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The Ecommerce Marketing Blog

The #1 resource for small and growing ecommerce brands

What Is SMS Marketing? (And Why You Need It)

By Ryan Pinkham
6 minute read

SMSMarketing-01-1Do my customers really want to get text messages from us?

Isn’t text (or SMS marketing) annoying?

Does anyone actually read texts from businesses?

If you run an ecommerce business and have thought about starting sending text messages to customers, you’ve probably had at least one of these thoughts. 

We all know most people prefer texting over phone calls or emails, but when it comes to your business, you understandably have some hesitation.

Why? Because so many of the brands sending text messages (or doing “SMS marketing”) are treating it as another channel to just sell more stuff. And while you obviously want to drive more sales, there are a few basics that you’ll want to know before you get started. 

So, let’s talk about SMS marketing and whether or not it makes sense for your ecommerce business. 

What is SMS marketing?

Simply put, SMS marketing is the sending of promotional or transactional messages directly to customer mobile phones via text message. People tend to be very attached to their mobile phones. In fact, 77% of Americans own smartphones, including 81% of American adults, and 47% say they couldn’t live without their devices.

Statistically speaking, SMS marketing has a good chance of getting your messaging noticed. Consider how often you check your own mobile phone and look at messages - for most people, text messages are checked more often than email. One study indicated that SMS open rates could be as high as 82.1%, blowing email open rates out of the water.

SMS marketing often tends to be underrated by marketers, at a time when emails may sit unopened for days (or forever) in crowded inboxes. SMS messages are easily trackable, so you can see who opened your message, whether they clicked and conversely, who never opened your message.

One common myth that often gets brought out is that SMS marketing has more rules and regulations attached than email, which actually isn’t true. In fact, some of the same laws govern both. It’s actually not that hard to be compliant, you just need to follow a few key rules.

When can you use SMS marketing?

We wrote this article which outlines the rules you need to know about SMS marketing. The bottom line is that you can’t simply blast out text messages whenever you like to whomever you like. You need to have express permission.

This means you should never buy SMS marketing lists (yes, there are still people out there who will try this), and you should always use a reputable software or method of getting people onto your own SMS marketing list.

The basic rules for when and how to use SMS marketing are very similar to email:

  • You must have the express (written) permission of the recipient (written can mean electronic requests).
  • People on your SMS list must easily be able to opt-out (just like email).

Those are the rules in a nutshell, although there are several “best practices” outlined by regulatory bodies that we highlighted in our article. The message we’d like to leave you with here is that it’s really not difficult, despite what you may have heard. If you’re already email marketing then you’re already somewhat familiar with key requirements.

Always follow the opt-in rules for SMS marketing.

So, if SMS marketing is really this effective a channel, what do most brands get wrong when starting out?

If you’ve ever opted-in to receive texts from a business, or worse - started receiving texts without giving your consent - then you probably have an idea of some of the things that will annoy your customers. 

Instead, lets look at a few things you’ll want to do if you want to actually drive results from your SMS marketing efforts like these brands that are getting it right.

Be relevant

We say this for email marketing and the same thing holds true for SMS marketing - don’t just blast out messages for the sake of it. The most effective campaigns are those that are targeted and relevant to the people receiving them.

For example you might:

  • Add an informational link to transactional SMS messages. For example, if a customer has made a purchase and you’re sending a shipping notification via SMS, you might include a link so they can “click here to find out how to care for your new…”
  • Send messages based on selected preferences or on customer behavior. For example, if you’re having a sale on women’s socks, it makes more sense to send a message about it out to people who have bought women’s socks before (or who likely wear them!).
  • Send messages that are timely. For example addressing current concerns that people have, or letting them know of something that’s happening right now. (Think about holidays or special events as a way to drive urgency around an offer: “Mother’s Day is next week, use code: MOM20 to save 20% on a gift for mom.”)

Be interesting

Sparking the interest of your recipients is a key to successful SMS marketing. You don’t want to be “just another company sending messages.” Ideally, you want to elicit the reaction “oh, it’s (company X), I wonder what they’re up to now?”

There are a lot of examples of companies that do this well, for example by using interactive content. Companies like Chipotle have been using SMS marketing for years now, with initiatives such as text to win, or click to play. 

Small and growing ecommerce brands have a real advantage here because people love to hear from the person behind the business and get updates about what you’re up to. Use that to your advantage when sending texts to customers. 

Make signing up worthwhile

Give your customers a good reason to sign up - what’s in it for them? For example, perhaps people who sign up to mobile alerts get access to exclusive discounts that other shoppers can’t get. 

For some customers, the convenience of getting texts sent right to their phone so that they don’t need to worry about checking email will be enough of an incentive to sign up. You can test different offers and messaging through a pop up on your website to see what gets people most interested in signing up.

Think about timing

We know that text messages tend to be seen and opened relatively soon after being sent, but you’ve still got to consider when you are sending them. Odd hours of the night or day should be off-limits (we’ve all had those!).

If you have international customers, there are different rules that pertain in different countries. For example, some restrict the days and hours for which it is acceptable to send SMS marketing messages.

The other thing to consider is how often you send messages. This is something that you may want to test for your own business, but in-general, don’t send more than one message in a day (unless those are transactional messages, rather than marketing messages). If you send messages too often, people tune out to them, so work out timing that gets results for your business.

Have clear messages

The best SMS marketing messages tend to be short and sweet. They don’t require the recipient to read a wall of text or to spend a whole lot of time deciphering what the message means. In fact, being concise is an important skill to learn when writing these messages.

A clear call to action is also important. Why are you sending the message and what does the recipient need to do? Make sure you haven’t left any room for confusion.

To add to this, an SMS message should have one clear purpose and call to action to be effective. If you try to do too many things with it, people get confused and don’t know what to go with.

Send triggered messages

Remember that SMS marketing can be automated by setting up triggered messages based on a customer's actions. The best example of this is setting up a cart abandonment text that gets sent to customers when they exit your ecommerce store when they have items in their cart.

Another example of this is a thank you or welcome text that is sent to customers after they make their first purchase. You can include an additional offer in the text to drive a repeat purchase right in the moment. 

Final thoughts

SMS marketing is an often underrated channel for companies to get their messages out, but it can be very effective.

SMS allows you to get directly to the customer via what is often the shortest route - their ever-present mobile phones. It’s a chance for timely messaging that gets noticed relatively quickly.

SMS makes sense for a lot of businesses, but you have to go about it the right way. Follow the rules for opting people in and observe best practices in terms of when, what, and how you send messages. 

Privy Text makes it easy to get started with SMS Marketing with the ability to setup automated thank you and abandoned cart messages to drive sales for your business. Privy Text starts at $10/month. Get started today. 

Topics: Text Marketing

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