Retailers Should Be Texting Customers More: Here's How to Do it Effectively
While many industries have embraced short message service (SMS, or more commonly referred to as texting) as a meaningful way to communicate with customers, many retail brands still haven't adopted the practice with regularity. As retailers consider changes in marketing tactics, increasing text message campaigns should be part of the discussion.
People are on their phones a lot, but it’s important to note they’re shopping on their phones a lot, too. Mobile commerce (m-commerce) is on the rise. According to eMarketer/Insider Intelligence data, retail m-commerce sales hit $359.32 billion in 2021, an increase of 15.2 percent year-over-year. By 2025, m-commerce sales could more than double in the U.S. Sending a relevant, timely message is a great way to connect with consumers and potential customers in a place where they likely already do some shopping.
Texting offers convenience, but also results. Research from OpenMarket indicates 83 percent of millennials open SMS messages within 90 seconds of receiving them. And Gartner research pointed at 90 percent of all people reading text messages within three minutes of receipt. These stats represent the fact that text messages are a desired form of communication for most, as also indicated by the amount of time people spend on their phones.
Text message sends are also affordable, allowing retailers to reach their large lists of customers without breaking the bank. Retailers can send text messages for as low as pennies per message, depending on the SMS software provider.
Texting as Part of an Overarching Marketing Strategy
Text messages act as another touchpoint between a brand and consumers; they work best as part of a larger communications strategy. For example, we know email marketing messages are a powerful tool for many retailers. Giving customers the option to opt in for text messages whenever they're asked to opt in for emails gives people the opportunity to choose which method of communication is preferable for them.
Best Practices for Meaningful Sends
Because every retailer is different, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to texting. Still, some general rules apply to nearly every retailer:
- Send only meaningful messages. If a text is more likely to annoy than it is to assist, don’t hit send. For example, if one retail store is closed for maintenance or staffing issues, don’t text your entire customer list; target only those within 20 or so miles of the store.
- Avoid being marked as spam. Make sure customers know what kind of information you'll be sending, and don’t overdo texts. For some retailers the limit might be twice a month, while for others it could be once a week. Regardless, making sure the content is highly relevant to the customer is the best way to ensure your messages aren’t marked as spam.
- Never send confidential information. Keep customer address and billing information out of texts for security purposes. That said, two-factor authentication is a great way to utilize text messages for a more secure transaction.
- Utilize a variety of text messages. Retailers can utilize text messages to let customers know about new store locations, revised hours, pop-up sales, new product launches, events and more. Do some testing to see what kinds of messages resonate most with your customers.
- Consider two-way texting. Two-way texting enables retailers to hold conversations with customers as another service channel. Think of this as an opportunity to chat more conveniently with customers about order issues or product questions.
- Make opting out easy. Federal business texting rules require that opt-out options are included with every sent text. Using language like “Text STOP to opt out” can easily be added to each send to meet this requirement.
Utilizing text messages can benefit retail brands that want to strengthen their relationships with customers. At the same time, SMS can help customers get fast, convenient access to valuable information about their favorite brands where they already spend a lot of their time — on their phone.
Tom Sheahan is the CEO of Red Oxygen, a leading business SMS solutions provider that works with retail brands in the U.S. and beyond.