The world of eCommerce is absolutely exploding. Every day there are hundreds of new online stores that are popping up around the world and for good reason…that’s where the money is. In fact, over half of all internet users somewhat regularly shop online. Almost 75% of all millennials prefer to shop online over an in-store experience.

There’s gold in eCommerce, but where there’s an opportunity, you’ll find competition.

Because of the eCommerce market saturation in various industries, merchants are forced to get on point with their digital marketing efforts and obtain creative with how they drive traffic and conversions. One channel that’s becoming quite popular is SMS marketing.

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing for eCommerce is simply marketing to your customers via text messaging. Its effectiveness is incredible, though. It allows you to cut through the clutter of most traditional marketing channels by engaging your customers where they’re spending more and more time…their mobile devices. If you sit back and think about it, not many people ignore their texts. In fact, over 90% of all text messages are read within 5 minutes.

While text messaging is traditionally reserved for communicating with friends and family, consumers find real value in allowing their favorite brands to communicate specific types of messages to them via SMS.

This opens up a whole new channel of communication and strategy that eCommerce merchants are using—snagging the attention of their customers and delivering value to their fingertips.

Now initially, you might think “I don’t want My phone blowing up with text messages from everyone I shop with.” Fortunately, while that’s the way of email, the good news is that SMS marketing automation is far from that.

Text marketing is permission-based and requires explicit consent before any messages can be sent. Furthermore, there can be serious legal consequences for sending unsolicited texts. This puts you within the clear for adopting this powerful marketing channel as long as your customers opt-in.

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Why You Should Care

As previously stated, owners of eCommerce stores got to use every digital marketing method within the book to grow their business and win online. Many are experiencing huge success with SMS marketing automation. While there are many reasons why text messaging should be the next weapon in your marketing arsenal, here are a few key reasons why this should have your attention.

Incredible Open Rates 

Total open rates for text messages hover around 99% and the majority of that happens within the first 5 minutes—that’s insane! Compare this to email marketing where you’re likely seeing a 25% open rate at the best. There’s no contest. If you’re looking to drive immediate traffic, it’s silly not to have SMS marketing software in place.

Click-Through Rates Higher Over Email

Let’s draw the same comparisons with click through rates. The average click-through rate for a SMS marketing campaigns is around 36%. Compare that to email click-through rates and it falls to the floor at just above 3%. Some eCommerce site owners have actually claimed they split large text messaging lists up into segments, as single large text blasts drive an excessive amount of traffic directly.

All Is Mobile

The world lives on their mobile devices. Popular search engines like Google have directly come out and said they are now prioritizing a mobile experience above the desktop. Because SMS is still the number 1 form of mobile communication today, there couldn’t be a better channel to engage with your customers.

Fresh and Untapped

While many eCommerce sites are absolutely pro at SMS marketing, it still hasn’t hit critical mass. Many people still haven’t even started using it in their strategy to scale up their eCommerce business. This gives you the advantage over many competitors who likely haven’t taken the time to dive in, or who are ignorant about the undeniable ROI.

How eCommerce Uses SMS Marketing

So, we’ve made it abundantly clear why you’re missing the train if SMS marketing isn’t in your toolbox of marketing channels. With that said, however, it’s helpful to see how existing eCommerce merchants are leveraging text message automation in various capacities. Here are 7 actionable ideas for putting rubber to the road and putting a strategy in place.

Grow Your List at Checkout

You may have asked yourself, “how will I keep people hooked to my VIP text list as a web store?” Texting to join has always been the number one way that people subscribe to personalized SMS marketing lists and the process is quite simple. When you launch a text program, you will create what’s called a “keyword.” It’s a word or phrase that people will text to a short phone number called a shortcode.

When people text that keyword, they’re instantly subscribed to your list and can receive a customizable auto-response. This response simply confirms their subscription and will deliver on some kind of incentive created for subscribers to hitch within the first place.

While that method for opting people in works extremely well, what seems to work even better for eCommerce sites is opting people in at the time of checkout. This involves extracting people’s mobile numbers when they are completing their transaction.

Generally, you’ll have a box that they can check to opt-in for receiving personalized text messages which should contain some specific compliance verbiage to make the opt-in compliant with mobile carrier guidelines.

This verbiage would say something like: “I agree to receive text messages from the XYZ brand. Up to 4 messages/month. Reply HELP for help, STOP to opt-out. Message and data rates may apply. Terms & privacy policy here: http://myprivacypolicyhere.com”.

Opting in at checkout works well for several reasons and offers additional benefits. Some of those include:

  • Every customer has to go through the checkout form and thus is presented with an opportunity to opt-in front and center.
  • Opt-ins through the checkout flow allow you to capture additional data about who’s subscribing such as their name, last purchase date, order values, and items purchased. This rich data will allow you to segment your subscribers based on a multitude of different things and help you target them at a more granular level.
  • Customers who elect to receive your marketing can be instantly subscribed if the SMS marketing software that you choose offers integration options with your eCommerce solution or provides an open API.

One-Off Promos

Sending one-off SMS promotions is perhaps the foremost common and documented use case for text marketing. It’s pretty straight forward too. You’re simply doing a text blast to your subscriber list with some sort of offer that drives people to your website. The key to maximizing your success here is to do a few specific things.

  • Add time pressure to your offer. create an urgency in the texts that you send out, for example, offer expiry. This will cause more people to take immediate action when your message lands on their phone.
  • Provide an immediate link to the merchandise or product category that you’re looking to push. You want to form things as easy as possible for your customers. Take the diligence of site navigation out and send them on to where they have to be.
  • Personalize your message. If you’re opting people into your text list at checkout, then it’s likely that you’re capturing their name as well. By addressing each person in your text blast by name, you are getting even more personal, which grabs additional attention and pushes engagement levels even higher.

In addition to crafting a great message, it’s important to keep in mind how often you’re texting your customers. Show respect by not texting them every day and only do a text blast when you have something of real value to send out. This may include additional discounts for sale items, free shipping, and coupon codes.

The key to being successful with SMS can boil down to value. Make sure you’re bringing value with each message. This is one of the core best practices for SMS marketing automation.

Unique Coupon Codes

Sending unique coupon codes may be a home run eCommerce. Depending on your SMS provider, you’ll have the power to supply each subscriber in your text blast with a singular coupon code which will only be used once. This helps to prevent abuse and makes people feel like they’re part of an ultra-special group that has access to offers that other people don’t. When that light goes off and they understand that they are entitled to something valuable, you’ll have these people on your text list forever.

Birthday Rewards

Take the private touch to an entirely another level by offering happy birthday personalized messages to your customers. Nothing says you’re paying attention like scoring them a unique deal on their special day.

In almost all cases, you should be able to automate this entire process. Moreover, the engagement brought alone form these messages are incredibly high. Combine this with your unique coupon codes to ensure that these rewards are not shared among friends and you’ll see these bring value every day.

Automated Purchase Reminders

Do you offer products that customers return to get on a daily basis? Setting up automated SMS reminders can be really helpful for reminding people to replenish their stock on certain items.

If you’ll found out an integration between your eCommerce site and your mass texting service, you ought to not only be ready to automate these messages but even have them intelligently send based upon the customer’s last purchase date. This is key. The more relevant and private you’ll make your messages, the upper the engagement, click-through, and conversion you’re getting to see.

To take it a step further, if your eCommerce solution offers the ability to identify abandoned carts, you can set up text message alerts here as well. If you’re on your game, you’ll already be doing this via email. However, sending a customized text reminding them to select up where they left off is powerful. If you make this one happen, be sure to provide a direct link to their cart so they don’t have to navigate to your site to continue down the funnel.

Shipping Notifications

Shipping notifications are an easy one. Each message brings value along, especially if you’re including links of the delivery status updates. While these messages probably aren’t marketing related, it helps your customers to become easier communicating together with your brand via text.

Additionally, your SMS service should allow people to respond to any of your outbound text messages. This gives you the opportunity to provide support in a really unique way. Remember, great customers experience equal raving fans. If you can leverage SMS to provide a new level of personal support, people will share those great experiences with others.

Feedback Collection

A less common way that eCommerce sites are making good use of SMS marketing services is by asking for feedback from the existing users. It’s amazing how many merchants who already are using text messaging look past this as a source for capturing such valuable data. Some text message marketing services offer survey features that allow you to simply conduct automated, multi-question feedback loops.

When surveying your customers via text, there are 2 key areas that you’ll want to focus on when setting up your post-purchase SMS surveys:

Getting feedback on the entire purchase experience 

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This includes everything from how easy it had been to navigate your site, to your product availability, and simple inspect. Once a person has elected to receive texts from you, it’d be a good idea to set up an SMS survey to auto-drip out 10 to 20 minutes after they’ve completed their purchase. This gives them some “breathing room” and doesn’t make them feel bombarded. Be sure to keep your survey brief, focused, and contextual. You, as the merchant, need to be getting solid, actionable feedback from each respondent to make this really worth it. Additionally, you’ll want to reward everyone for taking your survey to spice up participation.

Capturing product reviews

Anyone who is indulged in eCommerce knows that product reviews are crucial, especially if you‘re selling on a marketplace like Amazon. The number of quality product reviews from real buyers can have a direct impact on people’s purchase decisions.

Why not capture that data via SMS? What you can do is provide a card in each order that is shipped with a clear call to action asking your customer to text “XYZ” to 12345 to provide a product review. You can place that card right on top so that it’s front and center when they open the box. Furthermore, you can incentivize them to take the survey by delivering a unique coupon code once completed and create a great excuse for them to come back again soon.

Pro Tip: Branded links in text messaging is now a best practice, as they’re known to increase trust between your brand and your customers, as well as increase the deliverability rate of your SMS messages due to the fact that they’re not at risk of being marked as spam. Marketers can create branded links using platforms like Rebrandly URL Shortener.

Conclusion

The state of eCommerce continues to evolve as the landscape becomes more competitive. Merchants are dually pressured by increased ad costs and new online competitors. As a consequence, teams are getting leaner, larger merchants are cutting staff, and smaller startups are comfortable running lean and leveraging technology to achieve results with less.

Traditional enterprise marketing software is designed and made for large teams who come up with grand plans and have large upfront cost campaigns and technology investments. The new breed of advanced and fast-growing merchants want software that just works.

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