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Boost Customer Engagement with SMS Marketing

Text messages have a 90% open rate and a 209% higher response rate than phone, email, or Facebook. And while not everyone has a smartphone with internet access, 5 billion people in the world can send and receive SMS messages. 

Stats like these demonstrate how impactful texting is as a communication channel. This means SMS can be an effective tool for reaching your customers. Here’s why. 

With ecommerce becoming increasingly popular amongst consumers, we’ve seen a rise in mobile shopping (“mcommerce”) as well. In 2019, mcommerce comprised over a quarter of total ecommerce – more than doubling since 2015. With mcommerce becoming more and more significant, it’s important to recognize that your brand needs marketing efforts focused on attracting mobile shoppers. 

SMS marketing is the perfect channel for your mobile marketing. Because of this channel’s proximity to users and its brief format, SMS presents an opportunity for strong return on investment (ROI) by increasing brand awareness, boosting customer engagement, and ultimately generating more sales. 

Read on to discover the benefits of SMS marketing, how to craft the perfect text message for your audience, and SMS marketing best practices. 

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing is the practice of sending promotional campaigns or transactional messages for marketing purposes using short message services (SMS), also known as text messages. 

Text messages are short, written messages that are exchanged between mobile devices. Unlike instant messaging (like Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp), text messaging doesn’t require a WiFi or mobile data connection. 

Text messages usually trigger a ring or vibration on our mobile phones, as well as a push notification. And because texts are commonly used to communicate with friends and family, we’re very prone to opening them. As a result open rates for SMS are very high, making SMS marketing a powerful tool for communicating updates, alerts, and offers to your brand’s audience. 

How Does SMS Marketing Work? 

Before diving into SMS marketing it is important to understand how the channel works, and how it can be used to run effective campaigns. The first step is to understand the terminology and tools associated with SMS marketing. 

  • Short code

A short code is the phone number that is associated with your SMS marketing account. It is a special 5 or 6 digit telephone number that's shorter than a full phone number. Using a short code means your marketing team is not using their personal numbers to send and receive text messages from customers. 

Short codes are also useful because they are exactly that: short. A customer is much more likely to remember 5 or 6 digits compared to the classic 10 digit phone number. 

When possible, select a vanity short code for added memorability. This could mean selecting “12345” or selecting numbers that represent your brand’s name. Whenever possible, avoid a short code that is a jumble of irrelevant numbers. 

  • SMS keywords

An SMS keyword is a predefined word or phrase that your customers can use to respond to your SMS marketing campaigns. These keywords will help to measure the engagement and success of your campaign. 

For example, you might choose to run a flash sale offering your customers 10% off your products. In this case, the first text message would simply tell the user to text “YES” if they would like access to the coupon. In this example, “YES” is your keyword. This keyword serves the double purpose of allowing your customers to opt themselves in, and providing you a metric for measuring your campaign’s success.

  • Opting in and out 

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) applies to SMS marketing. You must have obtained consent before sending any messages that are commercial in nature and transmitted to an electronic address. 

This means that any SMS marketing your business is permission based. Obtaining permission for SMS communications can be done using the same methods you use to build your email marketing list. For example, add a phone number field to your newsletter opt-in form. 

Once customers have opted in, every text message you send should include a way for the user to opt out. For example, include an unsubscribe link in every text message, or a number the receiver can text STOP to.

  • Platforms for running SMS campaigns 

SMS marketing platforms allow you to manage campaigns from a desktop computer. Most of them include detailed analytics tools that allow you to track delivery, open rates, responses, opt-outs, conversions and more. 

If you’re a merchant using Shopify, you can go to the Shopify App Store to see the available SMS marketing apps. 

The Benefits of SMS Marketing 

SMS marketing takes advantage of brief, concise messaging and the fact that people today check their phones very often. And for customers, it’s a low effort communication channel because it requires just a moment for them to read and engage with an SMS. Here are some of SMS marketing’s other benefits:

  • SMS have a high open rate

SMS have an unusually high open rate. In fact, research shows that with text messaging campaigns you can achieve an open rate as high as 98%. That means that your text messages won’t sit unopened for days as is often the case with emails. 

The reason texts don’t go unread is because most of us are habitual texters. According to Pew Research, text messaging is the most common activity that people do on their phones. And while texting is typically linked to younger generations, it’s a communication channel that’s intergenerational. With texting, you’ll reach Millennials and Gen Z alike.

  • SMS is immediate, fast, and interactive

Research shows that 90% of received text messages are opened within 3 minutes. This means that text messages are perfect for sharing information with your customers quickly and effectively. Unlike with email, there’s a higher degree of certainty that the messages you send will be read - and they’ll be read right away. 

This makes SMS a communication channel primed for notifying your customers of time-sensitive offers, order statuses, or other important updates. And, despite its brevity, text messaging is a great channel for engagement. You can prompt your audience to engage with your brand by responding to your texts using keywords, or by including links for them to click. 

  • There’s a personal touch to SMS

Text messages are typically exchanged between friends and family, and so this form of communication is associated with intimacy and familiarity. This means that users will take note of a text message push notification on their phone, more so than an email. It’s one of the reasons why SMS has such a high open rate. 

Because of this intimacy, SMS can leverage the less formal tone that users are accustomed to in the texting format. In combination with personalization tokens, you can create messaging that is tailored specifically to your audience, resulting in their attention and action. When done right, you can achieve an SMS response rate as high as 45%. 

  • Like email, SMS contact lists can be segmented

80% of people perceive customer experience to be as important as a brand’s services or products. To provide that perfect customer experience, you’ll want to segment your SMS contact lists. 

You can segment your SMS contact lists by geographic location, purchase history, abandoned shopping cart, or another metric. The key is to segment your SMS contacts in a way that allows you to personalize the text messages so that they provide value to those who receive them.

What Should SMS Marketing Be Used For?

When deciding whether SMS marketing is the appropriate channel to use for a campaign, there are two points to keep in mind. First, remember that SMS marketing is for communicating concise and brief messages to your audience. This differentiates the channel from other marketing tools that are long-form, like email newsletters. 

Second, remember that SMS marketing should only be used for a good reason. Too many messages will burn out the effectiveness of this channel. If your customers are receiving too many SMS from you, they won’t hesitate to text STOP. The risk is a high percentage of unsubscribes.

With these best practises in mind, let's break down the types of campaigns that SMS marketing is best used for: 

  • Flash sales 

If you’re planning a flash sale, SMS marketing can be used to quickly inform and promote the sale to your customers. A brief text message can be used to either notify your SMS audience in advance of the sale, or at the start of it. Here are some examples: 

- “QUICK! 40% off sale starts at 5pm tonight, ends at midnight EST. Use this link for your special discount: oursite.com/special” 

- “FLASH SALE starts Wednesday at 3pm EST. Don’t miss out!”

- “BLACK FRIDAY SALE STARTS NOW. Click here to start shopping.”

You can add extra value for your SMS audience by including special benefits for them. For example, include the option for users to follow a link and set a reminder to be notified at the start of the sale. Or, offer them an exclusive coupon for an extra 10% off the sale. 

  • Automated drip campaigns

Drip campaigns aren’t just for email marketing. This communication strategy relies on pre-written messages (“drips”) that are automatically sent to customers over time. Setting up a drip campaign for SMS should have a well-defined goal. The goal might be to convert a new subscriber into a customer, or the goal might be to collect data that enables you to segment your contact lists. 

Whatever your goal, drip campaigns over SMS can yield a high return on investment thanks to the strong open rate of text messaging campaigns. 

  • Order alerts 

SMS marketing is particularly efficient for communicating order status to your customers. On checkout, prompt your customers to opt in to SMS alerts so that automated updates about their order can be sent straight to their phone. 

Using SMS to let your customers know when an order has been fulfilled, shipped, delivered, or delayed is a fantastic way to maintain and build customer loyalty and trust. Here is an example:

- “Great news! Your order has shipped. You can expect to receive it in 3-5 days.”

- “Hi <customer name>, your order is on its way but expect delays. Your new estimated delivery date is <date>. Contact us at <phone number> if you have any questions.”

You can further use order alert SMS to incentivize the customer to return to your store by adding a discount code to the alert. Here is an example: 

- “Great news! Your order has shipped. You can expect to receive it in 3-5 days. Bonus: Get 30% of your next order with code THIRTY.” 

The bottom line is that customers like to be well informed about the status of their order. One survey found that 81% of customers will track their order status two or more times during the fulfilment process. Instead of having your customers manually seek out that information, gain their trust by sending them SMS updates upfront. 

  • Customer feedback

Text messages are useful for gathering customer feedback because they are brief and to the point. A customer is likely to respond “yes” or “no” to a text message asking how happy they are with an order because the response is quick and simple. 

You can also use customer feedback SMS to to link out to a longer survey or prompt your customers to leave a review for a product. Here is an example of a review prompt:  

- “Hi <customer name>, do you have a sec? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know about your experience with <product name> so far by sharing a review. Click here to get started. We appreciate your feedback!”

Gathering customer feedback can help you measure customer satisfaction, and discover how to improve your products or services for an improved customer experience and better customer retention. And, asking for feedback shows your audience that you care about their experience. Using SMS marketing you can strike a balance between asking for feedback without a large time commitment. 

  • Cart abandonment, reorder or re-stock reminders

Offering SMS notifications for abandoned carts, re-stocked items, or reorder reminders has the double benefit of supporting customer retention and building customer loyalty and trust. An automated SMS can inform your customers that a favorite item of theirs is back in stock, or that it might be time to reorder an item that is on the verge of running out. Here are some examples: 

- Oops! Looks like you got interrupted while shopping our basic tees. That’s okay! Click here to pick up where you left off.

- Hi <customer name>! Are you running low on cat food? Click here to reorder your furry friend’s favorite kibble!

- Great news! Your favorite basic tee is back in stock. Click here to order!

Abandoned cart, reorder, and re-stock SMS notifications offer valuable convenience to your customers, and have the power to boost sales through customer retention.

How to Craft the Perfect SMS Marketing Campaign

Like with all communication channels, SMS marketing has unique best practises that you’ll want to adhere to for a high return on investment. Here are some key best practises to help you craft the perfect SMS campaign.

  • Start with strategic intent. Your SMS marketing campaign, and every text message that is sent as part of it, should have a defined goal. An explicitly set and explicitly measurable goal is the key to understanding the value of your SMS marketing efforts.

  • Personalize your messages. When customers receive messages that are tailored specifically to them, they’re more likely to pay attention and take action. Use personalization tokens and contact list segmentation to ensure your SMS communications are properly tailored.

  • Keep your messages short. There’s a limit of 160 characters per text message, which means your SMS messages need to be short and to the point. Striking a balance between brevity and value can be difficult, so never rush your SMS campaigns. 

  • It’s all about timing. Similar to email marketing, there are optimal times to send your SMS communications. Research the best time of day to send text messages to your target audience. For example, if you are a direct to consumer grocery brand, sending SMS around meal times makes sense.
  • Never send without permission. Remember that Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) applies to SMS marketing. You must have obtained consent before sending any messages that are commercial in nature and transmitted to an electronic address. 

SMS Marketing on Shopify 

Getting started with SMS marketing on Shopify is easy thanks to the selection of apps available to merchants on the Shopify app store. 

The first step is to select the right app for your Shopify store and install the app. Once installed, you’ll sync your Shopify store data. With the data synced, you can begin setting up text marketing automations like abandoned cart recovery, shipping notifications, welcome series, and loyalty offers to start generating revenue immediately.

We’ve rounded up our favorite SMS marketing tools for you to consider for your Shopify store: 

Postscript provides you the tools to build a TCPA compliant list of SMS subscribers, automate your text marketing, create segments using your Shopify store data, send SMS campaigns, track revenue and ROI, marketing compliance, and it is integratable with Shopify Plus. Postscript will also pair well with the rest of your tech stack, including support apps, email marketing platforms, and more.

SMS Bump comes from our partners at Yotpo. It is built to enable TCPA and GDPR compliance. The app allows you to create both SMS and MMS (texts with images) marketing campaigns using automated SMS flows. You can also use SMS Bump for SMS segmentation, A/B testing, Shopify POS integration, opt out lists, and more.  The app Integrates with all major Shopify apps for Reviews, UGC, Loyalty, ESPs, Subscription services, help desks, and more.

Our partner Octane AI offers a Facebook Messenger and SMS marketing automation platform for Shopify and Shopify Plus. This platform will personalize messages and coordinate your campaigns for both messenger and SMS, and it is highly integrated. You can use Octane AI to set up SMS campaigns, automatically answer customer questions, run and schedule marketing campaigns with Facebook Ads, track analytics, and more. 

Our partner Klaviyo offers marketing automation that gives you the ability to deliver personalized and memorable experiences that lead to high-value relationships with customers. Along with SMS services, Klaviyo provides personalized automation across the entire customer journey, social advertising, targeted email campaigns, and more. They are known for their unparalleled data science which will save you time and help your business grow. 

Attentive is a comprehensive text message marketing platform that provides you the tools you need to engage with your mobile-first audience. They offer text message marketing tools that include a dedicated client strategy team, key performance metrics, and access to extras like best practices content, a design team, and integration engineering resources. They are focused on compliance, and reaching subscribers with personalized text messages across the customer lifecycle. 

Consider Adding SMS Marketing to Your Omnichannel Strategy

Recent integrations between Shopify and social media platforms like Pinterest and Facebook are introducing in-app shopping experiences. This means that mobile shoppers will be able to browse your Shopify store on mobile with ease, making purchases without ever leaving the platform. 

It makes sense for marketers to connect with customers in the same medium that they use to shop, in this case, mobile. This increases the likelihood of conversions because the journey from marketing to purchasing has been streamlined. 

While email marketing and social media marketing continue to be valuable channels for digital marketing campaigns, it is worth considering adding SMS marketing to your communication strategy. SMS campaigns can be integrated into your omnichannel marketing strategy as a channel dedicated to reaching your growing mobile audience.

Make SMS marketing part of your larger growth strategy. Contact our team to find out how we can help you grow your business. 

More from Diff Agency: 

Why You Shouldn’t Set and Forget Your Marketing Automation Efforts

Connect With Your Customers through Shopify Email Marketing

Shorten the Path to Purchase with Shopify and Branded Facebook Shops

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