A Guide to The Essentials of SMS Marketing
Why Use SMS Marketing?
Chances are, as you read this, your mobile phone is somewhere in your immediate vicinity. It is now our communication device of choice, and that’s what makes SMS marketing so powerful. It is the only marketing channel with a 95% open rate, and with an average response time of just 90 seconds, it’s the most effective way to send time critical messages, promotions and alerts when you want to ensure that your information is seen and read by your intended audience.
SMS marketing is available on all mobile phones; independent of model or network and with 84% of adults in the UK owning a mobile phone, it
is one of the highest reach channels around. SMS Marketing allows you to communicate with your customers in the place where they are already consuming information and interacting. In-fact recent research revealed that nearly two-thirds of consumers would shift to a brand that provided text messaging as a communication option.
SMS Marketing Rules
The laws around SMS marketing will vary from country to country. In the UK mobile marketing is covered by data laws most marketers will already be familiar with:
Data Protection Act
Following Brexit, the latest version of The Data Protection Act (DPA) came into force at the end of January 2020 in the UK, and protects the personal information and data of those residing in the country while also regulating how that information is stored and used.
GDPR is the most comprehensive privacy and security legislation in the world. It is designed to offer UK and EU residents’ more control over their personal data. There are six instances in which it is legal to process personal data under GDPR, two of which can be applied to marketing activities:
- The data subject has given you unambiguous consent to process their information
- You have a legitimate interest to process someone’s data, though the ‘fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject’ always override your interests
PECR stands for Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 cover the sending of text
message marketing. This legislation says that organisations must only send marketing text messages to individuals if you have agreed to receive them. Although, this is not the case when there is a clearly defined customer relationship.
What Does The Law Mean For SMS Marketing Practice?
SMS marketing isn’t so different from other channels – send messages your customers want to receive and you’ll reap the rewards. We’ve put together some practical guidance, but general best practice is to:
1. Get Permission
- Gather Consent : You need to gain consent through an opt-in process that clearly states that the data subject is consenting to receive messages from you. A simple way to do this is to use signup forms that require a specific action, such as ticking a checkbox. In this case, check boxes should not be pre-selected as the default option, and data subjects must tick the box themselves for clear consent to be gained.
2. Send Relevant Content That Adds Value
- Offer Value with Messages : There’s nothing worse than receiving endless messages with no real point to them, and nobody wants to interact with a business that’s overly salesy. Make sure that every SMS message you send is clear and to the point while offering customers something of value. Similarly, while it can be tempting to use slang and abbreviations when you only have 160 characters to work with, this can easily confuse your customers and cause them to opt-out, so stick to plain English instead. Don’t forget about your call-to-action either as this will encourage users to move through the customer journey and follow the steps you want them to take.
- Use SMS Marketing Tools to Automate Messages : SMS marketing tools allow you to automate your messages and set up workflows depending on specific customer actions, which means you can automate many communications and notifications sent to your audience. Similarly, it reduces manual labour hours and the risks of human error while allowing you to see exactly what is going out, and when.
- Carefully Consider Timing : SMS marketing can be powerful as it has the ability to cut through other communications noise, delivering messages straight to the palm of your customer’s hand. However with this comes extra considerations around frequency and timing of sending text messages. We recommend not to send multiple messages per day, and think carefully about the cadence of your text messaging strategy. Similarly sending your mess ages out at the wrong time can cause you to lose even the most loyal of customers. Generally, sending between business hours; 9am-6pm is safest, but evening and weekend sends can be highly impactful for retail, leisure and entertainment messages. We also recommend avoiding night time sends – not everyone turns their phone off overnight, and waking your customer at 3am is the easiest way to guarantee an opt out.
3. Always Provide An Opt-Out
- Give Customers the Choice to Opt-out : Due to GDPR and PECR regulations, it’s now a legal requirement to offer customers a simple way to remove their consent. For SMS marketing, include an opt-out message in every text to remind customers they can unsubscribe at any time by simply asking them to respond to messages using the word ‘STOP’ or ‘UNSUBSCRIBE’. Don’t forget to also send your customers a follow-up text message that confirms this.
Drive Loyalty & Retention Via Personalisation
In a recent study undertaken by Salesforce, 45 percent of the 500 businesses surveyed were not providing personalised marketing to their customers. The case for doing so is compelling, as on average a personalised advert converts 10 times better than an unpersonalised one.
For example BMW, managed to net an extra $500k in revenue by personalising their customer communications in the US. This represented an impressive increase of 30 percent over their unpersonalised messaging.
Modern marketing personalisation is about much more than adding a customer’s name to the top of an advert. By collecting relevant and up to date data, businesses have the opportunity to make recommendations, add context, cross sell, and tailor promotions to each of their customers’ needs. This in turn allows businesses to build stronger relationships and levels of familiarity with their customers.
By personalising communications and offers brands can begin to build meaningful and lasting relationships with customers.
Personalised tactics we’ve seen create success
- Sale/discount alerts and previews
- Personalised post purchase thank you messages
- ‘We miss you’ contact programmes
- Birthday or purchase anniversary promotions
- Replenishment/upsell programmes based on previous purchase
- VIP offers such as exclusive new stock previews
- Back in stock alerts/wish list reminders
Think mobile first for maximum ROI
Mobile marketing should be a business’s dream – on paper at least. It allows them to connect with a focused group of customers at any time, in any place. Despite this, many are failing to capitalise on the opportunities that it presents.
Most businesses acknowledge the growing importance of mobile in a customer’s purchasing journey. Based on a recent study, visits to commerce sites through mobile overtook desktop visits for the first time in October 2020. This represents over half of all traffic, and an impressive 36 percent of all UK e-retail sales.
However, businesses still don’t seem to have recognised the importance of optimising their communications for mobile and that’s something that clearly needs to be addressed. While tried and trusted routes to mobile engagement like SMS will help, the landscape is changing as businesses are offered more intelligent and engaging ways to reach out to their customers.
Paper based direct communications still have their place within certain demographics and markets. According to the Data & Marketing Association, you can expect a typical response rate (conversion) of 4.4 percent from a direct mail campaign. This might seem favourable – but direct mail comes with a big cost when compared to modern digital channels which can produce even higher conversion rates, and benefit from much lower setup costs. Oracle provided the statistics quoted in the below table, with the exception of the footnoted items.
|KPIs||Email (average)||SMS (average)|
|Message Open Rate||22%||99%|
|User Response Time||2.5 days||90 seconds|
|Messages Recieved Each Month||1,216||178|
|Proportion that is Spam||90%||1%|
While the majority of emails are opened on a mobile device, they’re fighting for attention against push notifications from dozens of apps, on top of the hundreds of emails received every week.
Mobile-focused marketing: A channel guide
In a recent study, 71 percent of US-based retailers surveyed were not utilising an SMS strategy. This is despite 64 percent of customers who, when surveyed, said that SMS was their preferred communication method, while 77 percent reported a positive perception of retailers who do offer SMS communications.
SMS has a great open rate of 95 percent. Another important factor to consider is that 90 percent of all text messages are read within three minutes of being received. This makes SMS ideal for time-sensitive campaigns such as ‘one day only’ special offers and sales.
An effective way to get customers to opt into receiving text messages from your company is to offer a short code. These are the 5 digit numbers you’ll see in print and digital advertising. We’ve written a dedicated guide to developing your SMS marketing strategy which you can find here.
SMS is also great for sending surveys, which help businesses ask their customers for ways in which they can improve their products and services. SMS surveys enjoy a higher completion rate than other communication channels: 45 percent compared to 24.8 percent for email , and 9 percent for phone .
A key benefit of SMS for marketers is the ability to integrate this into a wider communication strategy. A business with an upcoming sale could send their customers an email two weeks before the event, while simultaneously promoting the sale on their website and social media channels. SMS could then be used the day before the event to act as a reminder, and deliver any voucher codes which the customer could use at the sale. This kind of multichannel approach helps you extract the greatest value out of each channel.
Not only can SMS be integrated into a multichannel communication strategy, it can also be integrated into businesses’ apps, websites and CRM software. By integrating an SMS API with existing software, businesses can send purchase receipts, delivery reports, and follow-on marketing communications.
SMS Landing Page
In short, SMS Landing Pages are web pages specially designed to be viewed on a mobile device. Customers access them by selecting a URL that they will have received via an SMS text message.
The difference between these web pages and any other? SMS Landing Pages can be personalised for every recipient. You can use any data you have to suggest products and services you think they’ll like, and complementary items to go with it. You’re also able to reference the customer’s address (“you’re five minutes away from…”) so that you can entice your audience to visit their local store.
In addition, interactive call to action buttons can be included which can link to any other web location, add an event (E.g. sale or product launch) to the recipient’s calendar, or even launch Google Maps and direct customers to your store.
Do SMS Landing Pages work? Have a look at our customer stories to see some examples – including businesses who’ve seen sales increase by 30% directly attributable to their SMS Landing Page campaign.
Most of us will be familiar with WhatsApp for having conversations and sharing content with friends and family, but marketing teams are also increasingly using WhatsApp to send more engaging campaign messages to audiences.
Businesses leverage all of the same functionality enjoyed for personal conversations, like the ability to send text, images, video and audio. Couple this with the fact that by using WhatsApp for marketing communications, businesses will be targeting the same location where customers are already having a large percentage of their personal conversations. All this massively improves the marketing message’s chances of converting.
WhatsApp also offers additional benefits for marketing purposes in that every message is fully personalisable, powerful reports mean that campaigns can be analysed and adjusted on the fly, and messages will also be sent in the most secure way thanks to the in-built encryption tools that WhatsApp boasts.
Just a few of the ways that we’ve seen our customers use WhatsApp for marketing include:
- Personalised product recommendations
- Upsell/cross sell opportunities
- Supply discount codes via QR/Barcodes
Mobile Web Apps
As well as their suitability for collecting customer feedback, both post-purchase and for market research, mobile web apps also deliver an interactive and entertaining means of delivering promotions.
A business can send an SMS or email to the customer, which links to their mobile web app. Once inside, the customer can navigate through the fully branded app and view an integrated promotional discount. They can also access barcodes and QR codes which can be scanned in store for promotional discounts. They can book appointments for services at the branch.
The customer can even navigate to their nearest store by using the integrated interactive map. Because mobile web apps are highly goal focused, and specifically designed for mobile users, they deliver great customer engagement. Compared with the average web form which gets completed 12.6 percent of the time, mobile web apps boast an impressive 46.5 percent click to-completion rate.
Rich Communication Services, or RCS, is expected to replace SMS as the default messaging app on all Android devices. Although it’s still early days for RCS, many marketing teams have already started to design campaigns with the platform being the centre of attention.
As well as being able to capitalise on the fantastic 95% open rate of SMS, RCS offers a range of additional functionality to marketers. Buttons, rich cards, integrated chat, and payment facilities are just some of the tools on offer.
Brands can gain “verified sender” status, which will reassure their audience that their interaction is with a trustworthy source.
This can all be done without the need for the message recipient to download an additional app – it’s all supported by the mobile device’s native messaging application.
From a marketing use case perspective RCS will provide the ability to:
- Run promotions
Send rich content including images, text, video and audio, with the ability to also send QR/Barcodes and also interactive map locations.
- Event planning
Got a sale coming up that you want to shout about? Give your audience the ability to add that event to their phone’s calendar so that they don’t forget.
Use the data you have on your customer’s previous purchases to generate interest in other products that they might like.
- Collect customer data
RCS provides a great way to learn more about your customers through the use of interactive surveys. By getting to know the customer better, you’ll in turn be able to deliver more focused campaigns.
Bots and Automation
Chatbots are a comparatively new and exciting tool for marketing teams, but there’s still some confusion about the best applications of chatbots for marketing use cases, and what the subsequent benefits of those applications are.
Chatbots can provide personalised content, for example: a customer can’t find the item they’re looking for on a website so they turn to a bot. The bot can ask questions like, “which style would you like?”, “which colour do you prefer?”, and “what is your size?”. The bot can then use that information to provide products it thinks you might like, and recommend other items which it might think complement your existing purchase. You can even process payment for your selected items within the bot.
Chatbots can also be used to deliver personalised offers and promotions in much the same way that an email can, and can help to pre-qualify sales leads. Say a customer wants to buy a new car, and would like to pay for it through a financial plan. A bot could be used to ask the customer a series of qualification questions, which ensures that quality leads are escalated to the appropriate human agents. Chatbots are ever-evolving and as their engagement with audiences continues to grow, so too will their functionality.
How can your business get started with SMS marketing?
At TextAnywhere, we think that the secret to a successful mobile-focused marketing strategy is to give the customers the chance to be engaged by your brand in the ways that they’re most comfortable. This creates a win-win situation for all parties. The customer can digest content and messaging in the ways they prefer, and the brands stand a higher chance of their audience completing processes.
So if your brand already has an existing marketing strategy in place, but you’d like to give mobile a try too – great! We’ll help and advise you on how to get those channels singing together, and help you to create a true omnichannel communications strategy.
We do however, realise that every brand that we speak to is at a different stage of their mobile marketing journey. To help, we’ve put together this diagram to help you understand firstly the stage you’re currently at, and then what the next steps could look like.