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Ecommerce store owners know how essential traffic is to the success of their online business. And while we at Build Grow Scale specialize in and stress the vital importance of optimization, it won’t matter how perfectly your store is optimized if it’s not getting any visitors.

If you’ve been following this three-part article series, you know that we’ve discussed email marketing and Instagram marketing as top methods for driving traffic to your store. That means it’s officially time for the third strategy: SMS (text) marketing.

SMS (Text) Messaging Traffic

SMS marketing is far from a groundbreaking or new concept. But although it’s been a niche channel for some time, we’ve seen more brands capitalizing on this channel over the last couple years than ever before:

  • Of all the SMS marketing or SMS abandoned cart messages that ecommerce stores send out, 98% are read by the end of the day!
  • While plenty of people don’t have access to the internet via smartphone, 5 billion people are able to exchange SMS messages.
  • As long as consumers opt in, 75% of them don’t mind if brands send them text messages.
  • The response rate to text messages is 209% higher than to other forms of communication (such as that via phone, email, or Facebook).
  • People read 90% of the text messages they receive within just a few minutes.
  • Email marketing campaigns have an engagement rate that is six to eight times less than SMS-based marketing campaigns.

While this was the case in one season, it’s indicative of trends we’ve been seeing year-round. SMS is experiencing a rebirth, and marketers are seeing the value that this channel has to offer. And today, we’re going to explore just what that value is and how to get it for your own ecommerce store.

What is SMS marketing?

Brands use SMS (short message service) marketing, also known as text message marketing, to connect with their customers.

SMS differs from email in that the messages are very short, limited to 160 characters, and have more immediate delivery. The message appears on your customer’s mobile phone just seconds after it’s sent, often giving your customer a push notification that it’s arrived.

The top 3 benefits of SMS marketing

There are a few aspects of SMS marketing that make it stand out as a unique channel and give brands who use it correctly a competitive edge.

1. SMS is fast

SMS campaigns are received instantly, and most importantly, they’re read almost immediately as well. It’s no surprise that 90% of SMS are read in the first three minutes after receipt. This makes SMS marketing campaigns great for hyper-time-sensitive offers.

2. SMS earns higher open rates than email

A customer has to go to an inbox for email messages, but an SMS sends an instant push notification to a customer’s phone. If customers don’t have push set up for their email inboxes, your email campaign will have to wait. The SMS notification stays in place until the message is read. This means that a customer is more likely to at least open your SMS.

3. SMS gets a higher engagement rate

SMS marketing campaigns are eye-catchers: 70% of customers say that SMS is an attention-grabber. SMS is typically read even before it’s opened, when the notification appears on the screen. Not only is SMS opened more frequently, it also earns more clicks on average over email.

The 4 SMS Best Practices

While SMS isn’t a new channel, marketers are only now beginning to refine it. There’s a bit more of a learning curve than for best practices already carved out for email marketing, because there isn’t a large margin for error with SMS. Given the proximity of SMS for customers, it’s important to get it right the first time around. Luckily for you, we’ve got some best practices to keep your SMS marketing campaigns relevant.

1. Get permission (and keep it)

Just as with email marketing, it’s important to get explicit permission from your customer for SMS marketing. This is simple enough, as you can add the option of including a phone number with your newsletter subscription field.

The real challenge, however, will be in keeping the permission you’ve tentatively earned. First, start off with full disclosure: tell your customer what kind of text messages they should expect to receive from you.

Second, don’t abuse the permission granted to you! SMS is intimate, immediate, and overt about getting your customer’s attention. Use your SMS marketing campaigns for time-sensitive and critical information. Overusing this channel is the fastest way to kill it for your customers.

On that note, include a way for customers to opt out with every message. Just like email, you need to make sure you give customers an unsubscribe link or a number they can text STOP to. Sending messages to people who don’t want them does nothing for you or your brand.

2. Use an SMS marketing tool

SMS marketing might get you excited, but before you whip out your phone and start sending manual messages to your customers, know that you should really be using SMS marketing software such as Carts Guru or Postscript.

A great SMS marketing tool can help you really nail your strategy in several ways:

  • You can automate your SMS marketing messages and send several at once. Certain SMS marketing tools will allow you to add SMS directly to your email automation workflows, saving you time. SMS campaigns can be triggered the same way emails are, with the same level of segmentation that allows you to target your campaigns.
  • An SMS marketing tool provides you with important metrics and reporting so you can see exactly how impactful your campaigns are. With that data, you can adjust your campaigns and try different tactics to get the highest ROI possible.

3. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point

Not only should you keep your SMS campaigns few and far between, but limits on characters and your customers’ attention spans means you need to get to the point—quickly.

If you have an offer, lead with that. If you have important information about their order, include it in the message. Always include a link so they can get more detailed information about the offer or update you’ve sent.

4. Personalize your SMS marketing campaigns

While the ultimate goal is to make sure your SMS campaigns are relevant, it’s even better when they’re personalized.

I mentioned earlier that a great SMS marketing tool will allow you to use segmentation for your best SMS campaigns. If you can target them the way you do your emails, you’ll already be one step ahead of your competition.

SMS is a more intimate channel, so maintain that closeness with your customer by using their first name or personalizing your messages in some other way, such as by sending offers that are relevant based on location or previous purchases. This helps build and maintain the relationship you have with your customers.

This also means you have to think about when your customer will receive an SMS. Remember, many people have their text message notifications enabled on their phones, so sending a text message at 3 a.m. is going to result in a very grumpy customer.

SMS cart abandonment

Cart abandonment is the bane of any ecommerce seller. It’s easy to see why—we’ve found that with almost 7 of every 10 carts abandoned for any number of reasons. Normally, a cart abandonment email is hailed as the best response to this phenomenon. But it’s made even better when you combine it with an SMS.

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Understand your channels’ strengths and weaknesses: SMS is well adapted for immediacy, while email is for information. Send an SMS campaign to capture your customers’ attention, and add the photos of the abandoned products in the email follow-up to remind them of what they’re missing.

This combination can be super effective, but limit your SMS to one per workflow for each abandoned cart. It’s great for that initial message, but you don’t want to overdo it.

Key takeaways for SMS

SMS marketing can add immense value to your ecommerce strategy when done correctly. Here are the big takeaways for using SMS marketing for ecommerce:

  • Get permission from your customers to use SMS, and keep that trust by using SMS only when absolutely necessary. Sending SMS outside of the time frames or topics you stated when acquiring the number will lower the trust level.
  • Use an SMS marketing tool to automate your campaigns and keep your messages relevant.
  • Think about the value you add to your customer with your SMS campaigns, and get to the point quickly.
  • Personalize your SMS marketing campaigns to build and maintain a relationship with your customers.
  • Use one SMS per workflow for things like Welcome, Birthday, and cart abandonment workflows.
  • Use SMS for time sensitive offers and the most special deals you’re proposing.

As long as you follow best practices and use SMS when it’s going to make the biggest impact, you can drastically improve your ROI. With these takeaways, you’ll be able to make SMS marketing work for you and your ecommerce store.

Wrap-Up

Generating traffic is the very first step toward making money. But sending cold or generic traffic to your website is not the answer—it will convert horribly. That’s why you need to implement a strategic approach and try a few of the primary ways of developing traffic sources that we’ve discussed over the course of this three-part article series. Now the only thing left to do is implement! Trust me … you’ll be glad you did.

Resources

Daly, F. (2018). SMS vs. email and apps: Customer engagement infograph
https://www.voicesage.com/blog/sms-compared-to-email-infograph/

Dobrilova, T. (2019). 35 must-know SMS marketing statistics in 2020. https://techjury.net/stats-about/sms-marketing-statistics/#gref

Mohsin, M. (2020). 10 Instagram stats every marketer should know in 2020.
https://www.oberlo.com/blog/instagram-stats-every-marketer-should-know

Textlocal. (2017). The state of SMS 2017.
http://wvw.textlocal.com/the-state-of-sms-2017

Tode, C. (n.d.). SMS has eight times the response rate of email: Study.
https://www.retaildive.com/ex/mobilecommercedaily/sms-has-eight-times-the-response-rate-of-email-study