SMS Marketing Tips: How to Build Deeper Relationships With Your Customers

SMS marketing tips

When you notice your phone light up or feel it vibrate, it’s muscle memory to check it. Did someone reply to your group text, did your partner call you, or did someone like your tweet?

Even if your phone is on Do Not Disturb, you’re probably checking your phone on a regular basis, maybe without even noticing. In fact, Americans check their phones an average of 96 times a day, every day.

While this might be reason enough for us to collectively reassess our societal smartphone addictions, it also provides an advantage for ecommerce marketers who want to break through the noise.

You may have heard the statistic that open rates for SMS are as high as 98 percent, but when consumers are looking at their phone as much as we clearly are, is that number really so impressive? Maybe someone will open your text just to clear the notification.

The real challenge is creating content that resonates with consumers over SMS so after they open your message, they actually click. At the very least, you want to prevent the dreaded STOP reply.

If you’re ready to start using SMS segments in your ecommerce marketing but don’t know where to start, keep reading these tips on how to create effective automations for the customer whose phone is basically just an extension of their arm.

Or, jump to the tip you’re most interested in:

  1. Welcome series
  2. VIP flows
  3. Countdowns
  4. Holidays and sales
  5. Cart and browse abandonment
  6. Transactional SMS

 

Create a warm welcome

Traditionally, website popups have been used to collect email addresses for welcome series flows, or a series of content that’s automatically sent to subscribers after they opt-in for your email list. But more and more brands are using popups to collect phone numbers, as well.

Check out how sneaker brand Greats handles instigating an SMS welcome series through their homepage popup:

Like many other brands, Greats provides immediate value by offering an incentive of 10 percent off in exchange for contact information, but they also give shoppers a choice of whether they want to provide their phone number or email address to receive the discount. This doesn’t force shoppers into providing their phone number, which not everyone will want to do during their first interaction with a brand. 

They also collect additional information—in this case, gender. Since the brand’s shoes cater to men and women, this detail will allow them to send more relevant messages to customers.  

Once you submit your phone number, you receive these messages: 

Greats is doing a few things exceptionally well with the actual SMS message itself. 

First, the link auto-applies 10 percent off to the website when a customer clicks, which means they don’t have to worry about typing in a URL or entering a code to get the discount.

This is also a great example of a brand using a customer quote for social proof and creating urgency by reminding customers who haven’t used the code after a certain period of time that they’re eligible for a discount. 

Lastly, Greats doesn’t cut corners with SMS compliance laws. By implementing a double opt-in and providing a clear way for subscribers to stop receiving texts, customers are only being marketed to if they’ve made it evident they want to hear from the brand. 

At every step of the way, Greats masters the SMS welcome series. If you want to stand out to new customers, putting them into a similar flow will enable you to build a deeper relationship starting with the very first interaction they have with your brand.  

 

Feed the reward loop

Did you know our addiction to our smartphones actually has a science behind it?

Researchers have found that checking your phone creates a reward loop. Receiving a notification releases dopamine and leaves you seeking the same feeling. In turn, we often will mindlessly check our phone because we’re hoping to achieve the same sense of reward associated with positive social interactions.

So why not give shoppers the reward they’re expecting?

One swimwear company used SMS to alert subscribers of a product launch an hour before it went live, allowing them to shop before the general public.

sms marketing tips sale

Instead of cloning the content they use in their email promotions for the sale and sending it over SMS at the same time, this brand realized that SMS should be used as a channel to create a unique experience that customers can’t get elsewhere. By giving SMS subscribers first access to a new collection, they communicated an air of exclusivity that only customers who opted in to texts could benefit from.

People aren’t giving their phone number to just any brand, they’re reserving their limited phone storage for their absolute favorites, which is why you should be treating SMS subscribers like VIP customers

Additionally, you need to make it worthwhile for customers to provide this information. Instead of giving away the same deal they could get through email, reward them with an offer they can’t find elsewhere.

By creating a private deal for SMS subscribers, the brand makes opting into text notifications rewarding to brand enthusiasts who will be thrilled to have first dibs on shopping the new collection before it sells out. 

 

Celebrate with a countdown

Many brands do countdowns to special dates as part of their email marketing strategy. But why limit this method to a single channel? In fact, this might be the perfect opportunity to use email and SMS congruently.

via GIPHY

Where email can be used to send relevant product recommendations and content leading up to a special date, brands can use SMS to send more personal messages in order to deepen their relationship with their customers. 

Perhaps you could send a happy birthday text on a customer’s birthday or a congratulatory message around their baby’s due date, depending on what types of industry you’re in. 

Additionally, a wedding vendor could set up a flow to text a bride good luck before her wedding day. This could be further personalized based on what she bought from the brand or any other detail collected, such as the wedding venue, city, or partner’s name.

This is also a great example of how email and SMS can be used to work in tandem with each other. Where some messages are best communicated over email, there are others that might be more effective if they were sent as an SMS.

A countdown flow that leverages both channels for unique purposes gives brands the best of both worlds.

 

SMS as a safety net

You can have the perfect subject line, but sometimes your customers still don’t click. Perhaps they haven’t checked their inbox for some time, or maybe your email just got lost in a sea of other promotions fighting for their attention. But once in a while, your message is also too important to go ignored. 

For example, the days surrounding Cyber Weekend are some of the most important for getting your brand to stand out, but it can also be the most difficult.  

“If you’re like me, you’re subscribed to hundreds of email lists and you don’t always pay attention to every single email that comes through your inbox. With SMS, that same level of competition just doesn’t exist,” said Chris Miller, Norman Love Confections’ head of marketing.

Because SMS is so “intimate,” Chris has certain qualifiers for sending SMS messages—it must either be time-sensitive or valuable to the customer to justify an SMS send. Ideally, it’s both.

For Cyber Monday, Chris used SMS as a “safety net” to ensure everyone on their SMS list was aware of their Cyber Monday sale by sending a flash sale announcement to customers who hadn’t placed an order since Thanksgiving. 

They also used customer behavior to determine if an SMS message was warranted by only sending texts to customers who did not open promotions of the Cyber Monday sale in their email after 12 hours. This way, they increased the chances that customers were receiving pertinent information without sending it to those who had already seen it.  

Additionally, Norman Love Confections used SMS to alert customers of shipping cutoffs as part of their Valentine’s Day marketing strategy since their audience will often wait until the last minute to buy gifts. These communications are time-sensitive and relevant to shoppers who are typically appreciative of the reminder. 

 

Testing SMS in high-performing flows

You probably already know what some of your best performing sends are. These are the messages that consistently get the most opens, clicks, and conversions week over week. 

For example, research shows abandoned cart email open rates are usually around 40 percent with the click-through rate (CTR) hovering around 10 percent and the average revenue per recipient (RPR) coming in around $6, making them high-value sends. 

Adding text messages to your abandoned cart flow is a sure-fire way to increase open rates and increase RPR, which is why many brands are testing SMS for high-performance sends.

For example, The Brand Outlet identified the key email flows they already had in place that they wanted to add text messaging to, including their abandoned cart and browse abandonment flows. Because these flows already existed, adding SMS to them was quick and easy.

To coincide with the recent holiday, The Brand Outlet set up an SMS-only Valentine’s Day browse abandonment flow, which included a two-message sequence with thematic messaging and an offer for free shipping.

Between the fun copy, the playful use of emojis, and the free shipping incentive that doesn’t give away too much, this text is perfect for encouraging customers to shop with The Brand Outlet around Valentine’s Day—no matter who they’re shopping for.

From these flows, The Brand Outlet has generated initial CTRs of approximately 20 percent, which is significantly higher than what they typically see with email.

Take a look at your current analytics to see which emails are most popular among your customers and consider whether it might be beneficial to test them over text.

 

Use transactional SMS to boost excitement

Transactional emails typically have much higher open rates at 80-85 percent, as opposed to typical marketing emails, which are usually closer to 20-25 percent, because customers are anxiously awaiting and tracking their purchases. 

Clothing rental and subscription service Rent the Runway customers, in particular, are highly likely to open transactional emails and track their shipments due to the frequency that they rent and return items. 

In response, the brand sends renters transactional texts to let them know once their order ships with a link to track it and the estimated arrival date.

Transactional SMS appeals to consumers’ appetite for instant gratification—instead of checking their email to ensure their order was placed successfully, they can view the notification right on the screen that’s already in their hands.

While this might not be feasible for every brand, subscription ecommerce companies are a great use case for transactional SMS since they can use it generate excitement if they’re sending a product or curated box that consumers look forward to receiving. 

It’s easy to forget about the items you subscribe to once a month, but seeing a shipping notification can serve as a reminder to keep an eye out for the package while boosting excitement for the delivery.

Alternatively, ecommerce shops that have longer shipping times would benefit from implementing transactional SMS. 

Whether you’re shipping internationally, have a longer production cycle, or you’re making products to-order, not every online business can offer two-day shipping. Keeping customers in the loop of when they can expect their delivery is always appreciated, but it’s especially important for customers who are dealing with long wait times.

No matter who you’re sending to, keep the messaging customer-centric—just because it’s transactional doesn’t mean it can’t be personal. Include information like the customer’s first name, what they bought, and the expected delivery date. For bonus points, make it yours by adding language that’s unique to your brand.

This also presents an opportunity to follow up with your customers after they’ve received and enjoyed their purchase with a cross-sell. For example, brands that sell consumer packaged goods could send a replenishment offer once the product is expected to run out in order to encourage a repeat purchase.

High risk, high reward 

SMS is a largely untapped channel that can provide ecommerce marketers the opportunity to better connect with customers on a one-to-one basis. Brands that use SMS marketing to their advantage can deepen their customer relationships while sending timely announcements or ensuring important company updates don’t go unnoticed.

To sum it up, consider the following if you don’t know where to start with SMS:

  • Use an SMS welcome series to incentivize the first purchase and collect customer details for more personalized messaging
  • Treat SMS subscribers like the ultimate VIPs by giving them access to exclusive deals, sales, and events
  • Use a countdown to send personalized messages around life events
  • Segment SMS messages to go to customers who didn’t open an email
  • Remain selective with the messages you choose to send over SMS to provide value without sending too frequently
  • Test sending high-performance flows over text
  • Use transactional SMS to create excitement about orders

 

As with other high-risk, high-reward investments, brands that abuse this channel by sending too frequently or by sending irrelevant messages will see customers unsubscribing faster than you can say, “Hey Siri.” But done right, SMS can help your brand stand out and help your CTR skyrocket.

 

Ready to try SMS marketing? Find out how you can start sending targeted, personalized text messages to your customers.

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