Regardless of the circumstance, retailers must meet their customers where they are. With cell phone usage increasing by 56 percent among all consumers since COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have been enforced, retailers must pivot their marketing strategies to meet customers in their new medium of choice: SMS.
According to research from BounceX’s COVID-19 retail report, owned channels like SMS and email marketing are driving more conversions and revenue than paid media spend. In fact, SMS marketing messages are experiencing a 100 percent open rate, and clickthrough rates have also spiked since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. What does this mean? That people are browsing and shopping on their mobile devices more than ever before.
SMS has the potential to be a game-changing channel for retailers, especially during these unprecedented times. Retailers can leverage this channel to regain lost revenue caused by store closures and re-engage with loyal customers. However, many retailers, even the most notable ones, don’t even have a solid foundation for a SMS strategy to convert the customers that click through.
Developing a SMS strategy that works doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, developing a campaign that works is dependent on two key components: compelling opt-ins and personalization.
The Art of the Opt-In
SMS may seem like the least compelling marketing medium because it’s a completely opt-in channel — i.e., to stay compliant, customers have to sign up to receive text messages from a retailer.
To help entice customers, create compelling messaging that clearly outlines the benefits of opting into your SMS program. For instance, right now consumers want promotions and discounts, especially from retailers that are considered nonessential. Offer them a discount or promotion on their order if they sign up to receive text messages from your brand. The promotion doesn’t have to be outlandish, even something like 10 percent to 15 percent off would be of value to your customers.
Furthermore, leverage additional marketing channels to drive consumers to SMS. Clearly lay out the benefits of SMS on your website, email marketing, social media, etc., and continue to analyze what the right incentive for signing up for SMS marketing is for each platform.
A standard best practice for optimizing marketing channels for SMS opt-ins is to not force messaging upon entrance. Don’t try to overwhelm website visitors as soon as they visit your landing page to sign up for SMS. Reserve it for when they’re browsing or as a cart abandonment tactic.
Segmentation and Personalization is Essential
Brands that are leveraging SMS often treat it as a channel where you batch-and-blast content. This shouldn’t be the case (truly this shouldn’t be the case for any channel, but especially not for SMS).
One of the benefits that's often overlooked is SMS marketing has the same segmentation capabilities often used in email marketing campaigns. When running your messaging across SMS, you can target your audience by categories such as product interest, gender, purchase volume, and more. By taking advantage of segmentation, retailers have the opportunity to unlock more revenue by sending specific, personalized messages that are more likely to convert.
SMS strategies should focus on the one-to-one experience. Leverage messaging that focuses on the end user and their unique wants and needs. Consumers are less tolerant of text messages that are irrelevant and too frequent. Closely examine what messages should be conveyed to your whole audience as well as what messages can be personalized to the end SMS user. Customers tend to respond well to the right messaging and incentive, so spend time analyzing what will make a niche audience convert through text messages.
When it comes to SMS, the real reason you should be using this channel now is because the revenue and engagement speaks for itself. In some cases, retailers are seeing that SMS is leading to double the revenue when compared to email marketing. SMS is a major opportunity for retailers right now to separate themselves from their competitors, recover lost revenue due to the pandemic, and re-engage with loyal customers.
Ryan Urban is the Co-Founder and CEO at BounceX, a global marketing technology company. Under his leadership, BounceX has been ranked number one overall for both employee retention and career development by ComputerWorld, named one of the best places to work in NYC by Crain’s New York, and honored as one of Fortune’s best places to work. A veteran of the e-commerce space, Ryan was formerly Director of Acquisition at Bonobos and prior to that, Head of Ecommerce at Brickhouse Security. He has served on the advisory boards of both BabyAge.com and Bonobos.