The rise of digital marketing in Nigeria. Why sms still holds strong.

Digital marketing in Nigeria has witnessed immense growth in recent years, as businesses recognize the effectiveness and efficiency of reaching their target audience through online platforms. However, amidst the diverse range of digital marketing strategies available, SMS (Short Message Service) continues to hold strong as an effective tool for businesses to connect with their customers. In this article, we will explore the rise of digital marketing, narrow our focus to Nigeria and finally delve into why SMS remains a powerful force in this dynamic landscape.

A Brief History of Digital Marketing

The field of digital marketing has its roots in the early days of the internet. But it really began to take shape and evolve in the late 1990s with the founding of Google. Prior to Google, since the world wide web became publicly accessible and businesses began to establish their online presence in the early 1990s, banner ads and email marketing emerged as the initial forms of online advertising. Yahoo marked one of the earliest web directories where businesses could list their websites for visibility.

Since its founding in 1998, Google search engine became the dominant platform for online search. This had a significant impact on digital marketing as businesses began to optimize their websites for search engine (SEO). In the early 2000s, Pay-per-click (PPC) Advertising, dominantly through Google Adwords (now Google Ads) gained popularity – allowing businesses to bid on keywords.

Mid-2000s, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter joined the race opening up new forms of expressions and avenues for digital marketing. Businesses started to use these platforms for advertising and building brand presence. By late 2000s Content marketing and influencer marketing began to gain traction as strategies for engaging audiences and promoting products or services.

Since 2010, Mobile marketing became increasingly important with the proliferation of smartphones. Email marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing continued to evolve. Additionally, data analytics and marketing automation became integral to digital marketing campaigns.

While all the Digital Marketing strategies mentioned above require the use of internet, there is one form of Digital Marketing that has survived all these decades and still holds strong drawing its strength from not relying on the internet to terminate – SMS Marketing (also known as text message marketing).

SMS Marketing or Offline Digital Marketing

It can be traced back to the early 2000s when businesses started using Short Message Service (SMS) technology to reach customers via text messages. However, the concept of sending promotional messages to potential customers via text dates back even further.

sms marketing
Lady reading received sms message.

Early 2000s: SMS marketing began to gain popularity as mobile phones became more widespread. Businesses recognized the potential of reaching customers directly through text messages.

Mid-2000s: SMS marketing continued to evolve, and more businesses started to adopt it as a marketing channel. It became a common practice for sending promotional messages, alerts, and notifications.

2010s: With the rise of smartphones and mobile apps, SMS marketing faced competition from emerging digital marketing channels. However, it remained a reliable and effective means of communication, especially for time-sensitive promotions and alerts.

Present: SMS marketing is still widely used by businesses of all sizes to engage with their audience. It has adapted to modern technology, offering features like multimedia messages (MMS) and integration with marketing automation platforms.

The Evolution of Digital Marketing in Nigeria

Nigeria, with its rapidly expanding internet penetration and mobile user base, has become a fertile ground for digital marketing. The advent of social media platforms, increased internet access, and the rise of e-commerce platforms have transformed the way businesses promote their products and services in Africa’s most populous nation.

Google has played a significant role in empowering Nigeria and other African countries to adopt digital marketing through various initiatives and programs such as Google Digital Skills for Africa, Google My Business, Online Marketing Workshops and Seminars, Local Partnerships and Access to Information.

Today, digital marketing has become an indispensable component of overall marketing strategies for many businesses across various industries.

The Impact of Digital Marketing on Nigerian Businesses

Digital marketing offers businesses in Nigeria a plethora of opportunities to connect directly with their target audience, leading to increased brand visibility and customer engagement. It allows them to reach potential customers beyond traditional geographical boundaries and enables personalized interactions that foster trust and loyalty. Moreover, digital marketing campaigns are highly measurable, allowing businesses to track the success of their marketing efforts and optimize their strategies accordingly.

The Power of SMS Marketing

Despite the rise of social media and other digital marketing channels, SMS marketing has proven to be an enduringly effective method for businesses to connect with their customers in Nigeria and overseas. See our recent post on how to use bulk sms for business for insight on how businesses are leveraging the power of sms marketing. The simplicity, ubiquity, and reach of SMS make it an invaluable tool for both small and large businesses. Transitioning seamlessly from feature phones to smartphones, SMS continues to have a wider reach than any other digital marketing channel.

Benefits of SMS Marketing

1. Wide Reach:

With a massive mobile penetration rate, SMS marketing can reach a large portion of the Nigerian population. This accessibility ensures that businesses can connect with their target audience, even in areas with limited internet access.

2. Instant Delivery:

SMS messages are typically read within minutes of receipt, ensuring timely communication between businesses and their customers. This immediacy makes SMS marketing ideal for time-sensitive promotions, updates, and critical information sharing.

3. High Open and Response Rates:

Unlike email marketing or other digital marketing channels, SMS messages have impressively high open and response rates. With most individuals keeping their phones within arm’s reach, SMS messages are more likely to be seen and acted upon promptly.

4. Cost-Effective:

SMS marketing provides businesses with a cost-effective solution to reach their customer base. Compared to traditional marketing channels, such as print media or outdoor advertising, SMS marketing offers higher returns on investment.

The Role of Cecula and the BBN SMS Platform

In Nigeria, Cecula offers a comprehensive range of services to businesses wishing to capitalize on the power of Digital Marketing and platforms for SMS marketing. Its flagship product, BBN SMS, has been a trusted bulk SMS messaging platform since 2008. With BBN SMS, businesses can effortlessly send personalized messages to their customers, promoting their products, sharing updates, and engaging in two-way conversations.

The Future of Digital Marketing in Nigeria

As Nigeria continues to experience rapid growth in internet penetration and smartphone adoption, the future of digital marketing in the country appears bright. While newer channels and strategies will undoubtedly emerge, SMS marketing is expected to retain its significant role due to its unparalleled reach and immediate impact. Businesses in Nigeria need to leverage the benefits of SMS marketing, alongside other digital marketing strategies, to stay ahead in this competitive landscape.


The rise of digital marketing in Nigeria has transformed the way businesses interact with their customers. While numerous digital channels exist, SMS marketing continues to hold strong due to its simplicity, wide reach, instant delivery, high open and response rates, and cost-effectiveness. Cecula, with its BBN SMS platform, offers Nigerian businesses a powerful tool to harness the potential of SMS marketing. As the digital landscape in Nigeria continues to evolve, businesses must recognize the enduring importance of SMS marketing and integrate it into their overall marketing strategies to effectively connect with their target audience.

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