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Omnichannel commerce | Mobile

Why-and How-to Begin SMS Marketing

Illustration of man holding an smart-phone while SMS messages fly around it
M-commerce is here, but you don't need to invest in a fancy app to get in the game

M-commerce—simply put, ecommerce that takes on mobile phones and other wireless handheld devices—continues to grow. EMarketer, projects 2017 m-commerce sales in the UK to reach nearly £30.2 billion in 2017, up just shy of 20% from the previous year. That sum will account for 40.4% of all UK retail ecommerce sales and 7.5% of its retail sales overall. By 2020, eMarketer expects UK m-commerce sales to exceed £42.5 billion, or 44.7% of ecommerce sales and more than 10% of total retail sales in the UK.


The upward tick is even more pronounced in the U.S., probably because m-commerce currently accounts for a smaller proportion of ecommerce and retail sales. According to eMarketer, m-commerce sales there will hit $151.1 billion in 2017, up nearly 23% from 2016, accounting for 35% of ecommerce sales and 3% of total retail sales. By 2020, m-commerce sales in the States are expected to reach nearly $242.1 billion, making up 41% of ecommerce sales and 4.5% of total retail revenue.


What does that mean to you? It means that if your business hasn't gone mobile yet, it needs to.


What it doesn't mean is that you should jump into m-commerce by launching an app. Yes, apps can drive sales, but only if they simplify and enhance the shopping experience. A slapdash app can in fact hurt business, by damaging your brand's credibility with customers who have a poor experience.


Marketing via SMS—Short Message Service, or text messaging—enables you to easily and affordably enter the m-commerce sector.



Building your subscriber list

Laws regarding mobile marketing lists vary by jurisdiction, but by and large you can't just start sending marketing messages to consumers who have not opted in. To encourage people to opt in, promote your mobile marketing program just as you do (or should) your email program.


In its white paper "Mobile Marketing Guide: Effective SMS Campaigns That Engage and Convert," marketing solutions provider Listrak suggests displaying in-store signage that includes an opt-in text address, or short code, with a keyword at the bottom so that consumers can text to subscribe then and there. The same messaging should also appear on store receipts and the headers and footers of your website and emails. You might even want to add a pop-up on your site or send a dedicated email expressly to drive opt-ins.


If you've successfully used offers in the past to drive email subscriptions—"Sign up today and get 10% off your next purchase"—consider doing the same to encourage SMS subscriptions. Such offers aren't the only ways to persuade consumers to opt in, however. According to Listrak, while 55% of consumers subscribe to receive coupons and other incentives, and 52% to garner loyalty-programme points, 26% do so because of the promise of exclusive content, 25% to receive product information and updates, and 19% so that they could stay abreast of store news and events.


Whatever your value proposition, be sure to clearly explain the benefits of subscribing—in other words, let consumers know what's in it for them. Just be certain that you deliver on what you promise.—which brings us to...



Determining your campaigns

You should know the sort of messages you'll want to send via text before you even begin to build your subscriber list. SMS messages need to be short (160 characters, including legalese) and to the point. They're not for general branding in the way that marketing emails can be; they need to have a specific purpose with a clear call to action. Notifying subscribers of special store events, promotions, or sales are worthy communications; ditto news of product releases, sweepstakes, or even social media campaigns.


SMS is an immediate medium. For that reason, Listrak advises not sending texts about sales that will launch next week or including coupons that cannot be enabled as soon as recipients read their texts. "Create urgency," Listrak suggests. "Content and offers should be available for use immediately and should include a short expiration date." Along the same lines, "Be direct. Tell the subscriber what you want them to do and how to do it. Use active language."


You can also use text messaging as part of a trigger campaign. After a customer has made a purchase, you might send a text with a link to a customer-satisfaction survey. Or, as Spark Page, a provider of relationship management software, suggests in a blog post titled Six Tips for a Successful SMS Marketing Campaign, "if you have a regular customer over a period of time, and they stop coming into your store, you can send them a text with deals to get them to come back."


Besides marketing, you can text subscribers with customer service messaging, such as order confirmations, shipping details, receipts, and other transactional information. Most important, "subscribers must receive SMS responses from your organisation when they send a text to your short code," according to Listrak, "even if the keyword they send is incorrect." And do we really need to remind you that you should respond to any texts requesting help or that you should confirm receipt of opt-ins and opt-outs?



Dos and don'ts

As for the nitty-gritty of SMS marketing, keep these tips in mind:


Do keep track of the time. Subscribers should receive SMS messages between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. local time, according to Listrak, excluding commuting hours. If your audience spans multiple time zones, bear that in mind. People do not want to receive messages while they're sleeping or driving. You should also avoid sending texts on holidays. And Listrak notes that messages sent on weekends have a 400% higher opt-out rate than those sent during the week; what's more, Mondays generate the lowest response rate.


Do not message too frequently—or too infrequently. According to Listrak, the number-one reason consumers unsubscribe from SMS messaging is that they receive too many messages, with 59% opting out because of that. Consensus among marketers and service providers is to send one or two messages a week, or four to eight messages a month.


Do create a sense of exclusivity. While your overall branding and language should be consistent across all channels, you want SMS subscribers to feel that they're getting something of value in exchange for agreeing to receive communications—that receiving the texts is worth their while. The added value doesn't have to be a discount or a coupon. Early access to an online sale, additional information about a new product range, a link to a landing page of exclusive products: These are ways to ensure that subscribers feel special.


Don't compete with your other channels. If you're sending a free shipping offer to email subscribers, don't send a discount coupon to SMS subscribers on the same day. You can, however, send a text message letting SMS subscribers know that if they opt in to receive email that day, they are eligible for free shipping. "Your emails and SMS messages should work together," Listrak notes.


Do shorten any URLs you include in your texts. "Receive 10% off. Visit" uses up a lot of precious characters and looks off-putting. "Visit" is much more attractive and frees up more characters for your copy.


Do ensure that any web pages you direct subscribers to are mobile-friendly.


Do have clear calls to action. That's the whole point of SMS messages, after all.



author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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