SMS is not the new email. Effective ecommerce operators understand how important it is to have a consistent email strategy, but in their email hubris, they often fall into the trap of viewing SMS through the exact same lens. It’s understandable why some would conflate the two – they march to the sound of very similar drums. List building, welcome series, open rates, click-through rates; the similarities go on and on. But fundamentally, operators have to remember that email and SMS are two very different mediums. Email has been a staple for decades, and just never seems to go away. We’ve become so desensitised to email notifications, and since we open so few of them it’s often just pure consistency that is the key to unlocking email as a sales channel. It still works if you do it right – but your customers have to sift through a heck of a lot of noise to even *notice* what you’re doing. SMS on the other hand, even though it’s a channel that has existed for years, still manages to feel deeply personal. When you get a text message, you still expect that it’s from a friend – not from a brand. That you can’t treat SMS like email: it’s not consistency that wins, it’s personalisation.
List building for an SMS channel is largely similar to an email channelling: pop-ups, lead magnets, or check-out information captures. The difference here, however, is in the level of friction for the buyer. Most brands know that the overwhelming majority of their site traffic is coming from mobile, and yet they still direct shoppers to their email inbox in order to access a welcome discount code or a welcome lead magnet. Depending on the impulsiveness of your product, buyers who are accessing a welcome discount are likely ready to buy right away – but creating an additional step before they checkout gives them time to cool off, shop competitors, or think twice about an impulsive buy. By using SMS as your preferred welcome medium, you can immediately send a text to mobile shoppers who can then checkout without having to refresh their email app over and over, waiting for their discount code.
One thing to remember, however, is that by introducing SMS as a core component of your retention strategy earlier on in your brand’s life-cycle, you’re able to focus less on list building through pop-ups and build your list more organically through checkout subscribers. It’s far easier to market via SMS to a customer who has already purchased versus a customer who entered their phone number for a discount code!
Once the customer has entered your funnel, you have the opportunity to set the tone for the rest of their SMS experience with your brand. Your welcome series shouldn’t be transactional – and frankly “Welcome To The VIP Club” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Use SMS as your medium to lead with value, so you can deeply connect with your new subscriber before asking anything in return. This puts you in a great position to make monetary asks in the future. Jab, jab, jab, right hook. Below you’ll see a great example of Hydrant’s welcome series, where they offer weekly value to customers around the brand’s core value proposition: hydration. If you’re subscribing to Hydrant’s list, it makes sense that this is the type of information that you’d like to consume.
People hate to be sold to, but they love to buy. And subscribers can tell when they’re being sold to. Don’t get us wrong, selling isn’t inherently a bad thing, but when you’re showing up, knocking on their proverbial door, and interrupting the solitude of their SMS inbox, subscribers want to know that you’re coming to them for a reason. Not just a blanket ask. Using SMS marketing platforms like PostScript, you have the opportunity to run deep segmentation on your customer list by behaviour, past purchases, and engagement levels. Once you’ve nurtured them with a value-add welcome series, you’re in a great position to frame your monetary ask in an incredibly personal way. Note the language in the example below – it sounds like you’re just getting a suggestion from a friend.
Abandoned carts via SMS can generally follow a similar playbook to your email strategy: the time between cart abandonment and a message sent, number of touches, discount provided, etc. But this stage of the funnel is another great example of how important your copywriting is when it comes to SMS marketing. “You left items in your cart” just doesn’t cut it anymore.
As costs per acquisition continue to rise across paid ad channels, customer retention has become the holy grail of ecommerce. You need to continue to provide value to customers over the long-term so that they come back and buy from you in a sea of alternatives. This is where SMS ultimately helps you win. All the work you’ve put into deeply personalising your welcome series, list segmentation, and abandoned cart emails all comes down to this: making your subscribers feel like they’re a part of a community. Empathy Wines does a fantastic job of this as they stay true to their name and empathise with their subscribers during an undoubtedly difficult time. Although the team had the social intelligence to not ruin this delicate message with a product link, it’s clear who subscribers will turn to when they’re in need of a bottle of wine.
Although Empathy Wines does a great job of building rapport without an ask, many brands also find success in following a more traditional product launch playbook via SMS. Doe Lashes combines classic scarcity (“..act fast because we have limited stock”) with incredibly casual customisation (“I’m giving you early access”… “ (◕‿◕✿) ” ) to create a high converting product launch text message:
Most resources out there around SMS marketing will have you using texts the exact same way you use email – and so we hope this was a good primer on how to reframe your overarching strategy. But the best way to understand the medium is to actually become a subscriber yourself. For a masterclass in building out an SMS community join Nik Sharma’s personal list here. If you’re curious on how other brands are using the channel, scroll through PostScript’s compilation of great texts here.
Before you go back to building your brand, let’s take a step back from the minutiae of SMS as a marketing channel. Why does any of this even matter? Effective ecommerce operators know that, as DTC ecommerce becomes increasingly competitive, it’s becoming mission-critical to build a deeply personal relationship with your buyers. When purchasers are faced with seemingly similar alternatives, especially when they’re being bombarded by ads in every direction, they’re going to buy from the brand that they trust. At its core, beyond the nitty-gritty tactics, SMS is a medium to build that trust. That’s why, even though it’s not a new channel, the world of DTC marketing is now rapidly trying to wrap its head around how to use SMS effectively – seize the opportunity.