In a digital-first world, capturing consumer attention online is essential for building customer loyalty and driving foot traffic to stores. And with the growing number of customer touchpoints available (e.g., mobile apps and social media accounts), it can be challenging to know where to invest your marketing dollars.

Today, SMS marketing is one of the most productive marketing channels available. Unlike email marketing platforms—which typically have open rates of around 22%—SMS marketing campaigns see open rates of up to 98%.

For boutiques and independent retailers, SMS marketing is an opportunity to connect with customers, save time, and drive revenue. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of SMS marketing and how text campaigns can fit into your overall marketing strategy.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS—or Short Message Service—marketing allows brands to connect with consumers through text messages. There are three types of SMS messages.

  • Promotional: These messages include information about sales, events, and loyalty programs.
  • Transactional: Customers’ actions typically trigger these messages. Transactional messages include payment confirmations, verification codes, or shipping updates.
  • Conversational: Customers initiate conversational messages. These messages can include questions about sizing or issues with shipping.

The benefits of SMS marketing for independent retailers 

Today, businesses across categories use text messages to communicate with consumers. For independent retailers, SMS marketing is a valuable tool for keeping up with consumer trends and increasing customer loyalty.

SMS marketing meets new consumer expectations 

Today, consumers are mobile-first. With 96% of Americans between 18 and 29 owning a smartphone, consumers increasingly rely on mobile devices to shop. Mobile commerce is expected to exceed $728 billion by 2023. With SMS marketing, retailers meet consumers on their preferred devices. 

At the same time, consumers are omnichannel. Seventy-six percent of consumers interact with brands across multiple channels before making a final purchase. And whether they are shopping online, on social media, or in stores, customers expect convenience and speed. For small business owners, SMS marketing is another tool to meet consumers wherever they shop.

Finally, shoppers expect a hyper-personalized experience. According to a study conducted by Redpoint Global, 80% of consumers prefer brands that provide tailored offers and recommendations. With SMS marketing, retailers customize messages based on customer segmentation. For example, a pet retailer can send specific product recommendations based on the type and size of customers’ pets. 

Drive customer engagement

According to SMS Comparison, consumers in the United States open 95% of texts within the first three minutes. With direct access to customers, retailers increase customer engagement and boost revenue.

Y&I Clothing Boutique—a women’s clothing store powered by Material—uses SMS marketing to alert customers when their favorite products are back in stock. Customers who receive a text are three times more likely to visit a store. The retailer also sees an 82% increase in average order value (AOV).

Eccentricity—a boutique also powered by Material—recently used SMS marketing to notify customers about an upcoming holiday event. The brand saw a 33% increase in attendance among those who received texts. Additionally, customers on the retailer’s SMS list spent an average of 10% more during the event.

Provides access to customer data

Over the last three years, changes in consumer privacy have made it harder to access customer data. In September 2020, Apple released its iOS14 update, making in-platform ad data less reliable. The tech giant introduced Mail Privacy Protection a year later, limiting brands’ access to email marketing data.

At the same time, state and federal governments have taken steps to protect consumer data. In 2021, 27 states proposed or passed regulations related to consumer privacy. These changes have made measuring attribution even more challenging for retailers.

Since SMS marketing is an owned channel, retailers have access to first-party data. As a result, retailers can measure the success of each campaign.

How does SMS marketing fit with my marketing strategy?

Although SMS is one of the most productive marketing channels available, retailers should not rely on it as the only way to reach their audiences. Retailers should think about SMS marketing similarly to how they approach email and social media—each channel has its own purpose, tone, and audience.

Text messages are the most intimate way for retailers to communicate with customers. Retailers  should think of their SMS list as an opportunity to build their VIP client list and connect with their most valued customers. For example, retailers can offer their SMS list early access to new collections or promotions.

How to start an SMS marketing program

Ready to get started? Here are three steps to kick off your SMS marketing campaign.

1. Choose the right platform

Deciding on the right SMS marketing platform can feel overwhelming. Pricing, customization, and features vary between platforms. Here are a few features to look for when researching SMS software.

  • Two-way messaging: Most platforms offer two-way messaging capabilities. Two-way messaging allows customers to text retailers the same way they would with their friends. With two-way messaging, brands communicate with customers instead of sending impersonal mass messages.
  • Automation tools: With automation tools, retailers save time and enhance the customer experience. Brands set rules based on customer behavior (e.g., sending a thank you message after a purchase).
  • Segmentation tools: Segmentation tools allow retailers to tailor messages for each customer based on psychographic data and past purchasing behavior. For example, an outdoor retailer can send specific texts based on customers’ interests (e.g., hiking, snowboarding, or kayaking).
  • Reporting and Analytics: An SMS marketing platform should provide reporting tools to help you measure and improve the performance of campaigns.
  • Compliance: SMS marketing is subject to strict compliance regulations. SMS marketing platforms should make it easy for retailers to follow all laws and regulations.

2. Get permission

Retailers must receive express permission before texting customers. Retailers must follow all state and federal laws, including regulations set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Retailers should also follow the best practices established by the CTIA. Failure to comply can result in fines and the loss of trust from customers.

Additionally, retailers should make unsubscribing easy with keywords such as STOP or CANCEL.

3. Be strategic in your messaging

Customers are likely to be more wary of spam in text messages than in their email inboxes. To maximize SMS marketing results, brands must practice thoughtful messaging. Here are some tips to maximize value for your SMS subscribers.

Identify yourself

Identify your business with every text. Make it clear who is texting your customers.

Send messages at the right time

It’s best practice to send messages during business hours. However, retailers should experiment with what works best for their customers. For example, a children’s clothing brand should not text parents in the afternoon when kids may be getting home from school.

Limit the number of messages you send

Retailers must avoid bombarding customers with marketing text messages. According to Campaign Monitor, retailers should limit promotional messages to no more than once per week.

Use common language

It can be tough to limit text messages to 160 characters. However, retailers should avoid using jargon or shorthand to communicate with customers. While some acronyms are okay—like MSG for “message”—brands should limit their use.

Vary the type of messages

Brands should use SMS marketing for a variety of purposes besides just promoting sales. Retailers can use text messages to highlight in-store events or inform customers of other services, such as appointment shopping or buy online, pick-up in stores.

For example, Y&I Clothing Boutique uses SMS marketing to remind customers to redeem their loyalty rewards points. Recently, the retailer saw a 50% increase in redemption rates and a 57% higher AOV among those who received texts.

Make sure all links are mobile-friendly

Since customers will receive messages on their phones, brands should customize all links for mobile devices.

SMS marketing with Material’s Retail Toolkit

Material is an all-in-one platform to manage and grow your retail business. With the Shoptiques platform, independent retailers can manage their POS system, inventory, website, staff, and marketing—including SMS marketing campaigns. 

With text and email marketing automation tools, you can deliver perfectly-timed messages to drive customer engagement. And with a comprehensive reporting and analytics dashboard, you can track the performance of your campaigns and gain more insights about your customers.

Start your free trial today to see how Material can accelerate your company’s growth.

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