Practical Ecommerce

Text Messaging Effective for Retailers

Short message service communications — text messaging — may help online retailers deliver better customer service and represent an important marketing opportunity.

Worldwide there are more than 4.3 billion SMS-enabled mobile devices and in the U.S. approximately 96 percent of smartphone users regularly send and receive text messages, according to the Tatango SMS Marketing Blog and Acision via Oxygen 8, respectively. These statistics, and common sense, indicate that SMS is one of the most popular forms of communication.

Texting’s widespread use alone should encourage online retailers to begin communicating with customers and potential customers in that manner. But if you still need more convincing, here are six more reasons that retailers should use SMS.

1. Superior Customer Service

Communication — simply letting shoppers know that an order has been received or shipped for example — is an important part of providing good customer service.

When a shopper receives an order confirmation, she might not even read it, rather just seeing the subject line in her inbox is enough to set aside any post-purchase fears about whether the order was processed or later shipped. If that confirmation doesn’t show up, however, she could be on the phone or on Facebook asking about the shipment, and a store representative will need to reassure her.

Text messaging can give retailers another way to communicate transactional information to shoppers without having to worry about spam filters, email blacklists, or a dozen other email-related deliverability issues that can plague programmatically generated transactional email messages.

At checkout, consider offering shoppers the opportunity to receive standard transactional messages like order confirmations and shipping notifications via text.

It may also be a good idea to allow shoppers to text-in customer service questions or concerns. There are many young shoppers who would likely feel more comfortable with SMS than a phone call, and an SMS-based customer service line allows shoppers to avoid painful phone system hierarchies — “select one for…” — or even ask customer-service questions discreetly from, say, a commuter train or a boring meeting.

2. Fantastic Open and Read Rates

Shoppers are far more likely to open and read a text message than just about any other form of text-based marketing communication, including email and direct mail.

On average, 98 percent of SMS communications in the U.S. are opened and read, according to LogMyCalls Marketing and Public Relations Manager, McKay Allen.

“This might be the most staggering statistic in the history of marketing. Think about it. 98 percent of text messages are read. I know email marketers that would sell their children to the circus to achieve 98 percent email open rates,” Allen wrote on the LogMyCalls blog.

By way of comparison, a 22 percent open rate is considered very good for email marketing and a 12 percent read rate is consider good for Facebook posts.

Once a customer has opted into an SMS marketing list, a retailer can be nearly certain that any marketing messages sent are being received and read.

3. Fast Response Times

Customers and potential customers are not only more likely to read a marketing message or offer sent via SMS, but they are also likely to do so much more quickly than with other media.

Digital marketing agency Responsive Presence reported that a typical user will respond to an email in about 90 minutes, but respond to a text message in about 90 seconds.

If that sounds incredible, consider your own text-reading habits. When a new text message comes in, your phone announces it with a ringtone, you pull your phone out of your pocket or pick it up from your desk. That act typically takes place the instant you become aware of the message.

An SMS-based marketing message sent to an opted-in list of text subscribers can produce very fast responses.

4. High Conversion Rates

I’m aware of a multi-channel retailer in Northwest U.S. that has been building an opt-in text list for nearly two years. During a recent text campaign the retailer sent a call-to-action to a segment of the text list (about 4,800 numbers) and enjoyed nearly a 40 percent conversion rate.

5. Few Competitors

While online retailers can face significant competition in many marketing channels, including pay-per-click advertising, organic search engine optimization, or even for email subscriptions, there are relatively few online merchants using SMS to engage shoppers.

According to a 2012 report from mobile marketing firm Hipcricket, only about 44 percent of shoppers had encountered an SMS-based advertisement, meaning that more than half of potential ecommerce customers may not be receiving any text-based marketing messages in spite of the fact that some 70 percent of American say that they would like to receive text promotions from preferred companies, according to LogMyCalls’ Allen.

Ease of Implementation

SMS marketing and SMS-based customer service can be easy to implement.

There are several companies that provide SMS infrastructure as a service. Twilio and Firetext, for example, both offer easy-to-use APIs that allow nearly any developer to integrate SMS messaging into ecommerce platforms.

There are also several SMS marketing platforms that require very little technical expertise.

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Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Elizabeth Ball August 30, 2013 Reply

    I would love to know if there are best-practice frequency rates for sending text messages. Most people get SMS as from friends, family and work people only. Shipping messages, even a happy birthday SMS would be fine but I think you would need to tread a very careful line not to abuse it if you were sending special offers.

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