SMS Marketing Tips for Retailers in the New Digital World
COVID-19 has forced us into a new mobile and contactless world, with a recent report finding that 56 percent of respondents use their mobile devices more than before the pandemic, and 38 percent of respondents are getting more news and alerts via text.
Additionally, 96 percent of consumers say phone calls can be disruptive, and 39 percent of consumers have over 100 unread emails in their inbox — which is pressuring marketers to find new ways to encourage shoppers to buy additional products or switch brands. As texting emerges from the pandemic as the primary form of communication, an effective SMS marketing strategy will be critical for retailers in 2021.
As we move further into this new year and digital world, below are some tips for ways marketers can successfully engage with consumers while still providing that personalized and human touch they demand:
1. Get familiar with TCPA guidelines.
Before getting started with SMS marketing, brush up on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA is legislation that protects consumers from malicious phone calls and text messages, and covers ways to prevent your text messages from being misconstrued as spam, such as:
- Only text customers who have opted to receive text communications from your business. Never (ever) text a customer who hasn’t given you consent to text them. There are many ways to gain opt-in, and they’ll vary depending on your business.
- Keep texts short and relevant. Customers will dismiss your messages and unsubscribe from them if they don’t contain the content they want to see. If your customer signs up for weekly deals, they should only receive weekly deals.
- Speaking of unsubscribing, give clear instructions for opting out. Customers should know how to unsubscribe from your messages, and the process should be easy to complete. Simple language at the end of a text message, such as “Reply STOP to unsubscribe from future texts,” is recommended, along with using software that supports the STOP command by automatically removing those users from your list.
2. Reconsider using short codes.
Short codes are five- or six-digit numbers that are used to send mass text messages to customers. They’re best used for one-way communications like two-factor authentication and alerts, but they don’t allow for two-way conversations. This is a mismatch with consumer preference, given that three out of four consumers say they feel frustrated when they can’t reply to a company’s text message. Consider texting from your company's existing landline, VoIP or toll-free phone number. That way you can have a two-way conversation with your customers and use the phone number they already recognize as belonging to your business. It may seem like a minor exchange, but the importance of making yourself available to your customers shouldn’t be overlooked.
3. Include a call to action (CTA).
Creating a SMS marketing CTA requires more than just the CTA itself. The entire text message should support the ask to your customer, leading them to take action. Tell the recipient what's in it for them. What’s the benefit if they do what you ask? Are they getting a limited-time discount? Will they learn something useful. Make it clear how the ask will benefit the recipient. Consumers also love exclusivity. By adding language like, “Last Chance!” or “Only a few left,” it gives just enough urgency to lead them to tap on the link.
4. Use images when applicable.
Images can make your text marketing campaigns much more memorable and entice your recipient to take action. For example, when running a promotion for a product, you could add a photo of the item to your text message. Or create an eye-catching image to announce an upcoming sale.
5. Keywords are your friend.
With keywords, businesses can assign a word, such as TAKE20 or FLASH, to a SMS marketing campaign, and when someone texts that word to the company's phone number, it will trigger an auto-reply message with further instructions or a confirmation. Keywords are commonly deployed with short codes, but as I mentioned, short codes have limitations (and they can be expensive for their limited capabilities). Instead, business-texting software is a less expensive option that supports keywords and comes with additional features that can boost your SMS marketing campaigns.
Consumers’ preference for texting came to light once the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, and brands had to pivot to new communication channels. In 2021, retailers will find even more success deploying texting for their marketing campaigns. By incorporating the tips above into any SMS marketing strategy, brands will be able to connect with consumers like never before.
Scott Heimes is the chief marketing officer at Zipwhip, a platform for businesses to interact with customers by text messages from any business line.
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