From Invasive to Personal: How to Get SMS Marketing Right this 2021

With the right frequency and message, SMS marketing can quickly go from intrusive to effective. Text messaging is the one unexplored channel that could provide a new profit avenue for businesses, boost marketing ROI, and offer that human touch that consumers crave in their online shopping experiences.

For eCommerce businesses, SMS marketing is a sure-fire way to scale this year. Does it play well with other digital marketing channels? You bet.

Let's take a deep dive into why you should embrace SMS today as an integral part of your marketing mix and how to get started on the right foot— best practices included.

eCommerce SMS Marketing, why it's the power channel in 2021

SMS, text marketing, or "short messaging service" may not be a new marketing channel, but it is surely an underutilized one.

What makes SMS such a unique and powerful eCommerce marketing channel is how well it cuts through the clamor of emails, ads, and content to deliver a short but effective targeted message straight to the consumer. And they love it too.

About 69% of consumers prefer the directness of contacting a business via text marketing and are 134% more likely to respond than if they received an email.

Why is this important in 2021? "The quickening" in eCommerce acceleration because of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way brands and consumers interact. A higher frequency of digital interactions and smarter consumers means higher expectations from eCommerce businesses and brands to personalize their eCommerce experience.

Here are 3 key milestones businesses and marketers should focus on this year:

  1. Humanize your customer engagement
  2. Staying relevant to your customers
  3. Talk to your customer and gain actionable insights

To hit these milestones, read on to find out how a solid eCommerce SMS marketing strategy can help you reach the gold standard for omnichannel marketing in 2021.

Email vs. SMS: Who wins here?

What really gains marketers and eCommerce businesses a competitive edge is the instant advantages of SMS marketing below:

These advantages of SMS lend to the compounding effect on the performance and ROI of your existing marketing channels, closes the gaps, and humanizes the key touchpoints in your buyer's journey.

Email is growing, evolving, and changing tremendously to offer businesses a new revenue channel— and so is SMS. According to SmartInsights, sending a follow-up text to ask if your customers have read the email you sent can increase open rates by up to 30%.

SMS marketing's ability to work great with a variety of marketing channels with a low margin for error makes it a powerful channel to master this year. In short, here's what makes SMS the perfect complement to emails and a great partner to any other marketing channel:

  1. Lightning-fast delivery, mind-blowing open rates
  2. Massive click-through rates and high response rates
  3. Near perfect engagement score that drives action during crucial micro-moments with customers

SMS offers both eCommerce marketers and store owners a tangible but still largely untapped opportunity to cut through the marketing noise to reach more prospects and engage with them effectively— and effortlessly.

3-Ways to Get Started with SMS Marketing the Right Way this 2021

What makes it really powerful is how you wield it. When used correctly, a well-timed SMS packs an extra punch for time-sensitive offers that could turn that prospect into a first-time buyer.

Coupled with how unusual it is to receive a marketing SMS, once you throw in incentives to persuade your buyers— you've got a message that's hard to ignore. Follow these 3 steps to get started with SMS the right way:

#1 Initiate a Conversation with your Abandoned Shoppers

How much revenue have you lost in the last 30 days from the abandoned carts you didn't recover? Abandoned carts happen when shoppers place various products in their cart but don't check out.

It's amongst the top 3 challenges that online brands have to grapple with— because carts that are not recovered spell lost revenue for any retailer.

As a replacement for in-store window shopping, millennials have found a popular pastime during the pandemic of browsing, filling, and then abandoning their carts. In 2020, the rate of cart abandonment was up at a shocking 88%. Sounds worrying? Here's how you can crack the cart recovery code.

See how LEVO is initiating real-time conversations after their shoppers abandon their carts below. Or read the full case study here of how they drove 28x in ROI in just one month.

What you should take away from this:

  • The way to get shoppers back to your website and into the checkout page is to interact with them.
  • Send a well-timed SMS to target the short but crucial time frame when a shopper abandons a cart and a sale is lost—even more so if it's a first-time buyer
  • What separates this campaign from an automated blast or bulk send is how Emma introduces herself right off the bat, prompting him to respond
  • It feels more like a helpful outreach from a brand your customers already love, not forcing a sale
  • By reaching out with great support and communicating user benefit, you can immediately remove first-time buyer's hesitation and warm them up to your brand
  • Persuades the customer to complete his purchase with a discount and a choice to opt for installments— making it hard for him to say no

It's all about humanizing your text messaging and warming up prospects to your brand, which brings us to our next step.

#2 Provide Value Through Each Text

About 96% of consumers consider the quality of customer service to be the deciding factor when purchasing or completing their orders. The modern consumer expects brands to deliver a solid and engaging brand experience. What this means is brand personality, user benefit, and education on product usage via a communication channel of their choice.

If you need another reason to get on your customers' good side, user-generated content (UGC) and online reviews hold sway over 93% of buying decisions.

Here's an example of how you can start out on the right foot with your customers:

What you'll love about this:

  1. Combining sales and support in one channel only carves out a profit center for your business— and customers will love getting the answers at their fingertips
  2. Immediately introduce yourself and what your brand stands for, caring for their customers with personalize product recommendations
  3. Highlighting a favourite product can be a powerful move that works similarly to the psychology behind UGC, and how it can communicate user benefit
  4. When done right, SMS marketing ticks off multiple campaigns or conversations in one communication

Shoppers these days can be a fickle but informed bunch. A cruelty-free Australian skincare brand caught on early and wanted to make sure their customers receive the best support throughout their entire shopping journey.

They also wanted to continue having products their customers would love by continuously educating their customers on the benefits of their product.  Here's how they hit 30x in ROI by leveraging the immediacy of SMS marketing to send real-time recommendations to their customers.

Your SMS campaigns shouldn't be an abrupt dead end, here's how you can keep the conversation going with your customers.

#3 Provide assistance throughout the entire shopping journey

For brand survival in 2021, companies will need to find ways to optimize their user experience by humanizing their customer engagement and tapping into consumer intelligence in real-time to keep up with their mercurial preferences.

With SMS marketing for eCommerce, you can offer to bring the in-store shopping experience online by functioning as an online sales assistant to your customers. Here are some real-life examples of some issues you can solve using SMS:

What you need to know:

  1. Keeping the conversation going has a compounding effect on customer trust, they're more likely to buy from you if they trust you
  2. The important stuff: Total revenue, Average Order Value (AOV), Number of Orders, Conversion Rate, Number of Conversations
  3. The good stuff: The main reasons your shoppers are abandoning their carts, their needs, and preferences
  4. How to go beyond one-dimensional reports and make data-driven choices, tap into that feedback loop with your very own customers

It's time to start investing in how you can create actionable insights from both the quantitative and qualitative insights of your shoppers. Gain actionable insights directly from your customers themselves so you can continuously serve up content and value that's relevant to them.

5-Steps to Nailing Each SMS

Step 1: Figure out your message and keep it short

Personalize your messages and make sure you’re using your brand voice whenever possible. It's important to invest in the effort needed to personalize your messages. That way, you can get the most out of your text messaging ROI and for your business.

Keep your messages short and relevant and less than 160 characters to avoid being charged twice.

Step 2: Gain permission to build a compliant SMS list

You'll need permission from your subscribers to start sending text messages. Often, this is easily done by asking people to tick a simple checkbox at the checkout to continue receiving promotional updates from you via SMS.

Make sure to also include an easy way for them to opt-out of your list— easily done by including a link to unsubscribe or a number to text STOP.

Here's our tip, asking for consent doesn't have to be strictly transactional. You can incentivize opt-ins by offering new visitors something of value. For example, offer them a special discount for new customers or even an exciting piece of content in exchange for their consent to add them to your SMS subscribers list.

It's a win-win when you get their number and immediately warm up new customers to your brand and what you stand for.

Finally, how do you know if your SMS list is GDPR and TCPA compliant? If compliance sounds complicated to you, you can readily find an SMS marketing platform that's GDPR and TCPA compliant. This brings us to our next step.

Step 3: Choose an SMS Marketing Service/Platform that Integrates with your Store

More of a nice-to-have than a must-have, but this allows you to collect numbers at checkouts and trigger event-based SMS messages such as your cart recovery.

However, having an SMS marketing platform that's both intuitive to use and integrates with your eCommerce store gives you the power to engage and support your entire customer journey. This means you own this list and the insights you gain from your customers.

Need help in getting to know all these new SMS marketing terms? Check out the eCommerce SMS Marketing Glossary and learn them.

Step 4: Find your Ideal Texting Frequency and Timing

Don't text your subscribers every day. As a rule of thumb, the recommended messaging frequency is one message a week.

You'll want to but base this off your industry niche, your brand, and your customer base— and excludes trigger-based events like cart recovery. But as SMS marketing channels get more saturated, you may have to adjust your frequency.

To get the most out of your text campaigns and drive instant action from your audience, make it timely when you send out your SMS campaigns. 95% of text messages are opened within the first 3 minutes. No one wants to read a text at 3 am— it leads to bad engagement and hurts your relationship with your prospects before it has even begun.

If you're running an eCommerce business with an international customer base, that's a lot of time zones to keep track of. Here's how you can avoid sending a text message during the quiet hours— typically between 9 pm to 10 am in their respective time-zones.

Step 5: Text like a human

Last but not least, here are 5 Cardinal Rules to effectively humanize the key touch points of your customer's journey with SMS:

👋 Say hi and include your customer's name

❓ Directly address their questions

🕺 Don't be afraid to show your brand's personality

💡 Ask if there's anything else you can do to help

💬 Let them know you're only a text away

While we've covered how to get started with SMS in 5 simple steps, here are 12 effective tips you can implement for successful text campaigns.

From Invasive to Personal: How to Get SMS Right

Our tip, make it conversational. Humanizing your customer experience doesn't have to be rocket science. It's about being agile. As text messaging is supposed to be personal, the outdated 1-way communication of SMS can end up hurting your brand's reputation.

That's why conversational SMS marketing is the next logical step for eCommerce businesses this year. Conversational SMS marketing enables a two-way message stream between you and your customers. Deliver a unique brand experience with real-time, personalized conversations with your shoppers and a profit driver for your business.

It's a great way to combine sales and support under one communication without your team spending more hours in a week to do it. You can even request a demo to see how it works for free.

Read why 25 eCommerce experts say that conversational marketing could be the next big thing this 2021 or try it out for yourselves for free today.

Jun-Li is a content person at Cartloop. When she's not writing a blog article, you can find her collecting a new hobby or doing yoga.

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