SMS marketing is gaining more and more traction as a way to communicate important updates to customers about their orders, keep shoppers engaged, and move them through the sales funnel.
Not only is SMS quick and easy to set up, but statistics suggest customers prefer text updates over email.
Text marketing creates a branded ecosystem that can help you get the right message to your customers in the right way, depending on where they are in the purchase process.
Here’s what you need to know when setting up SMS marketing for your ecommerce business:
5 Steps to launching SMS marketing for ecommerce
Thinking of adding SMS marketing to your strategy? Here’s what you need to know about getting started.
1. Research different platforms
There are many platforms out there designed to help you send text messages to your customers.
Here’s what you should look for when you’re comparing platforms:
There are strict laws governing how branded text messages are sent.
You want to be careful to stay within these, because not all platforms are proactive about it.
It’s important to learn how a service handles things like importing contacts, managing opt outs, and what other types of businesses they allow to use their software.
Scalable options for your business
You’ll want a platform that scales as you grow, both in terms of how many people you can text at once and how many of your employees can access your account.
Some companies are not set up to do extremely large text blasts, so it’s important to understand their ability to support your future needs.
Upfront short code pricing
Your short code is the number you use to send and receive text messages at scale. You can either share a short code with other businesses through your platform, or pay more to obtain a dedicated short code — which can either be randomly assigned to you or can be chosen by you for a higher price.
You’ll want to be clear about what kind of short code you’re getting, and know any additional costs associated with it.
No keyword restrictions
If you’re on a shared short code when texting for business, there’s a chance one of the businesses using the short code has already reserved the keyword you want.
In this case you’d either have to choose a different word or a new provider. Try to find a provider large enough to have multiple short code options, so you don’t run into this problem.
Automation and scheduling features
You’ll want to automate campaigns and schedule messages so you’re not sending all of your mass text messages manually. You’ll also want a service that allows you to select the day and time to send your text message, and that can handle automatically recurring messages.
For example, if you know you’re going to be sending reminders about a month-long sale once a week for the next month, you’re better off scheduling them now.
Look for a platform that can handle both basic and advanced SMS marketing automations.
Even if you don’t feel advanced yet, you could get to that level fast!
Easy to use at the office or on-the-go
You don’t want a platform that’s challenging to navigate, or that will take you a lot of time to learn. Look for companies that provide one-on-one training to help you get started, especially if you’ve never done SMS marketing before.
Also, it could be helpful to find a platform that uses a mobile app. This is especially important it you travel often for business, or spend time outside of the office.
It’s not always convenient to manage your campaigns from a computer; if you can access them through a mobile app, you have more flexibility.
Integrates seamlessly with other services
It’s important that your text message marketing platform can integrate with other crucial pieces of your online business. For example, you may want a platform that can automatically send texts to confirm shipping when someone purchases your product online.
These pieces of the puzzle come together through integrations, so make sure your platform can integrate with companies like Zapier, for an all purpose solution.
2. Choose a keyword
Once you’ve chosen a platform, it’s time to set up your keyword. Your keyword is what customers will text to join your SMS list. Here are some tips for picking a strong keyword:
- Don’t choose anything too generic. If you pick a common word, you run the risk of people joining your text list by mistake. Try to pick something that’s unique to your company or campaign.
- Don’t get too fancy. While you don’t want your keyword to be common, you also don’t want it to be hard to remember or spell — that may prevent a customer from successfully signing up for your list. Definitely stay away from words that are long, or have ambiguous spellings.
- Pick a strategy for multiple campaigns. If your online store has more than one distinct product, you’ll want to decide how you segment your list. Some businesses opt to choose different keywords for certain products, while most generally choose one word but segment that list and target each demographic with unique offers. For example, let’s say you sell bikes. If you record data about which of your customers prefer mountain bikes to road bikes, you can choose to only text mountain bike lovers with a special offer when you have new mountain bikes in stock.
3. Set up an auto-reply
When people opt-in to join your list, they’ll automatically receive a text from you that needs to convey a few important facts.
You can create an offer, or just a confirmation message that lets people know they’ve successfully joined your list — but what’s most important to include in any auto-reply are some compliance details.
Sending SMS messages in bulk is federally regulated. To stay compliant, make sure you let people know how they can opt out, how often they can expect messages from you, and what the message and data rates could be. Not adhering to the rules could cause your short code to be shut down.
It is also a common best practice to include a valuable incentive in your auto-reply.
This gets people excited about joining your text list and immediately proves its value.
Thanks for joining the [STORE NAME] VIP list! Redeem this offer for free shipping on your next order of $50 or more. Redeem: [LINK]. Expires 3/17. 5 Msgs/month. Reply STOP to cancel, HELP for help. Msg and data rates may apply. Terms: [LINK]
It’s a good idea to keep the offer and the compliance statement separated by a space in your auto-reply.
Here’s an example of what it could look like when you type it out:
In this example, the SMS platform created a dynamic expiration date so the auto-reply can automatically update and stay relevant.
4. Grow your SMS list
Once you have your auto-reply set up, you’ll want to focus on getting people to join your list.
It’s extremely important to ensure you’re only texting people who have explicitly opted in to receive text message marketing from your brand.
Because the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Privacy Act) laws strictly forbid the sending of promotional text messages without an opt in, it can land you in some serious hot water if you’re careless about how you subscribe people to your text lists.
The good news is that getting people to opt in is isn’t that hard. Here are a few ways you can start gathering subscribers for your SMS list, using your online store:
- Create an opt-in box at checkout. Give customers the option of signing up for text messages from you while they’re checking out. They could find this option particularly helpful if you’re offering to send them information about the status of their order, or shipping updates.
- Offer the option to opt-in on your website. You can create a form you link to directly from your website that allows customers to opt-in to your text list. A simple, branded form could look like this (keep in mind that you can add in as many fields as you’d like to better segment your audience).
- Encourage people to opt-in through email and social media. Use your other marketing channels to give your text list a boost! That way you have customers communicating with you through whichever means is most convenient to them.
- Create a text-to-win contest. An easy to enter contest with a great incentive can help drive sign ups to your text list quickly. You can use an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) to add photos, videos and GIFs into your contest messaging. Plus, you can send a message to all the entrants of the contest (even the losers) encouraging them to check out your store. Here’s what a text-to-win contest that drive sign ups for your list could look like:
5. Send exclusive offers
Once you have a list and you know what motivates your customers, start creating campaigns to send exclusive or limited time offers that will encourage conversions.
You can create mobile coupons that let customers know about sales, upcoming holiday events or exclusive offers — just for being on your text list.
A simple special offer can look like this:
You can also couple a special offer with a survey. That way you’re providing your customers with an incentive to share information about their experience, which can provide you with valuable feedback moving forward.
With a survey, you can create open ended questions, numerical response or multiple choice. After surveying your customers you’ll be able to follow up with them on any issues, or segment them based on their preferences.
Here’s an example of a survey question and what it looks like when your subscribers receive it as a text:
Ready to launch an SMS marketing program for your online store?
Here’s what you should know before you send your first mobile offers
- Watch your language. Legally, you can’t advertise controlled substances via text message, and you should stay away from profanities, as certain words are also not allowed on the short codes.
- Create a strong incentive. If you’re approaching customers with an exclusive offer, you want it to be a great one so they’ll find true value in subscribing to your list. Just letting them know you have new products available isn’t enough. Instead, give them a discount or free shipping as a limited time offer to encourage them to take immediate action.
- Personalize your messages. Using key data you already have to send personal messages can be a great way to craft texts that are more applicable to your customers. Sending messages with your customer’s name in the copy is a great place to start, but you can even take this strategy one step further and send them offers based on their last order, location or shopping preferences.
Is your business ready to integrate mass text messages?
SMS marketing is taking off, but is your business ready to incorporate it? Here’s how you can determine if it’s a fit for your marketing strategy.
Here are some reasons why SMS marketing might be the best option for your business.
Open rates are through the roof
Research shows open rates for branded text messages are as high as 98 percent.
People tend to prefer text messages to other forms of communication. Most carry their phones with them everywhere, making opening a text more convenient than accessing their email.
Plus, it takes way less time to reply to a text than it does to answer a phone call and have a conversation.
Easy to get started
You don’t need a lot of technical knowledge to set up a text message marketing campaign, especially if you find a platform with an intuitive user interface.
Text messages are short and to the point, so you don’t need a lot of writing experience to craft one that will work, unlike email newsletters or blogs.
It’s also simple to change your strategy on the fly, as you don’t need to create complicated processes in order to get texts drafted and start testing your results.
Customizable for your business needs
You can personalize your text messages to speak directly to your customers, and you can send multiple types of texts depending on your marketing strategy and goals.
SMS marketing is not a one size fits all approach. It truly allows you to tweak your message so it perfectly matches your brand. Plus, it allows you to treat each customer like an individual.
You can even track each customer’s unique behavior. One easy way is through personal promo codes. Generate a unique promo code for each individual so that you can collect data on when they redeemed your promotion.
Even though SMS marketing is promising for many companies, there are some drawbacks to consider.
You’ll need to spend time growing your list
If you’re just getting started, it could take some time before your list has grown to a healthy size where you can begin to see meaningful conversions from it.
If you’re looking to press a button and start reaping rewards immediately, you might get frustrated because have to be patient with the process.
It’s harder to track demographics
If you use social media for most of your marketing, you’re probably familiar with how easy it is to see where your customers are coming from and who they are. With text message marketing, you have less data.
You might need to combine this method with others to build a complete customer profile, or survey your text list so you can begin to gather more information about each individual.
Non-compliant platforms could mean your messages get dropped
Choosing the right platform is really important, because if the one you go with is ever found to be out of compliance with federal laws, their short codes could be temporarily shut down—which means your text messages won’t get delivered. You could also open yourself up to a potential lawsuit.
If your texts aren’t getting delivered, all your hard work goes to waste. So make sure you sign up with a compliant platform before you get going.
Text message marketing can help your online store grow
Communicating with customers through text message is personal and convenient.
Open rates and click through rates on branded text messages are showing that customers respond to this style of communication, and it provides you with a valuable way to form connections with customers that can be difficult to forge as an online business.
When you add text messages to your ecommerce marketing strategy, you have an easy way to stay in touch, foster customer loyalty, and let shoppers know about what you have going on that might be of interest to them.
Jolene Latimer is the Director of Content at SlickText, a company helping organizations both big and small enhance their communication and marketing strategies using text messages.