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The Rise of Text Message Marketing And Why It Matters



Attention all marketers, entrepreneurs, and anyone who runs an online store: Ready or not, text message (SMS) marketing is coming.

Actually, scratch that: Text message marketing is here.

While it may not be as ubiquitous as email marketing (yet), text message marketing has already proved itself to be an incredibly valuable channel, especially among ecommerce businesses.

There are businesses out there right now using text messages to generate hundreds of thousands and, in some cases, even millions of dollars in revenue.

Ecommerce businesses that haven’t adopted text message marketing are leaving all those dollars on the table. Meanwhile, businesses that are using SMS, but using it ineffectively, are missing out on additional revenue – or worse, they could be scaring away customers (e.g. by texting too aggressively.)

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Why should you care?

There’s no denying that for a marketer, entrepreneur, or store owner, SMS can be a tricky channel to navigate. That’s why for the past two months, our team at Privy has been testing text marketing with ten of our customers and building out a playbook based on what works (and what doesn’t).

Our goal is to teach you proper text messaging etiquette and to help you build a text marketing strategy that not only generates revenue, but that your customers love.

If you’re a newcomer to the world of text message marketing, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

We’ll show you how to build and grow your list of text messaging contacts from scratch, and how to use texts to develop long-lasting relationships with your customers.

Already have experience with text marketing? There’s plenty for you, too. In addition to covering the basics, we’ll show you how to take your strategy to the next level. From increasing open and response rates, to recovering abandoned carts with perfectly timed texts, this will help you finetune your approach to text marketing so you can start seeing better results.

*This is part of a series, be on the lookout for more on text message marketing in the coming weeks. 

Why text messaging matters

Look, we get it: You’re probably hesitant about using text messaging as a marketing channel. Or, at the very least, you approach it with a great amount of caution. You worry about being perceived as pushy or invasive. And to be clear, that’s a good thing.

In order for text message marketing to work, you need to develop trust with the customers and potential customers who’ve opted in to receive your texts. If you bombard their phones with spammy messages all day and night, that trust evaporates. But the important takeaway here is this: It can be done. You can turn texting into a channel that A) customers love, and, in turn, B) generates revenue. Here are a few brands getting it right.

The reality is that some people actually do prefer receiving texts from businesses over email – especially when those texts offer something they can derive value from immediately (e.g. a limited-time offer or coupon code).

So, why not give that segment of your audience the option? Even if it’s a small segment, the upside is enormous – more sales! – and the investment required to do it is minimal. After you’ve built your list, you can set up a text messaging sequence in a few minutes just like you would an email sequence.

In today’s crowded marketplace (a marketplace where Amazon claims a lion’s share of ecommerce sales), getting your online store to stand out is more difficult than ever. SMS gives you an edge… at least for now. Because your competitors? They’re going to hop on the bandwagon eventually. So now is your chance to become a texting leader and to build trust with your subscribers before your competitors join in and start crowding the channel. 

Keep reading to learn more about why SMS is such a crucial channel for modern ecommerce businesses.

Owned, not rented

As the CEO and founder of Shopify, Tobi Lütke, once tweeted: 

tobi lutke quoteAt Privy, this tweet resonated with us so much that we framed it and hung it in our office. However, we also began to realize that there’s a third marketing channel that belongs in this “owned, not rented” category, even if it’s not as popular as those other two channels: Text messaging. (You can check out this episode of The Ecommerce Marketing Show with Jeremy Horowitz for more on this.)

Just like your emails and your website, text messaging is something that you have complete creative control over. You can brand your texts however you like, send them whenever you like, and share whatever content in them that you like. It’s a channel that you own outright and that you can use to drive repeatable, predictable results.

In contrast, when you share content on Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube, or buy search ads on Google, or sell products on Amazon, you are merely renting space from those companies. At any moment, they could change their terms of service or tweak their algorithms, and, as a result, throw your entire strategy out of whack.

Case in point: A recent Google algorithm update led to 30% to 40% drops in traffic. For some businesses, that’s huge! Imagine relying on that traffic for growing your business, only to have it disappear overnight and have it be completely out of your control.

That’s what makes owned channels, like text messaging, so important: You don’t have to play by somebody else’s rules. You’re not renting an audience – once you build it, you own it forever, and you’re free to reach out directly to that audience and personalize the experience however you like.

Something else to keep in mind: As far as owned channels go, text messaging is still relatively new. As we mentioned earlier, that means you have an opportunity to be an early adopter and to start building your text list NOW before your competitors crowd the space. And here’s the really good news: because people receive and read text messages so quickly (it happens almost instantaneously) you’ll start seeing results from texting within days, or hours, or even minutes.

Faster than email

Imagine this hypothetical: You text someone about a discount. They click the link in your message and go to your online store. They make a purchase. According to the Unofficial Shopify Podcast, that entire chain of events – from text to sale – could happen in less than 30 seconds.



Of course, that’s just a hypothetical. But when you consider how quickly most people are reading their text messages after receiving them – 90% of people open texts within the first 3 minutes – it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where a text-to-sale happens in less than 30 seconds.

Text messaging, after all, is a real-time communication channel. It wasn’t built for displaying or sharing vast swaths of information (re: websites and email). Instead, SMS was built for speed: short messages delivered and opened in a short amount of time.

P.S. in Privy Text Launch Email

As we’re sure you’re already aware, you never see that kind of speed with email marketing. Even if you’re sharing compelling, lovable email content, most folks just aren’t checking their email inboxes all that frequently. And that’s part of what makes texting so unique: You can create a sense of urgency to a degree that just isn’t possible with other channels.

For example, with SMS, you could share a discount code that expires in an hour, or even 15 minutes, with the reasonable expectation that a majority of people will see the message (and that a percentage of those people will click-through and purchase). Because in addition to opening texts quickly, most people take action on their texts quickly as well, i.e. by clicking a link or sending a response.

According to CTIA.org, on average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text, compared to 90 minutes for someone to respond to an email.

Text Response Time

While email is the channel for “I’ll get to it later,” text is the channel for “this is happening right now.” Think about how important of a distinction that is, especially during the year’s biggest shopping days. Imagine if on Black Friday and Cyber Monday – days when essentially every ecommerce business is promoting discounts – you could cut through the noise and give your customers the opportunity to claim a discount (and make a purchase) almost instantaneously.

In addition to being the faster channel, SMS is also the more reliable and less saturated channel when compared to email. Overall, open rates for SMS can be as high as 98%, compared to just 20% for email. Meanwhile, SMS response rates can be as high as 45%, compared to just 6% for email (according to research from Gartner).

Early Bird Announcement Email

Now, all this being said, our point here isn’t that you should throw away your email lists and dedicate all of your time and resources to texting instead. Email is still incredibly popular and is still an incredibly valuable channel for ecommerce businesses.

At Privy, we recently conducted a survey of 500 consumers and found that 80% regularly use email to get updates from brands – that’s 30x more than the next closest channel. We also found that people prefer using email for the broadest of use cases.

Translation: Email is a catch-all for all types of branded content: promotions, events, sales, newsletters, etc. In contrast, people prefer to hear from brands via text only after they’ve taken specific actions, like signing up to receive updates or adding items to their carts. (Here are the rules you need to know about before getting into SMS marketing.)

Clearly, SMS and email are two very different channels designed for two very different types of communication. Mastering both of them and using them to complement one another is a surefire way to get an edge over your competitors.

Text Marketing

This article originally appeared in the Privy blog and has been published here with permission.

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