button over and over again, really want to test and learn, get data use the data you have. And so I think, as companies evolve, the ones that can do that the fastest, and the cleanest are gonna be the ones that win. Right? Okay, are the ones that get the 25% click through rate with very little churn, versus the ones that are getting 5% Click to rate with higher churn? Right? Yeah, yeah.
Darius 53:57 Yeah, I mean, there is the, there's a customer lifecycle, right with any company from from the beginning of even hearing about a brand. Yeah, up to where they make that first purchase. And then after that first purchase, is where the goldmine is really the lifetime value begins. Yep. And the reason that there is some confusion or maybe variance in what teams actually work on, what is that? You know, they're all of these different phases of engaging with the customer. Or they have to be collaborated by different teams. Yeah. And who owns the SMS? system doesn't even matter anymore.
Alex Campbell 54:47 Totally. It's who uses it. Yep. And how do you use it? Use it show me example, right? Marketing isn't necessarily going to care about that. Product is I mean, compliance To like risk, the CFO does, right? Because no, I don't have to go buying sneakers, right. And so it's really interesting, because mobile is more than just I want to send you a message that says, hey, this weekend, here's a marketing announcement, something like that, right? And the way that we use mobile, as consumers, again, like it is the portal from physical to digital. Right? Everything goes through that. Right. It's so exciting as in terms of a opportunity to talk to people, but also you got that's why it's so powerful. You gotta take a step back. And understand should I be doing Should I send this as a text? And not an email? Right, yeah.
Darius 55:48 So the conversation again, at that's a Container Store. Yeah. Started from a conversation with marketing. And they probably were the ones who picked the provider, the partner from the functionality, but I'm sure there were also conversations with the engineering team. Yeah. On how it's going to be implemented. Right? Because the implementation is on the engineering side, mostly. And then the users or the marketers or how does
Alex Campbell 56:17 Yeah, I mean, yeah, I mean, you say engineering, I mean, part of our goal as a company is to make it as easy as possible to plug it, right. And this is this is martec. In general, right? I mean, I've been doing this 25 years, I've never been, I've never had one customer and another customer have the exact same marketing stack. And it was winning, because like, that was learning for us where it was like, Hey, let's just plug into Adobe, Salesforce, IBM, Oracle, like, and it'll be great. No, it doesn't really work. I mean, you, we have customers who have homegrown CRM systems that they built themselves. And it's like, alright, it's our job now to go and say, Alright, I need to be able to work easily with all of them. Right. And so this is where I think 90% of our of our software platform is API based to where if you want to start using certain API's, and not others, you can do that you can get that functionality. I think it's and it's not just routing a message, right? It's signing somebody up for for database, it's collecting information, right? What's their birthday? You know, what are they like? What are they what do they want to hear about? That, to me has been, it's been really interesting, because again, no to customer of ours are the same. And we kind of just have to deal with that. And the way we deal with that is just to make it as easy as possible to get information or, you know, API in and out of what we do.
Darius 57:50 But the API is not something that a marketing person would be able to integrate, like the technical team that the development team has to actually get the API's to work together. Yeah. And so unless you actually have a really automated plugin into, like, Shopify, or whatever, that just they do it with one button from the dashboard, and it just gets it done. I mean,
Alex Campbell 58:15 yes. And there's also, I think, when you think about generations of workers, people who are coming in the workforce in the last five years, know what an API is, and they know how to actually work with one, even if anxiety. Yeah, okay. So it's really interesting to see that where we'll have, I mean, the way we set up our company is on one extreme, it's like, you can work with API's and do the coding yourself. And the other extreme, you can just use the platform, just login, like, do what you want to do. And like, let the platform worry about all that stuff for you. And we have, we have customers in all spectrums, right, okay, only platform to only API, right?
Darius 58:59 Okay. So to use the platform, they would still have to enter some customer information, like the phone numbers and the names and that needs to go into your platform. And
Alex Campbell 59:10 you could hit, essentially, you get lit up with the platform, and you set up a call to action so that people will see Text Join to 12345. They do that. And now you have their information. Again, the most basic point, right.
Darius 59:28 So your platform is actually the the interface that is taken in. Yeah, the phone number on the on the customers website. Yes. So somebody has to add that the plugin or whatever, the pop up or modal or whatever, on the website, or Yeah, okay. Okay. Yeah. So something
Alex Campbell 59:49 like that. We obviously make that as easy as possible, whether it's one line of code right to use your website.
Darius 59:55 Right, right. Okay. So yeah, I think this is actually one of the very intro saying positive things that are, you know, we've all seen in the last 10 years how API's have made our work and life so much better. So well, it's, you know, we're past the time that we had the need to be to what I'm sure you've got, like really important meetings to go to. So I don't want to, I don't want to hold you too much. Really appreciate the conversation. I think there's definitely a lot more to learn. But I think hopefully, we were able to provide some, some information to the to the listeners. And so if people want to contact you and learn more how to how do you recommend that you do that?
Alex Campbell 1:00:42 Yeah, so our website is vibes, VI, VI, e s.com. You can always reach out to me it's email@example.com. But yeah, I mean, I'm happy. I, you know, I'm always happy to kind of help people through even if they don't want to be customers like, to me, I care about the industry, and I care about how this world works and to make it clean and effective. And so if there's any way I can help any of your listeners through just some of those thoughts, I'm all for it. So,
Darius 1:01:13 okay, awesome. Thank you so much. For your time. Alec knows
Alex Campbell 1:01:18 this fun. Thank you for having me.