How SMS marketing penetrated into e-commerce and what we have as a result

Ecommerce is growing faster than ever. In 2019, ecommerce generated $3.5 trillion in sales and is expected to hit $4.9 trillion in 2021. While email marketing has long been the ecommerce marketer’s favorite choice for conveying messages, SMS marketing is earning more prominence. 

Why? Because it can penetrate through noise better than any other channel. 

Imagine your company’s marketing communications were achieving a 98% read rate within five minutes of hitting send — without the need for an online connection. That’s what SMS helps you do.

SMS lets you leverage something called micro moments. Your message is there, on the phone, when someone naturally looks at it. And if someone has push notifications enabled, your message prompts them to look. 

People are conditioned to respond naturally to those dings and vibrations; it feels like ordinary communication for many modern smartphone users. Do you know what it doesn’t feel like? Advertising — because the message is coming in a bite-sized chunk.

SMS marketing can provide a near-perfect engagement score, anytime and anywhere. That’s because consumers are more switched on than ever — people pick up their phones an average of 58 times a day. We’re all guilty of it. 

SMS, which plays really well with other channels like email, helps you connect with people when they’re primed to do so, and shepherd them through your sales funnel via seamless interactions.

What Is SMS Marketing? 

SMS marketing refers to the act of sending promotional materials via text message. If you send a text message to your subscriber list saying, “BOGO only today in store! Come get your savings,” that’s SMS marketing. 

Primarily, SMS marketing is a tool you use to communicate offers and other information to existing customers who have permitted you to send them text messages.

Why Use SMS as a Marketing Tool?

One of today’s biggest marketing challenges is getting your product or service in front of your target audience. Information overload has our inboxes full to overflowing, and ads are so common on our social media accounts that we hardly notice them anymore. This is where SMS finds its advantage.

1. Millennials always have their phones. 

SMS can be a useful marketing tool for reaching any age group, but it’s especially helpful when marketing to Millennials and Gen Z. More than five years ago, close to 80% of people aged 18 to 44 had their cell phones with them 22 hours a day — we’re guessing people didn’t shower with their phones.

Today, young adults and the youngest Millennials may not even remember a time when smartphones weren’t part of their everyday lives. Phones aren’t simply communication tools for these generations. They’re an extension of each person.

2. People open texts faster than emails.

People are more likely to open text messages — and open them faster — when compared to email. According to Gartner, SMS messages have an average open rate of 98%, while email scores around a 20% average open rate. When someone does open and respond to an email, it takes an average of 90 minutes or more. Average time for SMS message responses? 90 seconds.

8 Big Rewards of Using SMS Marketing

SMS marketing can lead to big rewards, including better engagement, increased conversions, and higher sales and revenues. Here are eight reasons to integrate text message marketing into your campaigns.

1. Get a higher open rate than emails.

Gartner’s data, which shows an average SMS open rate of 98%, demonstrates the power of this marketing channel. More opens mean the potential for more conversions, and that increases the ROI for your effort.

2. Achieve higher ROI with spend.

The total cost of SMS marketing depends on how many messages you want to send and what provider you use. But average prices tend to range between $30 and a couple of hundred dollars per month for thousands of text messages. And since around 98% of those messages are being opened, you can reach each consumer for pennies or less — and that’s pretty cost effective. 

3. Target your audience on mobile devices.

As of 2019, mobile devices accounted for half or more of all internet use, making it critical for businesses to invest in mobile-friendly marketing. SMS messages make that easy since they’re designed to be read on mobile screens to begin with.

4. Reach a wide demographic.

According to Pew Research, text messaging is the most common activity that people do on a mobile phone. And while texting might be linked to younger generations, it’s a communication channel that’s intergenerational. In fact, those aged 35-44 are the largest consumers of information about sports and news via this format.

With people of all ages and backgrounds texting, SMS marketing lets you reach wider audiences. That’s especially true when compared to channels, like Instagram or Snapchat, which are primarily used by younger audiences. 

5. Deliver your message fast.

As previously stated, text messages are opened on average less than two minutes after receipt. That makes SMS marketing an excellent channel for time-sensitive offers, like end-of-day deals or flash sales.

6. Integrate with other types of marketing.

No one marketing channel is the best for every purpose, but SMS works with a variety of channels, making it easy to incorporate it into your other efforts and use it to guide people through the buying process.

7. Strengthen customer engagement.

People like to be in-the-know, and they want to feel like they matter to brands. When your business uses SMS messaging to keep consumers informed about offers, events, and other news that matters to them, they feel cared for and part of the process. And that boosts customer engagement and loyalty. 

8. Enable customers to opt in and out.

SMS makes it easy for customers to opt in or out of receiving your messages. At first glance, that might seem like a negative. But do you really want to send texts to people who don’t want to know about your products, business, or offers?

That wastes your time and alienates potential future customers. The ability for customers to easily manage their own preferences helps ensure your SMS marketing efforts are hitting where they’re most likely to succeed.

Trigger Event-based SMS Marketing Messages to Rouse Audiences

Transactional SMS refers to when a text message is triggered after an action. Just like email, you can set up triggered text messages that follow a customer action; e.g., signing up to receive communications, placing an online order, or attending an event. 

Remember to seek permission from subscribers to send SMS marketing messages, just like you would for email. 

1. Complement email with a welcome SMS.

Automated email programs are proven to drive ROI. They can also improve the customer experience and increase brand recognition and affinity. Adding SMS to the mix can exponentially boost your marketing success. Don’t forget to reinforce any benefits of signing up — just as you would in email. 

2. Send speedy order updates after a sale.

While 3.5 billion people worldwide have a smartphone, not all use email or Facebook Messenger. But every one of them (plus another 1.28 billion people) have a working mobile number. 

Sending order updates via text helps anchor your SMS strategy. Informed customers are happy customers. A first-rate customer experience includes updates on the state of customers’ orders, including shipping and delivery timelines.

3. Automate date-triggered SMS marketing messages.

Meet customers in the moments that matter to them — from appointment reminders to birthdays and abandoned cart text messages. With the right omnichannel marketing automation platform, you can automatically pull in names and personal details, and watch your engagement levels soar. 

Use Broadcast SMS Marketing Messages to Communicate Relevancy

Broadcast SMS are scaled marketing messages that, although not triggered directly from a past action, should still be super relevant to customers. You can ensure their relevancy by taking subscribers through a preference center — once they opt in — and using demographic information to tailor your content; e.g., based on age or geolocation.

1. Deliver new arrivals to prompt a purchase.

Communicate your hottest product drops via SMS marketing messages. 

SMS and email are the two giants of marketing. They almost always go hand in hand. But you might want to consider sending SMS over email in certain contexts, especially to deliver time-sensitive news like new arrivals and/or releases. 

Customers can easily opt in using a keyword and short code to get real-time communications hot off the press. Plus, in addition to driving online traffic, these updates are a great way to get customers in store! 

2. Use SMS marketing to promote flash sales that drive urgency.

Support your email marketing strategy with punchy alerts via text.

54% of consumers want marketing text messages, but only 11% of businesses actually send them. So, SMS marketing is a big opportunity for marketers to tap into the trends of savvy shoppers and generate lifelong customer loyalty. 

Consider customers who have purchased from you before; a timely nudge may be all they need to return and repeat their order. 

3. Hit the right note with content-driven communications.

Enrich the customer experience with value-driven engagements, delivered straight to the consumer’s device. 

Consumers now expect super-relevant content from their favorite brands. 84% of people want brands to produce content that entertains, provides solutions, and produces experiences and events. And, according to Aberdeen Group, conversion is six times higher for content marketing adopters vs. non-adopters. SMS is a great channel to deliver concise, to-the-point content because it’s fast, direct, and clear.

4. Trigger renewal or replenishment reminders.

Achieve repeat conversions with timely nudges that don’t annoy. Kiehl’s uses artificial intelligence (AI) with SMS marketing to keep its customers more loyal than ever. Knowing that customers first purchase in store, the cosmetics brand uses its online tools to hit customers at the right time with a replenishment reminder. AI will predict when customers are likely to run out of the product they last purchased. Subscribers are then prompted to either reply ‘yes’, if they’re ready to re-order, or ‘RemindMe’, if they want to wait.

5. Send important SMS alerts.

Deliver crucial updates via text — and save your email sends for something more creative! 

This channel is perfect for delivering need-to-know information or service updates to customers. Since it’s fast and direct, you can keep customers informed on the things that matter, in real time. Although not ecommerce, this text update from easyJet highlights the effectiveness of SMS as a clear and speedy way for brands to communicate must-know info.

6. Cut through the noise with seasonal updates.

Make headway in holiday revenue by meeting customers on mobile.

By 2021, according to eMarketer, mobile commerce — or m-commerce — will account for 54% of total ecommerce sales. So, for your brand to fire on all cylinders when it comes to mobile, a simple, clean email paired with timely, personalized SMS alerts is a holiday must-have. 

7. Use SMS to get referrals. 

Get help from your brand advocates to convert new customers. 

Consumers are becoming far more comfortable with brands meeting them on their private channels like SMS, Facebook, and other direct messaging platforms. These apps are primarily on mobile devices, so automating an engaging template for your advocates to share with others quickly and effectively is a great way to make quick wins. 

5 SMS Marketing Ecommerce Best Practices

If 98% open rates and views within minutes sound great to you, then SMS marketing is something you’ll want to consider. But before you go down this rabbit hole of convenient, cost-effective marketing, make sure you understand some important best practices to help ensure your efforts succeed.

1. Get permission (and keep it).

Don’t spam people. It’s unwanted and bad for your brand, and it might get you into legal trouble. Instead, ask for permission to send occasional SMS text messages.

Then, respect the consumers’ time and potential text charges by only sending pertinent, essential messages. That encourages people not to opt out of your messages.

2. Use an SMS marketing tool.

Do you know what’s not convenient or cost-effective? Typing out a hundred text messages on your mobile phone — or even typing one and adding your entire customer group to it. Plus, that can lead to serious compliance and privacy issues.

Instead, use an SMS marketing tool that lets you manage your lists and send messages from a computer or mobile device. Look for tools that help you manage list compliance, understand who opened or responded, and schedule messages. 

3. Add value to your customer.

When you reach out, make sure you have something valuable to offer like:

  • A unique sales offer — especially one that’s only going to your SMS list.
  • A time-sensitive deal, like BOGO for the rest of the day on items you need to clear out.
  • Information that’s necessary to customers who might want to participate in an event.
  • Introductions to new products or services, especially if you’re giving your SMS list first dibs.
4. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.

Be as concise as possible. People are reading these messages on little screens.

Try to avoid sending a thread of texts. Remember that many people still pay a surcharge on text messages, so they won’t appreciate you using three messages to communicate one thing.

5. Personalize your SMS marketing campaigns.

At the same time, make sure you’re using your brand voice whenever possible, and invest in the effort needed to personalize your messages. 

You can do that by creating sectioned lists and texting groups about the things that interest them the most. When possible, include people’s names in their message with data automation.

Sending Your First Ecommerce SMS Message

Ready to put those best practices into action? Here’s a quick-start guide to sending your first SMS marketing message.

1.  Define business goals. 

Start by determining what you want to accomplish. Do you want to bring more people to your ecommerce store in general, or are you trying to get the word out about a specific product?

Understanding your goals lets you know who to target and what type of messages to send.

2. Find an SMS marketing service. 

Research to find an SMS marketing service that meets your budget requirements and offers the features you need to support your goals.

3. Start growing subscribers. 

Never just send random texts, even if you have consumer phone numbers for another reason. You need permission from your subscribers to text them.

Start asking people to sign up at check-out in your ecommerce store (you can do this with a simple checkbox). You can also build subscribers by offering something of value, like a free download or coupon code, in exchange for a mobile phone number and permission to text them.

4. Segment subscribers to send relevant messages. 

Use data analytics to understand who is on your list so you can segment them into similar groups. That lets you send them the most relevant messages.

For example, if your ecommerce store sells men’s and women’s clothing and fashion items, you might segment your list by people who have only bought women’s clothing (or are women) and those who have only bought men’s clothing (or are men). That lets you send deal information about the right products to each list.

5. Continue to test. 

Don’t assume you hit it out of the park the first time. Or the second. Or the one-hundredth. 

Follow up by reviewing the results of your SMS message so you can understand what you’re doing right and what can be improved. Continue to test new messages, times and days, and deals to find what works best for your ecommerce business.

Getting Started with SMS Marketing

Getting started with SMS marketing is easy. Figure out what your message is and why, ask people if you can send them messages, and find an SMS messaging service.

Then, start sending messages out to your consumers. Keep them short and relevant, and don’t overstay your welcome by showing up on people’s phones every day. 

The more you use SMS messaging — and review your results so you know what to tweak in the future — the more powerful this marketing tool can become.