eCommerce SMS marketing is exploding right now, and for a good reason. Offering brands a unique way to engage with customers and potential shoppers at every stage of the sales journey, SMS marketing can be a powerful eCommerce tool. Although, as we know, text messaging itself is definitely not a new marketing tool, over the last couple of years it has shot to popularity within the eCommerce sector specifically – and when used in a very strategic way, can be a powerful tool.
The keyword here is strategic. Like with any marketing or customer experience tool, you need a budget, a goal, and a creative plan – which you then test, tweak, and optimize specifically for your niche, market, and customers.
Why Are Online Store Owners Investing in SMS Marketing for eCommerce?
Offering an additional way to connect with customers and potential shoppers, SMS, or text, marketing helps you engage one-on-one with customers via their mobile devices. In fact, SMS engagement can be incredibly high – outperforming email for some niches. One study found that SMS engagement can be 6-8 times higher than email engagement, depending on the SMS campaign. Add that to the fact that 90% of people will read an SMS within the first three minutes of receiving it, SMS can be a highly useful engagement tool.
However, it’s where and how eCommerce brands are using (and winning) with text messaging that is key. We’re sure you would agree that nothing is more off-putting than a brand you don’t know at all texting you. Only 22% of users say they would open and read a text message from a business they aren’t familiar with.
Therefore, it’s not about spamming numbers that haven’t opted in or bombarding someone’s message box with last-minute deals. Instead, like email, you need a strategy for growing your SMS lists and ensuring you set it up to send the right message at the right time. This will enable you to reap SMS marketing’s core benefits:
- Unprecedented open rates
- Fantastic engagement rates
- The fastest form of communication with customers
In this full guide to eCommerce SMS marketing, we give you everything you need to determine whether SMS marketing is right for your brand (spoiler: it probably is) and outline how you can implement and manage a successful marketing program. But first, some legal nitty-gritty.
eCommerce and Retail SMS Marketing Legal Fine Print
Before you embark on this SMS marketing strategy journey, the very first step (yes, even before choosing a platform and testing your marketing) you need to take is understand the rules and regulations involved. This will need to be done for every country where customers will receive messages.
In the US, for example, these SMS standards are regulated and/or monitored by the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association), FTC (Federal Trade Commission), and FCC (Federal Communications Commission), with the MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) acting as a monitor involved in helping determine best practices. These standards include ensuring that users who receive SMSes from you have opted in and all text messages identify you as the sender. You would also need to ensure that opt-out instructions are included in messages at least once a month. Additionally, you will need to:
- Include the fine print details of your SMS program wherever you are promoting it
- Send a confirmation text when a new user joins
- Include the fine print for any SMS promotions
You can read more about SMS marketing regulations in the US here. For those of you marketing outside of the US, here are a few guides to review to get you started:
- Australia’s Spam Act
- UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)
- EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Key Takeaway: When it comes to rules and regulations for SMS marketing, do your research! Above all else, you need to ensure that you are getting explicit permission from users before sending any text messages. After that, you need to stick with the guidelines and regulations.
Integrating SMS Marketing into Your Customer Service Strategy
eCommerce SMS marketing, at its essence, offers store owners the ideal way to improve customer experience with shipping and delivery, personalized promotions, and strategic reminders. Choosing how to integrate SMS marketing to boost your shopping experience will depend on your specific brand and market. Still, generally, it should be aimed at streamlining your communication and personalizing your messaging.
In a nutshell, customer experience SMS marketing can be divided into reward and loyalty programs, general SMS marketing, and reminders and celebrations. Here are some eCommerce examples of each.
1. Reward and Loyalty Customer Service Texts
The cherry on top of your SMS customer experience strategy is reward and loyalty program texts. Sending loyalty reminders and exclusive deals to customers’ mobiles enables them to see and engage with new sales and track things like points much quicker than email.
2. General Conversational Marketing Texts
The meat of any eCommerce marketing strategy is conversational marketing messages that allow you to communicate with customers and potential shoppers one-on-one. These can include reordering messages with convenient texts for restocking, customer service announcements, and VIP personalized promotions. A brand that is totally winning at conversational SMS marketing at every level of the shopping experience is Verb Energy. Here are a few of their assets, including their opt-in step, which happens before checkout:
[Source: SMS Marketing Examples]
3. Reminder and Celebratory Texts
Reminder and celebration SMSes are those texts that include major product releases, big seasonal sales, and life event emails such as anniversary or birthday notifications. The latter is a great way to not only personalize your marketing but make customers feel valued and rewarded. Here are some examples from a leading eCommerce brand, Pura Vida.
[Source: SMS Archives]
Key Takeaway: You will want to assess how and where to integrate SMS marketing into your customer service strategy. In the case of the Verb Energy example, you can see the brand goes all-in with SMS marketing from the first interaction. Other brands may offer SMS as the ultimate option for customers to choose instead of email, for example. The key here is finding a balance that adds convenience for customers, not the overwhelm of yet another platform they’ll get spam on.
Now let’s get into more eCommerce SMS marketing messaging and campaign types.
eCommerce SMS Marketing Automations and Campaign Types
When it comes to SMS marketing for eCommerce, there are two main types of text messaging you will use: automated messaging such as your welcome flow texts, order status updates, and abandoned cart campaigns; and SMS promotional campaigns such as holiday sales and promotions or new product launches.
In short, automated messages are those you send based on specific behavior or steps in a buyer’s journey, while campaigns are those messages sent based on calendar events or announcements. Like with any marketing strategy, you need to test and tweak each kind of messaging to find the right combination for your brand that yields the best results for your spend.
Beginner Tip: If you’re new to SMS marketing, we suggest taking your most successful email marketing campaigns and turning these concepts and copy into 160-character texts.
Let’s look at examples of each in more detail.
1. SMS Automations for eCommerce
Similar to email, automated text marketing is messages that are automatically triggered when a user engages with your brand in some way. In other words, it is behavior-based and will include updates and marketing-type campaigns. Here is a list of each, with eCommerce examples.
Shopping Cart Abandonment Texts
SMS marketing is another avenue you can use to bring shoppers back to your store with strategic, behavior-based, personalized targeting.
Generally, a cart abandonment SMS strategy will include SMSes at any or all of these scheduled times after the cart has been left:
- One hour
- 24 hours
- Three days
You also want to make sure you have personalized the message as much as possible so that it’s less spam-like and more motivating.
SMS Welcome Campaigns
As the name suggests, these messages are sent after a user subscribes to SMS marketing.
Order Status Text Updates
SMS has become an excellent way for eCommerce stores to provide order confirmations and updates. By sending personalized messaging to customers’ phones, this not only ensures they are up-to-date but makes the whole sales process better for them. Which, in turn, increases your chance of repeat shopping and good reviews.
Pro Tip: Offer SMS opt-in at checkout by including a tick or phone number captioning box saying something along the lines of: “Get order updates and other VIP marketing-related text messages straight to your phone.”
Even better if you can go beyond order confirmation and send shipping status updates directly to your customer’s phone!
Post-Purchase Engagement Campaigns
One of the most critical yet overlooked stages of the buying process in terms of building loyalty is post-purchase. SMS marketing can fill in the gap with automation. A good example is asking your customers to review your product or provide feedback on the overall process. In fact, YotPo states that SMS review requests see a 66% higher conversion rate than those requested over email. Not only does this help you gather product reviews, but it enables you to streamline your customer services.
Here’s another example of a post-sale marketing SMS campaign strategy you can test: automated upselling based on the purchased product. The key to this, and all these campaign types, in fact, is segmenting your groups as much as possible to ensure you’re sending the right message to the right person at the right time.
Automatic Renewal or Replenishment Reminders
These are automated SMSes that are triggered after a certain amount of time, reminding your customers it is time to stock up on their favorite product or renew their eCommerce subscription.
2. SMS Campaigns for eCommerce
Next, let’s look at SMS marketing campaigns that are based on events. As we mentioned earlier, these include promotional texts based on calendar or announcement events.
Seasonal Sales and Promotions
These are texts to let your users know of flash or seasonal sales and promotions.
Some examples of these include promotions related to a holiday such as Easter, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day, and of course, BFCM – which SMS has shown to have a much higher click rate!
New Product Launches
This can be to notify customers of a new product they are likely to buy or used creatively to launch new products. Here are some template examples from YotPo.
SMS Engagement Campaigns
SMS marketing is a great tool to drive more interactions for various engagement campaigns. A brand that uses this perfectly is Starbucks. Here’s an example of how they use other channels to drive SMS engagement promotions.
Key Takeaway: Like with email, SMS offers a wide variety of automation and promotional marketing options for eCommerce. If you’re new to SMS marketing, you will want to start with your customer service shipping delivery campaigns first, and then test and implement sales-driving texts to find the ones that work well with your niche, and market. Additionally, having an idea of what type of SMS marketing campaigns and the segmentation you will need to implement is an essential consideration before choosing your SMS marketing platform – but more on that later.
Best Ways to Grow Your eCommerce SMS Subscriber Lists
Testing and tweaking strategies to grow your SMS subscriber lists is an important component of eCommerce SMS marketing. Similar to increasing your email marketing lists, you will want to set clear, reachable targets and test various collection methods to find the winning strategy that will feed new users to your lists.
The messages you plan on sending will also play a part in choosing collection strategies. For example, if you’re only planning on using SMS for shipping and delivery notifications, then checkout collection will be enough for a start. If you’re planning on using text to convert potential and previous shoppers with promotional campaigns and launches, you will need a more robust strategy to grow your subscriber lists, including a combination of collection points.
Here are the best collection strategies you can use to encourage users to sign up for SMS notifications.
1. Traditional Popups
Using your email signup popups to collect phone numbers can be very effective while not putting a strain on budgets as it uses the existing features you have on your site. However, many eCommerce brands are reluctant to give up email collection real estate, so to speak, for text. A fix for this would be to include text sign-up in your existing popup, such as what SwimOutlet has done.
2. One-Click Opt-In Mobile Popups
Another way you can integrate your SMS subscriber list strategy without compromising email subscriptions is with popups on specific store pages that are generating most of your mobile traffic. You could then integrate a one-click opt-in mobile popup. This can be done with tools like Postscript – which also allows you to customize these popups to the specific pages customers are engaging on.
3. Checkout Capturing
Another way to grow your SMS marketing subscription lists is to request opt-in during the checkout process. You will want to put number collection early on in the process, similar to how you would email to optimize the checkout process. This will enable you to use cart abandonment SMS marketing to convert traffic and, as we learned from the earlier Verb Energy example, it can be beneficial.
Tap-to-text is an onsite button that will initiate a text message from a user’s phone when clicked from their mobile device. There are free click-to-text button creators, or you can use an app such as Postscript, which includes this feature.
5. Harness the Power of Your Email Segments
If you’re an established online store with a robust email subscription list, sending text signup via email is a great way to grow an SMS subscription list when you launch it. Plus, if you can include promotional incentives – even better!
Many all-in-one email and SMS marketing tools such as Yotpo’s SMSBump will offer features to help Shopify store owners turn their email mailing lists into SMS subscribers.
6. Invite Social Media Fans to Sign Up for Texts
Another way you can grow your SMS marketing subscription lists is by inviting your social media fans. A great way to do this with Facebook is by harnessing the power of Messenger and sending SMS opt-in messages to customers and potential shoppers you are already engaging with.
7. Checkout and Post-Purchase
Lastly, as we mentioned earlier, you can use your checkout or post-purchase communication to grow your subscriber lists for SMS marketing content.
Bonus Tip: Don’t forget that you will need to manage these lists like you would any marketing lists. This means segmenting, spring cleaning, and of course, respecting opt-outs.
Key Takeaway: Like with any new marketing strategy you implement, you should start small. Test one collection method until it is optimized and performing, and then see how you can expand. There isn’t one collection method, or a combination thereof, that suits every brand and niche. You need to test and tweak to find the options that get the best results for you.
eCommerce SMS Marketing Best Practices
Now let’s get into the fun part – making sure your SMS marketing performs at optimum ROAS. Here are some eCommerce SMS marketing best practices to help you streamline your texts.
1. Understand the Golden Rule of SMS Marketing: Compliance
Remember the legal nitty-gritty we mentioned at the beginning of the post? The first and most important rule of SMS marketing is ensuring that you are compliant. The worst thing you can do is include people who haven’t agreed to be subscribed to your SMS messages or disrespecting their privacy. The damage to the brand will dramatically outweigh any short-term gains.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to use SMS marketing to enforce your eCommerce brand identity, not distract from it. You can read more about how to strengthen your brand identity here.
2. Start Small and Manage Expectations
When implementing an SMS marketing strategy, you will want to start small and tweak your messaging and formatting until they reach peak performance. We suggest starting with automatic shipping and delivery update SMS messages first, while building your subscribers list on the side. You will then want to push new products and promotions specifically relevant to previous customers.
3. Whatever You Do, Don’t Spam!
A common mistake eCommerce brands make when starting out with SMS marketing is going text-crazy, primarily when they are not used to the short character limit of this platform. Additionally, over-texting can actually diminish your ROAS. So, the rule of thumb would be to keep it to a maximum of four marketing messages per month and hold off on sending marketing texts to new customers who are still getting shipping and delivery updates.
4. Pack SMS Marketing Campaigns Full of Value
When you do send marketing texts, make sure they offer value. Whether it is sending a product update or offering a promotion, your shoppers should feel that your messaging is talking directly to their current needs. The best way to achieve this is by segmenting your SMS subscribers into the smallest groups possible. Which brings us to the next SMS marketing tip…
5. Stay Relevant
If your segments are small and the message is data-driven, you will ensure your texts are highly relevant to the customer or potential shoppers receiving them and encourage them to engage. Having a good SMS marketing platform with fine-tuned targeting and personalization features will help you streamline this and make it more manageable as the number of your subscribers grows.
6. Test MMS (SMS with Images, Videos, and GIFs)
Integrating images and/or GIFs can help make more of an impact and encourage more click engagement. Additionally, when used strategically with smaller segments, images can make messages seem more personal and give your texts a more human, fun touch!
7. Decide on Long or Short Codes
SMS short codes are shorter, five- or six-digit numbers that are used to send the messages, while long codes are a standard phone number that is, more often than not, 10 digits. Short codes are either shared by multiple businesses or dedicated, allowing brands to get creative. While short codes are best for sending thousands of messages at one time, they can seem impersonal. Long codes tend to look more like an average person, and although they require an approval process, can be more effective in getting the results you want.
Key Takeaway: Like with any marketing, not only should you be aiming to test, tweak, and optimize at every stage of your strategy, but optimizing segmentation and personalization. Ultimately with text, as it goes directly to someone’s mobile, less is often more – so go slowly and start small.
Bonus: Choosing the Right SMS Marketing Tools and Platforms
When choosing the right SMS marketing platform, it is important to consider your budget, how much customization you are looking for, its mass texting features, and its automation capabilities. Ideally, you would want your eCommerce marketing platform to either offer SMS or integrate seamlessly with your new SMS marketing tools. Let’s look at some of the top SMS marketing apps, tools, and/or platforms to consider.
1. Services That Include Email and SMS
These are top marketing services that offer both email and SMS marketing services for your eCommerce brand:
2. Services That Include SMS Features Only
There you have it, your full guide to eCommerce SMS marketing and why you should seriously consider testing texts for your brand.
Have questions? Post them in the comment section below!