Does SMS marketing really work?

It’s a Friday afternoon and you’re just about to finish up with work. It’s been a long slog and you’re pretty ecstatic about the weekend on the horizon. You don’t have any concrete plans, but you’re prepared to take things as they come.

At just before 5pm, a text pings through to your phone, lighting up your screen, making you aware that you’ve only got a mere ten minutes before the weekend begins. It’s from your local takeaway, offering a sensational deal for tonight only, including offers on all your favourites.

Your mouth starts to salivate and you come to the realisation that the only thing you want to achieve this weekend is delivery of a warm package on your doorstep. Without that text, your Friday evening might have looked very different, making do with sprouting potatoes and leftovers from your fridge. You thank the SMS gods for their impeccable timing, and start to scroll through the restaurant’s menu, even though you order the exact same thing, every single time.

Although SMS marketing doesn’t work alone, it’s an extremely effective tactic to utilise alongside your other marketing efforts.

A single text message leads that individual to search online - they’re then served with a remarketing ad on Facebook - they then notice an email with additional money off in their inbox - next thing you know, they’re tucking into a hefty kebab and chips with extra garlic mayo (and who are we to judge?).

It’s a real, in-your-face kind of tactic. We don’t always open emails instantly when they arrive, even with our inboxes on our phones, but it’s pretty hard to ignore a text message. In fact, SMS messaging has an open rate of 98% vs a 22% open rate for emails (on average). That’s a stat not to be sniffed at. We’re going to take a look at how to effectively use SMS marketing and whether or not it really works.




What is SMS marketing?

We set the scene before, highlighting how SMS marketing occurs. But what exactly is it? Some might say that it’s a pretty traditional form of marketing (yup, we’re at that stage already), especially as it doesn’t sit on a particular platform and it uses technology that’s been around for over 30 years. The first SMS - or Short Message Service - was sent in 1992. We’ll just let that sink in for a minute…

In short, SMS marketing is where you send text messages to consumers or customers, with marketing or service messages. Similar to email marketing, it requires consent from the recipient to receive the texts. You may ask for this consent when a customer first signs up with you or when they first buy a product. Just like email marketing, they have to positively opt in; you can’t just collect their data and then decide to contact them without their consent.


Using SMS marketing for customer updates

Although when you think of SMS marketing, you might initially think of deals, offers, and discounts, it’s actually a great way to easily communicate with your customers about their orders or any other kind of customer service update.

This might include:

Delivery updates
Order confirmations
Survey requests
Verification codes
Tracking information
Appointment reminders

It’s a convenient and effective way to communicate with your customers, giving them real-time information and continuously making them aware of your brand. Some companies have even predicted that by 2025, brands might forgo apps in favour of messaging channels, whether that’s SMS, WhatsApp, or even Facebook Messenger.




How to use SMS marketing effectively

So we know that SMS messages have a huge open rate - but what does that mean in terms of conversions, revenue, and brand awareness?

Well, too much SMS marketing can definitely negatively impact your brand’s reputation. With so many spam texts and scams hitting the SMS world, consumers aren’t as trustworthy of SMS marketing as we would like. In fact, 32% of smartphone users said that some companies sent too many messages, whilst 34% said that they receive annoying spam messages - and spam to one person might not be spam to another.

To use SMS marketing effectively, there are a few ground rules to follow:

1. Always ask for consent

Important in lots of avenues of marketing, asking users and recipients for consent, whether it’s cookies or email marketing, is essential. This isn’t just because it’s the right thing to do - it’s also a crucial part of effective marketing. Without consent, you could be sending things to people who simply aren’t interested or don’t have a need for your products or services. That’s a waste of budget and time, ultimately increasing your conversion cost and reducing your brand’s reputation.

With SMS marketing you need to follow the same premise. Recipients who have consented are far more likely to engage with your brand.

2. Don’t go overboard

Too many text messages from a company can lead recipients to unsubscribe quickly. Unless it’s important communication, such as tracking information and security updates, you should limit the number of text messages you send to a customer.

Send exclusive offers and incentives, but make sure they have purpose. Too many discount texts will lose the element of urgency and exclusivity - but too little might not have enough of an impact. Like all marketing, you need to get the balance right and sometimes this only happens through trial and error.

3. Choose the right send time

If you’ve never done SMS marketing before, this can feel like a stab in the dark. But there are some common sense approaches to take. Texting someone too early in the morning can leave people feeling irritated and grumpy - especially if you wake them up. Too late at night means they’re winding down for the day, ignoring unimportant messages.

Think about why you’re sending the SMS and what action you want the recipient to take. If it’s for feedback on a purchase or use of service, make sure you don’t leave it too long after the purchase has been made or the service has been used. Striking whilst the iron is hot is the key to high engagement rates.

4. Use personalisation

Again, like email marketing, personalisation is a big factor when it comes to open rates and click through rates. We usually only receive text messages from family and friends, so when a company SMS comes through, emulating the look and feel of a personal text can be beneficial.

This isn’t to say you should try and hoodwink the recipient into thinking you’re their great aunt Berta, but addressing them by name is a good start. Shipping software like Shipster can enable personalisation and ensure you have an automated process when sending tracking details.

5. Include opt-out options

Although you might have gained the appropriate consent from the recipient, you should always give them the option to opt out - every single time you send as SMS. This might seem counterintuitive, but it’s just common sense. The more a recipient feels in control of what they’re receiving, the more likely they are to remain engaged, knowing they can leave at any time.

6. Don’t create a guessing game

Personalisation is important - but so is self-identification. Without naming your company in an SMS, it can appear spammy and fake. Including your company name in the first few words of an SMS is key to avoiding low engagement levels.




Benefits of SMS marketing

Now we’ve taken a look at what SMS marketing is and how to use it effectively, let’s consider the benefits of the tactic.

- Speedy and instant

Just like email marketing, text messages land straight into the recipient’s hand and the likelihood of them seeing it is high. The likelihood of them opening it is even higher than an email. It’s speedy, direct, and instant communication, engaging with your audience in seconds.

People’s smartphones are rarely out of sight - and 90% of text messages are read within the first 3 minutes. The other 10% are probably ghosting someone.

- Higher engagement levels

If you need a response from a customer, SMS marketing could be the way forward. For many people, being able to respond succinctly and quickly via a text is far easier than having to read and reply to an email, or even login to their account.

Our attention span is getting shorter by the minute and an instant response is preferential (for both you and your customers).

- Cost effective

Email campaigns are incredibly cost effective, especially if you don’t have a huge database. The same goes for SMS marketing. You may have to pay your chosen platform a certain fee, but the actual cost to send a text message is minuscule. The hard part is making sure your data is in order and high quality.

- High open rates

Even if the recipient doesn’t respond to the SMS, they’ve still received it and opened it - and most people open a text message, even if their only action is to delete it. Although not great for engagement levels, this still means that an individual has been exposed to your company, driving your brand awareness.


Final thoughts

SMS marketing is effective, quick, and pretty cheap to run. If you’re an eCommerce company looking to make an impact with SMS marketing, it’s a great tactic to take advantage of. Keep customers in the loop about shipping and tracking issues, as well as following up with review requests.