Top 10 SMS marketing myths debunked: best practices, examples + expert advice
SMS marketing has a reputation for being intrusive and difficult to set up. Fortunately, neither are true.
Today’s connected customers are exposed to so much information, it can be hard to get their attention. That’s where SMS marketing comes in handy. Businesses can deliver their message straight to customers’ pockets—and have their undivided attention while doing so.
But for many marketers, this new marketing channel on the scene has posed an intimidating question: to do SMS or not to do SMS? As a result, some marketers have been neglecting SMS marketing for way too long.
It’s time to change that.
Let’s dive right in and debunk the biggest SMS myths. The best part: We’ve paired each myth with an action plan to help you put SMS to work—and unlock its full potential.
In this article, we run through 10 common digital marketing myths that business owners encounter with SMS, actions you can take to overcome them, and expert advice on SMS marketing from industry thought leaders.
1. Myth: SMS is difficult to set up and takes too long to drive results
One of the biggest misconceptions about SMS is that it’s hard to set up and takes too much time before you see results.
It’s quick and easy to get started with SMS—and to start seeing results.
Consider CurrentBody, an online destination for beauty technology. The brand wanted to recover abandoned cart revenue by combining email and SMS. Subscribers who opt in to receive SMS marketing during sign-up receive one abandoned cart reminder via SMS, and this message has the highest click rate in the flow.
According to CurrentBody’s CRM manager, Olivia Chapman, setting up an SMS channel is fast and easy—and the results are mind-blowing.
“Setting up our SMS channel with Klaviyo was really quick and easy,” Chapman says. “We were able to launch SMS during our peak sales period and use this new channel to give exclusive offers or early access to SMS subscribers to drive sales.”
CurrentBody increased abandoned cart revenue by nearly 50% after implementing personalized customer journeys.
Update the old sign-up form, and then collect SMS consent at check-out (if applicable).
Once you complete these steps, watch SMS start making money for your brand while you sleep.
2. Myth: Consumers find texts from brands annoying
Another reason businesses avoid using text messages in their marketing efforts is because they’re afraid of disturbing customers. This prevents them from creating a close customer relationship with a well-thought-out messaging strategy.
Consumers are open and excited about hearing from brands via text, and they’re most likely to subscribe to their favorite brands and brands that make them feel like they’re part of an exclusive group.
According to Klaviyo’s SMS consumer trends research, 51% of consumers subscribe to SMS for a brand they love, and 55% subscribe to a brand they purchase from frequently.
In other words, customers want to receive personalized offers, notifications, and recommendations from their favorite brands. The trick is to keep a pulse on customers’ wants and needs and deliver the messages that resonate with them.
“I often hear a negative reaction toward SMS when ecommerce store owners project their personal preferences onto what their customers want,” says Andrew Rosensweig, strategist at Electric Eye. “It’s important to keep biases in check, truly listen to customers, and trust your data over instinct.”
The key to a successful SMS marketing approach is being strategic with your text messages by setting mini goals and gradually expanding the number of use cases across the buyer journey. To achieve this, take the crawl, walk, run approach to launching a strategic SMS program.
To kick off your SMS marketing channel, start with the basics. Encourage subscribers to join, create a welcome series, grow your SMS list, and make optimizations.
Once you set the foundation of your SMS marketing program, it’s time to move to the next stage and integrate SMS throughout the buyer’s journey. From your first SMS marketing campaign to messages for cart abandonment and new product announcements, this channel can become pivotal for your small business.
The most advanced stage of SMS marketing is using this channel to build trust, engage customers, and establish brand loyalty over time. To achieve this, you should focus on two-way SMS, increase personalization, and create a stellar post-purchase experience.
When building out your marketing plan, follow the advice of SMS experts who’ve experienced firsthand what works with subscribers—and what doesn’t.
3. Myth: SMS is only good for one-off campaigns
If you’re looking at SMS as a channel for one-off campaigns, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to integrate your email marketing and SMS automations to deliver a better customer experience at scale.
SMS campaigns are effective, but they’re not the only way to communicate with subscribers. You can also set up SMS-specific flows or add SMS to your email flows (note: this is infinitely easier to do when your SMS and email live in the same platform).
While one-off SMS campaigns, such as specific holiday offers, can have a huge impact on your bottom line, integrating SMS as part of your workflows will give you long-term results without additional effort—think welcome flows, abandoned cart sequences, post-purchase automation, etc.
GhostBed, a mattress and bedding company, achieved outstanding results with its SMS welcome series, earning $44K+ in just 2 weeks. Ghostbed used its website pop-up form to collect email addresses and phone numbers by offering shoppers a 25% discount.
If you think SMS is a good channel for one-off campaigns only, it’s time to change your mindset. Adding SMS to your email flows creates a synergy effect that helps you create a pleasant customer experience while increasing your bottom line.
Think about incorporating SMS into the following flows:
- Welcome series
- Browse abandonment
- Abandoned cart
- Order confirmations
- Shipping notifications
In fact, any email flow can benefit from the addition of SMS. Using multiple channels adds a dynamic to your automated flows, incites a sense of urgency if the recipient doesn’t take action after the first message, and helps you combine the advantages of email and SMS.
4. Myth: The only thing people want to hear about via SMS is sales
There are still many marketers out there that think of SMS as a sales channel only. This is yet another SMS myth.
Using SMS for promotions only is so last year. There are plenty of ways to communicate and engage with subscribers that have nothing to do with sales or promotions.
Due to its nature, SMS marketing is uniquely positioned to be a building block to a strong customer relationship. Forward-thinking brands are already exploring the possibilities this channel offers to share announcements, educate customers, and offer customer support.
“Marketers who send the same types of promotional texts over and over again are just abusing the channel and ruining it for both marketers and the audiences,” says Phil Sblendorio, CRO at AMB Interactive. “SMS is an opportunity to build loyalty and have more intimate communication with the customer.”
SMS is a great channel for quick announcements you don’t want to get lost on your customers’ never-ending social media feed. Plant-based foods brand Alpha Foods, for example, used SMS marketing to announce that its Crispy Chik’n Patties are available in Costco.
The number of ecommerce brands using SMS as part of their marketing efforts is on the rise—and so is the number of SMS marketing use cases.
If you’re on the lookout for SMS marketing applications beyond promotions, give the following strategies a try:
- Spread restock announcements.
- Share tips and how-tos.
- Distribute educational, high-quality content (blogs, podcasts, etc.).
- Create great content (playlists, wallpapers, memes, gifs, etc.).
- Highlight customer reviews to boost marketing efforts.
- Publish company news and updates.
- Re-introduce the value propositions of your brand.
- Offer concierge services and customer support.
By experimenting with different types of texts that don’t strictly rely on sales, you can build better customer relationships through this channel.
5. Myth: You need to offer a discount to get people to subscribe to SMS
Because of fierce competition among ecommerce players, companies need to think beyond discounts to attract more customers. Businesses that want to stand out from the crowd must offer an outstanding end-to-end customer experience.
While most brands offer discounts to collect more phone numbers, that’s not the only way to grow your SMS list. Today’s customers are hungry for an authentic, personalized experience.
“A top myth I’ve heard about SMS is that you need an incentive to get customers to react,” says Loretta Doria, head of strategy at Ragnarok. “That is so not true in my experience. SMS is a great channel for incentives, but also for education and conversations.”
You can find ways to provide value to subscribers in exchange for their phone number other than giving them a 10% discount off their first order. One way to do this: exclusivity. If you offer SMS subscribers exclusive access, they’ll be more inclined to sign up.
Meal replacement beverage company Soylent entices their customers to sign up for SMS in order to be the first ones to know when the brand drops new flavors, for example. For the brand’s most loyal customers, this is an offer that’s too good to refuse.
SMS marketing doesn’t need to be a race to the bottom. Instead, think of ways to tempt customers to subscribe to your SMS list by offering exclusivity or a personalization-based incentive. Some of the SMS marketing tactics you can explore include:
- Early access to new products, launches, collections
- Early access to sales
- Loyalty points
Test different ways to grow your list—without compromising your margins.
6. Myth: SMS can be just as effective from a different platform than email
The modern marketer’s tech stack is packed with different platforms. As a result, some businesses tend to use different tools for email and SMS marketing—and some marketers are convinced that the best way to operate these two channels is separately from each other.
For best results, SMS and email should live in the same platform.
While email and SMS are two different channels with distinct advantages and disadvantages, integrating them in the same platform can give you a holistic view of your marketing efforts powered by customer data.
Wondering why your email and SMS marketing software should be unified? Here are a few of the benefits:
- Better segmentation and personalization
- Better tech stack integration
- Better analytics and reporting
Magnolia Boutique is an online clothing brand seeking to provide a red carpet customer experience. After using different solutions for email and SMS for some time, the team was struggling with not having all their customer data in one place. After switching to Klaviyo, Magnolia Boutique added 49% more SMS subscribers.
“We can manage every single piece of the customer’s lifecycle,” says Ali McConnell, marketing manager at Magnolia Boutique. “We’re able to target them in appropriate ways because of all the data that Klaviyo is able to collect and store.”
There’s no doubt that email and SMS have different roles in the buyer’s journey. But they tend to complement each other when used together.
To start using SMS and email together, you need to collect consent separately for each channel, create segments, and use email and SMS for campaigns and flows.
7. Myth: Texts don’t need to be personalized to the same extent as emails
Because SMS campaigns can occasionally result in quick revenue wins, some marketers believe that it’s not essential to personalize these communications—and that mass texting is just as effective.
We live in the era of me-commerce—customers expect personalized shopping experiences. The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work for SMS marketing. Like email, texts shouldn’t be batch and blast.
Segmenting your texts by different audiences will help ensure your content creation is more personalized, targeted, and relevant to subscribers—ultimately decreasing the likelihood that they’ll unsubscribe.
“With email, you get away with a lot more because it’s not as personal or in-your-face as text messages,” explains Brandon Amoroso, founder and CEO of Electriq. “The feedback loop is much tighter with SMS—if you don’t personalize your text messages, you’ll quickly see high unsubscribe rates and complaints.”
According to Klaviyo’s SMS consumer trends research, 31% of consumers want to see personalized SMS content from brands—and almost one-third (32%) say personalized content makes them more likely to subscribe to a brand’s SMS list.
Natural cosmetics brand Viori wanted to drive retention, re-orders, and subscriptions by sending timely, coordinated, and personalized messages based on the preferences of each customer they serve.
Taking advantage of Klaviyo’s data capabilities to send personalized messages, Viori achieved 40x ROI in the first 6 months after switching to Klaviyo.
“The strategy behind email and SMS, when woven together, is unique timing and messaging that targets the customer at the right moment in their customer journey,” explains Stephanie Contreras, Viori’s email and SMS specialist at Electriq. “A new customer doesn’t need the messaging that a repeat purchaser gets and vice-versa.”
The best way to avoid sending generic messages is to create segments to level up your SMS marketing strategy. Crafting copy that fits the right audience will help you decrease the number of SMS unsubscribes from those who feel overwhelmed by content that does not relate to them.
Here are some ideas for segments you can create to personalize the customer experience:
- SMS engaged segment
- Prefers SMS segment
- SMS VIP segment
- SMS location-based segment
- SMS gender segment
- SMS budget shoppers
- SMS marketing preference segment
A little personalization can go a long way toward creating a scalable and sustainable SMS strategy.
8. Myth: Consumers don’t want to hear from your brand more than once a month
Some businesses are worried that SMS is too intrusive and that they shouldn’t send texts more frequently than once a month. As a result, they’re missing out on making the most of the channel, or they’re avoiding SMS marketing altogether.
Consumers are open to a higher frequency of text messages than marketers may realize.
According to Klaviyo’s SMS consumer trends research:
- 40% of consumers want to hear from brands once a week.
- 30% of consumers want to hear from brands a few times a week.
- 13% of consumers want to hear from brands every other day.
- 13% of consumers want to hear from brands every day.
Here’s the thing: Customers love receiving dedicated attention and a personalized shopping experience. Your goal is to understand their needs and send texts that resonate with them, at the right time, with the right frequency. And while this might seem hard, it doesn’t have to be.
“There are certainly some brands that text too much, which you don’t want to do. But others become so hesitant to send anything, they send nothing,” says Ben Zettler, digital marketing and ecommerce consultant, Ben Zettler Digital. “You don’t want that either, because if you build a list and you don’t send a text in 6 months, then there are all these subscribers you’ve accumulated that haven’t heard from you—and they may not even remember that they signed up.”
If you’re just testing the waters with SMS marketing or you’re thinking about switching your SMS platform, now is the time to take the two-step approach and find the right frequency of SMS for your business.
Step 1: Start with 2-6 messages a month
It’s a best practice to text an SMS recipient anywhere from 2-6x a month. Like your emails, you’ll want to make sure that you stick to a regular schedule when sending out your SMS messages.
Additionally, create a customer journey for someone who signs up for your welcome series or abandons a cart, and figure out how often you’re communicating with that person. You don’t want to communicate too little or too much with a customer.
Step 2: Create a sending schedule based on SMS engagement
After you gather data for the SMS subscriber, you have factual evidence that can help you determine frequency based on engagement.
Using engagement tracks, you can establish different sending cadences based on how subscribers respond to your marketing messages—and keep your unsubscribe rates low.
9. Myth: Only younger generations want to receive texts
Another common SMS myth is that texting is young people’s preferred way of communication—but it doesn’t resonate with older generations. Some businesses disregard SMS as a marketing channel because they target more senior demographics.
Generational differences are limited when it comes to who wants to receive texts from brands and who doesn’t.
There’s no way around it: Texting has become our primary method of communication. It’s changed how we communicate, which is true for every generation. While customer behavior does differ based on age, the truth is that all generations have adopted texting.
Data shows that across generations, similar proportions of consumers choose SMS as their preferred form of communication from brands. According to Klaviyo’s survey results, 45% of millennials and 43% of Gen Zs prefer texts from brands. This number is only slightly lower for Gen Xers (38%) and boomers (31%).
No matter the generation, everyone appreciates a personalized approach. The end goal is to build a strong customer relationship, and SMS marketing can help you achieve it.
Besides promotional messages, try sending your SMS subscribers a birthday text or happy anniversary message, or recognizing any celebratory milestone that’s related to your industry (and your audience).
If you’ve been neglecting SMS as a marketing channel because your target audience is not Gen Z, now is a good time to put SMS to the test and see if it resonates with your customers.
10. Myth: Sending similar emails and texts at the same time is a good way to ensure people see it
Back in the day (before more stringent compliance laws), companies used to send an email and then call customers to see if they received it. The modern version of that is sending similar or even the same emails and texts at the same time to increase visibility.
Email and SMS marketing are complementary channels, but you need a different strategy for each to make the most out of them both.
In fact, businesses that send the same messages through different channels risk getting more unsubscribes: according to Klaviyo’s SMS consumer trends research, 39% of consumers will unsubscribe if they receive the same message via email and text.
All of that means you should be diversifying your SMS sends from your emails. Use segmentation to ensure texts go to different audiences and go out at different times, instead of sending the same message over both channels.
Dagne Dover is a direct-to-consumer (DTC) brand that makes a wide variety of performance-driven bags for work and leisure. After adding SMS to their existing email flows, Dagne Dover was able to reach customers who were on the edge of converting. Revenue from email and SMS marketing now accounts for 25% of Dagne Dover’s sales every quarter.
“With SMS, we’re able to engage customers at critical points where they’re just learning about us and considering purchasing,” says Marcia Zimmerman, growth marketing and analytics manager at Dagne Dover.
The best way to maximize the potential of both channels is to understand when to use SMS vs. email. People read text messages quickly, so SMS works best for information that is time-sensitive (such as a flash sale) or extremely important (such as store opening/closing).
SMS is also useful for sending order updates or delivery confirmations, as your customers will know exactly when to expect their package and when it’s arrived.
On the other hand, email works best for longer-form content, including newsletters and any messages that you want to reach everyone in your audience, such as product announcements.
Ready to add SMS to your digital marketing strategy?
Adding a new channel to your online marketing mix can feel daunting, especially with so many misconceptions around SMS marketing. Using these SMS marketing best practices, you’ll be able to understand what resonates with your customers and tailor effective SMS marketing strategies.