6 SMS Marketing Strategies To Convert Customers

A phone with a dog's picture advertising 6 SMS marketing strategies to convert customers.

The stats around SMS marketing are undeniable – SMS has a final read rate of 98%. When you couple that with the knowledge that 42% of consumers are using their mobile devices to read emails, it’s easy to see that combining SMS with email marketing could bridge the gap for retailers trying to connect with mobile customers.

Whether your business is brick-and-mortar, online-only, or omnichannel, there are plenty of ways to make SMS campaigns work for you. The real question here is, how can you get your SMS marketing right from the start?

In this blog, we break down 6 focus points and ideas for your SMS campaigns, while drawing on real-life examples and research-based statistics.

Let’s get started!

Expand your contact list at checkout

One of the first steps to SMS marketing is also one of the most obvious – grow your contacts list!

Before you can send any SMS campaigns, you need to have collected your customers' mobile phone numbers and their express consent. This means having them give you those details while also providing a checkbox that they can check to opt-in to receiving promotional SMS messages from your business.

But what better place to do this than at checkout?

Capturing your customers’ numbers and other information at checkout will ensure that you’re collecting the details of your most active and loyal customers. When your customers either make a purchase or just create an account with your store (tip: make sure you have a generous loyalty program to incentivize customers to give you their contact details), simply prompt for their contact information and make sure to expressly ask for their mobile number.

When it comes to getting your customers to opt-in to your marketing, you’ll need to add a checkbox and clearly clarify that this is going to be used to send them promotional material for online stores; for brick-and-mortar stores, make sure you’re clearly asking for your customers consent to receive marketing and it’s best to log this somewhere. You can then go ahead and add these customers to your future marketing campaigns and rest easy knowing you’re likely going to see increased conversion rates and higher ROIs simply because you’re targeting enthusiastically engaged customers.

Just don’t forget all those old customers who may not have made a purchase recently! Why not go the extra mile and create a segment for a one-off email campaign that lets customers know that SMS messaging has been added to your marketing toolkit. Prompt those customers to complete their profile by adding all relevant details, including their phone number (and agree to promotional material) to avoid missing out on great deals, new stock, and exciting updates. Simply direct them where to head in their profile to make those edits and voila! You have just added even more customers to your growing list. Note: Vend retailers, you’ll need to make these edits yourself so perhaps adding a survey to collect key data is a workaround here. 

As Chantal Tode at RetailDive said, “the most effective ways for retailers to scale their mobile database is through integration into overall marketing initiatives and promotion through in-store, Web, email, print, and social channels like Facebook”. Essentially, use all of the tools in your kit to get your customers’ details updated and add them to your SMS contact list. Your checkout is a direct point of contact with your customers, so a powerful place to request details from them… just don’t forget about all your other points of contact too.

Send promotional SMS campaigns

Unsure if SMS marketing is even going to engage your customers?

Consider this: how often do you check your phone? We’re glued to them. It’s often the first thing the vast majority of us do when we wake up (46% of us, according to one study), and one of the last things we look at before we go to sleep. Whether it’s texts, emails or social media, our attention is often consumed by our mobile devices. So why not capitalize on this new level of connectivity? 

Use SMS marketing to promote your store, sales, and boost your other marketing and watch as your conversion rates get a boost. With conversion rates of up to 23.3%, promotional SMS campaigns with clear call-to-actions (CTAs) (often followed by a link) and time-frames create a sense of urgency are the perfect addition to any marketing campaign. 

Check out this example from Marsello users and dog collar manufacturers, Good Dog. The team at Good Dog is leading the charge when it comes to powerful SMS marketing campaigns that support their other marketing strategies. 

Good Dog held a short sale over their summer (the store is New Zealand-based) in which they gave customers 20% off select categories of their stock. Originally promoted through an email campaign, they used SMS to cross-promote the sale and re-engage customers who had not completed a purchase within 60 days. With an astounding conversion rate of 16.3% for the combined campaigns, Good Dog is the perfect example of promotional SMS campaigns taking the hard yards out of re-engaging customers. 


Keep it concise

With only 160 characters to play with (including your opt-out option, which many providers, including Marsello, add automatically to your message for you), you’re automatically limited in how much you can fit into your SMS messages to customers. 

To help you nail it each time, keep these 8 tips in mind:

  • Get to the point: Let customers know why you’re getting in contact in that first sentence. Pique their curiosity and get them reading the entire message. 
  • Personalize your messages: Some providers will allow you to personalize your SMS marketing with a merge tag that incorporates the customer’s first name (note that this only works if you have their first name on record). This is a powerful way to get your customers to open your message and read on when they receive an SMS from you.
  • Capitalize keywords for emphasis: Take a look at the example at the bottom of this section from Tulsa Vapor Store. Capitalizing keywords in your messages is a clever way to draw attention to promotions, products, and important information. Your customers will feel informed and are more likely to remember the details of your message. 
  • Use an undeniable call-to-action: Think attention-grabbing, directive and short when you’re coming up with call-to-actions (CTA). Some examples include: ‘Buy Now’, ‘Act Fast’, ‘Don’t Miss Out’, ‘Last Chance’, ‘Limited Time Offer’ and ‘Sign Up Now’.
  • Avoid text language abbreviations: Even though you’ll be trying to keep it within the character count, don’t be tempted to use text language in your messages. Not only can this come across as spammy and even a little lazy, but it’s also not guaranteed that your customers will understand your abbreviations, particularly if they’re a second language speaker. Best to stick to full words and short sentences. 
  • Define a time limit for added urgency: Make that CTA stand out with the added emphasis on a limited timeframe. ‘Act Fast’ has a lot more power if you’ve just let customers know that the promotion is only available until the end of the week. Messages that have a clear CTA and the added urgency of a fixed time-frame see conversion rates of up to 23.3%. That’s too good to ignore!
  • Always ensure customers can opt-out: Many providers will automatically include this for you, but to ensure you’re compliant with anti-spam messaging laws you need to make sure you’re including a clear opt-out option. 

    While we’re at it, you also need to clearly let your customers know who your messages are from each time. Refer again to the Tulsa Vapor Store example below for a clear idea of how you can keep customers in the know while also letting them opt-out if they chose to do so.
  • Avoid emojis and special characters: Not all phone providers are created equal and that means that not everything between phones translates accurately. Sometimes your carefully planned emoji or special character just won’t be supported and will appear in customer’s mobile devices as an empty square or even a wingding. Avoid not making sense in your messaging and simply don’t include emojis or special characters.


Make use of coupon codes

Whatever you’re calling it; coupon, discount or promo codes, they’re all largely the same and they’re a powerful marketing tool to have in your kit, particularly when you consider the rise of shopping from mobile devices!

Last year alone, smartphones were used for an estimated $1 trillion in retail sales. Increasingly, customers are also moving between different devices and even sharing what they like with the devices of their friends, helping them to make informed purchase decisions (tip: it’s a good time to assess your website’s mobile compatibility and make sure you’re nailing those crisp product images and fast load-times). Use this knowledge as power and target your customers with specific discount codes in your SMS campaigns that feel exclusive and incentivize them to make a purchase.

Check out this example from Good Dog’s Valentine’s Day campaign. The combination of personalization, holiday-specific coupon code, and a juicy deal mean customers will feel like they’ve just received an offer they can’t refuse.


Boost customer retention with automated campaigns and purchase reminders

Automated marketing campaigns are the bread and butter of every retailer’s marketing toolkit. Born from the desire of busy business owners to be able to ‘set-it-and-forget-it’, automated marketing campaigns allow you to optimize your emails and SMS to send when triggered by a customers’ activity and if you aren’t already using them, then you’re missing out!

Using SMS marketing campaigns to re-engage your customers is just the icing on the cake. Imagine you target all of your customers with a win-back email designed to get them shopping with you again by offering a coupon code, but a portion of your sending list doesn’t even open that email. Each week, you could set up a segment for SMS campaigns designed to send an SMS message to customers who haven’t seen your win-back emails. Checking the segments each week will not only keep you abreast of the message’s relevance but will also ensure that you’re always targeting the right customers. With the astonishing open rates and conversion rates that SMS campaigns are presenting, you can rest assured that you’re recapturing an even larger portion of that audience.

Clothing retailer, Parker Panache has done a great job of recapturing customers with the above example. They created an email promotion for the Black Friday sale and chose to also reach out to customers with an SMS campaign. From their Black Friday combined campaigns, they saw $6302 in revenue.


Some examples of the automated SMS campaigns that you could create include: 

  • Happy birthday campaigns that gift customers on their special day shows them that you are invested in their continued satisfaction with your store, and they’ll appreciate the effort. Throw in a discount code to sweeten the deal.
  • Win-back messages which are designed to remind customers to shop at your store and retain their loyalty. Usually, you would set these to trigger after an extended timeframe of inactivity (perhaps 60 days since they last completed a purchase with you).
  • First-time shopper thank you messages tell customers that you appreciate them and would love for them to shop with you again. This could be the perfect opportunity to ask for feedback and you could even prompt customers to leave you a glowing review. 
  • Abandoned cart recovery – this one can depend a little on your provider but why not set up an SMS campaign to trigger when customers add to their cart but don’t complete an order. Simply offering them something as simple as free shipping or a small discount could convince them to complete a purchase.
  • Send shipping reminders and keep your customers informed. These are an easy way to send value to your customers and give them confidence that they’re receiving important information through your messages. They’re also a great way to leverage responses from your customers in the form of positive reviews!
  • Remind customers when popular products are in! Also known as an ‘Automated Purchase Reminder’, these messages are a great way to let customers know that you’ve restocked a popular item that certain customers return for more than once. Check out the below example from natural skincare specialists, Wellington Apothecary.


Collect customers’ feedback

We’ve touched on this a little bit already, so now is the perfect time to break it down and give you the tools to really apply the theory. 

Customer feedback is vital for pretty much any business and there are more than a couple of ways to go about it:

  1. Prompt for feedback on your customer’s experience: Sending your customers a feedback request by creating a segment of customers who have shopped that week and messaging them about their recent purchase is a great way to get their honest opinion while their experience is still fresh in their minds.

    One option is to direct customers to an online survey with a shortened URL. This would give you the option to prompt for as much detail as you would like, and give you the opportunity to use their responses to improve your business or share those responses. Just be sure to keep all of this brief, to the point, and easy to navigate.

  2. Ask customers to leave product reviews: Customer’s product reviews are powerful and can have a direct effect on sales. Not only is this incentive to ensure that the shopping experience and products at your store deliver above and beyond your customers’ expectations, but this is also a fantastic way to gather free marketing. 

So why not ask customers for product reviews through SMS campaigns? Simply send a message offering a discount to customers who leave a review on social media or your online store.

Now that you’re collecting feedback, just make sure you’re actually using it. Share it on your website, incentivize customers to add it to social media and popular reviewing platforms like Google and Yelp. You could even include a fresh new quote at the bottom of each email that you send to customers, possibly even increasing the chances that other customers would also leave reviews. If you’re getting feedback that you’d rather not share, perhaps it’s a good time to assess what those customers are saying and figure out which of your process could do with a refresh.

Final words

Navigating any new form of marketing can seem like a bit of a minefield and it’s important to feel confident that you can get it right from the start. You’ve got the tools to start creating an SMS marketing strategy, but there are just a few things to make sure you’re on top of.

Remember to prioritize scaling your list, getting express permission to market to your customers, and complying with SMS marketing laws. Why not create a checklist or format for your SMS marketing to make sure that each message contains the necessary information. Once you’ve got the key steps in place, you can look at creating a variety of campaigns to give your marketing that special SMS boost and continue developing your customer contact list. And don’t forget to tie it in with your loyalty program. 

Be concise, creative and give your customers a reason to want to receive your SMS marketing campaigns. Don’t be afraid to experiment too. Reward your customers for activity, give them updates on their own accounts, and prompt them for feedback on your store and/or products.

Looking for an SMS Campaigns tool to get your power-up your marketing? Marsello’s SMS Campaigns feature gives you the power to create clever SMS campaigns that boost conversion rates, while you stay compliant with anti-spam messaging laws. 

SMS Marketing is fast becoming the most exciting new tool in retailers kit, and you now have the grounding to start making powerful campaigns that encourage your customers to make a purchase.

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