I remember receiving my first SMS back in the 90’s on my Alcatel phone. It felt like a miracle and I was in awe. SMS marketing has come a long way since then – and with technology advancing so quickly, most marketers quickly discovered how this amazing new channel could be used to reach the millennial generation. Fast forward to today, marketers are embracing SMS (again) using marketing automation strategies that’s taking the ecommerce world by storm.
Let’s dive in!
What is SMS Marketing?
SMS stands for Short Messaging Service and was considered revolutionary back in 1997. Many teenagers were quick to take up this new technology. At this time, you could only send a “text” message to your friends. It wasn’t long after 1997, that Multimedia Messaging Service arrived – and with brand spanking phones to match! That’s when I had to upgrade to a Sharp flip phone.
For brands, SMS wasn’t accepted as a marketing channel until much later. At the same time, email marketing was taking off, but we were still trying to figure out how to use the internet to sell products – ecommerce was a new concept, and the infrastructure wasn’t yet built to cater for the online demands. This is one of the reasons we experienced a new financial phenomena called the dotcom crash.
So with the lack of infrastructure to cater for the online demand, ecommerce wasn’t born until much later. The eCommerce business developed into a thriving industry in the early to mid 2000’s but at this time, we didn’t have any means of automating anything, so this made it hard to utilise SMS as a marketing channel.
Fast forward to today, once marketers discovered how to automate their SMS marketing, it became one of many desirable channels to reach more customers.
How do marketers automate their SMS marketing?
In 2016, another disruption occurred online, which forced many ecommerce brands to adjust. With such huge waves of technological advancement in less than 20 years, our legal framework around how we collect, store and manage personal data about someone needed an upgrade. It hasn’t been updated since the 90’s.
This is the time, The European Commission passed the GDPR regulation in order to protect the individual’s right to be forgotten, which had a flow-on effect to online businesses such as ecommerce and software start-ups. You can read more about GDPR in our article titled: Time to say goodbye to email open rates.
It was time to pivot again and many software companies that relied on collecting and storing personal information such as Apple or Google, quickly placed restrictions on how much data is being shared with third party platforms such as the email marketing platforms and marketing automation platforms.
It’s worth noting that at this time, Mailchimp and Shopify were in the process of updating their own Privacy Policies, and they couldn’t find a mutual agreement on how the data should be managed, hence they officially ‘divorced’ in 2018. This resulted in the boom of many marketing automation platforms who specialised in serving ecommerce brands such as Klaviyo, Omnisend or ActiveCampaign.
This fits nicely into our definition of what marketing automation is, and that is that it is not email marketing – hence it includes other channels such as SMS and MMS.
Many marketing automation platforms have now made it easier for marketers to utilise SMS as part of their automated marketing activities. And when we talk about SMS, we also mean MMS, which allows many brands to upload images and GIFs when planning their customer communications.
So what SMS marketing automation strategies work for ecommerce businesses?
I’m glad you asked!
First off, SMS Messages have high open rates. The open rates for SMS’s can go above 90% as opposed to the email open rates, which can vary between 20-70% depending on the types of campaigns you send.
However, SMS marketing does require some level of smart segmentation and thinking about your ideal customer – how would they feel if they received a promotional SMS from your brand, while they are in the middle of doing their school kid pickup?
To avoid this awkwardness with your subscribers, we recommend that you ask your contacts for permission before sending them SMS’s.
I’ve listed a few SMS marketing automation strategies that you can use for your ecommerce business:
Before a customer makes a purchase
Ask them for permission to receive your promotions via text message, and make sure this is an optional field on your opt-in form. I’ve included an example below:
Once they enter your database, most marketing automation platforms will have the means to track their behaviours. This is where you can get smart around how to structure your automated SMS marketing campaigns. You can monitor how often they visit your website, and what is their preferred time to do this? What is their best time to open your emails?
Revive sleepy customers through Flash Sales by sending SMS’s reminders
I would recommend setting up an automated email as well as an SMS message to remind them of time-sensitive promotions such as Flash Sales type of promos.
Segmenting your customer base by VIP status, will ensure you don’t annoy them during your promos – definitely offer an opportunity to subscribe to receiving your SMS promotions in the first instance, before you send them any messages.
Automate your SMS marketing during the purchasing phase
Once a customer places an order, the trust in your brand is secured. They trust you to not send them annoying emails or SMSs.
The best way to use an SMS marketing channel is to add it to your existing Abandoned Cart sequences, as a special and friendly reminder.
How do you use SMS marketing automation strategies for customers on an ongoing basis?
You can automate your SMS’s with your email reminders to build customer loyalty.
For example, do you collect their date of birth? This is a great way to introduce a friendly SMS marketing message for your VIP’s.
The best way to ensure a high attendance rate for your events is to send SMS reminders and event booking confirmations – when contacts make bookings and need to be reminded a day or two before the meeting starts.
You can use marketing automation to do this seamlessly between the two channels – email and SMS if you’re signed up to one of the aforementioned platforms.
Unlike email marketing, where messages are long and are content and image heavy; SMS marketing needs to be short, clever and timely.
If you want to read more about how to set expectations upfront with your customers and to avoid being perceived as spammy, this article may help you: 5 Quick Ways to use SMS Marketing.
I hope my ideas sparked some exciting new ways you can use SMS marketing in your automated funnels.
If you think SMS marketing for your online store might be a bit expensive, you could consider using a chatbot app instead – but before you, have a read through our article on how to create your chatbot strategy first, before you spend money on hiring consultants to do this for you.
Do you need help setting up your own marketing automation sales funnels to include SMS marketing automation?
Regardless of which platform you’re subscribed to, we have a course dedicated to ecommerce brands who are looking to boost sales using clever marketing automation strategies.
Our course is called Marketing Automation Made Simple, and you can click here to learn more and join the waitlist.
We will notify you when the doors open via email.
Head Honcho | Marketing Automation Expert | Evil Twin Sister
Jovana is the Founder of Bumper Leads - a marketing automation agency that helps businesses simplify and automate their sales and marketing systems to help them save time and money.
She is a former body builder turned fast food junkie turned automation geek.
When she is not watching Cobra Kai on Netflix, she shares interesting marketing advice on our podcast called Marketing Automation Made Simple. This is where she helps overwhelmed business owners build smart marketing growth systems so they feel excited and in control of growing their businesses.
You can always follow her on social media to see what she's up to.