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Text message marketing is one of the most powerful marketing tools at every ecommerce store's disposal.
It's a tried-and-tested and cost-effective way of having your time-sensitive promotions, updates, and alerts seen by a huge percentage of engaged customers.
Plus, it's how your customers want to hear from you – with 60% of consumers saying they prefer receiving SMS marketing messages over email marketing and push-notifications, according to Forbes.
This short guide will walk you through everything you need to know to make text marketing part of your small business's digital marketing strategy – even if you've never hit send on an SMS marketing campaign before.
What Is SMS Marketing And How Does It Work?
SMS marketing is simply reaching out to customers who've given you their permission to contact them with marketing messages.
There's a whole host of text marketing software that allows you to send SMS campaigns out to your entire contact list in minutes, making it a powerful channel for sending time-sensitive offers, updates, and alerts to the customers who've opted-in to receive SMS messages from your business.
Is Text Message Marketing Legal?
SMS marketing is 100% legal.
However, there are regulations in place in the US that protect consumers from unscrupulous marketers spamming them with marketing messages they didn't opt-in to receiving.
Before you send your first text campaign, it's important to get familiar with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) – the FCC's regulations around marketing communications.
Every SMS you send that fails to comply with the TCPA regulations could net you financial damages ranging from $500 to $1500 per text, so it's crucial that you're crystal clear on them before you delve into the world of text message marketing.
The three TCPA rules you need to stick to for each and every SMS campaign are:
You need your customers' written consent to text them
You can only text customers who have explicitly opted-in to receive text messages from your business.
An "established business relationship" doesn't cut it here – customers need to receive “clear and conspicuous disclosure” of the text messages they'll receive from your business and must agree to receive these messages to their specific phone number.
Customers can give this consent via text, email, or via a form or pop-up on your website.
You need to give your customers the option to opt-out with every text
Every text message you send needs to give recipients the ability to opt-out by replying directly to the text message ("text STOP to stop", for example).
You can only text your customers at reasonable times
Last but not least, you can only send texts to your customers between 8am and 9pm.
How Text Message Marketing Can Benefit Your Business
SMS marketing should be part of every ecommerce business's marketing strategy.
Incredible open rates
Want to reach your customers? Text them.
The average American is never far from their mobile device. In fact:
- 91% of Americans keep their mobile devices within arm's length at all times, according to Morgan Stanley.
- Consumers now spend more than five hours a day on their cell phone, according to AdWeek.
- The average user will tap, swipe, and click their phone 2,617 times a day – with extreme users touching their phone over 5,400 times a day, according to a study by research firm Dscout.
Send your customers an SMS text and you'll be reaching them on the device that's rarely out of their hands.
90% of all text messages are read within three minutes of being received, and texts are opened and read almost 138% more than email (98% to 18% open rate), according to EZ Texting’s 2019 Mobile Usage Report.
You just won't see those kinds of open rates through any other marketing channel.
Insane engagement rates
People don't just read SMS messages – they engage with them.
In fact, SMS messaging drives engagement rates six-to-eight times higher than retailers normally achieve through email marketing, according to Retail Dive.
Hit send on an SMS marketing message and within three minutes, the majority of recipients will have read it.
That makes it the ideal channel to drum up interest in a flash sale or a daily deal, as people will see your message immediately.
It also makes texting an effective tool for testing different messages with your audience.
Not sure which copy to include on the social media ad you're about to put money behind? Test a few options with the customers who've opted-in to receive text messages from you to see which drives the highest engagement rate and you'll have the answer in minutes.
It lets you track everything
Any text message marketing software worth its salt gives you access to detailed reports that allow you to track every aspect of your SMS marketing campaigns.
This will allow you to mix up your approach and see exactly how every change affects open rates and conversions, allowing you to refine your approach over time.
While SMS marketing can drive some serious results, it won't blow the bank. Because text message marketing software is so affordable, it tends to generate a far higher ROI than social media or display ads and leads to much more immediate results than inbound channels like SEO and social media.
Your audience is engaged
The fact your customers need to opt-in to receive text messages from you is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it's naturally going to reduce the number of customers on your list. However, it ensures that the audience of your SMS marketing campaigns is highly engaged, as they've gone out of their way to request that you send them marketing messages.
It provides customer research with a quick turnaround
Last but not least, text messaging is an incredibly effective customer research tool.
On average, 31% of consumers will respond to a survey via SMS, with the average response time being just over five minutes, according to SmartInsights.
Before Sending That Message, Follow These Best Practices
Get the highest return on investment on your SMS marketing strategy by following these best practices:
Use a text message marketing app
You won't be able to implement a serious text market strategy without an SMS marketing service.
SMS marketing apps allow you to send mass texts from your computer, automate and schedule your campaigns, and set autoresponders that are triggered by specific events. For example, you can send a customer a 10% discount on the items they abandoned in their cart if they don't return to your site after 24 hours.
A text message marketing service also allows you to track the performance of your mobile messaging through detailed analytics.
Jump to our pick of the five best SMS apps for ecommerce businesses.
Personalize your messages
Personalized content outperforms static content by 42%, according to a study by HubSpot.
So, send messages with a personal touch for the very best results.
A few simple ways to do this are to:
- Address recipients by name
- Send them offers and promotions based on their activity on your site
- Send messages with a conversational rather than corporate tone
An important thing to remember is that your customers aren't likely to save your short code as a contact. Which means every SMS marketing campaign they receive is coming from an unknown number.
So, be sure to introduce yourself for the best chances of success.
Instead of "Free delivery on orders over $30 today", send "Today at Jane's Jeans: free delivery on orders over $30".
This will not only make it more likely your messages will get read (when was the last time you read a message from a mystery number?), it also helps build brand recognition.
Make your texts count
Overwhelm your contacts with texts without an exciting offer attached to them and they'll quickly opt-out of receiving them.
Only launch text messaging campaigns around clear and compelling offers and you'll likely find it a remarkably effective channel for tempting existing customers into one more purchase.
So, make sure that when your customers see they've got a text from you that they know it's something good.
Include a CTA
Every marketing text you send should include a CTA – a link to click or a reply to send to get the offer. Make it clear, compelling, and impossible to miss to keep your conversion rates as high as possible.
You only have 160 characters to play with in an SMS message, so you've got to make them count.
That's not much to play with. But for the best results, don't fall into the trap of sending unintelligible messages like "free deliv on all ordrs b4 5".
Remember – your customers are getting this text completely out of the blue. If they don't understand it at a glance, they're more likely to opt-out than click your CTA.
Plus, the way you text your customers is an extension of your brand. Your text marketing campaigns don't need to be Pulitzer Prize-worthy, but they should always be written in plain and intelligible English.
If it's impossible to fit a messaging into 160 characters, reword it rather than shortening it with abbreviations.
Time it right
The time you schedule a text message to go out will make or break it.
When are you more likely to click the CTA of a text from Domino's – 9am on a Tuesday or 3pm on a Friday?
Think about what your target audience's week looks like and time your texts to land in their mobile phone when they're most primed to buy from you.
The best time of the day to send general marketing messages is between 10:31 am–11:29 am or 2:34 pm–3:27 pm, according to research by SMSGlobal. So, you'd be well advised to start text messaging in those time slots to start with before experimenting to find the best time for your business.
Use drip campaigns
Because it has such high open and engagement rates, mobile marketing is an incredibly effective channel for drip campaigns.
A drip campaign is an automated sequence of messages that are triggered by a specific event.
For example, if a customer abandons their cart, you might text them a 10% discount on those items after 24 hours, 15% after 48, and 20% after 72.
This is a powerful technique for driving conversions across your ecommerce store.
The 5 Best SMS Apps For Ecommerce Businesses
A first-class text messaging app is essential to any business that wants the highest return on investment on every SMS it sends.
Here's everything you need to know to pick the right SMS marketing software for you, from what to look for to our pick of the five best options on the market today.
What To Look For In A Text Marketing App
To get the best results from your text marketing efforts, make sure to choose an SMS app with the following features:
Let's be honest: you don't have time to master another app. So, look out for intuitive apps designed for small businesses with your level of technical knowhow.
It makes it easy to grow a fully compliant contact list
It's essential that every person on your SMS marketing list has opted-in to receive marketing texts for you. So, be sure to go with an app that provides you with all the tools you need to grow a fully compliant list of contacts.
It allows you to set a short code
An SMS short code is a five or six digit phone number that a brand uses to communicate to its customers. Short code numbers are pre-approved by wireless carriers to send more messages than a long code phone number in a short period of time, making them essential for small businesses sending text marketing campaigns.
It allows you to configure SMS keywords
An SMS keyword is a word or phrase that customers can text to a long code number to opt-in to receiving text marketing messages that are relevant to them.
An SMS app that allows you to set up multiple signup keywords will allow you build compliant and segmented audiences you can send personalized SMS campaigns, as well as set up autoresponses tailored to their interests.
It has robust analytics
If you can't measure your campaigns' results, you can't improve on them next time. So, be sure to go with SMS marketing software that provides detailed reporting on every marketing text you hit send on.
EZ Texting has been the leading text message marketing tool since 2004.
It's popularity comes down to how easy it is to use, from its user-friendly app to its first-class customer support. That makes EZ Texting a great option for small businesses that are new to marketing automation software.
That doesn't mean EZ Texting is light on features, though. Everything you need to execute an effective text marketing strategy is accounted for here, from configuring signup keywords to detailed analytics to Zapier integrations.
Brand Price: From $24/month for 200 text messages, one textable number, and one signup keyword.
Key Features: Easy to use
Who This Is For: Small ecommerce business owners who either are new to marketing automation software or like the idea of using a tool without much of a learning curve.
Attentive is the self-described "most comprehensive text message marketing solution", making it the perfect platform for anyone who wants to ensure the very best results from every SMS marketing campaign.
Every Attentive customer gets a dedicated Client Strategy Team that provides a white glove onboarding process, during which they'll help you optimise your text message marketing strategy from the ground up.
Choose Attentive and you'll also get access to its patent-pending “two-tap” sign-up, as well as endless customization and segmentation possibilities through two-way journeys.
Brand Price: Free trial available, but pricing information not publicly available.
Key Features: White glove onboarding process, comprehensive customization options.
Who This Is For: Small ecommerce business owners serious about getting the highest possible ROI from their text message marketing.
SlickText is another market-leading text message marketing service that's trusted by FedEx, IHOP, and Lyft.
SlickText is another easy-to-use application with features that cover SMS automation, short codes and keywords, and MMS marketing.
What sets SlickText apart from the competition is its best-in-class customer service, onboarding process, and knowledge base. This makes it a great option if you're trying your hand at text message marketing for the first time and would appreciate a helping hand getting up and running.
Brand Price: From $29/month for 500 texts and two keywords to $139/month for 3,600 texts and eight keywords.
Key Features: Best-in-class customer support
Who This Is For: Small ecommerce business owners looking for a helping hand getting the most from their text marketing instead of dedicating a lot of their own time to mastering it themselves.
SimpleTexting, as the name suggests, is a no-frills option that specializes in making it easy to send a mass text to everyone on your list.
You can set up a new campaign in minutes using the intuitive dashboard and then analyze its performance through robust reporting. SimpleTexting makes automation particularly easy, allowing you to set up a signup keyword that triggers an autoresponder in record time
SimpleTexting's built-in apps also allow you to send out surveys, polls, and sweepstakes.
Brand Price: From $25/month for 500 credits (enough for 500 texts). Additional credits cost $0.045.
Key Features: Intuitive interface that makes it easy to quickly send a mass text to each of the contacts on your list.
Who This Is For: Small ecommerce business owners after a simple way to get started with mobile marketing.
Twilio is the perfect platform for a tech-savvy ecommerce store owner looking to integrate text message marketing with their overall customer engagement strategy.
You can connect tools like Zapier and Hubspot to Twilio's API to seamlessly integrate text message marketing with emails, phone calls, and chatbots to engage your customers with personalized communications at every step in the buyer journey.
This will give you endless customization options when it comes to segmentation and custom campaigns. And if you're comfortable doing the legwork yourself, you'll also save a lot of money on your SMS marketing through Twilio.
Brand Price: Text messages start at $0.0075/message sent and received, with an additional $0.005/message carrier fee on messages you send. Dedicated phone numbers start at $1/month.
Key Features: Completely customizable and seamlessly integrates text messaging with the rest of your customer engagement strategy.
Who This Is For: Tech-savvy small ecommerce business owners interested in setting up an SMS marketing solution that's tailored to their exact needs.