How to Use SMS Ecommerce to Supercharge Your Business

Melanie Balke
June 3, 2022

How to Use SMS Ecommerce to Supercharge Your Business

These days, there are plenty of different marketing options to consider. From traditional email marketing to niche ecommerce marketing, there are so many ways to reach new customers. In fact, there might just be too many sometimes, which is why we love to highlight some of the best.

That’s why we’re covering SMS marketing today.

What is it? How can it be used? What should I know about it? We’re going to answer all of those questions, so buckle up and let’s dive right in!

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What Is SMS Marketing?

Before we can really dig into the fun nitty-gritty of SMS and mobile marketing, we need to make sure we’re all on the same page. Let’s get this pesky acronym out of the way!

A photo of a woman using her mobile phone while typing on the computer. Centered and overlaid header text says, “What Is SMS Marketing?”

“SMS” is a quick way to say “short message service”. It’s an older term, and it’s fallen out of favor lately. Nowadays, most people just say “text message”! However, for marketing purposes, it’s usually still called an SMS.

The basic you-need-to-know facts about SMS messages are as follows:

  • An SMS can have a maximum of 160 characters.
  • Anything over 160 characters is sliced into chunks, and they don’t always get delivered in the right order.
  • SMS messages are limited to text, emojis, and symbols.
  • The alternative to an SMS is an MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) message, which can include images and video.
  • The vast majority of text messages are classified as SMS!

The Basics of SMS Marketing

Both SMS marketing and SMS ecommerce classify as an SMS marketing strategy. This means that they are purpose-built ways for you to interact with your customers. Both old and new clients can benefit from SMS marketing campaigns in so many ways, but we’ll get into that a little later. For now, we’re just talking about the basics.

A photo of someone using their cell phone with overlaid header text: “The Basics of SMS Marketing.”

At its core, SMS marketing is simple. It’s regular marketing with a twist, and the twist is that the messages are delivered to mobile devices via text messages.

Who Uses SMS Marketing Campaigns?

So, now that we know what it is, let’s see who uses it.

While SMS marketing is a newer face in the marketing automation sphere, it’s already made a huge impact. Companies that utilize SMS messages to deliver marketing content are diverse and varied. Some of the most easily recognized brands with an SMS marketing campaign are:

  • American Eagle
  • Daily Harvest
  • Facebook
  • IKEA
  • J Crew
  • Petco
  • Tommy Hilfiger

There are also plenty of smaller brands with SMS marketing campaigns, but we don’t have enough time to dive into that list!

What Companies Get the Best Results From SMS Marketing?

I want to preface this by saying any company can benefit from an amazing SMS marketing setup. With enough thought and planning, any text message marketing campaign can reap massive benefits.

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However, it’s still worth pointing out that some industries tend to see more results than others.

Brands With Loyalty and Rewards Programs

We’ve already mentioned that American Eagle is one of many huge brands with an SMS marketing platform, but do you know why?

At American Eagle, both the website and in-person stores ask for a customer’s phone numbers when they’re purchasing something. With this information, new customers are enrolled into the rewards program, which gives them an opportunity to participate in the brand’s e-commerce campaign.

It’s a lot deeper than just sending out a few welcome messages and calling it a day, though! I’ll get into the specifics about this in a bit. For now, I want to keep talking about who will really see massive gains from text message marketing.

“Exclusive” or Limited Availability Brands

In the early stages of business, nearly everyone will be one of these. This is especially true if you grow quickly! You’ll have a lot of customers and not enough inventory. That’s when SMS marketing for ecommerce can be a handy tool to have at your disposal, because SMS marketing can be used for far more than promotional campaigns and transactional messages.

Using text message campaigns to send out inventory status alerts is a great way to create a push notification for everyone who’s interested in your product. For both large and small companies, it has a whole array of benefits, including:

  • Greater reach and audience compared to other methods, such as email marketing
  • Improved customer experience
  • Providing a sense of urgency, which may draw more purchases
  • Re-engaging existing customers
  • The potential to increase ecommerce sales

News, Blogs, and Informative Brands

While many of the most common applications for SMS marketing is traditional e-commerce, there are also plenty of example of unconventional brands pulling in massive gains from good SMS campaigns.

Both large and small papers — local and national — use text messaging as a clever way to engage customers. These brands, which include names like CNN, use automated text messages to create curated lists of topics for existing customers, and such messages translate into website visitors.

Subscription Services

One of the biggest beneficiaries of an SMS strategy is the increasingly common subscription service. Many of these companies currently use ecommerce SMS marketing strategies to reach current and potential customers. Typically, they’ll use their subscriber list to let customers know that they’re getting low on something. In other cases, they’ll send out a text message when they’re introducing something new to their service.

In these cases, the companies are using what is known as “recurring automated marketing messages”, which is just a fancy way to say that they’re taking full advantage of the SMS subscribers list. They’re using the ubiquitous medium of the humble text message as a means of communication, which results in increased engagement and (hopefully!) revenue.

What Should I Know About SMS Marketing Campaigns?

Before you rush to start what we’re sure will be a lucrative text message campaign, there are a few more things you need to know about text messaging. Namely, we need to talk about something that most people aren’t very excited about: rules and regulations.

As a form of communication, there are plenty of laws that dictate how ecommerce brands can use text messages. It isn’t enough to set up some handy SMS marketing automations. You also need to be aware of how your transactional messages are delivered and who they go to.

Every country has their own regulatory agency for communication, and no two countries do things the exact same way. Because of this, I strongly advise every brand to consult with experts before they start their SMS marketing planning. Companies like The Email Marketers know the ins-and-outs of these laws, and we can help ecommerce brands safely and legally roll out amazing text message campaigns.

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Because The Email Marketers is an American company, we’ll be focused on American regulations. If you need more help understanding your country’s regulations on ecommerce SMS marketing, don’t be afraid to reach out!

There Are Multiple Levels of Regulation

In America, text messages are governed by multiple agencies. Each of these groups has a different job, but they all have the same goal. At the end of the day, these seemingly cumbersome laws are in place to protect consumers, and nobody wants to end up being the bad guy. That’s why it’s so important to do your research or hire a company that’s done theirs.

I don’t want to turn this into a length legal discussion, so I’ll just give a quick run-down of each group you should know about:

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is at the top of the ladder.
  • The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the laws created by the FCC. They also handle complaints from consumers. Text message scams are particularly important issues for this agency.
  • The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was created by the FCC. It contains all of the relevant regulations for text messages and phone calls. Included within the TCPA is the official Do Not Call List.
  • Finally, there’s the Cellular Telecom Industry Association (CTIA), which jointly governs all of the cellular service providers.

You Need to Have Written Permission to Send Messages

This is the big issue for any SMS marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, you need to have written permission to send out messages. Otherwise, you’re in violation of the TCPA. You’ll also be in big trouble with Canada, at which point you’re in double the trouble. YIKES!

You Can’t Buy Phone Numbers

Because you need permission to send marketing messages, it’s illegal to purchase lists of phone numbers. After all, these consumers have not provided their express and informed consent to receive SMS messages.

Consumers Need to Know What They’re Signing Up For

In addition to having consent to send messages, you’ll also want to let customers know how many messages they’re sending. Per the CTIA, any SMS marketing strategy must expressly tell customers if they’re signing up for one message or a series of messages.

To demonstrate this rule in action, let’s show an example of what not to do. In this example, the company asks for a customer’s phone number. They inform the customer that they will receive only one text when their package is delivered. In this scenario, the company then decides to send out a few messages afterwards to ask the consumer for their feedback.

Congrats! This company is now in violation of the CTIA, and they have put themselves in a prime position to be investigated by the FCC.

If you say you’re sending one message, you can only send one. However, as long as a consumer is explicitly told they are signing up for a continuing SMS list, you can send as many text messages as you want.

Why Should My Brand Have an SMS Marketing Strategy?

So, let’s do a quick review. We’ve already learned the “what” and the “who” of this evolving marketing channel. We’ve even learned a little bit about the legal information. Now it’s time to see why people are turning to SMS messages to expand their ecommerce platform.

A photo of a cell phone with overlaid header text: “Why Should My Brand Have an SMS Marketing Strategy?”

SMS Messages Have a Huge Reach

One of the biggest benefits of an SMS campaign is its absolutely huge potential audience, and that gets stacked with the potential that text messaging has to actually reach your audience. When we’re talking raw data, text messages always win out. Studies have shown that even the best email marketing campaigns are only opened by a measly 2% of recipients, but SMS marketing messages are seen by a whopping 90% of their target audience!

And, again, we’re routing back to the same question. Why are SMS marketing messages so much more effective?

Most People Prefer Texting

One of the reasons for the success that many ecommerce SMS marketing efforts see is customer preference. Compared to emails, phone calls, and website chats, the vast majority of consumers say that their preferred communication method is text messaging, and 67% of all consumers respond better to text messages than phone calls.

SMS Messages Reach People Consistently

Another benefit that text messaging has is its widespread availability. Even now, decades after the first text messages were sent, 92% of all smartphone users still use text messages to communicate with their friends, family, and colleagues. Even when a customer is unable to connect to the internet, they can receive text messages.

This reliability is backed up by a natural tendency to open text messages. I’m sure that plenty of the folks reading this have at least one or two emails in their inbox that they haven’t opened. At this point, email marketing automation has opened the door to plenty of amazing opportunities, but it’s also left many consumers’ inboxes a clutter mess of unread messages.

Text messages are different. When asked, consumers responded that they open and read around 98% of their texts, and 74% of those respondents say that they never leave a text message unread. Compare that to the 66% of Americans with at least one unread email in their inbox, and it isn’t hard to see why marketing automation is starting to favor SMS campaigns.

SMS Messaging is Considered More Trustworthy

Finally, let’s address the personal side of SMS marketing.

Compared to other channels, text messages are far more personal and familiar. Think of it like this: you’re far more likely to see a message from your family on your mobile phone than in your email inbox. Likewise, you’re probably going to send more personal messages to the people you care about through text messages.

Those feelings of warmth and companionship don’t end just because a company name is listed as the sender! Consumers enjoy using their phone to communicate and touch base with the brands they trust, and you can take advantage of that preference.

How Can My Company Use SMS Marketing?

We’ve looked at “what” and “why”, and it’s time for the really exciting stuff! How can any company, no matter the company name or industry, use SMS marketing?

This is the part that I love! It’s so much fun to talk about how new strategies can be used, and not all of these applications are obvious. So, it’s time to stop beating around the bush…

A photo of a cell phone with overlaid header text: “How Can My Company Use SMS Marketing?”

Let’s take a peek at all of the ways that companies use SMS marketing!

Conversational SMS Marketing

One of the most “obvious” uses for modern text message marketing is to create a chatbot. These handy automations are used across various platforms, including the ever-popular Facebook Messenger app, but it can also be used with other marketing channels, including text messages.

In general, this model relies upon the chatbot’s ability to engage with customers. With access to the customer’s phone number, your brand can easily contact your clients to ask them about their experience. You can also provide effective and responsive customer service to a wider audience by outsourcing to a call centre agency. You can also provide effective and responsive customer service to a wider audience. After all, consumers may not always be able to access the internet, but they’re usually within range of a cellular network.

When using their mobile phones to communicate with a brand, many customers report that they feel a more personal relationship with the brand. In fact, this innovative marketing experience may just be what your ecommerce business needs to turn loyal buyers into VIP customers!

More Than Customer Service

Before I move to the next use for SMS marketing for ecommerce, I want to make sure that we’re on the same page. Conversational text messaging is for so much more than basic customer service. Its functionality can extend far beyond the functionality of a text-based chatbot.

With some ingenuity and skillful implementation, brands can create a fully automated text-based buying experience. Repeat purchases can easily be made by sending messages to your brand’s designated service number, which means that customers can purchase your goods from nearly everywhere!

Reminders and Celebrations

Another common and well-known use for text message marketing is as a means to connect with customers on particularly important days. Simply sending a “happy birthday” text can have a huge impact on consumers, and it shows that your brand cares about its customers. Other great days to send out automated messages are holidays and anniversaries.

However, you don’t have to limit yourself to common days of celebration. Many subscription and cyclical brands use SMS marketing to send texts to existing customers when they need to restock. By eliminating the need for individuals to consciously and personally remember when they’re getting low on something, these ecommerce businesses are improving the overall customer experience, and it’s as simple as sending a text!

Abandoned Cart Campaigns

Using texts as a marketing channel also opens customers up to more frequent check-ins. Some brands have found that sending out abandoned cart notifications via text results in more sales than similar email marketing campaigns. After all, we’ve already seen the dramatic difference in engagement rates between text messages and emails!

One of the biggest perks of this use of SMS marketing for ecommerce is the potential to re-engage with formerly disinterested customers. Plenty of people forget to finish their purchase every day, and it’s always nice to remind them of their empty cart.

Rewards and Loyalty Programs

In addition to abandoned carts, customers can receive a text message to inform them of their rewards and loyalty status. This SMS strategy is particularly useful in businesses that have a wide range of rewards, and it’s something that requires careful strategizing before implementation. However, with the right setup and perks, this can be one of the most effective uses of SMS marketing for ecommerce.

Classic Sales and Promotional Campaigns

The last obvious use of a text-based marketing strategy is to approach it like any email marketing automation campaign. In this situation, you’ll send messages to consumers when you’re having a sale or introducing a new product. With so many more people seeing your message, you’re more likely to reap financial rewards.

However, you need to be careful! Text messages are not a replacement for emails, and people dislike receiving an excessive amount of texts. For this reason, you’ll need to do a bit of research into your SMS channel. How do people respond to your messages? How many can they tolerate? It’s up to you (and your marketing company) to figure this information out.

Updates and Shipping Notifications

Here’s a use for texts that happens every day, but you may not see it as a form of marketing automation: shipping updates! Every day, millions of people shop online. They buy stuff, they pay for the stuff, and they wait for the stuff. That’s where texts come in.

At least in the US, all of the major mail carriers offer text message updates for packages. This adds a layer of interaction to every purchase, and it also gives ecommerce companies the opportunity to show their dedication to improving the customer experience. At the end of a package’s journey, companies can utilize text messaging marketing to directly engage with customers and receive immediate feedback.

Internal Communications

This last one is one of the less thought of ways to use an SMS tool, but it’s also one of the more innovative ways to take advantage of an SMS list. After all, you already know your employees’ phone numbers, and they’re more likely to check their texts than their emails. Using an SMS platform to circulate internal communications and messages is a great SMS strategy, and it’s one that more ecommerce brands should consider!

How to Get Started with SMS Marketing

Here’s the second part of the “how” for SMS marketing. When you’re setting up your SMS marketing strategy, you’ll want to think about a lot of different things.

What is your goal? What campaigns will you be running? Who will you send messages to, and how will you build a solid SMS list?

All of these questions are vital pieces of the larger puzzle, and you’ll need to consider them before you do anything. So, let’s start there.

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Step 1: Create a Goal

You can’t create an SMS marketing strategy without having a defined plan. (In fact, you can’t really start any marketing campaign without a good plan.) To set up this plan, you’ll need to do some studying. As you do your homework, you’ll be asking some hard questions. These inquiries should be directed at your company’s leadership, yourself, and the brand.

I can’t tell you what questions to ask, though. That’s up to you! However, I can give you a few guidelines. When you’re thinking about how to start a your brand’s SMS marketing strategy, consider these questions:

  • Am I ready to tackle all of the issues that SMS marketing for ecommerce may bring to my company?
  • Is my current audience a good target for an SMS campaign?
  • How do I want customers to feel after they read my company’s messages?
  • How does my brand compare to similar ecommerce brands?
  • How will I create an SMS list?
  • How will I maintain and monitor my SMS marketing list?
  • How will my SMS marketing impact current customers?
  • What am I trying to do with these texts?
  • Will I be working alone, or do I want to build my SMS marketing experience with a partner?
  • What are similar ecommerce brands doing, and are they also using SMS marketing?
  • What customers do I most want to reach?
  • When do I want to send a text message out?

Potential Reasons to Look into SMS Marketing for Ecommerce Growth

Obviously, I also can’t tell you why you should be looking into an SMS marketing campaign. Your brand is your own, and I don’t know its story. What I do know is that your brand can benefit, but you’ll need to do your research.

If you’re interested in trying to build an SMS marketing strategy for your ecommerce brand, then don’t be afraid to reach out to marketing companies. At The Email Marketers, we succeed when you succeed. We want to help you thrive, and we’re always ready to chart your business’ path with you. Get in touch with us, and we’ll see what awesome ideas we can come up with together.

In the meantime, I want to help all of the amazing businesses out there, so I’ve come up with a handy list of goals and reasons that you may consider starting to build an SMS marketing channel:

  • Customers are asking for a more interactive and responsive experience
  • Customers are frequently abandoning carts
  • My competitors are using SMS marketing messages, and I want to keep up with them
  • You have an existing list of SMS subscribers, and you feel it can be put to good use
  • You need a new way of sending messages that actually reaches customers
  • You plan on adding many things to your ecommerce store and want to tell customers about it
  • You want to expand your reach
  • You want your product to reach a wider audience
  • Your brand isn’t meeting your goals for its customer experience
  • Your email marketing messages aren’t gaining as much traction as you wanted
  • Your existing clients are not remembering to renew their subscription

Step 2: Find a Partner

Here’s where a good marketing team comes in.

Once you launch your campaign, you’ll be juggling a lot of moving parts. In addition to SMS messaging automations, you’ll also have to handle the logistics of the campaign. For each new text message campaign that you send, you’ll need a unique identifier. All of those identifiers need to be tracked with an appropriate software, such as Google Analytics.

It’s a lot to handle!

Fortunately, there are plenty of amazing marketing groups that specialize in SMS marketing for ecommerce. At The Email Marketers, we have plenty of experience. We’ve handled text message marketing campaigns for plenty of companies, and we’re proud to say that our efforts have yielded amazing results.

(As an added bonus, we don’t stop at text messaging marketing. We can also boost your email marketing channel’s success rate. After all, it’s right there, in our name!)

Once you’ve found the right partner, you no longer have to worry about all of the extra stuff. Your SMS marketing for ecommerce will become your partner’s job, and you can focus your energy into building your business.

Step 3: Find a Platform

While having a marketing partner will help you succeed and (in many cases) eliminate the need to worry about the next few steps, it’s still good to know what happens behind the emerald marketing curtain.

Once you’ve found a good marketing partner, —or, if you’re trying to go solo, after you’ve nailed down your strategy— the next step is to find the right SMS tool. This is one of the most difficult parts of building functional SMS marketing strategies. Unfortunately, it must be done before you begin to collect your first phone number.

The good news is that SMS marketing campaigns are becoming far more common, which means that many ecommerce platforms are offering built-in SMS tools. One of our favorite ecommerce business platforms, Shopify, has its own SMS marketing tool bundled into its basic software.

However, not every platform has its own SMS tool, which is where things can get tricky. There are a lot of SMS tools available, and it’s tough to know which one will work the best for your ecommerce store. Each has its own pros and cons, and you also want to consider how each of these platforms will store a customer’s phone number.

I can’t speak for your brand, but here’s what I would want from an SMS marketing tool:

  • Enough features to fulfill your marketing purposes…
  • BUT not so many that it becomes a chore to create a simple text message
  • Plenty of customization options
  • Powerful ecommerce SMS marketing functions
  • Secure storage and a clean track record
  • The ability to sort and tag a phone number

Step 4: Get SMS Subscribers

Maybe you already have a list of phone numbers. Maybe you don’t. Either way, we know that we can’t just buy any phone number.

You know what means, right?

It means that, in order to start an amazing and legal SMS marketing plan, you’ll need to ask for some information.

To get the best results, spread your efforts out. While it’s amazing to get a phone number from a current customer, you won’t see results by solely focusing on your existing fans. You also want to expand, so you’ll need to work with your team to find ways that new website visitors can be convinced to part with their phone numbers.

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice!

Finally, you need to get in the texting mood.

There are a whole lot of things that you’ll need to learn, and I wish I could say it’s as easy as looking up a few statistics. Unfortunately, everyone and every company is different. What works for one brand may hurt another, and copying marketing campaigns often fails to yield the results that people crave.

As you build your SMS marketing strategy, one of the biggest tips I can give to you is to keep an eye on your tone. Having a clear idea of how you want your business to sound and present itself will make things so much easier when you’re creating new SMS marketing messages. You’ll also have much smoother SMS strategy meetings.

Because the majority of the population’s preferred communication method is the text message, you’ll also want to know how often you can push out a message. Know your limits, because the last thing you want is an annoyed customer!

The Importance of a Good Marketing Partner

I’m going to end this post with a word of expert advice: no matter what you’re doing, you want a solid marketing team. Every marketing channel is different, and you can’t expect to draw repeat purchases from customers who are annoyed with or disenchanted by your brand. You want to get your company name out there often, but you also don’t want to annoy people.

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That’s why you need a real marketing team.

At The Email Marketers, we want your ecommerce store to succeed as much as you do. We want to make sure every phone number on your list gets your amazing text message, and we want current and potential customers raving about your product. That’s why we do what we do, and it’s why we’re constantly posting these marketing blogs and updating our social media presence.

Join us! Check out our blog and see all of our other posts to learn more about the latest trends and strategies in the marketing world. And, if you like what you’re seeing, don’t be afraid to get in touch with our experts, and let’s see what we can do together!