5 Ways to Drive Sales and Loyalty with SMS Marketing

While SMS marketing has become more common in retail in recent years, it’s still nowhere near as widespread as email marketing. But there are many compelling reasons for businesses to shift their focus to SMS. According to Gartner, SMS messages have an average open rate of 98%, while email has an average open rate of 20%. And the response rate to mobile marketing is eight times higher than email marketing, according to Cellit

Not only does SMS marketing offer retailers a way to stand out as inboxes grow more cluttered, it just makes sense given how much time people now spend on their phone: 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on average, according to RescueTime. People also pick up their phone 58 times a day on average.  

But given the more personal nature of texting compared to sending an email, there’s also a risk if you don’t get it right. Bombarding customers by text is a definite no-go, as is texting when people might be asleep. A text also needs to be shorter and snappier than an email – it’s not the place to share your company’s origin story. 

There are several businesses that specialise in helping retailers tap into the SMS marketing opportunity. If you’re thinking of getting started, here are five strong use cases to consider. 

Share delivery updates, when it matters the most

More than two-thirds of consumers (67%) believe delivery updates are the most effective type of SMS message, according to TextLocal. This is followed by order confirmations (64%), appointment reminders (64%), calendar reminders (54%) and promotional coupons (49%). 

SMS messages can be sent at key moments in the delivery process: when the order has left the warehouse, when it’s on route to the customer and after it has been delivered. In many cases, courier companies are the ones that provide updates, but this is a missed opportunity for retailers to engage customers. 

Shippit not only sends SMS messages throughout the delivery process, but also allows retailers to brand the tracking page and include an advertising banner to drive traffic back to their website. 

Drive urgency on sales events

Besides providing delivery updates, informing customers about an upcoming or ongoing promotion is probably the most common way retailers currently use SMS marketing today. It’s especially effective during online shopping events like Black Friday, when customers are inundated by promotional emails and digital ads and you want to stand out from the crowd. 

Twenty-four hour flash sales are also a good time to text customers, since they might not see an email until after the event is over. Be cautious about overdoing it, however. If you send texts too frequently, your customers could become conditioned to them and stop responding. 

Besides providing delivery updates, informing customers about an upcoming or ongoing promotion is probably the most common way retailers currently use SMS marketing today. It’s especially effective during online shopping events like Black Friday, when customers are inundated by promotional emails and digital ads and you want to stand out from the crowd. 

Twenty-four hour flash sales are also a good time to text customers, since they might not see an email until after the event is over. Be cautious about overdoing it, however. If you send texts too frequently, your customers could become conditioned to them and stop responding. 

Get personal with exclusive discounts

The personal nature of texting also lends itself well to more targeted promotions. Offering an exclusive discount to customers on their birthday, or to VIP customers, with a special message and discount code will make your customers feel valued and help boost loyalty.  

Sharing exclusive promotions or early access to sales through text messages can also reinforce the value of SMS as a communication channel to your customers.

It’s all about multi-channel customer service

Providing customer service by text is less common, but some retailers are doing it and seeing great results. After US-based Bohemian Guitars added a ‘click to text’ button on its website, it saw a 98% increase in sales in just six months. The owner Shaun Lee said most people who used the service simply wanted help picking the right product. Australian accessories label Maison de Sabre started offering customer service via WhatsApp for the same reason, after realising that its huge range of colour and personalisation options could be causing decision paralysis. 

Unlike some of the other SMS use cases, which don’t involve a back-and-forth exchange of text messages, providing customer service by text is harder to scale, so you’ll need to make sure you have a big enough team to keep up with demand. But it could be worth it.

According to OptiMonk, messaging is the top way that customers ages 18-44 want to communicate with businesses – followed by email. Live chat is one of their least favourite methods of communication, second only to snail mail. This could be due to the fact that waiting for a response from a customer service agent on live chat is anxiety inducing. 

Improve your post-purchase experience

Following up with your customers after they make a purchase – to make sure they’re satisfied with their order, or to ask them to leave a review – is considered best practice in retail. Doing it by text means they might actually respond, and depending on your business model, this could be crucial.

For instance, making sure customers are happy with the fit of its t-shirts is paramount for made-to-order t-shirt brand Citizen Wolf, which uses an algorithm to create a tailored pattern for each person based on just a few measurements. Given this strong point of differentiation, if the final product doesn’t fit perfectly, customers aren’t likely to come back. So it makes sense that if a customer doesn’t respond to its follow-up emails after their purchase, Citizen Wolf takes the extra step to send them a text.