Using Ecommerce Text Messages in 2014

Online retailers can use text messages in much the same way that they use email, but with the possibility of much better results, since shoppers may be more likely to read a text than an email.

Nine in every ten American adults own a mobile phone and may be able to receive a text or short message service (SMS) message, including an incredible 98 percent of adults aged 18 to 29 and 97 percent of folks age 30 to 49, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Mobile Technology Fact Sheet.

People are also more likely to read and respond to SMS messages than they are to nearly any other form of communication. Consider that email, which is an excellent way to communicate with customers, has an open rate of about 17.35 percent for ecommerce-related messages, according to MailChimp, an email service provider. In contrast, SMS messages enjoy a 95 percent or better open rate, meaning that nearly everything sent, gets through, according to several sources including FireText, Inc. Magazine, and Mobile Marketing Watch.

Furthermore, about 94 percent of SMS messages are read within 5 minutes or less, again according to several sources, possibly making the medium better for getting a quick response from customers.

Furthermore, about 94 percent of SMS messages are read within 5 minutes or less, again according to several sources, possibly making the medium better for getting a quick response from customers.

Taken together, this data may be a strong indicator that ecommerce businesses should be using SMS. In fact, the only question remaining is how to do it.

“SMS gives you a greater ability to keep customers informed in a way that’s personal and relevant to them, enabling you to engage with them throughout the order process. This not only leads to increased satisfaction – but also increased sales,” wrote of authors of a FireText report, titled “Everything you need to know about SMS marketing to grow your ecommerce store.”

Use SMS for Transactional Messages

Text messages may be an excellent alternative or companion to email for sending shoppers information about an order. When a shopper pays for her online purchase, consider giving her the option to have the transactional message come via email, text, or both.

If the customer selects SMS, send brief messages to:

  • Confirm the order was received;
  • Inform the customers that the order has been shipping;
  • Alert the customer when the order has been delivered;
  • And follow up after the sale to ensure everything went well.

SMS may also be used to help manage returns or answer simple questions about the order.

The key here is that many shoppers give text messages priority over other kinds of communication so that your store stands out from the proverbial crowd.

Use SMS When Items Are Ready for In-store Pickup

SMS messages might also be employed to help with in-store pick up or, as some call it, click and collect, which is an emerging trend even with small and mid-sized brick-and-click businesses.

In-store pick up is popular with shoppers because it can be more convenient, and it is popular with stores because often shoppers will make additional purchases when they come to pick up their online order. But there is an inherent risk, if a customer shows up too soon to pick up an item, that customer might become disappointed or even angry.

Text messaging can be used to alert shoppers when an order is actually ready for pickup, potentially avoiding misunderstandings. What’s more, text messages might be used to make the experience even more personal.

Imagine that a shopper, Frank, placed a click and collect order at 9:00 a.m.. At 10:00 a.m. he receives a text saying that the order is ready. By 5:45 p.m., he receives another.

“Hello Frank. This is James at Store X. Your order is ready. We close at 6 p.m., but if you’d like to pick it up today, I can stay open a bit longer. Let me know.”

SMS Can Help Marketing Too

Guitar Center, a brick-and-click retailer of musical instruments and related products, recently held a “Big Payback” promotion wherein shoppers received an electronic gift certificate about a month after making a Guitar Center purchase. If a shopper sent $50, he would get a $10 certificate.

As one might expect Guitar Center delivered its electronic gift certificates via email, but it might also has sent these via text. In fact, given the Guitar Center has both physical stores and an online store, the text may have been even more convenient, since shoppers going into a store would not have needed to print out the gift certificate, rather they could simply present the message still on the phone.

Using SMS for a promotion like this one might also impact conversion rates. For example, in 2013 a retailer in the northwestern U.S. sent an SMS campaign with a simple call to action to about 4,800 opt-in customers and enjoyed nearly a 40 percent conversion rate on the offer.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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