How to Define Your Brand's SMS Program and Voice
Evolving customer engagement platforms and advanced SMS capabilities make it easy to start sending text messages. However, this channel remains underutilized or neglected as most retailers struggle to find their voice and identify meaningful activations.
Rather than covering the basics, I will focus on the journey to define use cases for an integrated and elevated customer experience, as well as the path and meaning of defining your brand's voice.
Defining Use Cases
First and foremost, it’s imperative to recognize that SMS isn't just another channel for broadcasting, but an additional dimension of the customer experience. In evaluating and defining opportunities, I recommend focusing on five core messaging categories to unpack value throughout:
- Operations: Messaging that supports transactions and facilitates the smooth delivery of products/services.
- Engagement: Messaging that will deepen the relationship with current and prospective customers, as well as gather insight into their behaviors, attitudes and preferences.
- Marketing: Brand and promotional messaging focused on driving conversions.
- Loyalty: Messaging focused on building trust and amplifying passion for the brand.
- Innovation: Unconventional messaging strategies aimed at driving growth, encouraging engagement, and improving the quality of service provided.
Even though the prioritization of use cases will vary across organizations, those within operations and engagement tend to be quick wins for most. Marketing and loyalty use cases will support the natural expansion of an existing program, and innovation is a worthy investment second only to building a solid foundation.
Although the exploration track won’t be linear and might feel dispersive, only organizations willing to experiment will stand out and make this channel their own. The challenge for any team will be to not prioritize optimization over exploration and effectively manage both tracks through careful planning and documentation.
Food for Thought: Use Cases
We find a large number of experiences can be delivered or enhanced via SMS, and we believe there's ample opportunity for more creative and engaging responses — e.g., responding using audio or MMS for “rich responses.” As an underlying theme, our opinion is that SMS communication needs to be not only highly personal but feel conversational to fully take advantage of it.
When it comes to e-commerce, allowing customers to place an order/book an appointment, repeat the last one they placed, or make a donation via SMS is the natural next step down the conversion funnel. Additionally, consider adding new SMS touchpoints within existing journeys such as an abandoned cart or price drop notification to expand these programs. Ultimately, it’s about anticipating your customers’ needs with timely notifications for a memorable experience.
The creative use of keywords opens up infinite opportunities to make content available on-demand. Picture, for example, customers texting the name of a dish to receive wine pairings, or customers texting the make/model/year to find a car part they need. As you think through your existing customer journeys and friction points, you'll likely find many unique opportunities to leverage this type of SMS strategy.
Data capture capabilities and the real-time nature of the channel make for a perfect combination to engage customers with surveys, polls and gamified experiences such as trivia questions followed up by rewards, discounts or special offers. Since marketers are always looking for testimonials, feedback or reviews, many SMS platforms can be used to collect inbound rich content, allowing customers to text back an unboxing picture to participate in a contest, for example.
Finding Your Voice
SMS is a very personal and direct channel where customers show increased engagement, and naturally increased sensitivity to messaging and frequency. Our experience tells us that beyond being mindful of frequency, the key to a successful SMS program is leveraging all customer data available for a conversational and dynamic experience.
For your customers to feel they're having a conversation you don’t necessarily need fancy bots or artificial intelligence. Being personable is a byproduct of owning your data, ensuring you're using all customer and contextual information available and bringing your brand’s voice to life consistently.
An exercise to help your team define its SMS voice is to imagine the person behind each text message. What if it were an actual person, the embodiment of your brand? Who would that person be, what would he/she/they wear? What would they sound like?
The best advice I can give is to never let the technology available limit you. Be diligent about looking at the entire customer journey, invest the time to identify both optimization and exploration opportunities, and challenge your team to go back to their experience.
Julian Marchiaro is manager, email marketing at LiveArea, a Merkle Company, is a global customer experience and commerce agency.
Julian supports LiveArea’s portfolio of clients, working closely with brands to grow their CRM and Email program while driving marketing automation, strategy and channel optimization. Supporting client’s goals in generating incremental revenue and engagement, he leverages the latest technologies in the market, along with his development understanding to design and build cross-cloud solutions for our clients. Julian holds both his SFMC Specialist and SFMC Business Consultant certification.