The word of ecommerce is absolutely exploding. Every day there are hundreds of new online stores that are popping up around the world and for good reason…that’s where the money is. In fact, over half of all internet users somewhat regularly shop online. Almost 75% of all millennials prefer to shop online over an in-store experience.
There’s gold in ecommerce, but where there’s opportunity, you’ll find competition.
Because of the ecom market saturation in various industries, merchants are forced to be on point with their digital marketing efforts and get creative with how they drive traffic and conversions. One channel that is becoming quite popular is SMS marketing.
What is SMS Marketing?
SMS marketing (you guessed it) is simply marketing to your customers via text messaging. Its effectiveness is incredible, though. It allows you to cut through the clutter of most traditional marketing channels by engaging your customers where they’re spending more and more time…their mobile devices. If you sit back and think about it, not many people ignore their texts. In fact, over 90% of all text messages are read within 5 minutes.
While text messaging is traditionally reserved for communicating with friends and family, consumers find real value in allowing their favorite brands to communicate specific types of messages to them via SMS.
This opens up a whole new channel of communication and strategy that ecommerce merchants are using—snagging the attention of their customers and delivering value to their fingertips.
Now initially, you might think “I don’t want MY phone blowing up with text messages from everyone I shop with.” Fortunately, while that’s the way of email, the good news is that SMS marketing is far from that.
Text marketing is permission-based and requires explicit consent before any messages can be sent. Furthermore, there can be serious legal consequences for sending unsolicited texts. This puts you in the clear for adopting this powerful marketing channel as long as your customers opt in.
Why You Should Care
As previously stated, owners of ecommerce stores need to use every digital marketing method in the book to grow their business and win online. Many are experiencing huge success with SMS marketing. While there are many reasons why text messaging should be the next weapon in your marketing arsenal, here are a few key reasons why this should have your attention.
The Open Rates Are Incredible
Total open rates for text messages hover around 99% and the majority of that happens within the first 5 minutes—that’s insane! Compare this to email marketing where you’re likely seeing a 25% open rate at best. There’s no contest. If you’re looking to drive immediate traffic, it’s silly not to adopt SMS marketing.
Click-Through Rates Soar Over Email
Let’s draw the same comparisons with click through rates. The average click through rate for an SMS marketing campaign is around 36%. Compare that to email click through rates and it falls to the floor at just above 3%. Some ecommerce site owners have actually claimed they split large text messaging lists up into segments, as single large text blasts drive too much traffic at once.
It’s All Mobile
The world lives on their mobile devices. Popular search engines like Google have directly come out and said they are now prioritizing a mobile experience above desktop. Because SMS is still the number 1 form of mobile communication today, there couldn’t be a better channel to engage with your customers.
It’s Still Fresh and Untapped
While many ecommerce sites are absolutely crushing it with text marketing, it still hasn’t hit critical mass. Many people still haven’t even considered it. This gives you the advantage over many competitors who likely haven’t taken the time to dive in, or who are ignorant about the undeniable ROI.
How Ecommerce Uses SMS Marketing
So, we’ve made it abundantly clear why you’re missing the train if SMS marketing isn’t in your toolbox of marketing channels. With that said however, it’s helpful to see how existing ecom merchants are leveraging text message marketing in various capacities. Here are 7 actionable ideas for putting rubber to the road and putting a strategy in place.
Grow Your List at Checkout
You may have asked yourself, “how will I get people to join my VIP text list as an online store?” Texting to join has always been the number one way that people subscribe to SMS marketing lists and the process is quite simple. When you launch a text program, you will create what’s called a “keyword.” It’s a word or phrase that people will text to a short phone number called a short code.
When people text that keyword, they are instantly subscribed to your list and will receive a customizable auto-response. This response simply confirms their subscription and should deliver on some sort of incentive created for subscribers to join in the first place.
While that method for opting people in works extremely well, what seems to work even better for ecom sites is opting people in at checkout. This involves capturing people’s mobile numbers when completing their transaction. Generally, you’ll have a box that they can check to opt into receiving SMS marketing which should contain some specific compliance verbiage to make the opt in compliant with mobile carrier guidelines.
Opting in at checkout works well for many reasons and offers additional benefits. Some of those include:
- Every customer has to go through the checkout form and thus is presented with an opportunity to opt in front and center.
- Opt ins through the checkout flow allow you to capture additional data about who’s subscribing such as their name, last purchase date, order values, and items purchased. This rich data will allow you to segment your subscribers based on a multitude of different things and help you target them at a more granular level.
- Customers who elect to receive your marketing can be instantly subscribed if the SMS marketing service that you choose offers integration options with your ecommerce solution or provides an open API.
One Off Promos
Sending one off SMS promotions is probably the most common and well known use case for text marketing. It’s pretty straight forward too. You’re simply doing a text blast to your subscriber list with some type of offer that drives people to your website. The key to maximizing your success here is to do a few specific things.
- Add time pressure to your offer. create a sense of urgency by having your offer expire. This will cause more people to take immediate action when your message lands on their phone.
- Provide a direct link to the product or product category that you’re looking to push. You want to make things as easy as possible for your customers. Take the hard work of site navigation out and send them directly to where they need to be.
- Personalize your message. If you’re opting people into your text list at checkout, then it’s likely that you’re capturing their name as well. By addressing each person in your text blast by name, you are getting even more personal, which grabs additional attention and pushes engagement levels even higher.
In addition to crafting a great message, it’s important to keep in mind how often you’re texting your customers. Show respect by not texting them every day and only do a text blast when you have something of real value to send out. This may include additional discounts for sale items, free shipping, and coupon codes.
The key to being successful with SMS can boil down to value. Make sure you are bringing value with each message. This is one of the core best practices for SMS marketing.
Unique Coupon Codes
Sending unique coupon codes is a home run for ecommerce. Depending on your SMS provider, you will have the ability to provide each subscriber in your text blast with a unique coupon code that can only be used once. This helps to prevent against offer abuse and makes people feel like they’re part of an ultra-special group that has access to offers that other people don’t. When that light goes off and they understand that they are entitled to something valuable, you’ll have these people on your text list forever.
Take the personal touch to a whole other level by offering happy birthday text messages to your customers. Nothing says you’re paying attention like scoring them a unique deal on their special day.
In almost all cases, you should be able to automate this entire process. Plus, the engagement from these messages alone are incredibly high. Combine this with your unique coupon codes to ensure that these rewards are not shared among friends and you’ll see these bring value every day.
Automated Purchase Reminders
Do you offer products that people return to purchase on a regular basis? Setting up automated SMS reminders can be really helpful for reminding people to replenish their stock on certain items.
If you can set up an integration between your ecommerce site and your mass texting service, you should not only be able to automate these messages, but also have them intelligently send based upon customer’s last purchase date. This is key. The more relevant and personal you can make your messages, the higher the engagement, click through, and conversion you’re going to see.
To take it a step further, if your ecommerce solution offers the ability to identify abandoned carts, you can set up text message alerts here as well. If you’re on your game, you’ll already be doing this via email. However, sending a personalized text reminding them to pick up where they left off is powerful. If you make this one happen, be sure to provide a direct link to their cart so they don’t have to navigate to your site to continue down the funnel.
Shipping notifications are an easy one. Each message brings value—especially if you’re including links with delivery status updates. While these messages probably aren’t marketing related, it helps your customers to become more comfortable communicating with your brand via text.
Additionally, your SMS service should allow people to respond to any of your outbound text messages. This gives you the opportunity to provide support in a really unique way. Remember, great customer experiences equal raving fans. If you can leverage SMS to provide a new level of personal support, people will share those great experiences with others.
A less common way that ecommerce sites are using SMS marketing is for feedback collection. It’s amazing how many merchants who already are using text messaging look past this as a source for capturing such valuable data. Some text message marketing services offer survey features that allow you to easily conduct automated, multi-question feedback loops.
When surveying your customers via text, there are 2 key areas that you’ll want to focus on when setting up your post-purchase SMS surveys…
- Getting feedback on the purchase experience as a whole. This includes everything from how easy it was to navigate your site, to your product availability, and ease of check out. Once a person has elected to receive texts from you, it’d be a good idea to set up an SMS survey to auto drip out 10 to 20 minutes after they’ve completed their purchase. This gives them some “breathing room” and doesn’t make them feel bombarded. Be sure to keep your survey brief, focused, and contextual. You, as the merchant, need to be getting solid, actionable feedback from each respondent to make this really worth it. Additionally, you may want to reward each person for taking your survey to boost participation.
- Capturing product reviews. Anyone in ecommerce knows that product reviews are vital, especially if you‘re selling on Amazon. The number of quality product reviews from real buyers can have a direct impact on people’s purchase decisions. Why not capture that data via SMS? What you can do is provide a card in each order that is shipped with a clear call to action asking your customer to text “XYZ” to 12345 to provide a product review. You can place that card right on top so that it’s front and center when they open the box. Furthermore, you can incentivize them to take the survey by delivering a unique coupon code once completed and create a great excuse for them to come back again soon.
If you really zoom out and look at how versatile SMS marketing really is, you’ll begin to realize that the 7 ideas above are just the tip of the iceberg. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to find what works best for your brand and customer base. Whatever strategies you adopt, the core principles remain…stay creative and provide value.
Adopting a text messaging program is not hard nor a large investment. It’s certainly worth spending some time reviewing various SMS marketing services, though. There is a wide range of quality in different providers and some have key features that others don’t. The steps are simple:
- Determine the different ways that you want to use SMS to connect and engage your customers. Keep in mind that some may not be a home run for you. It may require a bit of testing before you have an efficient text marketing machine.
- Find an SMS marketing service that offers the features and functionality that you need or will want to adopt in the future. Also, keep in mind that compliance with cellular carriers is important. Choose a service that truly pays attention to protecting you and that will spend the one-on-one time with you to get this off the ground.
- Start simple. You don’t have to put every feature or strategy to work immediately and you may not see real success right off the bat. You should focus on growing your list and then start to add additional engagement points/strategies as you start to gain traction.
- Continue to test. There is always room for improvement and learning. Keep things fresh and continue trying new things. Even after years of experience, you can find new great ways of bringing out more return from your text marketing efforts.
If you’re still unsure about launching a text marketing program or want to learn more before embarking on a new journey with text messaging, there are a lot of resources out there. From white papers and articles, to more in-depth SMS marketing guides, the knowledge is at your fingertips. Just don’t wait too long. Your next competitor could launch their text program tomorrow.
Over his career, Aden has developed and marketed millions of dollars of successful products. He lays awake at nights figuring out new marketing tactics and is constantly upping Disruptive’s internal marketing game. He loves to write, dance and destroy computer monitors in full medieval armor.