When it comes to SMS marketing campaigns, you should be sending more texts … not less.
Hear us out.
Every phone number on your list represents a real person who wants your messages. New subscribers, first-time purchasers, and long-term customers alike have invited you into their most intimate inboxes.
(Plus, each one can generate significant incremental revenue.)
Unfortunately, ecommerce SMS marketing isn’t just tough to start. Texting can also be scary. Especially if you’re worried about “spamming.”
That’s where this guide comes in. Instead of rehashing tried-and-tested best practices or mixed-and-matched tips from platforms to automations, we’ve brought together …
And, of course, what list of cheatcodes would be complete without a cheatsheet?
Snag our handy checklist to demystify text marketing and drive incremental revenue.
Text messages should have great text (duh). Obviously, you want copy that fits your brand’s tone of voice and conveys a compelling message – just as you would for any marketing channel.
But SMS messages have unique qualities and constraints that should inform your copy choices. Pay particular attention to:
Each SMS message is limited to 160 characters, including links and emojis. So, you’ll need to be brief. (You can send more than one message or use MMS, but that increases your costs.)
Text messages are perceived as more personal than email marketing, so a conversational or familiar tone of voice can be effective. That said, you still want to be readable. Go easy on colloquial abbreviations b4 U turn a gr8 text in2 a WTF.
Many mobile device users receive text message notifications in real time, and open rates can be as high as 98%. Take advantage of the immediate delivery by playing up urgency, scarcity, and FOMO in your copy.
It may not be apparent who the sender of a text message is. That’s why you should always include your company name in the text of your SMS; it’s more than good marketing sense – it is required for legal compliance.
When in doubt, go for clarity over cleverness. You have limited real estate in which to convey your message and prompt an action. Don’t leave subscribers puzzling over an abbreviation or silly pun instead of clicking your link.
SMS messages are so brief that you don’t have the luxury of offering more than one call to action. Be strategic about what your call to action (CTA) is and how you present it.
Whether you are asking for a survey response, offering a discount, or anything in between, make the CTA clear and obvious with text like “Use code SPRING at checkout.”
And yes, you should always have some kind of actionable step for the subscriber to take. Something like a charitable donation announcement can have a link to learn more as an effective CTA.
Make sure URLs are customized with your brand domain so the link will be trusted. A generic bit.ly or similar shortened link may look suspicious to savvy customers. SMS platforms like Recart have built-in options for branding your links.
Strict opt-in rules mean everyone on your SMS list has chosen to be there – it is an owned channel. Unlike other forms of marketing like social media or search advertising, you are in complete control of the channel.
A key advantage of that control is the ability to segment your customer list in whatever manners make sense for your business. The most crucial way is separating subscribers by buying cycle stage — from no purchase to first purchase to loyal customer.
Other segmentation categories include:
You can also get hyper-targeted by combining conditions or adding time horizons to create segments like “Spent $50+ within the last three months.”
Recart offers a library of campaign templates for these and various other segment-based automations, each designed explicitly for Shopify SMS.
The segments you create from your SMS list will come in handy for delivering personalized text campaigns.
At the bare minimum, make sure to set up your automations and tactical campaigns so that you’re excluding nonsensical segments. A “first purchase” discount sent to someone who already bought will make your brand look clueless.
But there’s so much more you can do to customize your messaging.
The more you segment your lists, the more you can test. A few personalized SMS marketing campaign ideas:
The most common reason a subscriber opts into an SMS list is for incentives.
Testing can show you which incentives motivate purchases and boost lifetime value, but don’t forget to also consider your branding and your bottom line.
Giveaways or deep discounts can yield high conversions, but they might not be appropriate for an upscale brand or anyone struggling with margins. In some cases, free shipping, VIP points, or early access to limited edition products can be effective incentives.
Consider how timing plays into your text message promotions as well. New product launches, seasonal demand, upcoming sales, and a subscriber’s stage in the buying cycle can all affect which incentives make sense at the moment.
Lastly, when offering coupons and discounts, we recommend sending each subscriber a unique discount code that can only be used once. This helps you more accurately track campaign success and also prevents misuse like sharing a code widely with non-subscribers.
Thus far, we’ve mostly been talking about SMS (short message service) which refers to 160-character messages that can contain plain text, emoji, and links. MMS (multimedia messaging service) refers to messages that can include a larger character count plus media such as images or GIFs.
MMS can have much higher click-through and conversion rates than simple SMS. But pricing for MMS is higher, so you’ll have to evaluate your ROI.
When you do spend extra for MMS, make sure you’re making the most of it. Showcase your own photography instead of using generic stock images. We also recommend overlaying text on top of photos (such as an offer code) to reinforce your CTA.
Scheduling ahead will be a lot less stressful than scrambling to think of creative SMS marketing campaign ideas on the fly.
Start by calendaring known events such as:
Perhaps the most important dates to schedule are ones specific to your brand. Annual or seasonal sales, new product launches, and real-life or virtual events are likely already on your marketing calendar so these will be easy additions to your SMS text schedule.
Gift-giving holidays (Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.) are a no-brainer for most retailers. But consider how you might be able to fit your brand into other holidays as well. Maybe you’d like to highlight your brand’s sustainability efforts on Earth Day. There are also countless pseudo-holidays like “Best Friends Day” that make for good hooks.
The biggest holiday for most ecommerce businesses is BFCM. Our Black Friday SMS Ecommerce Marketing Guide breaks that entire event into four stages, each with detailed tactical steps you can easily follow.
There are plenty of non-holiday dates that may be relevant to your business. Think Super Bowl, Election Day, or the season finale of that big TV show.
In some cases you may not be legally permitted to reference the event by name in SMS marketing messages, but a little creative copywriting can get the connection across.
Changing weather can be an opportunity for promoting winter-specific skincare or beach-ready swimwear. But don’t forget about other seasonal periods like Back to School that may be relevant to certain target audiences.
Once you schedule the important and immovable dates, round out the calendar with evergreen content (like product promos) or unexpected happenings (like a celebrity spotted wearing your brand).
During big calendar events, you may want to temporarily update your automated flows to reflect the timely content of your tactical campaigns.
Plan ahead for calendar-based boosts that you anticipate as well. If you’ve scheduled a big SMS list growth effort, have a campaign ready for those new subscribers. If a big sale event is on the calendar, plan a campaign to capitalize on the inevitable abandoned carts afterward.
When it comes to the time of day, consider both what makes sense for a promotion (like a morning text for a limited-time early-bird offer) and what time of day converts best for that kind of campaign.
But above all else, make sure you observe “quiet hours.” Texting promotional messages to your subscribers between 9:00 pm and 8:00 am violates SMS compliance laws.
A good SMS automation tool like Recart’s Smart Sending will automatically queue these messages to be sent when quiet hours end in the subscriber’s time zone.
In North America, SMS is governed by several major laws including the TCPA and the CAN-SPAM Act. SMS also has a set of principles called CTIA Guidelines implemented by a wireless communications trade association.
SMS compliance rules cover many topics, including:
When you work with Recart, your Customer Success Manager will handle everything needed to keep your SMS program fully compliant.
In terms of frequency, send at least one message per week to keep customers engaged. Some brands have success with a daily text message if the content is compelling and their lists are segmented wisely. During busy periods like Black Friday, it can be appropriate to send multiple time-sensitive follow-up messages throughout the day.
Many businesses are spam-shy, but remember that every mobile phone number on your list is an opt-in – that means they want to be hearing from you.
Consistent messaging increases brand recall. And as long as your text messages provide value, staying in regular contact actually reduces the chances you’ll get disregarded or reported as spam. Frequent messaging also gives you valuable data (more on that below). And don’t forget that you can segment your lists to avoid over-messaging those who might otherwise unsubscribe.
What’s effective for one brand may fall flat for another. Even within your business, what works for one segment or during one season may not be universally successful. That’s why this article has laid out best practices without prescribing overly specific tactics. To get the most out of your SMS marketing, you will need to experiment yourself.
In order to make data-driven decisions, you need data. Make sure you’re capturing metrics such as:
Almost every aspect of SMS marketing that we’ve discussed can be part of an A/B test. Consider testing:
If you have an upcoming event like an annual sale, warm-up campaigns are great testing grounds to determine what works before the big launch. If you’ve just had a big bump in new subscribers, that can be a good time to do testing on your automated welcome message flows.
Analyze your results and keep iterating. If open rates are low, try different times of the day. If engagement rates aren’t the best, try different messages. If click-through rates are great but purchases are low, test a different product or segment.
And when you find an SMS marketing strategy that works well, don’t forget that things can change, especially as your customer base evolves. The optimization process should always be ongoing.
Your brand is likely having conversations with customers on multiple channels, so it’s important to periodically step back and view the big picture.
If you are marketing via email, social media, search, or other means, ensure that your messaging is consistent (although not necessarily identical).
Your email marketing list will likely overlap with SMS subscribers so make sure to coordinate timing. Combining data between the two lists will also help you strengthen your segmentation.
If your SMS marketing is producing great conversions, consider how to leverage your other marketing channels to get more phone number opt-ins.
And within the SMS channel itself, remember that subscribers at various stages of the buying cycle will be receiving automated flows and transactional messages.
If you plan a big multi-message event, you may want to pause some automated flows to avoid overwhelming subscribers. Or you can exclude certain segments from the event campaign and update the automations with the event information instead.
If you want to leverage SMS messaging for incremental revenue then you have to get out there and text.
Granted, SMS is not an easy platform to master. From message creation to send frequency to list segmentation, there’s a lot to pay attention to. And in order to maximize success, you need to engage in ongoing testing and optimization.
But now that you’re armed with our 10 tips for SMS marketing, you no longer need to worry about being viewed as a spammer or getting stuck with poor results. Following our tips will make navigating the text message landscape easier and more fruitful.
And for those who want some extra help, let Recart’s experts do the heavy lifting for you. Schedule a 30-minute demo of our SMS platform and get started within 48 hours.
Snag our handy cheatsheet to demystify text marketing and drive incremental revenue.