Understanding Retail SMS Marketing

Melanie Balke
April 17, 2024

Much like email marketing, SMS marketing is often broken into industry-based segments.

A medical newsletter should not use the same tone as an e-commerce promotional message. This fact is true for both email and SMS marketing. However, you must also consider the differences between the mediums.

Email marketing is the lengthier of the two marketing channels. Most email marketing messages span two or three paragraphs and include multimedia elements to increase customer engagement.

Comparatively, SMS marketing is much shorter. It is an innately terse medium; SMS messages cannot be longer than 160 characters. Moreover, you cannot attach multimedia elements. Thus, text message marketing uses clever shorthand and compelling language to tease out customer engagement.

Who Uses Retail Text Message Marketing?

A 1943 postcard depicting the Tower Bridge in London, England. Overlaid text reads, "Who Uses It? Who Supports Retail SMS Marketing."

Now, knowing the basis of this technique, it’s time to address the audience.

Who qualifies as a retail SMS marketing user?

While SMS marketing is useful for every industry, retail SMS marketing focuses on B2C enterprises. In a more modern sense, this definition covers most consumer-facing e-commerce storefronts. However, it also covers traditional brick-and-mortar businesses.

Ultimately, any retail business can use text message marketing, regardless of industry specialty.

How Do Retail Businesses Use SMS Marketing Campaigns?

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There are many uses for SMS promotional messages, but they can ultimately be condensed into three categories based on their goals:

  • Direct: These retail SMS messages direct consumers to a target. These campaigns are often part of a larger multi-channel marketing strategy.
  • Include: Inclusion-based SMS marketing campaigns aim to include a target in a community. These can focus on holistic inclusivity or cultivated exclusivity.
  • Inform: As you probably guessed, these text messages keep customers informed.

1. Using SMS Marketing to Direct Consumers

Direction-based messaging campaigns are usually used to improve a brand’s customer engagement metrics. This tactic takes advantage of a brand’s ability to send automated text messages and repurposes that exposure to boost the target’s exposure.

Most of these SMS campaigns focus on one of six targets:

  • Boosting conversions for a specific product
  • Boosting SEO for new or low-ranked blog posts
  • Gaining followers and engagement on social media platforms
  • Improving traffic to a specific website page
  • Increasing awareness of certain products and topics
  • Increasing sign-ups on forms

2. Using SMS Marketing for Inclusion

Another way to increase customer engagement is to create a sense of exclusivity. This tactic relies on the natural need to be part of something. Most inclusive SMS marketing campaigns revolve around a loyalty program or “club.”

Ideally, a brand’s rewards program should be spread across other marketing channels. Brands should pair automated SMS messages with email flows and on-site incentives. Both options give your marketing team more space to discuss the programs’ benefits and inform customers of its structure.

Nonetheless, as a shorthand tool, SMS marketing is ideal for delivering time-sensitive messages and loyalty program alerts. Examples of uses for “exclusive” inclusive marketing campaigns include:

  • Cultivating improved customer engagement with regular updates on early-access stock
  • Encouraging repeat business with rewards and reminders from relevant loyalty programs
  • Increasing conversions by announcing flash sales and members-only discounts
  • Increasing sales by reminding consumers of expiring rewards

3. Using SMS Marketing to Inform Customers

Finally, a marketing campaign can emphasize informative value.

Informative marketing messages often tie into a brand’s larger marketing strategy. Some include links to a brand’s blog, website, and social media pages. They may also reference an email newsletter and include a direct link to the subscription page.

There are also transaction-based informative campaigns, many of which fall into the post-purchase phase of a business interaction. These high-performing SMS marketing messages may not increase sales, but they can help build brand loyalty.

Examples of post-purchase informational SMS campaigns include:

  • Delivery notifications and updates
  • Order confirmation notices and receipts
  • Progress reports on anticipated business developments

Why Use Retail SMS Marketing?

A map with data points plotted. "The Benefits: Why You Need SMS Marketing."

Now, is the tactic effective?


Retail text message marketing is often compared to email marketing, as both marketing channels boast robust performance for relatively low costs. Moreover, like email marketing, SMS marketing provides businesses with a direct line of contact to their most valuable consumers. It forms a sense of connection, empowering brands with a deep sense of trust.

Retail SMS Marketing by the Numbers

Text marketing has a longstanding history of success. Across all industries, SMS marketing earns an impressive 90% open rate. Some sources suggest an even higher figure, placing the marketing channel’s average in the upper 90s.

The response rates are similarly prolific. SMS marketing campaigns have a 45% average response rate, while emails earn a measly 6%!

Most of this power comes from the channel’s ability to connect and relate to consumers. 67% of consumers prefer text message marketing over emails, with preference skewing higher among younger audiences.

Boost Customer Engagement With Constant Contact

One of the most apparent benefits of any retail SMS program is its inherent convenience.

Everyone has a phone. However, not everyone has a smartphone. Despite its utility, email marketing is limited by its reliance on newer, shinier tech. That may be a non-issue for young and “trendy” brands, but it can be a dealbreaker for brands appealing to older consumers.

In that sense, SMS marketing campaigns combine the best of emails and text messages. SMS campaigns support direct customer communication and improve customer service without requiring a stable internet connection. Yet, it’s still powerful enough to boost customer satisfaction. Most mobile marketing platforms also have tools to support personalized text messages.

Ease of Use (For Everyone)

Beyond meeting customer expectations, an SMS marketing strategy is an easy way to engage with your customer base.

Build-in automation in SMS platforms means brands can easily connect with their target audience. That same platform also powers flexible programming and flow creation, making it easier than ever to create and dispatch targeted messages.

Many providers go even further, providing handy tutorials and templates for new brands. These virtual guides help brands make full use of the marketing channel by demonstrating potential uses for future marketing messages.

Of course, for consumers, an SMS marketing plan can be easily accessed from their mobile phones. Their entire retail experience is at their fingertips, closing the gap between the retail industry and its consumers.

Text Messaging and Flexibility

Finally, SMS marketing for retail is flexible.

Assuming you have a reasonable understanding of your SMS marketing platform, you can craft retail SMS campaigns to fit any need. You can funnel your local SMS subscriber list to your brick-and-mortar retail store or direct curious viewers to your online storefront. You can convert customer loyalty to higher click-through rates and conversions.

There are limitless possibilities. It would take years to address every example, but I can name a few! Some of the most common use cases for SMS marketing include:

  • Boosting customer satisfaction with helpful information
  • Generating interest by sending strategic text marketing campaigns
  • Improving customer loyalty among existing customers
  • Promoting in-person events as retail stores and venues
  • Raising brand awareness by encouraging customers to spread brand hype
  • Remind customers of upcoming appointments
  • Rewarding loyal customers with exclusive deals and incentives
  • Striving to increase sales with any audience, including new customers

Make the Most of Your Retail Marketing Campaigns

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Now, that’s a lot of information!

Many are surprised to know how much power a simple text message has; even more are annoyed they haven’t invested in this growing subset of retail marketing. Don’t feel bad, though! Successful SMS marketing for retail ventures (or any industry) requires ample time and resources.

That’s why I founded The Email Marketers.

My hand-picked team of pros can handle your emails and your text messaging. They understand the complicated world of digital marketing. More importantly, they know how to make your retail store appeal to the masses. They’ll increase customer engagement, boost income, and deliver consistently stellar experiences for you and your audience.

Schedule a free strategy session to learn how the magic works! I’ll meet with you and deliver a personalized plan to meet the needs of your retail business.