SMS marketing: are you prepared for BFCM?
The holiday shopping season presents a major opportunity for ecommerce merchants—and how you navigate those critical days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday (BFCM) can have a lasting effect on your bottom line.
Every company is trying to make the most out of BFCM sales. As a result, consumers’ inboxes are filled with discounts and promotional offers.
The question is: how do you stand out from the BFCM avalanche?
Enter: SMS marketing.
“For a lot of brands, BFCM is the biggest event of the year. Competition for people’s attention—and wallets—is fierce, and November will result in saturated inboxes filled with marketing messaging,” says Wei Tan, co-founder, The Orchard. “This is where SMS’s high rate of readership and awareness can help separate your brand from the rest of the pack.”
But “start early,” Tan advises. “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.”
If you’re looking for ways to cut through the noise and get customers’ attention, here are tips, best practices, and examples to help you create an impactful SMS marketing campaign for BFCM.
Table of contents
- Why ecommerce brands should use SMS around BFCM
- Why SMS should be a mandatory part of your marketing toolbox year-round
- SMS tips and best practices for BFCM
- How to plan your SMS sends for BFCM
- 7 SMS examples for BFCM—and why they work
Why ecommerce brands should use SMS around BFCM
This holiday season, some people may choose to continue to brave in-store Black Friday crowds in order to score blockbuster deals. But as consumers continue adjusting to pandemic reality, most prefer to shop those same sales online.
Data from Adobe shows that online spending grew 8.6% over the last holiday season and 44% over 2019. Moreover, 2021 brought the first ever $200B+ holiday season in the U.S.
New customer behavior patterns, with a strong focus on online shopping, emphasized the importance of Cyber 5—the days from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday. Even though the shift to ecommerce has balanced sales volumes throughout the last quarter, Cyber 5 remains the most active period of the holiday shopping season.
Another trend on the rise is mobile commerce. According to Adobe, $88B (43%) of online retail sales for the entire holiday season in 2021, were made from smartphones. Mobile is an integral part of how consumers shop nowadays, from browsing and research to comparison and purchase. So since people rely on their devices so much, it’s only natural to reach them through SMS marketing—especially when it comes to creating urgency around seasonal sales.
Data from Salesforce shows that SMS marketing experienced a huge spike in adoption last year, especially during the holiday season. During 2021 Cyber Week, messaging grew 101% through push notifications and SMS.
Klaviyo’s data, too, supports the idea that SMS is becoming a key pillar of success for ecommerce merchants. Klaviyo customers sent 54.6M text messages during 2021 BFCM—a whopping 10x more than in 2020. As a result, SMS attributed revenue increased by 743% YOY.
As more brands rely on email during BFCM, it’s time to add SMS marketing to the mix to grab consumers’ attention—and your share of their wallets.
Why SMS should be a mandatory part of your marketing toolbox year-round
The generational shift has brought changes in communication patterns. Research shows that 37% of Americans prefer to receive brand communications through text, but these numbers are even higher for younger generations—45% of millennials and 43% of Gen Zers prefer texts from brands.
Additionally, in a recent Klaviyo survey, 31% of respondents said they would like to see more promotional, sales, and discount announcements via text—making SMS marketing an ideal candidate for BFCM.
But as ecommerce grows at an impressive rate, businesses have to find a way to build and nurture strong customer relationships year-round. Adding SMS marketing to the mix can help ecommerce merchants engage customers and personalize the shopping experience.
Why? SMS or text marketing is about building genuine relationships with your most engaged segments and giving them exclusive access to offers and promotions. Since people check their texts almost immediately after receiving them, if you want to send an urgent message, SMS is the way to do it.
In the same Klaviyo survey, 38% of respondents said invitations to VIP experiences would make them feel like they’re part of an exclusive group—proving that if you promote deals to your most engaged customers, they’re likely to become brand loyalists for life.
The proof is in the numbers: Forward-thinking businesses are already seeing great results with SMS, even outside the holiday season. Klaviyo’s SMS benchmark data shows the average SMS click rate is 8.33%. DTC brands and ecommerce merchants witness a 0.11% conversion rate and $0.09 revenue per recipient.
SMS tips and best practices for BFCM
As you’re gearing up for the holidays, you will need a solid foundation for successful SMS campaigns from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. We’ve gathered the most important tips and best practices that will help you double down on SMS marketing for BFCM.
Build your SMS subscriber lists ahead of time
Gathering SMS subscribers should be your No. 1 priority. No matter how well thought out your SMS strategy, without a solid list of subscribers, all your efforts will be in vain.
“Start establishing a solid SMS program early, both with list growth and SMS foundation in your account, to build a relationship with your users before BFCM,” advises Josh Rizzo, email marketing specialist, Trinity.
According to Rizzo, that means ensuring you have a functioning welcome series for new SMS subscribers “that includes a warm greeting,” he says. It also means layering SMS into high-engagement automations like your browse, cart, and check-out 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. “As you get to know your users, create properties to utilize for segmented BFCM sales. Speak differently to these users based on their interests and how they shop with you.”
Collecting SMS subscribers involves two basic steps:
1. Update your existing sign-up form(s). Adding a phone number field to your existing pop-up form for email collection is an easy way to start building your SMS subscriber list today.
“SMS is not to be neglected, especially during a period such as BFCM,” says Florian Vinel, email marketing specialist, Pure Commerce. “We have been using two-step forms to boost our clients’ SMS lists since the beginning of Q2.”
One of the largest wedding and event supplies companies, Koyal Wholesale, uses a form to collect emails and phone numbers from subscribers. Since it’s a wholesale business, there’s an additional question of whether the subscriber is an individual or a business, so Koyal Wholesale can send them better-optimized offers.
Koyal Wholesale used one SMS marketing to give subscribers a pre-Black Friday sneak peek with up to 80% discounts on trending items.
2. Collect SMS consent at check-out. Unlike other channels where the regulations are not so strict, SMS marketing requires gathering consent before being able to reach out to customers with SMS.
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 they share their mobile phone number, their consent is synced to Klaviyo. Even if they decide to abandon their cart, you’ll be able to re-engage them later with an abandoned cart flow using SMS marketing.
Aside from this, brands can create keyword-based campaigns, give customers exclusive access to new products, and organize giveaways or exclusive events in exchange for gathering SMS consent.
“When you get started, 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, Power Digital Marketing. “This means not only offering an incentive for people to opt in (like exclusive content or early access to sales), but also trying to use keyword-based campaigns, social media, advertising, and offline promotion to drive traffic to your landing pages where new subscribers can sign up.”
Personalize when possible
Successful SMS campaigns deliver the most relevant content to a customer at the right time—which is why segmentation is so powerful. The good news is you can easily create personalized messaging flows using dynamic event data based on the different actions your customers take.
Some common actions Klaviyo tracks include “started checkout,” “placed order,” and “viewed product.” Using this metadata, ecommerce merchants can create metric-triggered automations such as abandoned cart, post-purchase, product review, browse abandonment, and win-back flows.
This way, you can easily engage with your customers based on how they interact with your brand, automatically sending everything from abandoned cart to post-purchase SMS messages.
Segment your lists
Segmentation enables you to understand your audience better and send more targeted messages accordingly. But since texting can sometimes feel more intrusive than email marketing, one of the best practices for this channel is to avoid messaging often. Instead, build upon your list of SMS subscribers with conditions around engagement and customer behavior.
Creating SMS segments will allow you to tailor your SMS copy to fit the right audience and avoid unnecessary unsubscribes.
Start by creating an engaged SMS segment to target those who regularly interact with your content. This segment includes anyone who has recently interacted with your SMS content or subscribed to SMS, perhaps within the last 30 days or so. This ensures that you only message those who want to receive your content.
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.
Since most of the offers during BFCM are time-limited, you want to use SMS to ensure that these subscribers get that message.
Make your SMS subscribers feel special
Your most valuable customers deserve VIP treatment. If you want to make them feel special, use SMS marketing to send VIP customers exclusive deals and promotions, and let them know you appreciate their ongoing support.
Since every business is unique, VIP criteria will look different for different ecommerce merchants. Create a definition that best fits your business about your product prices and customer buying cycle.
If you have an existing email VIP segment, you can add new conditions around SMS. If you’re just starting out, you can build your SMS VIP segment from scratch.
“Give everything to your SMS list early, and start letting your customers know now that this channel is your exclusive VIP channel that will receive news, promotions, and other content before anyone else,” suggests Brandon Amoroso, president and founder, Electriq.
“Start early and use SMS to open the virtual flood gates,” agrees Loretta Doria, director of strategy, Ragnarok. “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—and it also rewards your loyal customers with first dibs on the deals.”
Daily Kairos uses SMS to give VIP subscribers early access to its Black Friday sale. With a simple message, the brand highlights the exclusivity of the offer, encouraging customers to shop early and get a 30% discount.
SMS is uniquely positioned to personalize the experience by giving customers attention that feels one-to-one. With smart SMS automation, you can create VIP treatment for customers—while also saving time and resources.
Spice up your SMS with MMS to stand out
Standing out in a crowded text inbox is harder than ever. Here’s where MMS might come in handy.
MMS stands for multimedia messaging services and includes media besides just text: images, gifs, etc. Adding images to your messages can grab subscribers’ attention and boost sales.
The good news is that once you collect SMS consent from subscribers, you can start sending them MMS messages immediately.
Nili Lotan is a modern womenswear brand made in New York. For one BFCM campaign, the brand used SMS to announce a sale. Besides the attractive 40% discount, Nili Lotan also used a gif showing some of their classics to give subscribers a sneak peek and encourage them to open the brand’s website.
Ecommerce merchants can also use a dynamic image to show subscribers the exact product they viewed, started to check out, or bought. This approach allows you to personalize your text messages and create a delightful customer experience.
Respect the inbox
Earning customers’ consent to send them SMS is a token of trust. Your job is to show subscribers they’ve made the right decision by not only tailoring a personalized experience, but also using the channel only when you have something meaningful to offer.
“Align to your customer journey,” says Jane Magoffin, ecommerce strategic lead, Reload Media. “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.”
Under the TCPA in the US and as a best practice in many other countries, text messages should not be sent before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. in the recipient’s time zone. This period is also known as quiet hours, and during this time, you should not send any non-transactional flow messages.
Some examples of non-transactional messages include back-in-stock notifications, welcome series messages (except the first message, which is considered a subscription confirmation), and messages that contain marketing content.
“Given the unpredictable chaos that’s been BFCM these past few years, the time to start thinking through both email and SMS strategies is now,” says Kelsey Donk, content marketing lead, Flixed. “With SMS in particular, it feels so important to get a good sense of what your customers want to hear from you (and how regularly) before designing. While email filters give customers a certain amount of control over what they receive, the text message inbox is still relatively unfiltered. It’s important to respect that space.”
When gathering SMS consent, 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.
If you follow these rules and respect your customers’ inboxes, you’ll be well set up to succeed with SMS.
While holidays aren’t yet top of mind for most people, businesses should start planning early. Reviewing last year’s performance and setting goals for the new BFCM shopping season is a good starting point.
“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, MERGE. “This means ensuring your segmentation and personalization strategies are aligned with holiday shoppers and adjusting your deliverability and send cadences before the holidays to ensure inbox placement.”
As more and more brands compete during the holiday season, there’s an even greater need for your SMS campaigns to stand out. By planning ahead and focusing on acquisition ahead of the holidays, you’ll be set up to drive incremental sales and deliver an impressive ROI for your brand.
How to plan your SMS campaigns for BFCM
If you’re new to SMS marketing or you’re trying to improve your strategy for the upcoming holiday season, the 3 most important questions you should answer are:
- How often do I text my subscribers?
- When do I send the texts?
- How do I balance my email and SMS marketing efforts?
1. How to segment your SMS lists
One of the prerequisites for a successful BFCM SMS campaign is segmentation. Sending the right messages to the right people at the right time requires knowing your audience. Here are some segments to engage with SMS campaigns during the holiday season:
Segment 1: engaged subscribers
Subscribers who constantly show interest in receiving and reading your messages should be at the top of your list for the BFCM campaign. Try giving them a unique offer to keep them engaged and increase their lifetime value.
Segment 2: VIP customers
Customers who purchase from you recently, frequently, or at a high volume are your VIPs. Because texting feels so personal, SMS is a great way to engage the VIP segment. Treating SMS as a more exclusive channel can help build strong customer relationships. The VIP segment can be the major driver for your BFCM promotions.
Segment 3: last year’s BFCM buyers
Whether you’ve used SMS during the previous holiday sale or you’re adding it to the mix this year, try targeting your last year’s BFCM buyers. This is a great group of potential buyers who might just need a gentle nudge to make a repeat purchase.
Segment 4: window shoppers
The BFCM sale is the perfect opportunity to engage window shoppers who have been eyeing your products but haven’t made a purchase yet. Your BFCM promotion might be just the thing they need to pull out their wallets.
Segment 5: local customers
If you have a retail location, SMS marketing is the right tool to keep your local customers up to date with any in-store deals you may offer, such as special discounts or in-store pick-up.
2. When to send texts during BFCM
A strong SMS content calendar is a vital part of any successful Cyber Weekend marketing plan. To help you decide when is the right time to send texts to your customers, we’ll go through a daily breakdown from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday.
One thing to keep in mind: You typically want to limit SMS sends to once or twice a week, so as to not overwhelm subscribers. But you can break the rules a bit for BFCM. Consider the days below and how many of them you want to text subscribers on. 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. Additionally, think about how you can use email to complement your SMS strategy and reach more people, rather than overdoing it with SMS (more on this later).
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. Moreover, you can share exclusive access to your VIP customers before your public sale goes live.
The Brand Sunday sent out an SMS campaign on Thanksgiving to give customers early access to its sale. Customers received a code they could use to shop online and unlock a 20% discount.
Sending customers texts before Black Friday requires a unique offer—whether that’s a bigger discount or early access to create a sense of exclusivity.
Day 2: Black Friday
There is no doubt that Black Friday is one of the biggest shopping days of the year for ecommerce brands. To maximize the effect 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.
Premium hair accessories brand Swirly Curly shared an exclusive code for Black Friday with a 30% discount. The brand combined a few powerful elements to convert subscribers: a visually appealing message, text, emojis, and an expiring offer.
Getting customers’ attention on Black Friday doesn’t need to feel daunting. Focus on the visual elements, and don’t forget to notify subscribers of the limited offer and how long they have to take advantage of it. Unlike other days, Black Friday is also a great opportunity to engage your complete subscriber list.
Days 3 and 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 subscribers about the current offer and when it expires. Dedicate Sunday afternoon to teasing subscribers with early access to the Cyber Monday offer.
LympheDIVAs creates fashionable and comfortable compression wear for women experiencing lymphedema symptoms related to breast cancer. The brand promoted its biggest sale with a 25% discount and free shipping the weekend before Cyber Monday to urge subscribers to purchase before the sale ends.
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
Born in 2005, Cyber Monday has become one of the biggest online shopping days of the year, surpassing even Black Friday. Now, the Monday after Thanksgiving is known for unique online shopping deals that consumers wait for all year long.
Premium outdoor clothing brand Mountain Khakis promotes its Cyber Monday deal with a short and enticing message, with a discount of up to 70% that ends the same day it starts.
Since many brands announce their deals up front, they make a final push on Cyber Monday to encourage subscribers to make a purchase by reminding them that the Cyber Weekend deal won’t be returning again until next year.
3. How to balance SMS and email
Email and SMS marketing are not mutually exclusive. The two channels are not at odds.
It’s the opposite—combining email and SMS can do wonders for your ecommerce business. The synergy you can create engaging subscribers across different channels can leave a lasting impression, placing your brand top of mind.
Email and SMS have their own advantages and disadvantages, but they tend to complement each other when used together.
“If you’re not already collecting phone numbers, absolutely start doing that now,” suggests Tabish Bhimani, principal strategist, Mastrat Digital. “Let your prospects and customers know the benefits of signing up for SMS and prime them in advance. If they’re going to get special offers above and beyond regular subscribers or direct traffic, early access to sales, free shipping, or extra points for their loyalty program, let them know.”
“But remember—SMS doesn’t work independently as well as it does when combined with email,” Bhimani adds. “You can’t possibly be effective in short messages with so much to say. So you say it with email and reinforce it during BFCM. That way, your SMS subscribers feel special, they know what to expect, and they know how to take advantage of benefits to which they’re entitled.”
To build your subscriber list, you can collect both SMS and email consent in the same pop-up form. Alternatively, you can use a multi-step form to collect email addresses in the first step, then add a second step for phone numbers (or vice versa).
7 SMS examples for BFCM—and why they work
Creating effective SMS campaigns for BFCM is half science, half art. If you need inspiration for the upcoming holiday season, we have you covered. From Black Friday SMS examples to out-of-the-box Cyber Monday text messages, take a look at the following ideas from 7 innovative brands:
Dondolo is a luxury lifestyle brand that provides children and women with beautiful, heirloom-quality clothing. The brand started one Black Friday sale early by giving exclusive access to SMS subscribers during Thanksgiving.
Customers could use a password to access the sale and shop select styles with up to 60% discounts. Dondolo used a text-only message giving customers all the information they needed to start shopping early.
2) Brotherly Sole
There’s something about limited-quantity offers that makes them irresistible. During 2021 Cyber Monday, stylish apparel brand Brotherly Sole promoted limited quantities of t-shirts and hoodies, giving customers a free item with every purchase.
The discounted offer with limited quantities and the free item with every purchase is a great teaser to get subscribers to click the link, bringing them closer to the “add to cart” button.
HOMAGE specializes in ultra-comfy, high-quality looks, repping sports, pop culture, and more legendary moments. For one special Black Friday sale, the brand gave SMS subscribers early access to 20% off and free gifts.
Notice you can tell HOMAGE is a unique brand just based on its approach to SMS marketing. The eye-catching visual resembles one of the most popular Christmas movies, Home Alone, and even the code “FILTHYANIMAL” is a reference to the legendary movie. Fans can spot the analogy right away. Knowing your SMS subscribers is the only way to use catchy references that resonate with your audience.
4) John’s Crazy Socks
Social enterprise John’s Crazy Socks extends the Thanksgiving spirit—and the Black Friday sale—with “Gratitude Weekend,” giving customers a 10% discount.
During the holidays, people tend to take some time off and spend it with friends and family. As a result, not everyone will check their email during Cyber Weekend. Because texts land directly in subscribers’ pockets, SMS marketing is a great tool for promoting your extended BFCM sales.
5) L’Amour Shoes
Imagine you receive an MMS of a beautiful Christmas ornament gif that promises you a mystery gift. Hard to resist, right? For orders placed on Cyber Monday one year, children’s footwear brand L’Amour Shoes sent a teaser message announcing a mystery gift.
Offering a gift is a shortcut to getting customers’ attention. If you decide to use it as part of your strategy, make sure to provide customers with something they will find valuable and worthwhile.
During busy shopping seasons like BFCM, the brand that manages to engage subscribers wins. Natural skin and hair care brand Soultanicals accomplished this one year by holding a pre-Black Friday $5 scavenger hunt.
Soultanicals challenged customers to find the $5 products on its website and get the special deals before everyone else. Getting customers actively involved in a game-like product hunt can be a great incentive to get them on board.
7) BB Frösch
BB Frösch Paint Transformer is a 100% natural, affordable, and premium alternative to pre-mixed chalk and mineral paint. The brand uses a multi-step form to collect email addresses and phone numbers. During one Black Friday sale, BB Frösch sent a text message to remind subscribers they only have a few more hours to get the Black Friday deals.
If you combine email and SMS marketing, promoting the Black Friday deal through email and then using SMS as a reminder to get customers to make a purchase can be an effective way to boost your sales during one of the biggest shopping days.
Ready to make the most out of this BFCM?
The shift to online shopping is changing the way consumers view holiday sales. As we move away from crowded stores and long queues during Black Friday, customers are looking for deals even before Thanksgiving.
With SMS marketing, you can create a personalized shopping experience and reach customers at the right time with the right message. If you’re just starting with SMS marketing or looking to double down on this channel this holiday season, now’s the time to do your homework and prepare for BFCM sales.