Mogreet's new self-serve product brings highly-engaging MMS ads to SMBs

By Michael Carney , written on March 20, 2013

From The News Desk

It’s not just large brands that need to reach their consumers via mobile. Small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) face the same challenge. Until today, however, they had limited access to tools for doing so. Mogreet, which claims to already send two-thirds of all brand to consumer multimedia text messages (MMS) in the US, today extended its enterprise platform with a self-serve offering aimed at SMBs: Mogreet Express.

“Over the last year we’ve repeatedly heard SMBs say, ‘We tried social and it didn’t work. We need a way to drive people into the store and drive retention,’” Mogreet CEO James Citron says.

MMS may seem like an out of date technology – which is not far off given that the medium is nearly two decades old – but companies still achieve orders of magnitude better engagement and conversion results than with alternative forms of mobile advertising. Ask Citron, and he’ll tell you that this is because the Mogreet platform requires that all recipients opt-in. Also, MMS succeeds by enabling brands to extent their content marketing strategies to mobile through the delivery of photos, audio tracks, and video.

Mogreet’s existing enterprise clients include household names like Disney, Nike, Paramount, CBS, FOX’s "The X Factor," Jack in the Box, and Bloomingdales. Through its work with these brands over the six years since its launch, the company has gathered all manner of learnings and best practices that it has built into its SMB product. For example, as messages grow more contextual and relevant, churn declines, meaning that a video of the realtime atmosphere in a neighborhood bar, with an accompanying free drink coupon is anything but spam and likely to be well received.

Understanding that Instagram is becoming a significant huge driver of traffic to brands and SMBs, Mogreet and Mogreet Express aim to like Instagram plus CRM with push notifications. Unlike emails or in-app banner advertising, MMS ads boast a 97 percent open rate, on average within three minutes of receiving it. More impressive, Mogreet claims to increase its client’s ad click through rates by more than 45 percent over their previous advertising channel.

Mogreet saw 300 percent growth in total messages sent over the last 12 months. There’s actually a risk with continuing this pace and extending MMS-based advertising and loyalty programs from the enterprise to the SMB market is inbox saturation. In other words, the company could quickly become a victim of its own success. There’s a natural limit to the number of inbound messages the average consumer is willing to accept before the overall experience becomes a negative. With more brands utilizing the channel, the noise is bound to increase.

Citron says that Mogreet is cognizant of this reality, but that its data shows that this is unlikely to become a problem for most consumers. “We’ve found that saturation occurs between 10 to 20 brands,” he says. “The average American is opted-into less than 15 total loyalty programs. We’re proud to have reached one in 30 Americans via MMS, but that still leaves us significant room to grow.”

Mogreet Express is available across multiple tiered plans. SMBs get a one-month-free trial and then can send 1,000 messages per month with a single “text in keyword” for $39.99 per month. The top tier plan offers 10,000 messages per month for $299.99 and three keywords. Unused messages roll over from month to month, and additional messages cost $0.03 under all plans.

Mogreet has established itself as the dominant force in MMS in the US market, but still faces potential competition from large email marketing and social CRM companies that could choose to move into mobile. Similarly, Twilio dominates the SMS messaging market and could present a formidable opponent should it choose to move upmarket toward MMS.

“We have invested millions into building the best transcoding possible,” Citron says, in response to the threat of competition. “We’ve seen a ton of people try MMS, that can’t come anywhere close to duplicating the quality, quantity, or carrier reach that we have built. We can deliver MMS to 95 percent of all Americans today, and can serve video with nearly zero degradation.”

As for the challenge of capturing the SMB longtail, Citron points to publicly traded Constant Contact and ExactTarget as proof of the model.

Mogreet, which has a staff of 30 spread across offices in Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago, has raised $14 million through three rounds of venture financing from Black Diamond Ventures, DFJ Frontier, Ascend Venture Group, Bryant Park Ventures, and Draper Associates. Citron calls the company well capitalized currently, but given the pace of its growth and the size of the market opportunity, the startup will most likely raise another round next year to fund acquisitions and international expansion.

MMS may not be the newest or even the sexiest advertising channel, but it’s hard to argue with the results. Mogreet has proven its ability to drive sales, increase repeat purchases, build loyalty and attract new customers in the enterprise market and has every opportunity to do the same for the SMB set.