6 steps for a BFCM SMS marketing plan that makes subscribers happy to hear from you—and even happier to place an order
Black Friday Cyber Monday: the time of year when consumers’ inboxes are flooded with discounts and promotional offers from all the brands they love…
…and even plenty they don’t.
Considering that consumers are over twice as likely to do their holiday shopping primarily online (50%) than in-store (18%), and that $3 out of every $5 in online sales happens on a mobile device, SMS marketing can be the thing you need most right now: a direct line to your customers that cuts through the marketing bullshit.
“If you think about it, the moment when people have the time and are in the mood to shop, they’re likely on their phones,” says Oscar Guerrero, CEO of WeClick Group. “So you’re reaching them where they’re more likely to convert.”
Forward-thinking businesses are already using SMS marketing year-round. According to recent Klaviyo research into SMS marketing, nearly all consumers in the US and Canada (96%) are willing to receive a text from a brand at least once per week—which helps explain the great results SMS drives for the average business.
But especially during the holidays, SMS is quickly becoming a key pillar of success for ecommerce merchants. Amid the 10.7B emails and text messages Klaviyo merchants sent over BFCM 2022, for example, Klaviyo-attributed SMS revenue grew more than 200% YoY, and SMS order count grew 190%.
Want your piece of the pie? Klaviyo is prepared to process millions of SMS sends over BFCM 2023, and we’re excited to provide our SMS users with the reliability and sending speeds they need to drive conversions and ROI during the most crucial time of year.
Until then, here are a few tips and steps for planning—and executing—a successful Black Friday SMS strategy.
1. Start early
For a lot of brands, “BFCM is the biggest event of the year,” says Wei Tan, co-founder of The Orchard. “Competition for people’s attention—and wallets—is fierce, and November will result in saturated inboxes filled with marketing messaging.”
“This is where SMS’s high rate of readership and awareness can help separate your brand from the rest of the pack,” Tan adds—but only if you start early. “Brands are starting their BFCM campaigns earlier every year. Consumers will be prepared to spend, but if you’re late to the game, the opportunity may be gone.”
Establishing a solid SMS program early requires establishing both an SMS list and a strong SMS foundation in your account, “to build a relationship with your users before BFCM,” advises Josh Rizzo, email marketing specialist at Trinity.
Here’s how to do that in Klaviyo.
How to build your SMS list with Klaviyo
When you’re getting started with SMS, “your goal should be to find the most effective ways to grow your list so that you can build relationships with your customers in a way that email simply cannot,” explains Alex Neill, director of strategic partnerships at Power Digital Marketing.
Pro tip: When gathering SMS opt-ins, keep several important considerations in mind:
- Subscribers must know they are opting into SMS marketing.
- Consent for email (or any other channel) does not count as consent for SMS.
- Subscribers must know how and when you’ll text them.
Here are two primary ways to build your SMS list in Klaviyo:
“SMS is not to be neglected, especially during a period such as BFCM,” says Florian Vinel, email marketing specialist at Pure Commerce. “We have been using two-step forms to boost our clients’ SMS lists since the beginning of Q2.”
With Klaviyo’s integration with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, you can build a solid subscriber base by asking customers to accept SMS marketing while filling out their delivery information.
The best part is that the moment someone shares their mobile phone number, their consent syncs to Klaviyo. That means even if they abandon their cart, you’ll be able to re-engage them later with an abandoned cart text.
How to create a foundation for SMS sends within your Klaviyo account
Rizzo recommends investing in a strong welcome series for new SMS subscribers “that includes a warm greeting,” he says, as well as layering SMS into high-engagement automations like your browse, check-out, and cart abandonment flows.
“These are not only important to have throughout the year, but will pay dividends during the holiday season as traffic ramps up,” Rizzo explains.
2. Set goals
Competition is fierce enough year-round, so trying to make your marketing stand out during the holidays can be particularly daunting. But by planning ahead and focusing on acquisition ahead of the holidays, your marketing team will be in a better position to drive incremental Black Friday sales and higher ROI.
Pro tip: “Review the previous year’s holiday performance to leverage promotions that worked well in the past, set SMART goals, and make sure your email and SMS strategies are aligned and collaborative,” suggests Robin Glanz, SVP of operations at MERGE.
“This means ensuring your segmentation and personalization strategies are aligned with holiday shoppers and adjusting your deliverability and sending cadences before the holidays to ensure inbox placement,” Glanz adds.
3. Use segmentation to personalize your text messages
Successful SMS marketing campaigns deliver the most relevant content to a customer at the right time—which is what makes segmentation so powerful.
“As you get to know your users,” says Rizzo, “create properties to utilize for segmented BFCM sales, and speak differently to these users based on their interests and how they shop with you.”
Pro tip: “Send to a variety of segments. But during peak hours, target smaller audience sizes for the fastest sending possible,” recommends Rob Hand, senior product marketing manager of mobile at Klaviyo.
“Be sure to exclude those who have already made a purchase,” Hand adds. “Quality over quantity ensures your messages reach your audience swiftly.”
Here are a few SMS segmentation ideas for BFCM to get you started:
BFCM SMS segment 1: engaged subscribers
Your engaged SMS subscribers include anyone who has recently interacted with your SMS content or subscribed to SMS, perhaps within the last 30 days or so. Because these subscribers consistently show interest in receiving and reading your messages, they should be at the top of your list for a BFCM SMS campaign.
BFCM SMS segment 2: prefers SMS to email
If you use both SMS and email, you may have subscribers who prefer one communication channel over the other. Based on their behavior, you can create a segment of subscribers who interact with your SMS messaging often and have not recently interacted with your emails.
BFCM SMS segment 3: VIP customers
Customers who purchase from you frequently or at a high volume are your VIPs—and because texting feels so personal, SMS is a great way to engage this group with exclusive offers and early access.
“The shopping rush gets earlier each year. Early, early access via ‘friends and family’-style deals for your text list can help to pull forward sales,” suggests Loretta Doria, director of strategy at Ragnarok. “It also rewards your loyal customers with first dibs on Black Friday deals.”
Since every business is unique, VIP criteria will look different for different ecommerce merchants. Create a definition that best fits your business, your product prices, and your customer buying cycle.
BFCM SMS segment 4: previous BFCM buyers
Whether you used SMS last year or it’s new to the mix, try targeting customers who’ve historically only purchased during BFCM. This is a great group of potential buyers who might just need a friendly reminder to make a repeat purchase.
BFCM SMS segment 5: window shoppers
Your holiday sale is the perfect opportunity to engage window shoppers who have been eyeing your products but haven’t made a purchase yet. A promo text might be just the nudge they need to finally pull out their wallets.
BFCM SMS segment 6: local customers
If you have a retail location, SMS marketing is a great tool for keeping your local customers up to date with any in-store exclusives you plan to offer, such as special discounts or options to buy online, pick up in-store.
4. Be respectful
Earning consent to send SMS is a token of trust. Your job now is to show subscribers they’ve made the right decision by not only tailoring a personalized customer experience, but also using the channel only when you have something meaningful to offer.
As Jane Magoffin, ecommerce strategic lead at Reload Media, puts it, “ensure you’re not just sending SMS messages for the sake of it, but only when you’ve got something meaningful that’s worth communicating to the right audiences.”
Pro tip: Under the TCPA in the US and as a best practice in many other countries, do not send non-transactional text messages, including flows like abandoned cart and back-in-stock notifications, before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the recipient’s time zone—a period also known as quiet hours.
Note, too, that the 9 p.m.-8 a.m. guideline is US-specific. If you’re operating across different countries, you might want to abide by 11 a.m. as a more conservative threshold.
The goal here is twofold: to protect consumers’ right to privacy, and to “get your messages out when your audience is most likely to engage,” Hand explains.
5. Develop a strategic SMS sending schedule—and stick to it
Although you typically want to limit SMS sends to once or twice a week, you can break the rules a little bit for BFCM.
Take a look at the schedule template below and think about how you might adjust it to meet the needs of your business and subscribers. In general, try not to exceed one text per day, and remember to segment based on engagement if you only want to text some promotions to certain audiences.
Pro tip: “Consider staggering your campaigns throughout the day to avoid peak sending hours when customers are inundated with messages,” Hand suggests. “Spread your impact and maximize your reach.”
Day 1: Thanksgiving
While customers are used to getting the biggest discounts and special offers during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving is an excellent opportunity to tease your upcoming Black Friday promotions and build excitement among your subscribers.
It’s also a great day to share exclusive access to your VIP customers before your public sale goes live.
Whatever you do, remember that sending customers texts before Black Friday requires a unique offer—a bigger discount, for example, or a sneak peek of what’s to come.
Day 2: Black Friday
Black Friday is, hands down, the biggest shopping day of the year for most ecommerce brands. To maximize the impact of your BFCM campaign, use SMS to announce your promotion to your entire audience and create a sense of urgency with a limited-time offer.
Don’t forget to notify subscribers of how long they have to take advantage of your limited offer. Unlike other days, Black Friday is also a great opportunity to engage your complete subscriber list.
Days 3-4: the weekend before Cyber Monday
The weekend between Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the perfect time to analyze your Black Friday performance and remind your lists about your current offers and when they expire. Dedicate Sunday afternoon to teasing your VIP SMS subscribers with early access to your Cyber Monday offer.
The weekend after Black Friday is also a great opportunity to target window shoppers and first-time buyers with a “last chance to save” type of SMS campaign.
Day 5: Cyber Monday
On Cyber Monday, make a final push encouraging your SMS subscribers to purchase by reminding them that this BFCM deal won’t be returning again until next year.
6. Balance SMS and email
Email and SMS marketing are not mutually exclusive. In fact, by engaging subscribers across different marketing channels and keeping your brand top of mind, combining email and SMS can do wonders for your ecommerce business.
“SMS doesn’t work as well independently as it does when combined with email,” says Tabish Bhimani, principal strategist at Mastrat Digital. “With so much to say, you can’t possibly be effective in short messages alone.”
Think about how you can use email campaigns and automations to complement your SMS marketing strategy and reach more people, rather than overdoing it with SMS.
Pro tip: Keep SMS short and sweet. Craft concise messages that fit within 160 characters, and avoid emojis that limit you to just 70 characters. “Going over 160 characters will create two messages, costing more and taking longer to send,” Hand explains.
And when coordinating your cross-channel marketing efforts, remember: During BFCM especially, less is more.
“Subscribers will receive many messages, so stand out by personalizing your offers and avoid over-communicating,” Hand suggests. “Be mindful not to bombard subscribers with excessive or repetitive messages across email and SMS.”