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18: SMS Marketing For eCommerce – Is it for You + How to Do It

Should you be doing SMS marketing? I’ll break down how you can decide whether or not it’s the right move for you and give you some quick ideas and strategies you can use should you choose to get started with SMS. 

What You’ll Learn: 

  • Why compliance is of the utmost importance with SMS and how to avoid big fines
  • The most popular platforms for SMS Messages
  • Easy ways to implement SMS into your existing marketing strategy

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

If you’ve been following me for any length of time you know I’m obsessed with email marketing, so much so that helping people migrate to Klaviyo was the first service I offered. 

Now I’ve branched out to high-level holistic eCommerce strategy packages and SEO (AND I’m building out some DIY learning options for you—stay tuned!) but email is still a HUGE part of what I do. It has a great ROI, it has been accepted as a marketing communications medium by people of ALL ages and as technology advances, there is so much cool stuff you can do with automation. 

But when it comes to Millenials and Gen Z, email’s little sister text messaging and SMS marketing takes the cake. 

To be clear, SMS marketing is not a replacement for email and it’s not right for every customer base, but it can be powerful. It also makes a great complementary service to an already solid email strategy. 

Key things you need to know about SMS marketing

1. Choose a platform that is built for SMS marketing

There are a bunch out there that integrate with some of the tools you already use. Klaviyo, for instance, launched SMS marketing at the beginning of the year. 

Integrating your SMS Marketing with your email marketing is a really good idea because you can use them both together. It allows you to see whether or not a subscriber opened one or the other. 

Popular platforms include :

  • SMS Bump, which is now part of Yotpo
  • Emotive — their platform focuses on allowing you to have a two-way automated conversation with your subscribers. At this point, I haven’t had the opportunity to use the app, so I don’t know much about it, but from a general marketing perspective, we know a two-way conversation is much more powerful than a one-way information blast. 
  • Klaviyo SMS 

2. Consider the type of phone number you get

Most of the time you will see a short five-digit number. Short numbers are often shared with other brands. You may have experienced a time where you received a message from two different companies from the same number. This can lead to accidental unsubscribes when a customer hits unsubscribe with one company, it unsubscribes to both because they share a number. 

Klaviyo actually gives you a typical 10 digit number, which is unique to you and you never have to worry about losing a subscriber by accident. You can chose to invest in a short number if you’d prefer that, though it is a little bit more expensive. 

3. Keep your messages short and sweet

Texts are short-form by design and only allow for 160 characters. When you’re writing them out on these platforms it should tell you how many messages long it will be. 

You definitely don’t want to bombard your subscribers with multiple messages in a row. Don’t be that friend that sends 10 individual messages instead of one long one —does that annoy the fuck outta you too?

If you can’t get it down to one message, maaaybe two. Consider turning it into an email instead. 

4. It’s super cost-effective

Generally you only pay a few pennies per text and it’s often a pay as you go model. 

5. Just because you have someone’s phone number does not mean you have the right to text message them

They need to opt-in to receive those messages just like they do for email. Focus on collecting their phone number through a pop-up form or have them text the word “Join” to your number. 

This is just one of the few keywords that you are required to have, along with “Stop” to opt-out. Make sure you are compliant.

Klaviyo manages consent for you and won’t send a text message if they don’t have SMS consent. Any reputable platform should work the same way and will have the required keywords built-in. Make sure you’re aware and asking the right questions, especially if you’re using an unknown service. 

To really protect yourself, go for the double opt-in. This is much less cumbersome in SMS than it is in email because it all happens in the same text thread.

How can you work SMS Marketing into your overall marketing strategy?

Consider whether this is something your customer will be interested in

If they’re over 50, eh — maybe not. If they’re in their 20s — most likely. Test out the 30s and 40s, because they’re going to be a mixed bag. 

The good news is, since you have those pay as you go options, you can test it out without spending anything until you send an actual text — the barrier to entry is pretty low. 

Integrate SMS into your already existing automation flows

Start with cart recovery or anything else that is time-sensitive. Because the open rate is so high and immediate, it’s a great tool for last chance reminders, short-term flash sales and even reminding your customers that you’re about to start a live sale on your social channel.

Example: Hosting a live sale on Instagram 

Announce the sale to your email list a few days before to get them excited about it. Email allows you to provide more details and information about the sale: when it’s going to be, a sneak peek at what you’re going to be featuring, etc. Then, maybe 15-30 minutes before the event you send a text message to remind them the event is happening soon!

Example: Cart Abandonment Emails 

When they abandon their cart, maybe you send them an email first and then if they haven’t opened that email within a day, you can follow up with a text. This is where having your SMS deeply integrated with your email platform is really powerful. 

Example: Short term flash sale

You can also use SMS marketing if you’re having a short term flash sale — like only 24 hours. To up the ante you can even do some exclusive perks just for your SMS subscribers such as a happy hour sale that’s just a few hours during the day. Email could be too slow to communicate this but SMS would be a great option. 

There is power in being early 

Not a lot of people are using SMS marketing in their strategy— it’s still early in the game. Sure, it’s been around for a few years, but the adoption rate is still so low. 

Smartphones and technology are the only thing the younger generation knows so SMS has the potential to be for them what email is to the older generation and what radio was to those before. 

It is also possible to be too early at something. A company I worked with did text messaging YEARS ago — we’re talking like 8 years ago. It was way too early. People weren’t into it and it and the program bombed. But, times have changed. Now is a great time to get started if it’s something you’ve been considering. 

SMS Marketing Limitations 

1. It’s not as widely accepted as email marketing… yet

There are still a good number of consumers who want nothing to do with receiving text message marketing — myself included. 

SMS messages are more in your face, which is likely why SMS marketing messages have an open rate of over 90% and are read within a few minutes of receiving them. 

While marketing emails often remain in your in inbox where you can leave them if you don’t want to read them.

2. Don’t send unsolicited text messages

A lot of companies have gotten themselves into big trouble by sending unsolicited text messages. Penalties for these are hefty, ranging anywhere from $500-$1500 per incident… per incident meaning per text! 

This isn’t meant to scare you or dissuade you, rather urge you to do it the right way — make sure you are compliant. Do not be willy nilly about this shit. 

A few other things to keep in mind

SMS messages are very personal. You’ve probably heard me say when someone subscribes to your email list they are inviting you into their inbox. Well, SMS is the same, only even more so. It’s important you treat that with respect and build a relationship with them through SMS the same way you would in email. For instance, make sure you have a welcome series onboarding them to your text list. 

Unless you have a REALLY good deal to send them, you may want to exclude anyone who made a purchase in the last week or so. This is a good practice for email too. It always depends on your customer though. If you know that people shop really often with you, that might not be necessary. 

Start researching and testing. Ultimately, you’ll have to test and see what works for your customer. Some people will tell you to send multiple texts per week, which might work for you, but you have to really understand your customer and what they want. 

If you do implement it I’d love to hear how it works for you! DM me on instagram and tell me all about it!

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Hey, I’m Jessica!

eCommerce + email Marketing Strategist

I support scrappy female entrepreneurs with actionable steps & strategies to grow and scale the traffic, sales & profit in their eCommerce businesses. Learning from the top experts in the digital marketing & eCommerce industry she loves working with female entrepreneurs and teaching the secrets of 7-figure eCommerce businesses.

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