It’s no secret that developing relationships with your customers takes a lot of work. If you want to reach them, you can’t simply just wait for them to come to you – you have to be proactive and go where they are. We are not suggesting that you start going door to door to all of your prospective customers – that would be madness, but you could implement the next best marketing tactic out there – send them a text.

Whether you own a clothing business, a small boutique, or sell products of any kind, sending your customers a text through SMS marketing is a great way to attract and connect with customers while standing out from your competition. The one thing to keep in mind though is not to overdo it. And you must ensure to strike the right balance and tone of voice when sending prospects a text.

In this blog, we will outline the benefits and best practices of SMS marketing for retailers, including how to stay compliant with examples of customer texting done well.

What is SMS marketing?

Short Message Service (SMS) Marketing uses permission-based mass text for promotional campaigns or transactional messages. These messages are designed to communicate time-sensitive offers, updates, and alerts to existing and potential customers, locally and internationally, who have consented to receive these messages from your business. These messages appear on your customers’ phones within seconds. Depending on the user’s mobile phone settings, they may receive a push notification as soon as your message is delivered. 

It is important to note that there are different types of SMS marketing that retailers can consider. These include mass texting for campaigns and transactional texting.

  • Campaign SMS – focus on reaching a mass audience with a single message. They come in the form of promotions, updates, alerts, coupons, tickets, surveys, polls, event invitations, and so on. These are a staple in mobile advertising
  • Transactional SMS –  “one-to-one” messages that are triggered by a certain event or behavior from your customer. An example of this would be an order confirmation or shipping notification for a purchase on your website and/or to communicate relevant and timely information to an individual.

How to stay compliant

It can be frustrating for businesses and marketers alike to spend time and effort collecting cell phone numbers with the hopes of sending them text messages only to find out that the way they went about collecting their data is not ‘carrier compliant’ or compliant with the new Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) guidelines.

Why is it so important for retailers to remain compliant? Because breaking the rules can cost you up to $1,500 a message. This is one of the main reasons a lot of business owners have shied away from SMS marketing and although SMS does perhaps seem more intrusive than other common marketing channels, it’s no more regulated or difficult to navigate or comply with. Still, there are certain laws and regulations that businesses must follow to avoid costly fines and penalties. Let’s outline some of them below: 

Make sure your contacts have opted in to SMS: receiving permission from your contacts to send them SMS messages is the most important rule to remember. SMS has an extremely high open rate, but this won’t help you if you’re sending messages to people who don’t want them or who have never asked for them. And it’s important to note that consumers have to opt-in to SMS separately from email subscriptions.  So, you should always  try to get email addresses when asking customers for phone numbers for SMS. This way, if they unsubscribe from text messages, you’ll still be able to communicate with them via email campaigns. 

Be mindful of the timing of your messages: Unlike email, which is only checked a few times daily (at most), people open text messages almost immediately. This is great for urgent messages, such as tracking information about a customer’s order or a limited-time offer that expires soon, but you don’t want to abuse this power by disturbing contacts at odd hours in the day. For instance, is your customer running out to use a coupon that just woke them up at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday? Most likely not. In fact, this would not only get you removed from a prospect’s ‘mailing list’, but it would also likely earn you a very unpleasant communication from an unhappy person. In addition, if your business is international in its scope, some countries have laws about when you can send marketing text messages (e.g. France does not allow SMS marketing on Sundays, holidays, or anytime after 10 PM) and the United States does not allow texts between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the recipients’ time zone as they are considered “quiet hours.”

Include your company’s name in your SMS: When sending bulk SMS messages, most providers send them through a shortcode, which means your contacts won’t know it is coming from you. Therefore, it is important to not only mention your company but to explain to your customers what types of messages they will receive and give them an option to opt-out, if they choose to do so. 

Failure to follow these guidelines can lead to not only fines, as mentioned above, but consumer complaints and messages getting flagged as spam. Telecom companies can also audit you or cut off your messaging campaigns entirely. 

The benefits of incorporating SMS marketing into your business plans

Using text marketing has many benefits as it allows you to reach your audience via a device they are already using rather than making them go outside their comfort zone to read a billboard, poster, or even email. Here are some benefits of SMS marketing to consider:

  • Provide best-in-class customer service: retailers can use SMS to respond to customer service questions to drive more revenue. Many apps can be integrated into your campaign to assist with this, such as WeSupplyLabs and DotDigital, to not only help improve your workflow but also form a two-way conversation with your customers to make the return or order tracking process easy and build brand loyalty if the experience is effortless for them.
  • Enter an unsaturated market: According to MobileMonkey, about 61% of marketers still don’t use SMS as a form of marketing, so being an early adopter can help you gain a competitive advantage in customer service and engagement.
  • Increase your open rates:  This is one of the key benefits of text marketing. Compared to other digital marketing techniques like email newsletters, SMS offers have a much higher open rate. For instance, SMS open rates are 98% when compared to 20% for email, at best. And unlike email campaigns, SMS messages have zero bounces because even when a user’s mobile phone is turned off, they’ll still receive your text.
  • Lower your advertising budget: Traditional forms of advertising like print ads, TV and radio tend to be expensive and their effectiveness is difficult to quantify as there is no way to truly pull statistics. SMS marketing is less expensive and offers full reporting capabilities to understand click-through rates, conversion rates, and more.
  • Segmentation made easy: An SMS campaign needs to have its target audience. Therefore, to get the proper demographics, businesses perform market segmentation which increases the effectiveness of each of their campaigns. Proper targeting and segmentation also ensure that you are sending tailored messages to the right recipients. Five segmentation categories you can consider include location, customer behavior, SMS engagement, order information, and customer attributes. Analyzing this information can help inform you what and when to send your customers text messages.
  • Complements Other Marketing Channels: SMS isn’t meant to replace all other marketing efforts – it’s the perfect companion to other marketing channels, especially for updates post-sale.
  • Meet newer generations where they are at: A large demographic of consumers have abandoned email and have turned to text messages. Show your client list that you are keeping up with the technology by sending targeted promotions via text. It will give your company a head start in winning the battle for the next generation of shoppers. This can be a great strategy for smaller businesses that are looking to create a buzz locally.

Bringing it all together

Check back for Part II where we will dive deeper on how to build a successful SMS campaign with plenty of examples.

If you’re interested in making the most of your marketing efforts and expanding with new opportunities hit the link below and contact us today.

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