In ecommerce, communication is everything. It applies to both how stores are run internally, and how merchants engage with their customers. Telling customers about their order status, promoting new products, informing them about upcoming sales, and engaging with them on social media. Communication is key to a great customer experience.
One of the primary ways through which merchants communicate with their customers is email. Email has long been the go-to owned marketing channel for ecommerce, offering merchants a direct channel to their customers. However recently, SMS is gaining popularity and has become an appealing option for owned marketing in ecommerce.
So why is this? And what can Shopify merchants do to leverage SMS for their stores?
Why merchants are using SMS marketing
Consider how you use your smartphone on a daily basis. You use it to look at social media, send emails, message friends and family, and even just to check the time. It’s almost second nature to pick up your phone regularly, in fact most people check their phones 58 times every day totalling an average of over 3 hours of screen time. SMS allows merchants to make the most of that attention that people give to their smartphones, as engagement rates far exceed those of email. That isn’t to say that SMS is better than email or vice versa, in fact savvy merchants will use both as part of a wider owned marketing strategy.
So let’s dive into some of the reasons why SMS works for ecommerce merchants in boosting engagement with customers.
Bolsters Owned Marketing Strategy
Let’s quickly rewind and define “owned marketing” in case you’re not familiar with the term. Owned marketing is an organic method of online content delivery that you control. Examples of this might be your website and blog, email, and SMS. You control how it looks, what messaging is included, who it’s delivered to etc. Social media is at times included in this definition, however with those platforms you’re subject to algorithms controlling who actually gets to see your content.
Now that we’ve got a definition, let’s talk strategy. As we’ve just touched on, SMS and Email together make for a strong owned marketing strategy. It targets customers in different ways, allowing for different types and styles of information to be communicated in the most effective way. For example, using email to communicate order confirmations with details of the products purchased, followed by a text message when the order is being packed. Another example might be sending a promotional email campaign about a sale with images and details about the products available, followed by a text once that sale is live with a direct link to the sale page on your store. You’re complementing and bolstering your approach to owned marketing, by making the most of the strengths of each method.
Targets different customer behaviours
Another way in which SMS can boost your owned marketing, is through how the SMS experience differs from email. Email inboxes are typically cluttered with a number of different marketing messages, and SMS by nature of being a push notification ensures your message stands out. Not only is it likely to be noticed faster than an email but it’s also more likely to be opened, as on average 98% of text messages are opened by the end of the day. To take that a step further, there’s a big difference in the speed at which email and text messages are actually opened; on average an email is opened within 90 minutes, whereas a text is opened within 90 seconds.
Strengthens customer relationships
SMS by its nature is more conducive to engagement than email, because of how consumers actually use it. They’re messaging their friends and family throughout the day, and they engage with text messaging more often than email; it’s an instant call-and-response platform. A well put together email marketing message might look more polished and branded, but SMS has a more casual approach that invites quick engagement and conversations. Customers can respond to your SMS fast if prompted, whether that’s to use it for customer service about an order enquiry or to request more information. The messages will be much more concise and purposeful also, meaning they can cut through the typical marketing clutter and get right to whatever the point of the message is, for example a link to get to a flash sale. This alongside order related messages helps to boost customer relationships and add to the experience in a positive way.
Low barrier to entry
Perhaps one of the biggest strengths of SMS marketing is how easy it is to both get started and then get deep into personalization and segmentation compared to email. Email marketing requires design, copywriting, and sometimes custom code to design the perfect campaign, whereas SMS is text based and often only a couple of sentences long. Not only is this great for getting started, but also for reactivity; if you want to get messaging out to customers as quickly as possible, such as a viral product coming back in stock, it’s easy to do so with an SMS campaign.
6 strategies to improve CX through SMS
#1 - Order communication
If you’re just getting started with SMS, then the first strategy to implement is using it to improve your post-purchase customer experience. 75% of consumers are open to receiving order tracking notifications via SMS, and 65% are open to receiving order status notifications. Moreover, 60% would like to be able to communicate over SMS with support issues. Therefore by adding SMS to your order communication flow, you’re giving customers what they actually want. As well as messages about order fulfillment, tracking information, etc., you can also use SMS for quick order updates related to any delays as well as on-the-day delivery updates. These will be more useful over SMS than email, as they’ll be more likely to be seen right away when they’re sent.
#2 - Flash sales
Given how long it can take someone to check their email, if you want to add a sense of urgency to your flash sales then SMS is a great way to encourage action from your customers. A quick text with a link to the sale can be a highly effective way to drive more traffic to time-sensitive events on your store. You can also use segmentation to send messages to customers who do typically order during sales, or even offer deeper discounts to your most valuable customers.
#3 - Back-in-stock
When people sign up for back-in-stock notifications, they want to know when that product is available as soon as the stock is replenished. If that notification gets lost in their inbox, or they don’t see it right away as they don’t check their email constantly, then they may be left disappointed if they miss out. Using SMS to send back-in-stock notifications with links to that product ensure that they get that notification fast and allows them to get straight to the product page to make the purchase.
#4 - Abandoned Carts
Abandoned carts are a source of both frustration and opportunity for ecommerce merchants. SMS gives you an additional method of communication with those potential customers who are perhaps unsure of whether or not to complete their purchase. Using text messages alongside your usual abandoned cart email strategy can help to bring customers back. You can even initiate a conversation, asking if there’s anything you can help with in regards to the abandoned cart; further engaging the customer and demonstrating that your brand wants to do as much as possible to help.
#5 - Feedback requests
Getting feedback from customers can be difficult at times, as you’re asking them to take time out of their day to respond to your request. SMS opens up a new channel of communication for feedback requests, that makes it conversational and convenient for your customers. You can send an initial text asking if they’d like to offer feedback, and if they respond “Yes” you can then send questions in a conversational format that they can respond to in turn.
#6 - Special dates
Personalization is key to any marketing campaign, and the same goes for SMS. Use it to capture those meaningful moments with your customers, sending them a text with a special offer when it’s a special occasion. That might be their birthday, a personal anniversary, or even the anniversary of their first order. This helps add to the customer experience, and deepen your relationship with individual customers to drive loyalty.
How to ensure you get SMS right
In a similar vein to your email marketing, make it easy and fast for customers to sign up to your SMS marketing campaigns. Offer an incentive to get your list started, and do so through a pop-up or banner on your store as well as promoting through social media. For example “Text [brand name] to 11111 to get 15% off your first order”. Add an opt-in for text messages on all orders, and be sure to detail the benefits of signing up for SMS such as up-to-date order notifications and early sale access. Make it so that your SMS marketing is seen as something that will give added value to your customers.
Complement your email strategy
We’ve mentioned earlier in this article that email and SMS should work alongside each other, and we want to emphasize that again. The two methods shouldn’t be seen as separate, otherwise you run the risk of being seen as spammy by your subscribers. If you send several emails and texts all at once, then it won’t be seen positively by customers and you’ll risk losing subscribers. Coordinate the timing and messaging of your email and SMS campaigns so that they complement each other and work together to achieve similar goals.
It might sound counterintuitive to make it easy for subscribers to opt-out, however doing so saves you from wasting money on people who won’t ever convert, and from those subscribers having a negative view of your brand. It ensures that your list is made up of people who are actually interested in your campaigns, and reduces the risk of alienating potential customers who may be put off by unwanted SMS campaigns.
Inform more, promote less
It’s important to understand when to use SMS, and when to use email. This goes back to the idea of them complementing each other. Use SMS primarily to inform, rather than to promote. By this we mean you want to use it for quick messages that give information such as order status, sale details and flash discounts, customer support, and back-in-stock notifications. You can still use SMS to promote products, but use it primarily for information. This ensures that you’re always delivering value through SMS, rather than being seen to use it as another way to push products onto your subscribers.
Start a conversation
One of the most unique benefits of SMS marketing is the fact that unlike promotional emails, it’s a two-way conversation. It’s unlikely that a subscriber will respond to a promotional email, because they don’t feel like your brand is actually expecting a response from them. With SMS, you can start a conversation and prompt subscribers to engage with you. For example once an order has been delivered, you can ask if they’d like to leave feedback or get in touch with customer support. Another example might be letting them know about a new product or sale, and starting a conversation to tell them more information.
Klaviyo SMS & MMS
If you’re already a Klaviyo customer, then you’ll be happy to hear that recently Klaviyo announced SMS tools native to the platform. This means you can manage your email and SMS campaigns from your Klaviyo account, and make the most of the data you’ll be getting through your Shopify integration. You’ll have access to accurate data and customizable reports to help inform your strategy, and then a whole host of tools such as 2-way conversations and personalization to drive the strategy to success.
Another great SMS option for Shopify merchants is Postscript - a Shopify exclusive SMS marketing platform. Postscript allows you to get deep into segmentation and personalization, ensuring a highly tailored approach to each customer that’s subscribed to your list. With access to an open API, rich data, 2-way conversations, and automations, you can create an SMS strategy that boosts conversions and improves the customer experience. Postscript also integrates with Klaviyo, so you can use one to manage your email marketing and another for SMS whilst utilizing the same Shopify store data to inform your strategy. With Postscript being an exclusively SMS platform, it means that they’re laser focused on developing new tools and developments to help merchants make the most of their SMS marketing.
Shopify merchants have a very wide range of tools at their disposal to help improve the customer experience. SMS might not be the first tool that comes to mind, however it can be one of the most valuable additions to your owned marketing strategy that will boost both customer satisfaction and conversion rates.