SMS marketing initially got a bad rep because of its spammy origin story. As long as you had a mobile number, you could count on that being included in several spam lists that businesses used to indiscriminately blast unsolicited promotional messages. That led to negative feelings towards the medium, with marketing messages commonly ignored or deleted straightaway.
Although spam still exists today, data privacy laws have been developed and are efficiently enforced. That, along with the pursuit of optimum customer engagement, has inspired marketers to find the most respectful yet effective ways to use the medium.
Those changes allowed text messaging to evolve into what is arguably the most effective marketing medium today. But it doesn’t just take a good SMS automation platform for a business to succeed in this channel. It requires a thorough understanding of what the medium is and the best ways it can be used.
What is SMS Marketing?
SMS marketing is the practice of sending business communications or promotional messages via text messages. It differs from text spam mainly because it requires people to opt into the service. So rather than being averse to promotional SMS, recipients expect the texts and tend to welcome them.
Marketing messages sent via SMS are subject to a 160-character limit. Although you can technically send multiple messages to increase that limit, doing so is both costly and contrary to SMS marketing best practices. Additionally, the brevity of text messages is what makes this medium so valuable.
The Value of SMS Marketing in Ecommerce
Email is widely accepted as the best digital marketing medium. That prestige is well-deserved because despite being inexpensive, it provides a dynamic and incredibly effective platform on which businesses can communicate with their target audiences. However, email lacks the immediacy that SMS is perfect for.
Here are the top reasons SMS marketing won’t trump email but will perfectly complement it:
1) SMS is fast in every way
Text messages sent by businesses are received almost instantly. The customers, who typically have their phones within their arm’s reach at all times, read those messages just as quickly. That’s because they expect the texts to be concise and easy to consume. In fact, 90% of text messages are opened within the first 3 minutes of receiving them.
2) SMS boasts unbeatable open rates
While an email campaign with a 15% to 25% open rate is generally considered successful, that’s a monumental difference from what SMS campaigns typically enjoy. In fact, open rates are as high as 98% for promotional text messages. It seems too good to be true, right? But it actually makes sense once you consider how SMS is consumed.
People are typically notified of a new text message by an audio alert accompanied by a push notification. They’re also informed of unread messages through a badge that appears on their SMS app’s icon. Because text messages are generally short and sweet, recipients often read them right away. But when they don’t, they’re likely to still open them eventually because the notifications still prompt them to.
3) SMS has incredible engagement rates
Text messages aren’t just opened, they’re actually consumed. In fact, SMS marketing boasts engagement rates that are six to eight times higher than email. Additionally, customers are ten times more likely to redeem coupons delivered via SMS than any other medium. That makes it an excellent platform to boost engagement for exclusive sales and promos.
In contrast to all these benefits, people don’t usually regard emails with the same urgency. Because they’re much longer and require more attention to fully appreciate, customers often leave it for later (or never, if they’re not really that interested). Nevertheless, because SMS is sent, received, opened, and responded to quickly, it serves as the perfect complement to email marketing.
How to Implement a Successful SMS Campaign for Ecommerce
When you engage in SMS marketing, you need to value the fact that your customers trusted you enough to let you access them through the medium closest to them. Show that you value that trust by getting your SMS campaign right at the onset.
Follow these tips to get it right the first time and minimize the risk of upsetting your SMS subscribers:
1) Get explicit permission
Sending text messages only to the customers who have opted in is not only a good sign of respect. It’s actually the law. Thankfully, getting permission is easily done through subscription forms that most platforms already have templates for.
Once you’ve been granted permission to access your customers through SMS, you need to earn the right to keep them on your subscriber list. Don’t abuse the medium and make sure you respect their right to opt-out.
2) Use a capable SMS platform
Using an SMS platform is really the only way to use this marketing platform efficiently. When selecting software to use for your company, don’t make your decision based on price alone. The cost of accessing the software as well as sending the messages themselves are definitely significant deciding factors. But, see to it that you also compare the value that each platform offers.
One of the most useful features you should look for in an SMS platform is its ability to automate text message sending. If you’re using this medium as part of a larger omnichannel marketing campaign, you should probably consider all-in-one solutions that allow you to integrate your other channels and manage them all on one platform.
3) Limit your SMS campaigns
SMS’s limited character count already requires you to keep your messages short and direct. But just because they’re concise, it doesn’t mean you can send them often. In fact, text promotions are most valuable when they’re received infrequently. Not so far between that your customers forget you, but seldom enough that they don’t tire of you.
Generally, you shouldn’t spend more than 4 to 5 text messages a month, but that figure might be different based on the nature of your brand and the relationship you already have with your subscribers. You can always use that as a guideline to start with and test your audience to see if they can tolerate more frequent messages.
4) Always aim to provide value
Providing value in every message should be a fundamental requirement for every marketing medium. However, it is even more crucial for SMS because of its proximity to its recipients. And, because you shouldn’t be sending texts too often anyway, don’t waste your limited opportunities if you have nothing real to offer.
Remember that providing value doesn’t always have to be grand. It’s not always about giving away free stuff or offering discounts (although they do help a lot!). Customers just want to feel like you also have their needs in mind instead of just yours.
5) Keep your messages relevant
Part of providing value to your customers is making sure that every message they receive is relevant to their specific needs and preferences. This is where targeting and personalization come in. One of the most important success factors in SMS marketing is the ability to run a data-driven campaign.
Always use the data you already have to segment your subscribers into groups of similar profiles. That way, you’re able to reach every subscriber with the messages that they find most useful or engaging. The enormity of this task might be overwhelming for the novice marketer. Luckily, most SMS platforms actually have precise targeting and personalization features that make this crucial task much more manageable.
Practical Uses for SMS Marketing in Ecommerce
SMS marketing can be used in a number of creative ways and will differ between varying business contexts. Among eCommerce businesses, however, SMS marketing is most valuable in the following situations:
1) Welcome messages
Email is the standard medium used to send welcome messages. People already expect them, which is why these messages enjoy higher open rates than any other type of email. But if your subscriber gave you permission to contact them via SMS as well, sending over an immediate text message might be a welcome surprise.
To make your welcome SMS even more valuable, include a gift that they can avail of just once. For eCommerce businesses, a welcome discount offer might just be what subscribers need to complete their first purchase. For other types of businesses, a link to access exclusive content is an excellent way to boost engagement. You can also use this opportunity to ask questions that will help you improve your customer’s experience with your brand.
2) Special Occasions
Special occasions are the best excuse to contact your subscribers, and there’s no better way to engage them than with irresistible offers sent directly to their mobile phones. You can capitalize on practically every holiday (yes, even the made-up ones). But, your most valuable opportunity is actually your subscriber’s birthday.
It’s already common for eCommerce sites to send birthday greetings over email. Those messages typically have a well-crafted greeting along with an incentive to buy (typically a considerable discount). But every site your customer has subscribed to will send pretty much the same message. Make sure you’re the one they pay attention to either by using SMS to send the offer directly or to prompt them to open your email.
3) Time-Sensitive Promos
Limited-time offers are one of the most useful marketing tools to drive sales. People naturally want to avoid missing out on good opportunities. So, it should be no surprise that phrases like “last chance,” “don’t miss out,” and “ends tonight!” prompts them to make checking out your offers a top priority.
If you’re running an extraordinarily special sale, use SMS to appeal to your subscribers’ sense of urgency. Emphasize that they have a limited time to take part. It’s important, though, that you don’t overuse this tactic and, most importantly, don’t waste the opportunity on mediocre offers. Save this for occasions like clearance sales for items about to be discontinued or huge sales you rarely host. That way, subscribers know that when you say “last chance,” you actually mean it.
4) Cart Abandonment
Every eCommerce business has to contend with cart abandonment. In fact, only half of carts are actually checked out. That might happen for a number of reasons. Often, shoppers become distracted and forget about the items they were buying. Sometimes, they use carts to save items for later. In other cases, abandonment happens later in the checkout process where they could become averse to the total price or they’re discouraged by the cost of shipping to their area.
No matter the reason for abandonment, it’s undeniable that there was interest, to begin with. That just means you can probably still recover it. Email is already a fairly effective medium for salvaging abandoned carts. But add SMS to your workflow and you’ll very likely save enough abandoned carts to impact your revenues significantly.
5) Post-Purchase Updates
Purchase and shipping updates are customarily sent via email. Indeed, that’s the perfect medium for this because you have enough space and formatting capabilities to provide purchase breakdowns, product photos, timelines, etc. But, sending updates via SMS gives your customers additional value.
Text messages to confirm order and shipping status don’t contribute to your revenues directly. Nevertheless, they are an excellent way to engage your buyers and show them that you’re willing to go the extra mile for their peace of mind. Remember that these are transaction updates, which means it shouldn’t count towards your monthly SMS limits.
6) Feedback Collection
Collecting feedback from your customers is essential if you want your brand to remain relevant to them. The best way to gather comprehensive evaluations online is through a survey form, but you’ll need to find a way to lead your customers there. Email is a good place to start, but when they don’t indulge in your initial request, a well-crafted text message might do the trick.
Given SMS’s remarkable open and response rates, chances are good that your customers will click through to your feedback form. Nevertheless, it can’t hurt to give them a little incentive in the form of a free gift or a special coupon code. No matter the incentive, make sure the value to your customers is proportional to the amount of effort it would take to complete your survey.
Another option is to simplify the feedback you need and ask for a score for their most recent transaction. You can use a scoring scheme similar to the 5-star review system and ask your customers to reply to your SMS directly. That way, you can quickly gather feedback and address any negative experiences right away.
It has the potential to produce remarkable results, most especially for eCommerce businesses.
When managed through a capable SMS platform, it can be an even more powerful medium for marketers. Of course, that’s only true if you follow best practices and use it strategically to garner the greatest impact on your bottom-line.