Struggling to Reach Customers Right Now? Questions About SMS, Answered


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It seems like a distant memory, when brands were able to lean on in-store interactions to draw in new customers, develop brand loyalty and highlight new products. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, retailers have completely shifted their focus online. Digital interactions are the only interactions. And with email sending volume increasing 19% in March, the competition to reach consumers is steep. In light of this, marketers need to take advantage of other available tools to differentiate themselves from the pack.

An underutilized channel with significant opportunity is SMS messaging. Texting increased 41% in March, proving that consumers are relying on their phones more than ever during social distancing. Some companies are hesitant about rolling out SMS marketing, especially when it comes to return-on-ad-spend (ROAS), intimacy of the channel and reach, but overall, it’s hugely valuable as a part of digital marketing strategies.

Is SMS cost effective?
Some of the revenue streams that companies previously relied upon pre-COVID are falling short, making it difficult for marketers to justify increased spend or experimenting with new tools. While email marketing is a tried and true, cost effective tool, SMS allows retailers to deepen engagement and deploys as an incremental revenue generating supplement to those existing programs.

SMS messages have a 98% open rate compared to a 20% email open rate; consumers are more likely to open texts, leading to stronger conversion rates. SMS reach is also higher in regards to sheer quantity of people who own a mobile device – 62% of the global population owns a cell phone, leading to a wider pool of potential customers.

SMS marketing is unique, and worthwhile, for the relationship it creates between brands and consumers. SMS is inherently interactive – texts are meant to be responded to, if not with words then by action. Short texts with a clear action and enticing messages drive users to sites – to the point where companies like Soft Surroundings have had to limit send to avoid site overloading. Since ad spend is being cut on top of the funnel tactics, marketers need to rely on channels that increase engagement, and SMS is perfect for meeting consumers where they are.

Is SMS too intimate of a channel?
Most of us are used to receiving texts from friends and family, but we’re increasingly getting used to SMS messages from our favorite retailers and brands. In fact, even during the coronavirus pandemic, customers want to hear from brands now more than ever.

For example, footwear apparel company, DTLR VILLA, has taken to mobile to engage with consumers and grow their subscriber sign-ups. DTLR VILLA leveraged a ‘tap-to-join’ feature within its mobile site, accelerating daily SMS subscriber signups 24X and boosting revenues by 2.5X compared to email. By focusing their campaigns around specific show launches and promotions, they were able to broaden their reach and net roughly 250 new subscribers per week.

Like DTLR VILLA, this is a time for brands to use marketing channels to build relationships. Consumers want to see how their favorite brands react in times of uncertainty and devoted customers want to see that loyalty returned. The communication efforts brands make today will be remembered for years to come. Brands need to take the leap and jump in.

Can SMS reach the right audience?
When it comes to SMS marketing, people sometimes picture impersonal boilerplates blasted out to a huge subscriber list. Additionally, the shorter character space also leads to questions about the room for personalization. In practice, though, SMS prioritizes quality over quantity.

Brands know that 20% of their customers are responsible for driving 80% of their revenue. Those relationships are important. SMS can play a big part in fostering relationships by sharing carefully curated content. Be it promotions, new product launches or raffles, SMS is a thoughtful and proven way to engage with loyal customers based on their needs and interests.

During the economic uncertainty brought on by pandemic, brands need to dig into untapped revenue sources and expand ongoing consumer conversations. This can be done by converting more traffic during onsite sessions through amplifying Paid Search and SEO investments. Then, brands have the ability to interact with these consumers in a highly personalized manner after their session is complete, which is where SMS comes in. When brands can accurately identify consumers across devices, the content can be tailored to their experience.

As the world of online retail continues to be hyper competitive, marketers need to look into available tools that will set them apart when it comes to reaching new consumers, as well as increasing brand loyalty with their core demographic. SMS allows brands to meet customers where they are and build targeted campaigns with high conversion rates, delivering an almost guaranteed ROAS in a time where budgets are tight, making it the perfect option for your next top revenue channel.

Karen DiClemente
Karen DiClemente is the Director of Client Strategy at Listrak, an industry-leading marketing cloud focused solely on retailers. She has a decade of ecommerce expertise in helping hundreds retailers maximize ROI on cross-channel marketing initiatives. Prior to Listrak, Karen served as an ecommerce Marketing Officer for Fulton Financial Corporation, where she executed corporate marketing initiatives.


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