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August 5, 2022

How To Use SMS Marketing to Increase Conversion and Sales

How To Use SMS Marketing to Increase Conversion and Sales

The pandemic saw an increase in people using their mobile devices for online shopping and communicating with businesses. Ecommerce stores are using this new marketing method to keep in touch with their customers and increase customer engagement with their brands. 

It doesn't matter what ecommerce platform you use. SMS marketing is an excellent tool to keep engaged with your existing customers and to give them regular updates on their orders or delivery. 

You can also use apps like Facebook Messenger to speak to your customers. Many ecommerce brands have their own Facebook pages, invite customers to message them with questions, and use an automated live chat. SMS marketing is a way to open up two-way communication between your online store and its customers. 

In this article, we'll look at all the benefits of SMS marketing for ecommerce businesses and provide you with all the tips and best practices you need to set up your own text message campaign. 

(Image: Neil Patel)

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS stands for 'short message service'. SMS marketing is where ecommerce businesses use text messages to send information, news, promotions, and updates directly to their customers' phones. A customer must opt-in to a brand's SMS marketing and provide their number. 

SMS marketing for ecommerce businesses is becoming more popular. While email is an excellent tool for communicating with your customers, more consumers are saying they prefer to use messages as their primary communication tools with businesses

Texts are often shorter than emails, so when using SMS marketing, you must ensure the message is brief and relevant to what you're trying to convey. People check their texts far more often than their email because they get an instant notification about a new message. 

SMS Marketing Language

In SMS marketing, several different terms get used, and we'll use them throughout this article. So we've laid out all the terms you can expect to hear when creating an SMS marketing campaign. 

  • Opt-in/Opt-out: This refers to when customers choose to subscribe or unsubscribe to your SMS subscriber list. They should always be aware they can leave at any time. 
  • Auto-Reply: Auto-reply is an automated text message you send to your customers when they subscribe. You can set up recurring automated marketing messages or have automated responses to your customers to thank them for signing up or for transactional messages. 
  • Shortcode: A shortcode is a small number you can use for your ecommerce brand to send text messages to your customers. It's usually only five or six digits long, while regular phone numbers are 11 digits. 

When sending a text message to your subscribers, you might also urge them to respond with a keyword like 'STOP' if they want to unsubscribe from your SMS list. Or you could have them send a text message of 'DISCOUNT' to get a code, and so on. 

Some keywords cost money, and your standard STOP or OPT-OUT usually comes free in a package, but if you sell clothes and send a message out to your SMS subscribers list suggesting they text 'SWIMSUIT' back, you might have to pay to use the word in that fashion. Depending on the word, it can be around $10-$25 a month. 

Will SMS Marketing Campaigns Work For My Ecommerce Business?

People are far more likely to open a text message than an email, especially in younger generations like Millenials and Gen Z, where 75% of these generations use their phones for online shopping. Email marketing open rates are around 15%, sometimes as high as 22% when it's a Monday which is the day associated with the highest open rates in email marketing. SMS marketing open rates are as high as 98%

97% of Americans own a cell phone, so it's a market waiting to be tapped into. People don't like not opening their text messages, so the higher the open rate you have, the higher your click-through rate as people will read it and then potentially access your website. 

It's a low-cost option of around $0.01-$0.05 per text message, potentially less if you're using an SMS marketing software and paying a monthly fee for it, which allows you to reach a broad demographic of consumers. 

The best way to measure the benefits of using SMS marketing for your ecommerce brand is to weigh the return on investment (ROI) for your SMS marketing campaigns. You can do this by measuring the click-through rate or conversion rate from your text messages. 

How To Grow your SMS Subscribers List

The best way to get more SMS subscribers is to advertise your text message marketing on your website. You can use pop-ups so that visitors to your ecommerce site can opt-in and add their phone numbers to be open to text message marketing. 

Another option is to send the opportunity out to your email subscribers. That list is already made up of loyal customers who want more information about your ecommerce brand, so they will probably be more open to joining than a standard website visitor. 

(Image: CampaignMonitor)

Types of SMS Messages to Use in SMS Marketing

There are several different types of SMS marketing messages that ecommerce brands use to keep in contact with their customers. Every message you send to your SMS subscribers is to engage customers or increase ecommerce sales. 

When creating an SMS marketing strategy, it's important to remember that your customers don't want to be spammed too often, and that can lead to people unsubscribing from your SMS list. They also want a variety of different types of SMS messages sent to them, so you aren't sending the same thing over and over again. 

You can measure your customer retention rate and constantly monitor your SMS marketing campaign to examine what is successful and what isn't working. 

Let's look at the different text messages that could make up your SMS marketing campaign. 

Transactional Messages

Transactional messages are text messages that don't involve promotional deals or discounts and instead pass on relevant information to the customer about their order or your ecommerce brand. Text messages are a fantastic way to keep customers up-to-date on their orders or delivery. 

Here's a list of the most popular types of transactional messages in SMS marketing:

  • Order Confirmations: Sending a text message to your subscribers when they place an order is an excellent method to keep them engaged and reassure them that you've received their order. In the text message, you can provide them with their order number and give an estimate for delivery, like 3-5 working days, depending on the chosen delivery method. 
  • Shipping Notifications: Text messages are a convenient and real-time method for updating your consumers on their delivery. 40% of online shoppers say delivery is the most important aspect of shopping online, and communicating any shipping delays or updates via text message is an excellent way to keep them informed. 
  • Abandoned Cart: If you've had an SMS subscriber on your website put items in their basket, but they've abandoned it before reaching the checkout page, you can send a gentle reminder via text message that their items are still sitting there. This will help prevent lost sales and encourage customers to come back and finish the purchase. 

Welcome Messages

Welcome messages are an excellent tool for new subscribers to feel connected to your ecommerce store. It's a personal way to show your customers that you care and you're happy they've signed up to your SMS list. It could be a simple thank you for subscribing, or you could send an exclusive discount code.

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(Image: VertexSMS)

Promotional Text Messages

Promotional text messages are a large part of any SMS marketing strategy. When people subscribe, whether email marketing or SMS marketing, it's primarily because they know they'll get access to promotional deals and exclusive discounts. You don't want to let them down. 

There are a variety of promotional messages you can send. It could be an exclusive discount code, early access to a sale, a promo for your SMS subscribers, a text-to-win competition, or an SMS coupon. 

Benefits to SMS Marketing in Ecommerce

Any form of marketing will benefit your online store in some way. SMS marketing is a low-cost option that gives you greater interaction and engagement with your customers. You can use SMS marketing software to manage your marketing campaigns and measure the success with your customers. 

Here are some of the top benefits for your ecommerce brand when you apply SMS marketing strategies. 

High Open Rate

As we mentioned before, SMS marketing has a much higher open rate of up to 98% compared to email marketing. People don't like to leave their text messages unread, and the more people read your content, the more they will click on the call to action (CTA) and go to your website. 

Brand Awareness

Text message marketing is a fantastic way to create your brand voice and communicate with customers. Every text they get is a reminder of your ecommerce store, whether it's a transactional message you're sending about an order they've made or a promo deal. You'll reach a wide range of people across all demographics who want to hear more about your brand. 

Low Budget

SMS marketing is a low-budget option. If you're using SMS marketing software, the cost of sending messages could be part of the monthly fee, and the keywords won't set you back much. Paper marketing like leaflets and brochures can come at a high price. SMS marketing is much cheaper. 

Reach Customers Instantly

SMS marketing is the fastest marketing channel you can use for customer engagement. You don't just have to use text messages for order updates and shipping notifications. You can set up SMS marketing automation for customer feedback and answer customer service queries. It's a way to contact customers in real-time, as most people check their phones up to 58 times a day on average. 

As soon as you've sent the text message, it will arrive in your customer's mobile device inbox meaning you get to see the results quickly. 

Offers a Personal Approach

Text messages are more personal than email and offer a way for you to connect with your customers through their mobile phones. Suppose you're using them as a live chat option, like on Facebook Messenger or a text messaging app. In that case, customers can have entire conversations with you (or your customer service team) before making a purchase. They can ask any questions they have and get to know your brand voice. It's an excellent tool for making them feel valued and reassured in your brand. 

(Image: Dexatel)

Elements of an Ecommerce SMS Marketing Strategy

Once you've decided to put together an SMS marketing strategy, you'll need to gather an SMS subscriber list. The larger the list, the bigger the pool of existing customers you have to market to. 

Here are all the steps you'll need to take to have a successful ecommerce SMS marketing campaign. 

Define Business Goals and Success Metrics

Before implementing any SMS marketing for ecommerce, you should first define precisely the text message campaign's goal and what success will look like for your ecommerce brand. Once you set this out, you'll know what you hope to accomplish with the SMS campaign. 

When sending messages to your SMS list, keep these goals in mind. If it's additional sales you're looking for, then you want to send out promotional messages. However, another goal could be achieving more followers on social media, so you could send a message advertising your social media channels. 

Compliance

There are a lot of legalities and compliance around SMS marketing, and it's the same for email marketing too. Your customers need to understand that when they sign up, you will send SMS marketing messages to them, and you need to be clear that you won't sell their data to any third parties. It's also crucial your consumers understand they can unsubscribe at any time, and keep reminding them of this when you run your SMS campaigns. 

If you're running a global brand, there are laws in every country or region that can affect communication with customers. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) oversees laws regarding customer communication, and there are acts like the CAN-SPAM Act (2003) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that govern how companies are allowed to communicate with consumers. 

Essentially, this protects customers from having their data shared among many companies and being spammed with marketing messages from people they haven't given permission to. There's the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation in Canada, and the EU has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to protect European consumers from spam. 

As you grow your SMS marketing list, you need to be completely transparent with your customers about what you'll use their information for. You can ask them to choose their preferred communication method (text, call, or email) and add different communication layers. For example, a customer could opt-in for marketing and advertising messages like exclusive promo codes and discounts, but another might only want transactional messages like order updates. 

Many SMS marketing tools consider compliance seriously when setting up SMS marketing campaigns. Do your research if you plan on using one to ensure they comply with all applicable laws. 

Generate SMS Subscribers List

Starting to set up an SMS list of subscribers as early as possible is crucial to the success of your SMS campaigns. It's worth setting up an SMS opt-in option on your website when customers sign up for your email marketing. That way, they can set their preferred communication method and choose whether they'd like you to communicate via email or text message. 

You can contact your existing customers, ask them to opt-in to your SMS subscribers, and also put up a pop-up on your website to capture any new customer's phone numbers. 

Marketing Automation

It would be a laborious task if you had to send out every text message to your SMS list manually. Luckily, not everything has to be done manually. Using an SMS tool, you can schedule your SMS messages and save time. You can also send recurring automated messages, like order confirmations, shipping notifications, and delivery updates, without lifting a finger. 

You can communicate with customers across all marketing channels from one platform using SMS marketing software. You can also send personalized birthday messages, abandoned cart texts, and order updates as part of your SMS marketing automation. 

Review and Test

Once you've developed your SMS strategy, continuously review and test it as you go. You can use reporting metrics to determine what is successful and what isn't. At the end of your campaign, you can look back over the entire process and see what your customers responded the most to. Everything is a learning curve, so don't be disheartened if you send out a message and lose subscribers. You'll know better next time. As you develop and grow, you'll improve at ecommerce SMS marketing. 

When analyzing this, ask questions like: 

  • What text messages did customers open the most?
  • What type of message had the highest click-through rate?
  • Were there any promos that caused a spike in sales on the website?
  • Can you see how quickly website traffic was affected after sending an SMS message?

These questions will give you a greater understanding of what types of messages to use in your next SMS strategy and what ones to leave behind. 

(Image: Shopify)

Examples of SMS Marketing Ecommerce 

When you're running your ecommerce SMS marketing campaign, you can send many different messages. When creating your promotional campaigns, you can use a mixture of product launches or recommendations, deals and discounts, and customer feedback forms. A variety is best. You don't want to spam your customers with the same thing all the time. They'll unsubscribe. 

Let's explore all the different messages you can send your customer. 

Sharing Deals and Offers With Customers

Customers sign up for SMS and email marketing lists to receive discounts and promotional deals for doing so. You'll see the highest response to these messages, often instantly. If you send out a promo code offering people an exclusive deal in an upcoming sale, or a Black Friday discount, you'll get a higher response to an email informing them about a product launch. 

This type of SMS marketing urges customers to come back to your website and make a purchase. However, it's essential to use them sparingly. Nobody is going to respond to a promo code every day. That doesn't make them special or unique and will affect your click-through rate. 

Product Launches or Events

Informational messages about upcoming products or sales are valuable for customers in SMS marketing. You can send a message offering your SMS marketing list the opportunity to get early access to a sale or pre-order an item before it goes up to everyone else. The more exclusive options you send subscribers, the better the offer is for new customers to sign up. 

Your SMS list is full of customers who want more information about your brand. Give it to them!

Customer Feedback Surveys

Lots of ecommerce businesses use text message marketing to understand what their customers think about their products. Using SMS tools, you can set this up as marketing automation. If a customer has called your company, you can ask them what their experience was like via text and get them to rate your customer service. 

You can also send out surveys and ask them to complete these online for an incentive like being entered into a prize draw for a free product or giving them a discount code for participating. 

Customer Loyalty Program

A customer loyalty program is an excellent tool for getting repeat customers. There's a reason they are so popular among ecommerce businesses. Whether it's a points program which gives people greater benefits (like free shipping and discounts) the more points they earn, or a deal like 'buy ten items and get $10 off’, if you give people incentives for more shopping, they'll be likely to spend more. 

You can get better relationships with your customers and reward the most loyal ones to you with a more personalized and engaging experience. It's a win-win!

Competitions

Your subscriber list can access exclusive competitions to win products or get special discounts. You can run a text-to-win contest where they only have to respond to the message to enter a randomized prize draw. This entertaining SMS marketing tool keeps your customers excited and engaged with your brand. 

(Image: IntouchCRM)

SMS Marketing Tips

When you collect phone numbers, your customers expect to get relevant messages about your brand at reasonable times. Don't send out your messages through the night; you don't want to disturb anyone and make sure you don't send too many messages out and risk people unsubscribing. 

Here are some tips you need to know before starting your SMS marketing campaign. 

Don't Spam Your Customers

In any form of marketing, like email marketing or SMS, there's a sweet spot for how often you want to message your customers. Nobody wants to be spammed, and if you send messages too often, you'll affect the customer experience and unsubscribe. 

It would be best if you texted approximately 2-6 times a month for optimum customer engagement. It's the industry standard. Any more, and you run the risk of annoying your SMS list. Any less, and you won't have the engagement you're looking for. Every time you send them a text, you're reminding them about your brand, so you don't want to leave it to just once a month. 

Sending a message around once a week is an excellent place to start, maybe twice if there's a birthday message to send or a new product launching. But never more than twice a week. 

Follow the Compliance

Compliance is critical for ensuring you don't get any fines or lawsuits about your marketing efforts. The last thing you want is unnecessary legal costs, so research the communication laws in any country you're selling in. 

Many SMS and ecommerce tools will do the hard part for you. It's important to remember you're being entrusted with a customer's phone number, which is a piece of highly personal information, and you don't want to misuse it. 

Timing

In all forms of marketing, timing is everything. You'll get different open rates and click-through numbers depending on what your customers do when they receive the message. A great example is early in the morning. During the week, you are less likely to get a good response if you send a message before 9 am. People are either sleeping or on their morning commute. However, if you send a message from 9 am - 12 pm, you'll get a better response as people are usually bored at work during that time frame. 

The best time to send an SMS marketing message is from 12 pm - 3 pm on any day of the week. But it depends on what type of industry you're in. If your key demographic is parents, your best option would be during school hours. But if you're a takeaway and you're pushing food on people, then around dinner time would be your best time to put your food in the forefront of people's minds. 

When running your SMS strategy, you can test different timings and determine which is most successful for your ecommerce store. 

Be Concise

Text messages are meant to be short. The average text message is 160 characters, so you need to hook your customer and put a call to action in this short space. You can sometimes go longer, but it's not generally advised. 

Any text needs to be short, snappy, and concise. Keep all the information relevant; you only want to convey one CTA per message. In email marketing, you can have multiple topics as emails are longer than texts, but you only want one here. Keep it straightforward and to the point. Customers will unsubscribe if you send long text messages that ramble on for pages. 

In Summary

SMS marketing continues to grow in popularity as customers' preferred communication method. It's best to start gathering phone numbers early to increase your SMS marketing list. 

You can use an SMS tool to support you on your marketing campaign. When developing an SMS marketing strategy, research the necessary compliance and ensure you offer your customers various opt-in and opt-out levels. For content, it's best to use a mixture of transactional and promotional messages. Luckily, you can automate lots of messages like order updates and delivery notifications. 

You can use text messages or other marketing channels like social media to promote customer engagement. Remember, people expect text messages to be short. Nobody will read a text that is over two or three paragraphs long. It would help if you also considered the timing of your texts. What is the best time to contact your key demographics? What marketing channel do they prefer? 

In this blog, we've given you all the tools to create a fantastic SMS marketing strategy. So good luck!

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