Making the Case for Mobile Marketing: Catching a Ride on the SMS Bus with the Orange County Transportation Authority

by Victor Green
3 mins read

The impact of mobile marketing can’t be overstated. According to IDC, more people in the U.S. will access the Internet through a mobile device than through their PC by 2015. In this new series, Elite Email takes a look at highly successful campaigns to uncover their mobile marketing lessons. This week’s case study: How the Orange County Transportation Authority leveraged a smart SMS campaign to help keep the local community on track with the latest bus arrival times. Few things in life are worse than missing the bus when you rely on public transportation to make your way around town. Not only does this mishap set you back on time, it can also cause a ripple effect that ruins the rest of your daily schedule. As one of the core portions of the Orange County Transportation Authority’s (OCTA) mission statement, minimizing the risk of this event for the residents of Orange, California was of paramount importance. To find out how the OCTA utilized a savvy SMS program to accomplish this goal, let’s break down the particulars of the organization’s campaign, as well as what this information could mean for your brand’s next text message initiative.

Getting off to a Rolling Start

Aside from the desire to help make relying information about this transportation system more accurate and efficient, the OCTA also had two other plans in mind – to develop a strong text-based connection with the patrons of the bus program and to cut down on the significant costs associated with providing route information to these individuals. As the team behind this program found in its initial audit, handling the 18,000 customer calls per week requesting arrival times cost this transportation authority nearly $144,000 per month. Adding in the expensive nature of amassing printed schedules and the toll this approach took on the local environment convinced the OCTA that the time for change couldn’t wait any longer.In response to these concerns, the OCTA created the Text4Next program. As part of this system, bus patrons texted specific stop and bus route numbers to the short code “OCTAGO.” On the other end of the connection, the team at the OCTA had a scheduling system in place that responded to the query with a text containing the next three arrival times related to the targeted bus and stop.

Raising Awareness for Text4Next

Naturally, this system sounds great, but without the right backing, expecting the population of Orange, California to jump on board without any guidance was a bit unrealistic. To help raise awareness for Text4Next, the OCTA attacked the issue from two angles. The first approach, traditional marketing, included emails to the established email contact list for the organization, as well as a revamped website, brochures, and official press releases.On the other side of the awareness campaign, the OCTA utilized guerrilla marketing tactics to help spread the word. As part of this outreach, the “Text4Next Street Team” wore branded t-shirts and connected with bus patrons at stops around the city. By doing this, trained “Street Team” professionals helped promote the system and provided valuable hands on demonstrations for the local population.

Racking up the Savings

So how well did the Text4Next program do in its mission to save the OCTA on costs associated with responding to consumer queries? A year after the program launched, this organization reported customer calls had fallen to a weekly average of 14,500, down from the initial 18,000. Additionally, the first month of the program saw over 7,000 messages from inquiring customers, while the 12-month mark saw this number jump to over 198,000. Considering that the average cost of a text hovers around $0.10 for the OCTA, compared to $2.00 per call into the consumer hotline, the Text4Next program, which is still going strong, has saved the organization more than $350,000 since its launch.

Riding the Bus to SMS Success

Even if you’re not representing a civil service or government outreach program, there’s still plenty of lessons your brand can learn by following in the OCTA’s footsteps. First, SMS messaging isn’t just an effective way to push up conversion numbers in a retail setting, it can help lower the financial burden of traditional communications as well. By simply replacing a dated method of handling customer inquiries with a smart system, like Text4Next, your brand can cut costs and save money.From here, sometimes you have to go beyond traditional marketing to get the word out about your campaign. By taking on a guerilla approach like the OCTA did on behalf of Text4Next, your organization can reach an entirely new audience, which in turn adds even more power to your text outreach programs. Regardless of your industry, putting these tips to good use can radically change, and improve, the relationship you have with your target audience.

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