SMS Best Practices for Engaging Your Retail Customers

Learn how to effectively engage with your customers through SMS campaigns (without annoying them and losing subscribers).

By Robert Woo, Writer @ Endear


Our recent 101 on SMS retail marketing laid the groundwork for retailers looking to start using text messages to connect with their customers. Now, let’s go a little deeper into how to effectively engage with your audience through your SMS campaigns… without annoying them so they block your number.

The big mental shift that many brands need to undertake is to unlearn that customers don’t want to be bothered via text. In actuality, customers enjoy the ability to text with your support team and even sales reps. Studies show that 67% of customers believe that texting with businesses increases convenience, and 46% actively seek out businesses that offer text and chat messaging.

It’s all a matter of providing that level of convenience your audience wants without overreaching with spammy promotions. Let’s dive into the best practices your retail brand should follow when engaging customers with SMS campaigns.

Lead with personalized helpfulness

In our last post, your sales associate did the difficult task of getting a customer’s cell number and getting their opt-in to receive SMS messages. So where do you start?

Starting a text conversation with a client is a lot like sending an initial message on a dating app: you want to keep it short but interesting, breezy but active, and convey that you want to keep the dialog going. And unfortunately, you probably don’t have the luxury of just sending a picture of a cute dog to get things going.

Instead, it’s a great idea to find recent customer activity or details in your retail CRM and use that as a jumping off point to get the conversation started. Do they have a birthday coming up? An anniversary? Did they recently make a purchase or a return? Did they buy something in-store?

A great example from Endear clients who excel and clienteling is a text message campaign sparked when a new product is available that fits the buying history of a customer:

Personalized SMS campaign sent with Endear

An example of a personalized SMS campaign sent with Endear

By opening your text conversation with this level of personalization, you prime your customer to expect great, helpful messages whenever they see your brand pop up on their SMS app.

Keep it conversational

We like texting with our friends and family because it feels intimate yet casual. This is the feeling your team wants to convey when engaging in a dialogue with your customers. In other words, write like a human. Too many texts read like they were generated by robots or impersonal call centers, and they don’t make for great response rates.

Here are some best practices for keeping it conversational:

  • Use the active voice. When trying to sound polite and professional, your texts can sound too impersonal due to the use of passive verbs. It’s more engaging to text “I’m entering in your order right now” versus “Your order has been entered into our system.”
  • Use 1st names and 2nd person. “Hi Cindy, the dresses you wanted are back in stock” reads more conversational than “Hello. Dresses in size 4 are back in stock.” Send text similar to how you would talk in-person to a customer that has been coming into your store for years.
  • Be short. There’s almost no reason to send more than two texts at a time. And just because the character limit is 160 per text, doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. As you develop a rapport with a customer and understand how they communicate, your texts can be shorter and punchier. You can probably even get away with an emoji or two.

Conversational doesn’t mean unprofessional, of course. Your associates should never cross the line with inappropriate jokes or, heaven forbid, inappropriate memes. That’s why having a SMS platform such as Endear that is accessible by the entire team is a great way to keep conversations monitored and in the open.

Be as real-time as possible

One of the best aspects of SMS is that it feels immediate; like answers are just a text away. And that’s what your customers are used to in their daily lives. Nearly 60% of consumers respond to text messages within 5 minutes. So how does your brand’s real-time response rate stack up? After all, you’re trying to have a conversation, not be pen pals.

Near real-time engagement should be a constant goal for your associates. At the very least, during your brand’s work hours (ie. your 9-5), SMS messages should be answered within 5 minutes. This not only helps customers feel like you’re always there for them, but leads to higher usage of SMS as well in the future.

Of course, for many smaller teams, this can be a herculean task. That’s where SMS automation and easy-to-use conversation interfaces can help your team do more with less.

Unified Inbox for SMS campaigns in Endear

Endear's unified Inbox

You can manage more with a team inbox where reps can take over for other reps, work in shifts, and fill in gaps in customer service. Also, since each customer your team is engaging with has their full CRM history available in the interface, any rep can easily address specific notes left by another employee or look up the customer’s history with your brand.

Automated SMS campaigns can also help smaller teams by triggering sends based on customer activity or events. A great example is an automated birthday promotion text that gets triggered a week before each customer’s special day. Just one less thing a busy marketing & sales team needs to worry about.

Ready to start engaging your customers with a thoughtful, coordinated SMS campaign? Endear can help.

Get a free demo of Endear's retail CRM platform and ask about our 14-day free trial.