Convert More Sales With SMS

Is it just me or has everyone been getting an influx of text messages lately? And no, not from your mom or BFF – from politicians, brands and advertisers. Obviously COVID-19 has brought a ton of changes, but maybe it’s also renewed or increased interest in one-to-one communications and new (old) ways to connect with consumers. In today’s Plain Talk, we’ll dig into the resurgence of text marketing and whether it might work in your marketing mix.

SMS/text marketing campaigns aren’t new – 10+ years ago, every QSR (and a lot of large brands) was putting a lot of money into buying a short code and promoting the hell out of it, offering promises of exclusive coupons, deals and discounts. But honestly, in the past few years, SMS hasn’t been front and center for most of our marketing plans. Is SMS marketing still a viable channel and can it be used to support marketing efforts? The answer is YES…with a caveat.

According to eMarketer’s SMS Marketing 2021 report, worldwide B2C messaging traffic grew 10% from 2019 to 2020. It does seem like the pandemic has increased adoption of this tactic, with some providers seeing up to 20% increases. In January 2020, 51% of retail marketers said they planned to increase investment, and in June 2020, that number grew to 56%. Now for the caveat – as with everything in media and marketing – it’s not just the medium or vehicle you use, but what you do with that space that counts. In other words, the “how you’re going to use it” is just as important as the “if you’re going to use it.”

The Opportunity Analysis for SMS Campaigns

Sure, text message campaigns have a time and a place, and they certainly have pros and cons. But when used well, they can be an effective tool to reach your consumers on a one-to-one basis.

According to ZipWhip, 58% of consumers say texting is the most effective way for businesses to reach them quickly, and in 2020, 34% of consumers proactively texted a business. And those SMS efforts are driving action. Omnisend’s report in 2020 showed that looking at the November/December time frame (specifically pre-Black Friday and 10 days post-Thanksgiving), click-through rates declined, but the conversion rate on those who clicked doubled in 2020, compared to 2019.

Texting is a way to reach consumers where they are – on their phones. All. Day. Long. We also know most consumers check their phone within 30 minutes of waking up (33% within five minutes), and they are on it for hours throughout the day. A text message directly to the device they can’t seem to put down grabs their attention far more effectively than other mobile device-centric channels. While email open rates are anywhere between 10-30%, text open rates tend to be above the 90% mark. Because it interrupts people, it can be seen as intrusive and annoying, so anyone using SMS needs to make sure they make that interruption worth it to the consumer by delivering value via a specific offer or helpful operational update. Remember, it’s not the tool you use, but what you do with it that counts.

This gives you the opportunity to generate incremental revenue (without eroding revenue from email efforts) and maybe even recapture lost revenue (abandoned carts, reminders about products, offer exclusive sales or discounts, etc.), especially when used as a complement to other efforts, like email marketing.

Unsubscribe rates on text messaging can be higher than other outreach methods, like email, so you need to be sure you treat SMS as its own solution – you shouldn’t send the same messages you do in email or send it with the same frequency. Limiting to one to two text messages a week or less is ideal, and ensuring you are providing a value to your customers will keep them connected. Even as consumers do unsubscribe, if you can offer value, those who stay connected will be loyal and valuable consumers.

What Are Some Different Ways We Can Use SMS Marketing?

When I think of SMS campaigns, I’ll admit, I immediately think of retail and politicians. But anyone can use this vehicle to connect with their consumers. In fact, finance and banking, and travel and transportation, have two of the highest open rates (in the 50% range). Customers do like receiving discounts and offers, but they really like appointment reminders, delivery updates (whether that’s FedEx or Grubhub), and it’s a good channel for customer support (who wants to sit on the phone with elevator music when you can just text someone instead?).

Again, it’s not if you should use it, it’s how you should use it. What are some things you can do?

  • Schedule appointments and send reminders; follow up on contact form submits in a timely manner
  • Speed up intake processes by having certain documents or information sent ahead of time
  • Get feedback from clients or customers on how a meeting or experience was received; ask for reviews and provide a link to Yelp or another review site
  • Offer discounts, sales or special VIP offerings
  • Text relevant content to prospects or current clients
  • Check in on your home health care patient in between visits
  • Going to a trade show? Text colleagues and clients and let them know where to find you or if there are special events or presentations they can attend

Fitting in SMS

Like most media choices, text should be looked at as a layer in your plan. It’s another touch point, but in a special class of direct tools like email, direct mail, search and display; immediately actionable media that when used right, can convert to a sale quickly. For example, if your B2B customer completes an online form requesting more information about your product, your CRM can (and should) trigger a follow up in the form of email, SMS and a phone call. Depending on your category, the immediacy of this response can have a truly dramatic impact on your close rate.

You can also get the added benefit of testing which medium and offer gets the best response from your different customer segments.

The options for how to effectively fold SMS into your plan are virtually limitless. If you have any questions or are looking for some ideas for how to use SMS to make your plan work harder, we’re here to help you figure out the best strategy. Feel free to give us a call at 502-499-4209 or drop us a note, and we’ll give you a call.


Mary Kate Reed, Media Director PriceWeber Marketing, Louisville KY
Mary Kate Reed Sr. VP and Media Director