Practical Ecommerce

Boost Conversions with SMS Messaging

Many restaurant chains rely on SMS (text) messaging to entice customers. The text messages typically include a link to a special graphic, accompanied by textual content and a special code. And it works. Ecommerce sites can also benefit greatly from this instant method of advising people of deals, sales events, and contests.

In 2015, Pew Research Center reported that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults own a smartphone, and 97 percent of them utilize text messaging at least once a day. That falls in line with what we’ve seen with mobile shopping: People want to do it all from their handheld devices.

While email is still a popular way to inform consumers of news and sales, SMS has the advantage of reaching those people instantly, and potentially during times when they’re waiting in lines and need something to pass the time.

According to smsbump, an SMS platform, SMS marketing has the highest reach, with 75 percent of all mobile phones capable of receiving texts, and SMS has the highest open rate at about 98 percent — though that’s because most devices require one tap to open a message even to delete it.

What’s surprising, though, is that SMS response rates — clicks, replies, and other actions — is 45 percent, compared to the average email response rate of just 6 percent.

The results of a small-business SMS campaign to just over 1,500 recipients, from Google Analytics. The 326 page views represents a 21.17 percent click rate.

The results of a small-business SMS campaign to just over 1,500 recipients, from Google Analytics. The 326 page views represents a 21.17 percent click rate.

Affordable Means of Converting

The acquisition cost of text-messaging customers is typically slightly more than email, but rates have dropped considerably. Basic text-messaging services cost as little as $99 per month, flat rate, while feature-rich systems run from 3 cents and 5 cents per recipient. Still, spending $70 to $100 to reach 2,000 customers directly makes sense. That, and SMS messaging is one of the most secure methods to reach others.

Tips on Using Text to Convert Shoppers

While text messaging can be used for many things, including notices of shipping and delivery times, promotional texting is one of the best ways to convert a loyal customer base. The key is to think like the mobile user and how he currently interacts with the world via a smartphone.

  • Make signup simple. The most-used method of collecting cell numbers is inviting people to text a special code. Even easier, though, is including the mobile phone number and an “I agree” checkbox to an existing online form, including the email signup and checkout forms.
Including the SMS signup as part of the email list form, or during the checkout process, can increase the number of subscribers. It's also easier for new subscribers than texting a keyword to a special number.

Including the SMS signup as part of the email list form, or during the checkout process, can increase the number of subscribers. It’s also easier for new subscribers than texting a keyword to a special number.

  • Tell them who you are. Dedicated shortcodes (the send-from numbers that look like xxx-xx) can cost $6,000 or more per year. That’s why so many businesses — including big ones — use shared shortcodes and keywords to identify the business. Either way, preface text messages with an identifier.

For example, my local Texas Roadhouse restaurant prefaces every text message with “Ft. Meyers TXRH.” Since the identifier counts against the total character count of 160, you may want to abbreviate your store’s name to save space.

  • Use trackable, short URLs. Most text messages will include a link to a store’s website, or to a special landing page. Using short links saves characters and also makes the message easier to read. Some systems will automatically shorten links, or you can use services like Bit.ly. Including tracking code in the longer (underlying) URL will allow you to analyze the success of the message. You’ll at least want to measure clicks, bounce rates, and sales.
  • Make the single call-to-action clear. Keep the message simple and limited to one topic. Messages that focus on one key factor work best. Consider the following examples.

Joe’s Shoes: Save 30% during our summer end sale! [insert short link to website].

XYZ Cooking: Use coupon code SAVE25NOW – includes sale and clearance. Ends 08/15/16 [insert short link to website].

SALLYS: Join us Aug. 12 for a night of wine tasting and conversation. Free to attend, door prizes. 21+ [insert short link to descriptive page].

Remember, it’s about enticing them to learn more or buy. If you don’t require the full 160 characters, don’t use them.

  • Be careful with multi-media messages (MMS). True, photos and graphics convert better, but not all phones will process MMS messages the same, and these message types costs more to send. Videos and images take more processing time to open, too.
  • Send less often than email. SMS should not replace email campaigns. Limit texts to 2 to 3 per month, depending on your customer base and target audience.
  • Opt for a service that allows replies. Some recipients will reply to your text messages. Using a service that allows you to read and reply can help close more sales.
  • Study SMS reports. Track how many messages were delivered, how many bounced, and how many were blocked by the carrier. This will help keep the list clean. If you took text signups in the email subscription form, reach out to those who may have blocked the shortcode you use. (Those recipients can receive your messages by texting your keyword to the shortcode, allowing you to reach them via text).
Leading SMS platforms provide helpful analytics. Be sure to study bounces. They'll help you clean up the list and save you money.

Leading SMS platforms provide helpful analytics. Be sure to study bounces. They’ll help you clean up the list and save you money.

  • Review SMS campaigns using website analytics. This will tell you the details beyond clicks, including the time spent on the landing page, the bounce rate (which will likely be higher than the site’s average) and conversion rate.
Page views from an SMS campaign, from Google Analytics.

Page views from an SMS campaign, from Google Analytics.

The best thing about using SMS to boost sales? It’s one of the easiest layers to implement. The message itself — worded properly for the target audience — should direct people to web pages already designed to convert.

Do you plan to implement SMS as a conversion tool? Feel free to post your concerns or ideas here. Do you already use SMS? Please share your results, below.

Pamela Hazelton

Pamela Hazelton

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  1. Elizabeth Hollingsworth July 29, 2016 Reply

    I’m trialling this at the moment, great tips, thanks Pamela!

  2. monica October 17, 2016 Reply

    I have seen businesses that have a small machine at the counter for customers to enter their name and phone number. The customer then gets a text where they can opt in to receive texts in the future. Where can I get that?