Choosing an SMS platform is difficult.
If you’re here, you’ve already figured that out.
While personal text messages are second nature, ecommerce marketing texts are a different beast entirely. Why? For a handful of reasons …
Most tools don’t make assessing the real cost versus the real value easy. Hidden fees make it hard to scale. Poor support on a new channel makes maximizing SMS programs a challenge. Worst of all, ROI comparisons to ads or email marketing paint an unclear borderline-dishonest picture.
It may be daunting, but it’ll be worth it because we know at least two things.
First, SMS messages are one of the most effective ways for DTC businesses to engage shoppers, sell to new customers, and retain the ones they’ve already got. Second, SMS is the most personal channel.
We can’t promise to recommend which SMS platform is best for your DTC brand. No one should. But, we can give you a digestible list of what to look for (and avoid) as well as our eight top picks based on different needs.
Let’s explore 8 features to help you choose and 8 SMS marketing software best-fits.
Must-Have SMS Features
Best SMS Marketing Platforms
Want to grab the full list of criteria along with the different platforms?
We’ve put the whole thing into a single, easy-to-use, and — if you don’t mind us saying — gorgeously designed guide.
Why is list growth the first SMS platform feature requirement?
Simple. Without an opted-in SMS contact list, you’ll have no one to send your campaigns to. While there are lots of subscriber growth tools out there, having them built into your SMS platform will ensure three things:
The sooner you start building your contact lists, the faster you’ll see the impact of your SMS marketing.
Personalization goes beyond the first name of a subscriber. Segmenting your audience based on customer data — e.g., click-through rates, purchases, and preferences — will result in tailored campaigns.
The more tailored your SMS marketing campaigns, the better they’ll perform.
Prioritize contact management, audience segmentation, and workflows that trigger based on both purchase-activity as well as time windows.
SMS automation helps businesses send campaigns to the right person, at the right time, with the right message. You can use these flows to send abandoned cart messages, auto-replies and auto-responders, appointment reminders, order confirmations, drip campaigns, and more.
Most platforms come with an automation workflow builder but there are two key factors to consider when making your choice:
Ease of Use (No-Code)
A valuable SMS marketing tool or platform offers a user-friendly, no-code automation builder. Prioritize flow editors that show results in the flow itself — these add an extra level of analytics and can be very useful when assessing the performance of specific messages.
SMS Flow Templates
Make sure your tool offers pre-built automations and not just text templates to fill them. These will not only save you lots of time but they are created by the experts and (are likely) optimized based on real results.
Two-way conversations are the often-hidden treasure in SMS marketing (for the customer and the business).
On the customer side, text messages offer a quick support solution or an opportunity for feedback.
For businesses, two-way texting saves energy by creating a dedicated SMS support channel. It’s also a chance to gather qualitative insights directly from your customers.
If you send quizzes, questionnaires, or quick rating scales, clearly the ability to respond matters. But it also matters for promotional texts to which people regularly (and, yes, surprisingly) respond.
You’ll likely need a few integrations. Don’t forget to investigate this one.
Foremost should be your ecommerce platform itself. There are two major categories:
Once you’ve identified the best fit for your business, you’ll want to assess which other tools are your non-negotiables.
If you use a CRM such as HubSpot, prioritize direct (pre-built) integrations. For customer support tools — like Gorgias or Zendesk — ask about two-way messaging, inboxes, and ticketing shared between the platforms.
Try your best to avoid indirect solutions to pass data; i.e., Zapier. Consider how your email service provider and SMS need to work together. And finally, explore opt-in tools that give you more creative options to capture subscribers: JustUno, Wheelio, Privy, and OptiMonk.
The only way to maximize your text message marketing is by keeping a close watch on how SMS campaigns perform. Money out for money in.
You’ll want software that covers:
Also, look for real-time analytics. This allows you to optimize quickly through tactics like smaller batch sends and A/B testing — especially SMS during Black Friday Cyber Monday
Using these, you’ll be able to identify your best campaigns and can optimize your SMS marketing strategy to double down on what gets you the best results.
Understanding how SMS platforms attribute revenue
Something as vital as attribution should be clear-cut but it’s oh-so-tricky to define consistently.
Many SMS platforms use very different methods. Some use a 1-day view (receipt) and 30-day click to “show” exceptional results.
But those standards are too low to truly count as incremental revenue. In most cases, they represent customers who would have bought from you anyway.
Attribution should only apply when a customer:
Whatever tool you use, be cautious about default attribution windows. Particularly when demoing. If the same list with the same sends and the same offer produces more sales, that’s rarely incremental. It’s over-attribution.
Unlike email marketing, SMS pricing can appear costly and confusing. Many platforms hide the true costs of SMS behind “free” or low-priced monthly plans.
Under the surface, actual sending rates don’t vary much. But it’s easy to get fooled.
Your pricing and package should be transparent and scale with you (in both directions).
Keep these points in mind when it comes down to selecting a platform and pricing package to go with it:
We mentioned this above. But it honestly deserves its own category to gauge the best SMS platform for your business.
With text marketing quickly growing in popularity, many platforms now offer the channel. This becomes problematic with many of them not taking the time to understand the finer details. That’s why it’s important to evaluate the support your potential platform offers.
While SMS isn’t a stand-alone channel it does have its own unique and strategic value — for instance, you can’t just copy and paste your emails into SMS. Plus, texts also come with compliance considerations.
This level of dedicated support will make your journey into text marketing an (almost) instant success. It will save your team members time, minimize internal marketing efforts, and bring results faster.
We don’t love to toot our own horn. (Or do we?)
Regardless, if you’ve been meaning to set up SMS marketing on your Shopify store but just haven’t the time or resources, Recart stands above the rest. Why?
Recart was built specifically for Shopify — it’s the only platform we support. It offers a fairly comprehensive text-marketing solution, from list growth tools to pre-built automations to promotional campaign templates.
The most valuable feature Recart offers is our Customer Success Managers (CSM). Unlike ordinary support, every account comes with fully-managed service. Your CSM’s goal is simple: To grow your business with SMS so you don’t have to.
Good to know: Recart is a Shopify-only platform. This can be a big limitation if you decide to switch or, of course, if you’re not using Shopify in the first place. It also only offers SMS sending to North America, the UK, and Australia.
Starting out as an email marketing tool, Klaviyo added SMS as a feature when businesses began adopting the channel. The platform currently integrates with most ecommerce software; a good choice for flexibility.
Klaviyo fittingly refers to its SMS tool as a business text messaging service. It offers bulk text messaging — with campaign personalization and audience segmentation at scale.
It also has an impressive list of number options that include toll-free phone numbers, branded sender IDs, long phone numbers, and short codes (at an added cost).
From a pricing perspective, Klaviyo bundles SMS and email together in one lump charge. If you’re looking for a dual solution and don’t mind ambiguity, this may be the tool for you!
Good to know: To make the most of Klaviyo’s text message features, you’ll need a team with an advanced understanding of SMS and email marketing. You won’t get much handholding or guidance and the two channels overlap within the same automations.
Want to combine email, SMS, and web push notifications in tandem? Omnisend lets you unite all three channels within a single flow or automation — allowing for cross-channel triggering and fast campaign sends.
It also offers four compliance-focused, opt-in tools: popups, teasers, landing pages, and the “Wheel of Fortune.”
If you combine them well, you won’t need to augment Omnisend with additional apps that handle each one separately
Good to know: SMS is only available in the “Pro” package and is bundled with email. This could be limiting should you wish to scale one channel fastest than the other.
Attentive is an SMS-only platform that offers a large list of integrations. This duo makes it a powerful option for larger businesses that use multiple tools and already have email software.
The platform is well-rounded and well built. It offers features like sign-up forms, opt-in tools, audience management, and automated flows.
A recent launch introduced a new player to the Attentive text game: Text-to-Buy. This feature lets customer purchase a product within the SMS chat and checkout using a Shop-integrated SMS popup (previously known as Shopify Pay).
Good to know: Attentive is an exclusively self-managed platform. It also doesn’t disclose pricing upfront. As a guideline, it’s more suited to larger businesses as certain fees, like carrier costs, aren’t included. Not surprisingly, being one of the earliest providers, its client-base boasts a veritable who’s who of DTC royalty.
If you’re a Shopify store owner with a good understanding of SMS marketing, SMSBump might be right for you. While some text messaging platforms offer managed services, SMSBump is a do-it-yourself solution.
SMSBump recently became part of the Yotpo family. For users, this offers a handful of great integrations as it can connect SMS with Yotpo’s Loyalty & Referrals, Reviews, or Visual UGC to create captivating mobile experiences.
Grow your subscriber contact list using keywords, QR Codes, native-text sign-up, Shopify POS, and more.
Good to know: SMSBump offers low-cost plans and is willing to create custom pricing for any size store. But be sure to compare the features you’ll get. Not all the packages include all features and you could miss out on something important.
Postscript was one of the first SMS tools available and has some great experience under its belt. It also has an impressive list of clients and a loyal customer base.
Feature-wise, they offer the fundamentals like list building, compliance, and automated flows.
But the strength of this offering is that Postscript believes SMS marketing is the future of customer service. It’s created an offering that supports this goal with two-way messaging for queries, transactional updates, and personalized customer experiences end to end.
Looking for truly conversational commerce? This is the solution for you.
Good to know: It’s a little difficult to use (you’ll need some time to click around and learn the interface). The jump between packages is also significant; keep an eye on the feature and SMS price differences per plan. Nonetheless, Postscript’s content-rich, conversational-led emphasis is hard to beat for developing exceptional customer relationships.
ManyChat is a popular name when it comes to chatbot builders. It offers multi-channel chatbots integrate with SMS, Facebook, Instagram, and others.
This platform makes multichannel easy with seamless conversation across mediums.
With ManyChat, you can acquire new contacts at a low cost with Facebook and engage them with text message campaigns. Or capture subscribers via SMS but bring them back to Facebook Messenger for support questions and free chat.
Good to know: The pricing is based on the size of your contact list and the features you want to leverage. This means you can easily customize your plan. Costs only increase as (1) your subscriber list grow and (2) you decide to activate more of its options.
Braze offers a platform that’s purpose-built for customer engagement at the enterprise level. It focuses on cross-channel functionality, offering flexibility while housing, mobile and web push, in-app and in-browser messaging, content cards, email, as well as SMS.
For enterprise businesses, deploying a genuinely omnichannel strategy in one trackable, easily optimized place offers huge value.
Perhaps Braze’s greatest strength is data collection and analysis — it’s one of the few tools on this list that boasts not only a massive list of partners but also access to custom SDKs, APIs, and CSV imports.
Good to know: As you might expect from an enterprise solution, the only downsides are cost and needed expertise — neither of which are actually downsides if your business is big enough. If you operate with a heavy emphasis on merging offline-to-online worlds (retail and ecommerce), no other software on this list comes close.
Names that didn’t make the list …
Wondering where other big players like TextMagic, SimpleTexting, SlickText, EZ texting, or Twilio are? We focused on ecommerce-first platforms, so that’s probably why.
However, if we missed your favorite, please let us know!
Hopefully, the what and who of SMS marketing isn’t quite as elusive as when you got here.
Deciding on your perfect platform ultimately comes down to three questions. Does it your suit needs, capabilities, and budget?
Those questions — plus the information we’ve laid out for you — should lead you to a decision.
If you’re still unsure … hear us out.
Recart is a one-stop-shop solution for setting up targeted, highly engaging two-way message campaigns across the entire customer journey within minutes — plus it's fully managed. Give us 30 minutes to tell you more about it.
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