BFCM SMS Campaigns

Best practices & templates

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Introduction

The holidays have become the main shopping event of the year in the United States. In the last 20 years, holiday retail sales have increased from just under $400 billion a year to nearly $750 billion in 2019.

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Online or ecommerce spending has been a rapidly growing segment of holiday spend over those 20 years as well. Even between 2018 and 2019, when arguably ecommerce penetration (i.e. how many people in the United States use the internet to shop) was relatively high, there was a more than 13% increase in ecommerce holiday spend, according to Adobe.

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And while those numbers are enough to get any retailer with an online presence excited, 2020 has thrown a new type of curve ball — and one that could be incredibly beneficial to ecommerce brands if you choose to take advantage of it.

COVID-19 and the subsequent social distancing and economic shutdown across the U.S. has grown ecommerce operations and pushed more people to buy from online than in-store – based on necessity alone.

Those new consumer behaviors won’t change quickly, especially because there may be no end in sight to COVID-19. At the very least, this winter may prove to be another period of time in which we all must hunker down, and continue our lives more digitally than physically.

Yes, 2020’s holiday season is expected to be the biggest yet — especially for online stores. The question is how are you going to get your piece of the pie? Because in marketing, it is iterate or perish. And right now is the time to begin working on your new holiday strategy to grow revenue and do much more than simply survive to see 2021.

This about your online business becoming a mainstay, pandemic or not.

Why SMS for BFCM 2020?

Before we address anything else, let’s talk a little bit about the why. In our intro, we’ve made the case that more and more people will be shopping online instead of on-store this holiday season. You should expect to see a near 35% of all retail purchases happening online.

That is China-level ecommerce penetration — and puts the United States about a decade ahead of where we would have been without COVID-19.

If you thought online competition was rampant before the pandemic, this holiday season is going to make early 2020 and 2019 look like a walk in the park. Expect to see:

Paid search and paid social ad spend to increase (and ROAS decrease if you can’t compete both creatively and economically against the bigger brands).
Email marketing go wild, with holiday deals and discounts likely beginning in early October if not before. Consumers will be inundated with email campaigns trying to get their dollar before someone else does.
Influencer marketing increase both on social media platforms (including new media like TikTok) as well as on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Even TV ad prices will likely increase as brands try to get in front of their target audiences before it's too late.

The bottom line is this: If you aren’t Nike or Peloton, there is a high possibility you will be priced out of the main or most effective marketing and advertising channels this holiday season. Instead, you’ll be relegated to email marketing and highly local paid digital strategies just to try to get some ROAS.

This is where SMS marketing can help.

SMS marketing isn’t expensive, and a ton of brands are not investing the proper time needed to get this marketing channel setup before the holidays.

It is key that you do this if you want to peel off some of that attention from the larger brands and their TV and expensive paid digital ads.

Nearly 100% (98% to be exact) of text messages are read by the end of the day.

This means that your brand can get immediate visibility with the consumer in a way that email can’t, and in a way that can distract that consumer from ads on TV, on their workout bike, on their podcasts or music they listen to — whatever.

39% of businesses use some form of texting to communicate with their customers.

That nearly 40% of businesses that use some form of text message to communicate with customers is drastically lower than the near 100% that use email to talk to their customers. This is your brand’s opportunity to get a leg up, and to do it in a holiday season in which few other options will be available — and competition will be stiff.

After all, the 2020 holiday season is like none other before. It is literally sink or swim.

32% of consumers respond to promotional text messages from retailers.

Compare that 32% to the less than 20% who open emails from brands and the less than 5% who click on an email call to action.

Not only will you be one of the early adopters using SMS to get in front of your customers, you will also be getting those customers to your site, looking at your promotions and thinking about your brand way more than if you had only sent an email.

What do I need to get started?

Great! You’re on board with getting SMS marketing up and running for your ecommerce brand right now (i.e. before the holidays!).

And the getting started now part is important. That’s because to have everything up and running and ready for BCFM, you need to get a few things sorted. After all, SMS marketing is not a flip of the switch like email marketing might be.

No, you have to:

  • Establish a brand voice.
  • Define what your goals around the channel will be.
  • Determine how you’ll collect numbers.
  • Get shortcodes approved by carriers if you want to use shortcodes.
  • Build out copy.
  • Build out a list.
  • Ideally A/B test which messages to which of your audiences work best.

Right now, we’ll help you with figuring out what type of SMS messages to send and what to say in them. Copy and paste style! Though, you may want to personalize them a bit to fit your brand voice.

Types of holiday SMS campaigns

Lots of marketers still believe that SMS is a channel solely used for promotions, but that’s not true! SMS can be used for everything from abandoned cart recovery, to shipping notifications, to conversational SMS. And of course, SMS can absolutely be used for promotions!

Here are some of the best ways to use SMS, why they are particularly relevant for BFCM, and how you can make yours stand out.

Editor’s Note

Heads up that the content we include below is copy and paste – so feel free to use it in your campaigns. Our goal here is to help you get started quicker with SMS marketing to begin to see the benefits and iterate to get the best results for your brand.

1. Abandoned Cart

You likely already have an abandoned cart email or paid social retargeting campaign set up. That’s great!

And having those set up probably means that you are well aware that abandoned carts increase during the holidays (beginning around back to school time).

This is because folks are shopping around, and many online shoppers have become incredibly savvy. Many brands over the years have used discounts in their abandoned cart nurture streams to win customers back. Many consumers are well aware of this, and will put things in their cart only to go back and buy them with the discount.

For BFCM 2020, you can absolutely bet that people will be looking for the deepest discounts. After all, many folks are out of jobs, on reduced hours, or just worried about the economic situation in general.

But discounts aren’t always the best strategy for your brand – especially long term. Look at once-ecommerce darling Jet.com, for instance. Being known for your discounts might work in the short-term, but long-term it builds not brand value or credibility, and ultimately you may fold.

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So, for your SMS abandoned cart stream, try to build a relationship by offering valuable resources and doubling down on your brand promise.

Here are a few good options:

SMS Abandoned Cart Example 1, Conversational SMS:

Hi %name%,

Looks like you left %number of products% in your cart. Let us know if you have any questions about anything or want some recommendations. Our team is available to chat whenever! Just reply to this message and we’ll get back to you. Hope you are staying safe and well in the meantime!

SMS Abandoned Cart Example 1, Urgency-Based:

Hi %name%,

Saw that you left an item or two in your cart, and wanted to let you know that one or more of those products are selling out fast due to high demand. Good news, though! We are hoping to get another shipment in before the holidays.

You can view your cart [link to cart] here if you want to buy before then. Otherwise, we’ll have a waitlist up in the next day or two and you can join that. Thanks!

SMS Abandoned Cart Example 1, Social Proof:

Hi %name%,

Wanted to send you a quick review from another customer about one of the items you left in your cart [link to cart].

“Review from customer here.”

See more reviews here! [link to product page]

2. Product release

A ton of brands release new products near the holidays. Some even call it a “drop.” And it’s a great idea. New products get existing customers excited, and you can do so much to increase loyalty and brand affinity.

Plus, getting additional orders from existing customers improves your LTV:CAC ratio by improving lifetime value.

Do product releases help attract new customers, too? Of course — though the biggest opportunity here is getting existing customers back for a repeat purchase.

Here are a couple of examples:

SMS Product Release Example 1, Loyalty Building:

Hi %name%,

Great news! We just exclusively dropped our newest product only for our most loyal customers. We only have about 100 in stock, and we want to make sure that customers like you who have been with us from DAY ONE get the very first opportunity to buy into this expansion.

Check it out here [link to product page], and let us know what you think. We’ll open it to everyone in the next 24 hours.

SMS Product Release Example 2, Brand Affinity Building:

Hi %name%,

We heard you! Demand has been high for a new and improved product. We launched an AMA on Instagram a couple months ago to get customer feedback, and today, our new product just hit the virtual shelves.

Check it out here [link to product page] and be one of the first to get their hands on this community-built product.

3. Sitewide discount

Discounts aren’t all bad! Using them strategically can help rid you of products that have been difficult to move, can help to grow your SMS list and addressable audience in the short-term, or can help you to get a head start on the holiday season.

Here are a couple example SMS messaging to get you started with ideas:

SMS Site-Wide Discount Example 1, Early Holiday Revenue:

Hi %name%,

Happy October! It’s been one heck of a year, and honestly, we’re just happy to still be here - thanks in large part to customers like you! To give thanks, we’re launching a site-wide 15% discount on all items. Buy before October 5 to get the discount, and get a serious head start on holiday shopping.

Welcome to Fall 2020!

 

SMS Site-Wide Discount Example 2, SMS List Growth:

Hi %name%,

It’s official! All of our SMS subscribers are getting 15% off site-wide for the next three days. Head on over to the site and start shopping — using discount code 15OFFFORSMS at checkout. And thanks for being a loyal subscriber during a tough year!

4. Buy-one-give-one (charity based)

Consumers are getting smarter and smarter with how they spend their dollar. As a result, they are wanting more from their brands than just a product. Many consumers want their brands to support a cause, give back to charity, and a number of other things.

And honestly, it’s not a bad idea. If you can make it easier for consumers to give back AND buy your product at the same time — is that not a win-win?

Here is an SMS example to get you started:

SMS Buy-One-Give-One Example 1:

Hi %name%,

2020 has been a challenging year for us all, and we’ve been inspired by friends, family and customers like you to do more and be better. For all of November, 10% of the profits from every purchase made on our site will be donated to the ACLU as they continue to fight for civil rights and liberties for marginalized Americans.

Money doesn’t solve everything, but it helps to pay the people who do. We hope you’ll help out.

5. Shipping cutoffs

Every single one of us knows a late holiday shopper. In fact, most of us are late holiday shoppers for at least one or two people who maybe we forgot (whoops!).

Help your customers not be that person by reminding them of shipping cut offs. After all, these cutoffs will be more important than ever this year, especially if physical stores have to get shut down in December to stop the spread of the virus.

Either way, prepare to do the right thing and remind your customers about the cutoff.

Editor’s Note

The carriers have not yet issued holiday shipping cutoffs for 2020. Be careful when looking around the web and double check years and dates. A lot of sites say they have the updated dates, but they are 2019 dates, not 2020. These dates will be released closer to the holidays, and may be more stringent depending on the high volume of ecommerce orders and the virus itself. We shall wait and see, and update this post when the real dates are out!

Here are a couple of examples you can use to remind customers of the shipping deadlines:

SMS Holiday Shipping Cut Off Example 1:

Hi %name%, Just a heads up that the shipping cut off to get gifts before December 25 is TOMORROW. Buy right now to make sure your items get sent out on time.

SMS Holiday Shipping Cut Off Example 2:

Hi %name%, The shipping cut off to get items in before Christmas (December 25) is in 48 hours. Browse the site now to pick out any last-minute gifts and stocking stuffers, and check out soon. We’ll make sure to get the items to your door just in time!

6. Conversational text messages

Competition is higher than ever during the holidays. Stay top of mind for customers with a conversation text messaging option similar to JUDY or Equal Parts. These brands are setting up 1:1 SMS messages with customers, sending them recipes, songs, quotes, etc. to help them throughout the holiday.

Think of this as something larger than just a product sale. Folks who opt in and message your team for help based on your brand’s niche of expertise are people to nurture, build friendships with, and show that your brand is much more than just a retailer. It is a service.

Some ideas:

  • Sell clothes? Offer a 1:1 stylist or personal shopper where folks can send in pictures of themselves or their loved ones in their favorite outfit and your employee helps find the perfect next item.
  • Sell cookware? Offer 1:1 recipes based on what folks have in their kitchen.
  • Sell bedding? Offer 1:1 sleep advice based on a person’s lifestyle and budget (not everyone likes incense, after all!).
  • Sell workout equipment? Offer 1:1 personal training and accountability.

Building SMS for the holidays: 9 Expert Tips

1. Consider using a partner.

Gina Perrelli, Director of CRM, Lunar Solar Group
Partner with an agency who understands the SMS space so you're not annoying your audience in a really crowded time to minimize unsubscribes.

Robbie Hammett, Director of Solutions, Justuno
We’ve got several clients who’s SMS marketing efforts are reaping big rewards. To name a few Justuno/Postscript clients that are killing it are: Harperwilde.com, toneitup.com, and featsocks.com.

2. Know your audience.

Barron Joseph Rosborough, Content Marketing Manager, Hawke Media
First, look at how you like to be approached in a SMS exchange. Go through one of your group chats and dissect the different personalities there. For me, there's the "giffer", the "joker", and the "philosopher". Each one has their strengths, but there's an appropriate time and context for each one to own the conversation.

SMS is personal, more so than a lot of platforms. So, be conversational, be concise, and be clear. You don't want to get left on read.

Chris Gordon, Senior Email Marketing Manager, Noticed
At Noticed we think a lot about how we use line breaks and emojis to "design" the message and create clear calls-to-action. In an email this is a no-brainer, create a CTA that is big and bright and stands out. For SMS you have to get more creative. Direct the user with copy ("tap the link below"), draw attention with emojis (the pointing fingers and arrows are perfect for this), and isolate the link spatially with strategic use of line breaks.

Mitch Tarr, President, ZinMarketing Inc
Respect the 'inbox' Sure it's fun to blast offers, but insert some interesting, entertaining, and/or helpful content and for the love of Pete, be brief.

Mark Johnson, Ecommerce Manager, Hydrant
Take your existing brand voice, and make it more conversational. Consider how your SMS reads - would a friend send you that text?

3. Make sure you know how to build your list.

Austin Brawner, CEO, Brand Growth Experts
Start building your list now. Help your customers get used to hearing from you via SMS, so it feels natural come holiday time. And, if you groom that list over the next several months, you'll be sure you're reaching out to the people on that channel who really want to hear from you and are primed to purchase.

Jeremy Horowitz, Partner, Messenger Mastermind
Build your list over the summer while it's cheap and uncompetitive. It also gives you time to figure out how your customers respond to the channel.

Gina Perrelli, Director of CRM, Lunar Solar Group
Add it to your popup and build up your list! Retention messages work great and have higher conversion rates than any other platforms.

4. Make sure you’re compliant.

On this one, our experts didn’t offer much advice other than to make sure you are compliant. Plain and simple.

That means working with whichever service provider you use to educate you on the rules of SMS, and ensure that their platform and how they are getting their SMS customers up and running is itself compliant.

This is important. Customers need to be able to unsubscribe to SMS quickly and easily. And, you’ll need to stop sending them any SMS when that happens (tools like POstscript do this for you automatically).

And that’s not it.

SMS compliance also means that you can’t send SMS messages to a list of existing customers whose phone numbers you may have. No way. In order for your customers to get SMS messages, they need to have opted in alongside language that explains exactly what the SMS program is, how often it sends messages, and more.

This isn’t as daunting as it sounds, but not following the rules definitely is. There are large fines, often from class lawsuits, that a brand who doesn’t comply can easily find themselves entangled in.

That isn’t the holiday 2020 you want to have, especially not after everything that has happened this year.

So, we’ll say it one more time: make sure you are compliant.

Conclusion

Now is the time to get started. The earlier the better, because there is a lot to set up and make sure you get right. That’s because you are talking directly to the customer.

And you have one shot — figure out your brand voice and talk to the customer like a friend. Figure that piece out, and you’ll be raking in revenue through SMS during BFCM 2020, and be set up incredibly well for even further success in 2021.

Kickstart your holiday SMS

Download Postscript and get set up with pre-loaded holiday automations for free.

Tracey Wallace Headshot
Written by Tracey Wallace

Tracey is the Director of Marketing at MarketerHire, the marketplace for fast-growth B2B and DTC brands looking for high-quality, pre-vetted freelance marketing talent. She is also the founder of Doris Sleep and was previously the Head of Marketing at Eterneva, both fast-growth DTC brands marketplaces like MarketerHire aim to help. Before that, she was the Global Editor-in-Chief at BigCommerce, where she launched the company’s first online conference (pre-pandemic, nonetheless!), wrote books on How to Sell on Amazon, and worked closely with both ecommerce entrepreneurs and executives at Fortune 1,000 companies to help them scale strategically and profitably. She is a fifth generation Texan, the granddaughter of a depression-era baby turned WWII fighter jet pilot turned self-made millionaire, and wifed up to the truest of heroes, a pediatric trauma nurse, who keeps any of Tracey’s own complaints about business, marketing, or just a seemingly lousy day in perspective.