SMS Marketing 101 for Retail Brands

Learn the basics about SMS marketing and how to use it to drive leads and sales for your retail business.

SMS Marketing 101 for Retail Brands

Your retail brand is ready to dive into SMS marketing. Congratulations! That's a decision that has been proven to increase engagement, establish more personal relationships with customers, and drive more valuable sales.

SMS marketing has quickly become a staple for retail marketing and sales teams that are looking to elevate customer outreach for two reasons: 1) texting has a high open-to-read rate, and 2) unlike most marketing messages, two-way communication is possible.

No other channel can do what text messaging can do. According to Campaign Monitor, the average open rate for email marketing is around 20%, give or take a few percentage points depending on the specific industry. For example, retail's open rate is under the average, at 17%. This is because of the amount of competition in the space crowding inboxes.

But SMS? Text messages enjoy a 97% read rate and that’s within just 15 minutes of delivery! In other words, nearly every text message gets opened and read. That’s a huge boost to a brand’s marketing efforts.

Additionally, nearly half of SMS campaigns show positive ROI. All these stats add up to a powerful marketing channel that your team can leverage for a big sales boost.

So how do you get started with SMS marketing?

1. Incentivize Customers to Opt-in.

Many countries have rules to mitigate unwanted text messages. You can get familiar with the United States' rules here. But, there’s also a simpler way to make sure your SMS marketing is up to par: collect phone numbers that are opting in to receive text messages from your brand. The best way to get both new and existing customers to opt in to SMS marketing is to incentivize them for doing so by making them want to get texts from your brand. A simple and effective tactic is to offer exclusive deals that are only available via SMS. If your customers already have a good relationship with your brand, they won’t hesitate to sign up. 2/3rds of customers prefer to be reached by brands via SMS. So while the average person may never want unsolicited texts, the messages a brand sends out to customers are very much solicited and welcomed.

2. Connect SMS Marketing with Your Brand's Loyalty Program

Another way to have customers opt-in for SMS is to bake it into your brand’s loyalty program. When signing up, you can offer additional loyalty points to submit phone numbers (instead of just emails) and opt-in for SMS promotions and deals. Those interested in your loyalty program are already some of your most engaged customers, so they will have no issue opting in for SMS.

Finally, brands can get more opt-ins by offering better customer service available through SMS conversations. If your sales associates can establish an in-store rapport, they can offer to use texts to confirm orders and send customers updates on new products right to their phones.

Jenette Bras did exactly this to notify customers when items that they wanted were back in stock, which was a great way to establish service-via-text that customers want to opt into. From that, their team could continue those conversations and send targeted deals and promotions to their base.

Which leads us to…

3. Have an SMS Marketing Strategy

While texting with customers may feel more informal, your brand’s SMS strategy should be anything but. For example, research shows that brands shouldn’t send more than 10-12 messages per month, and we even suggest working your way up to that. It might be better to keep promotional texts to once a week, and service (in-stock updates, shipping notifications) texts depending on need.

Also, don’t send texts outside of usual active hours. While 9am to 5pm is generally fair game, it would be better to aim for a tighter window of 11am to 3pm (keeping time zones in mind). That way, your brand won’t annoy customers by texting too early or too late.

But the ultimate SMS marketing strategy to have in place is enabling near real-time 2-way conversations. After all, this is the entire reason why SMS marketing is so effective for retail brands. And while a full playbook is beyond the scope of this 101 primer, there are a few key strategies to keep in mind:

  1. Lead with information. One of the first touch-points for an SMS conversation will be answering questions your customers will have about their products. Make sure your team is equipped with answers by providing them access to customer profiles within your CRM software.
  2. Keep it short, but follow up. Train your team to be succinct during conversations, but also to follow up a few days later to keep the conversation going. You never want to wear out your welcome on their phone screen, but a friendly follow-up is always appreciated.
  3. Be as real-time as possible. To the customers, it should feel like your team is just a text message away. While it’s not always possible to respond immediately, your team should strive to be as available as possible during business hours.

Here’s an example of a 2-way conversation that strengthens customers relationships:

Clienteling from Endear

4. Get the Right CRM Software

So, you might be wondering, do you have to do all this from your work phone? Trying to juggle more than a handful of clients from a work phone would quickly become untenable. What retail brands do for effective SMS marketing is to use the right software to manage their text messaging campaigns.

And while standalone SMS apps exist, the most savvy brands choose a CRM with SMS capabilities built right into the platform. Not only does it make it easier on teams to do everything from a single interface, but having customer history available makes it lightning quick to provide the right information to each customer. It’s easy to bring up previous purchase history, addresses, size, and other preferences to make your team that much more knowledgeable.

Additionally, a CRM like Endear has two features to elevate basic SMS marketing to the level of virtual clienteling. One is automated campaigns that can leverage templates, customer data, and smart segmentation to send out SMS promotions to highly targeted groups of customers.

Segmentation from Endear

Automated Campaigns using segmentation from Endear.

Campaigns make it easy to automate texts and help smaller teams engage with more customers on a 1-on-1 basis.

Second, Endear provides Shoppable Stories, a beautifully visual way to send customers a curated selection of products you’ve picked out for them. This elevates text messages into a more engaging “window shopping” experience right from their smartphones, leading to higher interactions and ultimately more sales.

Creating and tracking a Shoppable Story from Endear

Shoppable Stories from Endear. What the user sees on the left, and what the customer sees on the right.

Endear keeps modern SMS marketing at the core of our CRM, built specifically for retail brands. As you get started with this new channel, we can help you execute the right way for the best results.

Send SMS campaigns that convert and grow customer loyalty with the platform that does it all.

Book a time to get a walk-through of Endear and be sure to ask about our 14-day free trial.