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Email marking has been around for about 40 years and it remains to be an effective delivery method to reach your shoppers. But as usual in the tech industry, things don’t stay the same for long. SMS or text message marketing is the dark horse in the marketing race. It’s emergence isn’t super widespread as of yet, but it won’t be long before it truly takes off.
As consumers take more onto their plates, and technology advances, people are moving at a quicker pace and are consuming more. They want their transactions, communications, and information faster than ever before, and they want it to be accessible at their fingertips. This is where text message marketing really shines. But, like all other marketing methods, it has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks
Text Message vs. Email Marketing
Consider that 3.5 billion people worldwide own and use a smartphone. It’s no surprise that text message marketing has a massive 82% open rate, compared to the average email open rate of less than 20%. Despite email being incredibly common, it still isn’t as widely available as text messaging, nor is it as quick and easy to use.
While unlimited SMS (short message services, aka texting) is stock-standard for many cell phone plans these days, data remains expensive, and wifi isn’t always available. Those users that may not have constant access to the internet might only check their email once a week. With text message advertising, however, the messages are delivered instantly and are typically opened within 3 minutes of being received.
The online software available for compiling, managing, and automating email marketing campaigns is a huge benefit to the method. These systems make advertising easier and less expensive. Especially for small businesses that can’t afford to hire a full time marketing expert. Luckily, text message marketing can be automated the same way.
Companies like Sendlane offer SMS services in addition to email automation. That means you can set up, track, and analyze your text message marketing just as easily as your emails. Even better, they integrate together beautifully.
Personal and Personalized
These days, you can connect with your favorite celebrities on Instagram, and you can communicate with your favorite brands on Twitter. With so much industry competition, companies are finding huge success in forming a personal connection with their customers. In fact, customers expect that personal connection. 76% of consumers are more likely to spend with a company that actively tries to connect with their customer base.
Text message marketing inherently has a leg up over email marketing in this regard. Even with using personalization tags, emails feel impersonal and mass produced. And of course, they are. We aren’t suggesting you have to personally compose each text message you send to a customer though. By delivering your message to their phone via text, you have already associated your message with a feeling of familiarity.
Because texts are already fairly informal, you have the chance to be conversational with the recipient. This helps bolster the feeling of camaraderie and trust between your shopper and your brand.
Brevity is Key
We’ve already talked about how consumers want their information to be faster and more convenient. This is a big benefit of text messaging. You are forced to keep your message short and sweet. While it may be tricky to get used to being that concise, it’ll pay off. You users will be able to read and absorb your entire message before losing interest.
Riding on the coat tails of text message open rate, you have the actionability of SMS marketing. When it comes to earning conversions, email typically requires additional steps for the shopper. And we aren’t just talking about sale conversions. Converting a customer might refer to making a purchase, but could also be:
- Leaving a review
- Responding to a survey
- Opting into something (ie. newsletter or webinar)
In the case of email marketing, to convert in any of those ways, the shopper has to follow a link to your website, taking them out of their email browser. That alone may be enough to deter someone from taking the step. With text message marketing, however, you can use keyword and sub-keyword replies.
By setting up simple sub-keywords, you can guide your recipients into conversions with a quick reply. Keep in mind that on average, it takes only 90 seconds to respond to a text – even less if their response is only one word!
Take advantage of spur of the moment decision making by using easy prompts and simple requests.
Spam Is On The Rise
More than half of all emails received are spam. That number is drastically lower for text messaging, but it isn’t zero. You’ve probably received your fair share of mysterious text messages riddled with spelling errors, asking you to visit the link and enter your banking information. Spam texts exist, but aren’t nearly as pervasive as spam emails.
What does this mean for SMS marketing? For now, it means you should be conscious of the type of information you ask for in a text. It should go without saying, but don’t ask for payment information via text. And if possible, keep your links recognizable (aka branded). As text message marketing increases in popularity, new restrictions and safeguards will likely be created, but for now, simply use common sense and your best discretion to ensure your texts don’t seem spammy.
Text Message Marketing Best Practices
If you’re thinking that text message marketing sounds ideal for your business, you’re probably right! It can be super versatile and open you up to a new range of marketing tactics. Here are some things to keep in mind while you experiment with SMS.
Opt-In Is Still Required
Vitally important and legally required, you must get permission before sending the first message. You can obtain that consent through a variety of ways. Maybe you have a checkbox during the checkout process on your site. Or maybe you take the popular route of asking for first contact from the customer as a way of opting in. Take Subway’s campaign, for example:
By texting OFFERS to 782929, you are giving consent to participate in their text message marketing campaign. It’s not a bad idea to vie for the double opt-in. In that case, your first message to the customer might be reiterating your company name, and what they can expect from your messages, how often they will be sent, and of course, how to opt out.
Keep Them Text-Based
While most cell phone plans allow picture and video messages, they can cost some customers additional charges. They might also unknowingly use up data, or simply not show. To make sure you aren’t being a hindrance to your customers, and to ensure your entire message is being received, it’s safest to send text-only messages.
If necessary, include a link to take the recipient to an image page, website, or download screen.
The beauty of a text message is that it is short and easy to digest. Focus your text message marketing on communication rather than conversation. Specifically, you want to communicate or notify your shopper of a great deal, a special offer, a reminder before a holiday, a notification about an order, etc.
You shouldn’t be sending paragraphs, or explaining anything in a text message. If you have a longer message that you need your shoppers to see, text them with a link to the message on your site.
Campaign vs. Transactional
There are two main types of communications you would use a text message for. The first, campaign, would be used to alert your recipient to a deal. Maybe you want to send them a coupon code, or remind them that the whole store is 20% off until tomorrow at midnight.
The other kind is transactional. Provide your shopper with shipping updates, order confirmations, or text-based receipts. They should be referencing specific transactions the customer has made. Keep in mind that if your shopper opts in to receiving order updates during checkout, you shouldn’t then start sending them campaign texts, without first getting a further opt in.
Think About Branding
One thing that email definitely has a leg up on, is branding. Emails can be beautifully designed and tailored to your brand. You don’t get that with text message marketing. You can’t use brand-specific colors or fonts, logos, images, and you don’t have room for tag lines.
To keep your branding involved, mention your company name where possible (and appropriate), and keep the company voice in mind. If you sell high-end, luxury watches and accessories, you may not want to start your text message with “Hey!!”.
Consider Timing Carefully
Emails give you a little more leeway when it comes to send times. In fact, you may even have better luck sending emails at odd hours. But with text messages, it’s very possible that sending a 2 am text will annoy your shopper. Not only that, but they are less likely to be opened right away. And if they are opened, they may be immediately forgotten about.
If you send a text that you want interaction from (ie. survey question, opting in, or clicking a link), there’s a better chance that your recipient will perform those actions at 3 pm when they are sitting in the office, or at 8 pm once dinner is done and the kids have been put to bed.
Integrate With Other Campaigns
It should come as no surprise that text message marketing is not one-size-fits-all. There is no single marketing solution that covers all bases and checks every box. To get the most out of SMS marketing, use it in conjunction with your email and social media marketing.
Email is great for in-depth order confirmations, and longer content like messages from the company, or newsletter updates. Social media is best for community interaction and new customer acquisition. Text messages are perfect for sending a coupon code, quick updates, and reminders. Incorporate all three into your plan!
Sending a follow-up text regarding an email has been shown to increase email open rates by 30%. Consider sending your standard email about your 20% off sale, then following it up with a conversational text, asking the recipient if they heard about the awesome sale from the last email. Provide a link to your sale information page to tie your email, text, and website together. That promo page should then encourage your users to make sure they are signed up for email communications, following you on social media, and opted into text updates.
Is Text Message Marketing Right For Everyone?
Generally speaking, yes. Text message marketing can be a beneficial addition to most – if not all – marketing plans. But it may not be a priority for you and your business. Most small business owners don’t have unlimited funds to throw around. So if your marketing budget is limited, you’ll want to get the biggest bang for your buck.
A good place to look is your Google Analytics. If your numbers are showing you that the majority of your demographic is in the 65+ category, it may not be worth it, as only about half have a smartphone. Or if you find that your site is only accessed via mobile device by 12% of visitors, you may want to focus more on email advertising to target the desktop users.
Text Message Marketing vs Email
Much of this article has been comparing SMS marketing against email. The reality is that they both have their pros and cons. Instead of text message VS email, consider text message AND email.
While text message marketing may be pretty new, and still largely untapped, the potential benefits are very clear. Texting can definitely find a place in just about any marketing plan. And if it’s used appropriately, it can bring you closer to your user on a more personable level. Do you need help determining if SMS marketing is appropriate for your store? Contact us and we can help get your store connected with the right solution.