Shopify Ecosystem

Guest Post: Integrating Conversational SMS in Your Marketing Strategy

guest-post:-integrating-conversational-sms-in-your-marketing-strategy

Take a look around you right now. You’ll likely see that a lot of us are stuck to our mobile devices. So much so, that if you aren’t, you are the exception, not the rule. So if we are so absorbed by our digital devices, why do some brands still shy away from tapping into the mobile marketing scene? 

It makes sense to integrate mobile marketing into your outbound strategy, and conversational SMS can be a very successful tool that can help you reach your customers where they spend most of their time: their phones.

It started with the LiveChat solution some brands use on their website but that automatically implies your shoppers need to perform an action in order for you to engage with them. They need to have their browsers with your website open and actively try to contact the support team. And sometimes, there’s waiting times for that as well.

P.S. With Cartloop’s 2-way communication approach, you can connect with your brand’s visitors in real-time, to convert new leads, recover more abandoned carts and provide an exquisite experience to your shoppers.

The days of willing to wait around to hear from someone are over – as the average accepted response time decreases, your customers expect to be able to reach you when and how they want. Instantly, if possible.

So it’s not enough to use an integrated marketing strategy where you engage on multiple (one-way) channels and where conversations last for days on end. Below are 4 features that your marketing strategy needs to cover in order to adapt it to today’s digital world.

1. Put customers first

Every successful eCommerce store knows that the most loved brands out there have stellar customer service. 

One of the key elements of a stellar customer service is that those brands make themselves available when it’s convenient for the customer. Meaning, conversational marketing happens when it’s convenient for the customer, and not the brand – be it during the day or in the evening after work and not having to wait around for a response (sometimes for days or weeks).

What you can do

So how can you ensure your customers know you believe their time is important? 

Answer their queries as soon as possible – ideally, in real-time. Conversational marketing allows you to do that in a way that is efficient, fast and very convenient. Or, if you prefer to use email, always keep an eye on incoming support messages and have your team reply as soon as possible with a solution. Try to limit the number of your interactions as well and solve the problem as quickly as you can. 

  2. Scale and reduce your support costs

It’s one thing to have 100 customers, and another to have 10,000.

When you first started your online store, it was easy to reach out to those 10% of customers who had a complaint, wasn’t it? Maybe you even contacted them personally. But what happens when 10% of your customers means you have 1000 people to reach out to?

What you can do

This is where conversational SMS marketing comes in. Your customers don’t care if there’s another 1000 people your business needs to talk to. They care about their problem and how you will solve it.

Conversational SMS marketing allows you to bring that in-store experience to the digital world, engage with each customer individually, just like you would in a physical store. More importantly though, it allows you to be available whenever the customer needs it (remember the feature above?).  

3. Be relevant to your shoppers

Conversations can’t exist without relevance. A few weeks ago I got two ultimately, as you’ll see – irrelevant – emails, then a similar text message from a brand advertising their latest promo. Let’s leave out the fact that I didn’t see any value in them. More importantly though, the product they were advertising was not relevant to me at all.

So what did they get in return? A customer who unsubscribed and is now writing online about how unpleasant that interaction was.

What if they had texted to ask about my experience with them?

What if they had sent a message to start a conversation where they’d better understand my preferences so they could recommend a product that is a perfect fit?

What you can do

Take a look at a screenshot below taken from an actual conversation with SMS  Cart Recovery Experts

This is what conversational marketing does – it creates relevance and a sense of belonging for customers, removes frustrations and improves overall experience with a brand.

4. Don’t ask your customers to jump through hoops to get to you

Conversational SMS is all about providing value and meeting your customers where it’s convenient. What this means is that you need to see what channel your customers are using, be it mobile, social media, email or Facebook Messenger, and then tweak your strategy accordingly.

People don’t want to be forced to make a phone call just because your brand doesn’t like talking to them on social media. In the same way, waiting around for days for an email can get bothersome, when they could easily reach out to your team on social media for quick answers.

Most brands focus on creating channels for customer issues – emails delivered to the Returns department, Shipping Department complaints or Product Reimbursements. But most of them are forgetting about the most important part: actually supporting your customers – regardless of where they are in their customer journey.

I can easily think of several instances where I’ve looked for items in an online store, couldn’t find the answers to my questions in the FAQ page and received no reply from their social media teams. I can promise you I didn’t send an email; I just bought the items from somewhere else.

What you can do

How easy would it have been for me to be able to send a text message? Except that option was unfortunately unavailable. So make it easy for your clients to reach you.

The easiest channels for a customer to reach out to you are social media or SMS. Immediately after, email is the next best option. 

The brands who are most successful when it comes to answering customer queries on social media are those that create a seamless communication between the social media marketing team and their customer support agents. So make it easy for your marketing team to connect with Support to get answers to the more technical questions they get through social media. 

The customer doesn’t think they’re reaching out to the social team – they’re reaching out to a brand with a problem, so it’s up to you to make sure they get the answers they are looking for or that the customer problem gets a solution.

SMS marketing isn’t new – it’s been around for ages but the way it’s being done today is stagnating – and it’s been like that for a while. Sending out bulk texts doesn’t create opportunities for conversations, which in turn result in lost sales.

So why not optimize this tool in a way that works for you and it supports creating trust with your customer base? 

Ease of access + Instant replies 

We use our phones as the main means of access to content – videos, social or conversational content. When we search for answers to quick questions or browse online stores at the end of the day, everyone uses their phones. Why? Because it is fast and convenient.

Conversational SMS marketing is one of the most mobile-friendly tools out there. It’s a lot quicker to chat with a brand representative than it is to go through the website and (maybe) reach one of their customer reps. Messaging platforms like Cartloop allow customers to get personalized information specific to their issues, and, in turn, they are delighted with the quick and personalized support.

Gain customer insights and feedback

What better way to find out what problems your customers are experiencing with your online store than to ask them directly? Think about it – what other option do you have to let customers tell you what they are looking for or what they’d want you to change, in a quick and non-intrusive way?

With conversational SMS marketing you can gain access to that data at scale. For example, Cartloop’s team of experts let their users know what the most common questions are. If people are repeatedly complaining about your payment options or shipping issues, that is golden data for you right there. Solving these issues will undoubtedly increase engagement but also improve your bottom line.

Let’s look at a practical example. If you recently redesigned your website and your customers are having trouble navigating the new content you’ve worked so hard to create, they can text one of your reps to get help with finding what they are looking for. Not only will they get their product, but you will also be able to determine that you need to re-evaluate a part of your UX design if the same issues are reported over and over again by your prospects.

Provides support and marketing at the same time

Conversational SMS marketing isn’t just about building a support team available through text message. It is also about building relationships with your customer – the kind that you usually do through marketing campaigns (at a significant cost). Marketing’s goal is to spread awareness for your product or service –  so that you create positive associations with your brand.

What easier way to do that than to ensure your customers are pleased with your service even after they’ve bought the product, and SMS allows you to do that in a very effective and convenient way. In general, your most valuable customer pool are those that become brand ambassadors and recommend you to their network. 

Increase trust and creates loyalty

You use SMS when you talk to your friends and family – it’s an intimate channel that you mostly use with people closest to you. When you allow your brand to engage with prospects via text message, you get access to one of the most personal tools we use today, be it SMS or messaging apps like WhatsApp. This allows you to create an ongoing communication channel that drives natural and seamless conversations that over time create a relationship with a brand and ultimately increase a customer’s trust in them.

Customers’ expectations have already started to change and the way they expect you to interact with them is miles apart from where it stood 10 years ago. Now, we are having meaningful conversations with brands over SMS or social media, interacting with new marketing channels and expect replies in real-time.

I recently saw a post on social media where a customer was complaining that a brand took 2 hours to reply to his Twitter DM. In the middle of the night. At 3 AM in the morning. Now – I’m aware this is an extreme case and most of us aren’t that petty, but it’s a good X-ray of where the digital world is heading and how customer expectations are already there. 

Conversational SMS Marketing has the potential to significantly turn your marketing game around, efficiently and with great success for your brand’s customer relationships. People appreciate it for its real-time approach and human touch to customer service.  

Always remember – the more unique a customer’s shopping experience is, the more likely they are to return to your store. With SMS marketing, you now have the opportunity to bring the in-store experience online in just a few clicks.

Curious to see how your customers would love texting with your brand? Sign-up for a free trial at Cartloop and start connecting with your customers like never before.

Special thanks to our friends at Recart for their insights on this topic.