An E-Commerce Marketer’s Quick-Start Guide to SMS Marketing: Templates, Best Practices, and Advice

Lifecycle Marketing

Introduction

When was the last time you checked your phone? 

Depending on the study you look at, Americans check their phones between 50 and 90 times a day. Plus — the newest survey on cell phone usage dates back to two years ago… and with our lives becoming increasingly mobile-dependent, it’s safe to say that our relationship with our cell phone has only grown stronger. 

Brands want a piece of that pie, and rightfully so. Let’s start with a brief journey through time. 

The mid-2000s saw an exponential increase in email marketing, as email became the most common form of communication between businesses and online retail customers. 

By 2012, over 40% of marketing emails were opened on a mobile device, signaling the shift to mobile usage amongst consumers. This was concurrent with the rise of popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, which were built with mobile users in mind. 

So the valid next step for marketers became clear: in the constant race to meet customers where they spend the most time, SMS marketing came into play towards the end of 2018.

Fast-forward to 2020: where the most innovative online brands are constantly redefining what success means on the SMS channel. Whether they’re using SMS for promotions, fulfillment notifications, or 1:1 customer communication, brands are finding true success with the channel. 

Why SMS Marketing? 

The benefits of SMS marketing widely depend on the business use case. Depending on what you use SMS marketing for, you can see higher numbers across the board in customer retention, satisfaction, average order size, and more. 

For many ecommerce brands, SMS marketing is simply the next step in their channel mix. After adding and improving channels like social media and email, brands look for new ways to engage with their customers. 

Take King Ice for example. In just one quarter, Hawke Media used Postscript to grow their SMS list by 1.7x and saw 5x in ROI. 

Different Ways Brands Use SMS Marketing

The simplest use case for SMS marketing is to send subscribers information about upcoming sales and promotions. This example from King Ice gives the discount amount and provides the reader with an easy link to the website. 

Other brands, like women’s apparel brand NanaMacs, use it for new product announcements. 

Some brands use it to build relationships and community with their customers through conversational marketing – where there is no mention of new products or promotions. In fact, these messages often don’t include a CTA at all. 

While the return on investment for these types of messages will be harder to measure, brands in competitive sectors like apparel, beauty, and housewares need to find ways to differ from others — and customer education is an easy way to do that. 

For example, emergency-preparedness kits from JUDY come with more than just batteries, flashlights, and blankets. Shoppers also get access to smart tips. 

Last but not least, it also makes sense to use SMS at the end of the purchase experience. By letting customers know about changes in their order or delivery status, brands are communicating faster with customers (compared to email notifications, which aren’t read as often or as quickly.)

Here’s a quick example from Imperfect Foods

If you have the right technology to build it out — like the Postscript and Recharge integration — consider reaching back out to customers for replenishment notifications. 

Electrolyte supplement beverage Hydrant sends replenishment texts to customers once their order will be getting low, depending on the amount ordered and the time elapsed. 

These are just some of the ways brands are using SMS — but I’d encourage you to think outside of the box. After all, you know your customers best: if you think they’d be receptive to SMS communications, test the channel. Even better — survey them to understand whether or not they would be interested in getting notifications via text. 

Don’t know where to get started? We’ve built out a library of SMS examples over at the Postscript Learning Center. 

SMS marketing best practices

While the channel is relatively new, there are still some best practices to keep in mind in order to respect your customers and keep building your list. Don’t worry — they aren’t too different than the ones you’re already using in other communications like email. 

1. Respect the inbox. 

This one is simple. SMS is a sensitive channel, because people typically reserve text communication for friends and family. Don’t be intrusive. 

An easy way to do this is to just start slow and make sure you have a thorough understanding of SMS marketing before you even begin. Send 1-2 messages a month, at most. See what kind of responses you get (and from what segments of customers) and go from there. And as always, make sure there is an easy way for customers to opt-out. TCPA compliance is no joke. 

2. Pay attention to your channel mix. 

If you’re messaging subscribers through email and SMS, make sure you’re measuring both of those points of communication. While SMS won’t necessarily cannibalize your revenue or engagement from email, there is potential for subscribers to be overwhelmed if they’re getting bombarded by your brand on both channels. 

3. Stay human. 

As mentioned previously, SMS is a sensitive channel. Sending too many messages, or messages with the wrong tone, may result in a quick unsubscribe. And once a customer unsubscribes, it’s really tough to get back in touch with them. 

Make sure you’re paying close attention to your engagement and unsubscribe rates. At the beginning of your SMS marketing journey, survey some of your most loyal customers to get a feel for how often they’d be willing to hear from you in their text messages folder. 

4. Be compliant, always. 

From your Terms of Service and Privacy Policy through to your opt-in and opt-out practices, there are some fine guidelines you need to follow in order to not be faced with fines. We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to SMS compliance over at the Postscript website, and encourage you to do plenty of research before you start an SMS campaign. 

Conclusion

It’s not every day where a new channel boasts a 99% open rate. 

SMS marketing can be a powerful addition to your ecommerce marketing techniques, as long as you’re creative with implementation and respectful of inboxes.

If you’re interested in getting more familiar with SMS marketing, consider poking around the Postscript platform and signing up for a 30-day free trial.