Experts predict 2021 will generate 40% more SMS marketing messages than the previous year, and for good reason. It’s clear: effective SMS marketing makes or breaks a modern ecommerce store today.
G2 notes that 82% of people report opening every text they receive, and an estimated 70% of survey participants responded favorably to SMS campaigns. As a result, SMS Marketing arguably offers the strongest engagement of any promotional channel with a 90% open rate.
Current mobile engagement trends are not the only driving factor though. Digital marketing as a discipline will soon face a critical juncture.
This spring, Apple rolled out the red carpet for iOS 14.5, breaking new ground by granting users the option to stop apps from tracking their interactions. This limits marketers’ abilities to serve such users with targeted promotional content and document interactions. Verizon Media collected insights from over 2.5 million mobile devices and found that only 6% of US iOS 14.5 users enabled app tracking.
Apple is not alone in its aim to appease users’ privacy concerns. Google expressed intentions to phase out third-party cookies within Chrome and its ad networks, following in the footsteps of Firefox and Safari.
This tidal wave of change will strip marketers of many techniques they rely upon today. Expect multi-click attribution to be incomplete. Ad personalization will be limited. Overall, strategies to target new customers based on their known interests will increasingly shrink.
In turn, nurturing meaningful interactions with your existing customers will become more crucial than ever. Now is the time to do effective SMS marketing to deeply connect with audiences and remain competitive.
Learn About SMS Marketing
Basic Tips for Starting Your SMS Marketing Efforts
Define Your Goals to Guide Your Campaigns
Your Goals Help Shape Your Strategy and Define Success
Effective SMS marketing campaigns should align with a measurable marketing goal. Examples include:
- Building interest around new or flagging product lines
- For venues, bringing in foot traffic during otherwise slow times
- Maximizing profitability during lucrative holidays
- Increasing the lifetime value of repeat customers
- Strengthening brand relationships through valuable content
- Gaining referrals to generate new business
- Reengaging customers who failed to complete their purchases
Remember, Not All SMS Marketing Should Drive Recipients to Convert Immediately
As a brand, you are greater than the sum of your products. You are a knowledgeable authority and perhaps a source of inspiration or levity. Don’t neglect to convey this within your SMS marketing campaigns.
If you sell plant supplies online, perhaps you could send text reminders for customers to water their plants or fertilize the soil. If you sell pet food, why not text daily dog parenting tips?
Olipop produced a great example of effective SMS marketing by surveying customers about which soda flavor they wanted the brand to release next. This strategy not only collected valuable consumer insights, but also expresses a customer-first mentality while hyping an upcoming product release.
While occasional sales promotions are fine, it should not make up the bulk of your SMS strategy. Otherwise, you risk coming across as impersonal and aggressive, impairing the overall brand perception.
Text messaging is first and foremost a platform for conversations. Imagine talking with someone who only made loud demands. BUY NOW! BIG SALE! 20% OFF THIS WEEKEND ONLY!
Keep Your Customers’ Goals In Mind
The optimal SMS marketing strategy is one that simultaneously satisfies both your goals and your customers’ goals. Consider your audience’s user journeys, priorities, and the triggers that inspire them to engage.
For example, if you sell golf equipment to well-off individuals, a 15% discount may not draw the same amount of interest as early access to newly released drivers.
What matters most is that your SMS promotional campaigns provide genuine value (or else you risk coming across as spammy).
Select a tool to design content and automate outreach
The right tool can determine whether effective SMS marketing is a viable strategy for your brand. Ideally, it should integrate with your existing tech stack, especially your commerce platform.
Additionally, opt for SMS tools that enable two-way communication. One in three customers has tried texting a business only to never receive a response.
Keep scalability in mind in regards to pricing, audience segmentation, and ease of execution. Most likely, SMS marketing will be one of ten responsibilities you or your team will juggle, so you want a platform that will minimize effort despite a growing subscriber list.
Allow Customers to Both Opt-In and Opt-Out
It’s Illegal to Text Customers Without Their Permission
Having a customer’s phone number doesn’t permit you to text them unprompted.
Customers have sued Papa John’s multiple times for sending promotional texts without their consent, the largest settlement resulting in a $16.5 million payout. Similarly, Red Robin, Jiffy Lube, Lithia Motors, and dozens of others made similar, costly mistakes.
Therefore, it’s important to be upfront with customers about how you will use their contact information.
Opt-in disclosures should clearly include the following:
- Content explicitly stating that received texts will be automated and promotional
- The frequency of texts (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.)
- The fact that subscribing is not contingent upon a purchase
- Notification that message and data rates may apply
Ways to Encourage Customers to Opt-In
The most common way to prompt customers to subscribe is by including a checkbox as part of the cart checkout process. Shopify and similar commerce sites let you add this feature within your site settings.
However, don’t make the time of purchase the only time you let customers subscribe. You can include a note within the delivered package or have signage in any brick-and-mortar locations. Why not encourage users to subscribe with a homepage banner, or create a web popup using Recapture?
Regardless of how you promote your SMS offering, clearly state the incentives. Verbiage like “sign-up to receive exclusive deals” or “get weekly coupon codes” not only entices customers, but also eliminates confusion about when and how deals will become available.
Each Text Should Feature Instructions on How to Opt-Out and Other Disclaimers
Within each message, remind subscribers that they can opt-out by simply texting “STOP.” Similarly, it’s your responsibility to let recipients know that “text messaging rates may apply.”
Choose the Strategic Triggers and Catalysts
Don’t limit your SMS marketing campaigns’ focus to solely company events. For stronger engagement, configure your outreach software to automatically text during crucial junctures in your customers’ journeys.
Cart abandonment. The shopper gave clear indicators of the products they desired, giving you the fodder you need to reengage.
Geo-based or demographic-based needs. For instance, if certain regions are experiencing a high amount of pollen, you can offer customers discounts on applicable nasal sprays.
Heightened need for customer support. If your customer’s new piano bench arrived at their doorstep, why not message them asking if they have questions about assembly or otherwise? You can automate responses that link to relevant resources based on keywords they write. However, for the best possible experience, integrate your SMS tool with your help desk so customers can interact directly with a human.
Effective SMS Marketing Can Become Incorporated Into Greater Drip Campaigns
Your audience uses more than one device and app, so why shouldn’t your marketing? A drip campaign is a predetermined series of communications sent over a prolonged period, either spurred by a customer’s actions or a timeline. By blending SMS with other promotional assets, you can create a well-rounded campaign.
For example, let’s say you want to promote your new summer fashion inventory; the visuals of email marketing can build excitement, and texts about “this weekend only” sales can nurture a sense of urgency for audiences to act.
Deliberately Select the Frequency and Time-of-Day
The Recommended Frequency of SMS Promotions
Marketers generally recommend one to two texts per week, yet there are scenarios in which this approach doesn’t fit, such as a 12-Days of Christmas Discounts or Daily Dog Tips series.
What matters most is that you’re consistent and accurately represent the expected number of texts when first asking customers to enroll.
Finding Optimal Times to Send Effective SMS Marketing Messages
Generally, recipients tend to interact most with SMS messages received between 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM during weekdays. For the best results though, treat this as a loose suggestion.
Reflect on the times or daily events that may make your particular audience more or less open-minded to your products or services. For instance, an offer for discounted cocktails may perform the best on Fridays at 3:00 PM. Comparatively, a promotion for dog walking services may be best received Monday at noon.
Wield your knowledge of your audience to form hypotheses. Then, test your theories with measurable data.
Use Your Site and Marketing Analytics to Refine Your SMS Strategy
Numerous tools exist that will inform you of when customers engage with your marketing campaigns and site the most. Google Analytics lets you view real-time entrance data, and social media tools like Buffer let you track campaign engagement by the time of day. Recapture even lets you view your online store’s Live Cart Feed.
All of this should tell you when your target audience is most likely to engage with your SMS marketing campaigns.
Make the Most of the SMS Message’s 160-Characters
Be Clear, Not Cute
Recipients will give your message no more than a glance, so make sure they quickly extract the information they need. Write with the following tips in mind:
- Don’t bury the lede
- Don’t feature flowery language or abbreviations
- Don’t be too formal
- Don’t forget to mention who you are
Consider a Strong Call-to-Action
Give shoppers a clear next step, such as “click here to access the coupon code” or “stop by for free breadsticks on meals over $20.00.”
Calls-to-action can be present within promotional SMS campaigns, too. This could mean answering “yes” or “no” to a survey question, responding to an event invite, or clicking a link for more content. Such interactions provide further data about the quality of the SMS engagement, helping you further refine your approach.
What’s ultimately important is that, if you want the reader to take immediate action, you use bold, concise language.
Nurture a Sense of Urgency
Your text message should motivate the reader to act ASAP (otherwise, they’ll forget about you). Perhaps limit the time in which customers can act on the provided deal. Alternatively, you can cap the number of customers who can receive a special discount (such as the first 50 to engage).
Customize the Experience
Apply what you know about the recipient to customize the automated messages. Valuable information includes past purchases, abandoned cart activities, and audience segmentation. As a bonus, incorporate the recipient’s name for a personalized touch.
Keep it Fresh
If you send the same deals to the same set of customers each week, you should quickly expect diminishing returns. Find new ways to keep them engaged. Keep SMS marketing fresh by introducing contests, upselling services, and offering exclusive early access to new products.
However, as touched upon above, it’s smart to incorporate non-transactional content into your SMS strategy. Content like surveys, lifestyle tips, or jokes defines your brand, makes the subscribing experience more enjoyable, and ultimately makes your occasional product promotion seem more special.
Are you struggling for inspiration? Sign-up for your competitors’ SMS promotions to potentially influence your own content ideas.
Tips for Advancing Your Existing SMS Marketing
Experiment and Track Differing Results
Remember the above-mentioned hypotheses about the ideal times to reach customers? Experienced marketers know the value of testing theories rather than running on assumptions. Explore new times, messaging, and triggers to gauge different strategies’ effectiveness. Don’t be afraid of the occasional misstep, as it’s necessary in order to confirm the preferred SMS cadence.
Your experiments mean nothing if you lack a reliable way to track and compare. Set clear campaign key performance indicators (KPIs), such as return visits, recaptured carts, or conversion rates. Leverage Recapture’s Data Analytics feature or similar software to generate reports that let you measure the success of individual campaigns.
Customize Your SMS Marketing Strategies Based on Audience Segments
Your buyers are not all alike and should not be treated as such.
With time and the appropriate data, you may discern behavioral patterns based on an individual’s gender, past purchases, product interest, etc. Use these insights to create audience segments and automate messaging specific to their interests.
As your SMS strategy evolves, create A/B tests to determine the optimal approach for SMS engagement with specific audiences. You may consider comparing SMS results against email marketing or other types of outreach; while most consumers prefer to engage with text, it’s worth confirming whether or not your customers are an exception.
Utilize SMS Marketing Within Your Cart Abandonment Strategy With Recapture
Recapture lets you leverage SMS to communicate with customers who didn’t complete the checkout process. Use it to remind them of what they left behind, or even send targeted deals like product discounts or free shipping. Once the sale is complete, Recapture helps you automate text notifications about their order. Best yet, you can respond to customers’ texts to begin a meaningful dialogue.
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