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Examples of 8 Ecommerce Brands Using SMS Marketing to Grow Faster
Discover how brands use this new technology
Examples of 8 Ecommerce Brands Using SMS Marketing to Grow Faster
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Like many mid-sized B2C businesses, 310 started to explore different marketing channels from the get-go.
After doubling down on email marketing and discovering great revenue growth, they looked towards other methods to reach new customers while also keeping their lean team’s bandwidth in mind.
Enter: SMS marketing campaigns.
“We saw immediate results after just a couple of targeted campaigns — [which was] well worth the investment,” said the team at 310.
They’re just one of many ecommerce brands who’ve recognized the value in SMS marketing. 75,000 subscribers later, after starting with a few smaller promotional campaigns, 310 now sees SMS marketing as a core part of their business.
How 310 built a strong mobile revenue channel
Learn how 310 now drives $100k in weekly SMS revenue — on autopilot.
This isn’t a rare occurrence: over the past several years, brands everywhere are starting to use text messaging as a clear way to communicate with and find additional value in customers.
The standard growth marketing playbook often goes as follows:
After determining their primary selling channel (direct-to-consumer, through intermediaries, B2B, or wholesale), the business then decides which marketing channels to use.
For DTC (direct-to-consumer), this may be via social media, email, newsletters, or partnerships.
For B2B, perhaps they’ll consider direct mail, paid advertising, or partnerships.
After they’ve tested and implemented a few channels, they’ll start to look for the next best thing. This is typically where SMS marketing — reaching your customers through text messages — comes into play.
Let’s face it: not everyone checks their email every day, let alone the cumbersome “promotions” folder.
But texting tells a whole different story:
- The average consumer checks their smartphone 96 times per day. That’s a lot of opportunity to get into the minds of your shoppers.
- The average SMS open rate is 99%, compared to >20% for email.
- The response rate of SMS text message marketing is 45% vs email response rates at 6%.
It’s clear that SMS marketing is a viable channel for many different businesses. But how do you go about crafting the right strategy?
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this — and there really shouldn’t be, given that every business and customer base is different — there are some best practices we’ve discovered.
We compiled a list of some exceptional brands who are taking SMS to the next level by offering more than just simple promotions and support through the channel.
How are these brands using SMS marketing? Let’s explore some examples.
1. To educate customers about the product.
Touted as the “the must-have emergency kit to keep you safe during disaster” by Good Morning America, emergency preparedness kits became available to the public in late 2019. Outside of providing a neatly (and well-branded) kit of essentials like duct tape, batteries, and flashlights, JUDY also gives customers personalized recommendations and educational content to keep them up-to-speed with all-things-preparedness.
So how do they give these recommendations? There are a few ways.
Visitors can take a quiz on the JUDY website to figure out which product and plan works best for them. Visitors can also sign up for SMS messaging alerts about emergency information.
This pop-up allows JUDY to collect phone numbers from potential customers while also positioning itself as a helpful resource.
JUDY also uses SMS for customer education after they make a purchase.
SMS isn’t just a marketing channel for JUDY — it’s a product feature. By using a communication channel that already feels familiar to customers, JUDY is stepping up and making it easier than ever for shoppers to stay engaged.
Also notice how JUDY embeds their SMS marketing into their advertising on social media. If you’re considering using SMS as a channel, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you reach customers where they already are using their phones.
Nowadays, innovative brands go beyond simply supplying a consumer with the products they need. To become truly “sticky” and encourage repeat purchases, brands need to build a community. A large driver behind community is customer education.
This is a technique that can span to just about any other industry. You’ll just need to make sure it is subject matter that is in line with the products you’re selling.
Equal Parts, a cookware company from Pattern Brands, wouldn’t be sending emergency preparedness information via SMS — that’s off-brand. Instead, they have a “text-a-chef” program, where customers can chat with a chef, ask questions, get recipes, and more through SMS messaging.
Pro tip: If you offer an on-demand chat service like JUDY or Equal Parts, make sure you have the support team bandwidth andintegrations with whatever support technology you’re using, whether it’s Intercom, Zendesk, Gorgias, or others. The last thing customers want is to have the expectation of a fast one-on-one conversation, only for it to fall flat and take hours to respond (or, even worse, no response at all.)
At the time of writing this blog post, the broader USA was facing the COVID-19 pandemic. In a nod to unprecedented, wavering times (while also remaining on-brand), Equal Parts acknowledged how people were spending more time at home in their kitchens, and how they were there to help.
From here, we asked Equal Parts a quick question about how to cook green beans. Joan got back to us quickly with an easy recipe.
This level of tailored response goes beyond any personalization capabilities of email marketing or social media advertising.
2. To give shoppers an easy way to re-order.
Let’s face it: customers are becoming more and more accustomed to tailored shopping experiences. When it comes to reordering a product, it’s cumbersome to go through the entire checkout process again. Instead, services like Amazon let you re-order from order history. This is a bit easier and reduces the amount of friction — thus increasing the likelihood of the customer actually ordering.
Want to take the customer experience a step further? Let your customers re-order via text. Even better — tell them when they may be running low, and remind them that they can re-order with the send of a text.
Hydrant rehydration packets conveys this message to shoppers on one of the most important pages on the website: the order confirmation page.
After someone completes an order, a simple pop-up asks the shopper if they want to sign up to be alerted when it’s time to reorder.
And now, depending on the amount ordered, Hydrant will send a friendly text message asking if they want to re-order.
You can see how this method would be much more impactful than email marketing. Rather than being sent to the promotions folder of an email account, the SMS goes right to the user’s text messages. Plus, it is high intent, meaning that it is much less likely to be ignored since it is from a familiar brand.
Going out of the way to be helpful rather than pushy is extremely important when it comes to relationship-building via SMS marketing. You only have one opportunity to impress a customer before they’re given the chance to unsubscribe — may as well make it useful!
Pro tip: It requires more than one technology to make SMS re-order fulfillment work. Hydrant’s SMS program is powered by the Repeat's Smart Replenishment Program.
3. To send personalized product recommendations.
Even the savviest of customers need help determining what products are best for them.
One of the pitfalls of online retail is the lack of a retail assistant to help steer you towards the products you need. That’s where a lot of innovation comes in — through the process of content, video, product descriptions, and more.
When you sign up to chat with a GOOD COUNSEL personal stylist, you’re not just getting subscribed to their email list.
Like others in this list so far, GOOD COUNSEL uses SMS as a core part of their product rather than an added on marketing channel. Shoppers text back and forth with a stylist before receiving recommendations on what clothing to purchase.
Once a customer signs up for a GOOD COUNSEL account, they get a text letting them know what’s next.
From there, the user can chat back and forth with their stylist about recommendations.
GOOD COUNSEL also uses SMS messaging for standard marketing campaigns. They incentivize users to sign up for text alerts through pop-ups and lead captures on their site, and then message them whenever there is a special deal.
Here, GOOD COUNSEL is using a mix of personalized messaging and normal promotions. As a subscription service, their goal is to be as tailored as possible so that customers see the inherent value of a monthly payment.
4. To bridge the gap between brick-and-mortar and online retail.
As with any marketing channel, SMS is a great opportunity to showcase your unique brand voice.
Coffee brand Super Coffee has a quirky, informative way of communicating with their customers, and their text message marketing is no different.
The team behind Super Coffee also understand the value of merging online and offline retail. A significant portion of their revenue comes from retail sales in stores like Whole Foods, CVS, Target, and more.
There are a few drawbacks to having third-party stores sell your products — the main one being that you lose out on an important touchpoint with shoppers. When someone purchases your product from a retail location, you typically don’t get any information about their demographics or buyer habits, and it makes it almost impossible to encourage repeat purchases because you aren’t collecting any of their contact details (or cookies).
Super Coffee identified an innovative fix to this. On some of their store packaging, they’ve included a phone number shoppers can text to sign up for SMS messaging — and thus get first in line for discounts, product releases, and more.
And last but not least, Super Coffee also makes it simple for users to sign up for information (and a discount!) via text message right on their website through a pop-up.
5. To send results of a quiz or test.
NaturAll Club knows that every head of hair is different — so why market the same products to everyone?
As an awesome example of ecommerce personalization, shoppers at the NaturAll website have the option to take a short quiz in order to receive tailor-made product recommendations from a stylist. At the end of the quiz, shoppers are prompted to leave their phone number to start a SMS conversation.
Quizzes are becoming more and more popular on ecommerce sites. They’re a fun way for shoppers to interact with your brand, and having personalized products that meet the exact needs of your customers helps increase long-term retention and decrease return rates.
For users who decide not to take the quiz, they’re still prompted and incentivized to leave their phone number through a classic pop-up lead capture form.
6. To offer 1:1 recommendations and customer service.
Sassy Jones uses video marketing to the full extent. Whether it’s IGTV, Instagram Live, Facebook Live, or any combination of the three — if you’re a fan of the brand you can expect to get educational, promotional, and fun content through video on a daily basis.
When the brand launched on Postscript, they looked to their Facebook page to spread the news far and wide.
In the video, she goes through the process of actually chatting with a customer and making product recommendations.
Aside from being a strong customer communication strategy, taking it a step further and advertising it on Facebook is a great way to meet customers where they already are.
They end the video with a screenshot directing customers to how they can text the brand and sign up for SMS notifications.
7. To promote flash sales and limited-time deals.
Online women’s fashion boutique NanaMacs built an online community from the ground up. Known as “VIP Members”, these avid shoppers tune in to almost-daily live streams on Facebook to browse through new products and buy right in their timelines.
Not only is this a way for the NanaMacs team to keep in touch with customers — it also helps customers see what the products will actually look like on different body shapes.
For shoppers who sign up for SMS marketing from NanaMacs, they’re given friendly reminders right to their text inbox about when live streams are going to occur.
By teasing the new products that’ll be available on the live stream, NanaMacs gathers more and more customers.
Any business who operates off of a flash-sale or limited-time-only business model can benefit from the almost-instantaneous open rates provided by SMS marketing. Users are much more inclined to open a text message once they receive it — whereas with email marketing, it may sit for a few hours (or days) without the reader interacting with it.
Frequently asked questions
How do brands use texting?
If there is one thing we’ve learned from the examples above, it’s that brands use SMS for more than just marketing businesses. Much like other channels like email and social media, SMS can play a part of almost every aspect of your operations — from promotions, to customer service, to soliciting reviews and feedback.
Gone are the days of set-it-and-forget-it marketing campaigns.
Smart brands use SMS in whatever way is right for their business. This depends on a lot:
- The customer profile (what technology are they using? Where are they socializing? Etc.
- The product purchase process (is it relatively self-serve, like food/beverage, or is it something that requires more of a personal touch or consultation?)
- The existing channel play (if you’re bombarding customers with ads, SMS, and email marketing, it may be wise to ease up on one or more channels so you’re not wasting marketing dollars.)
The most important thing is that you test the channel before going all-in on it.
How do brands use coupons in SMS marketing?
Coupons and discount codes are an important part of many brands’ marketing strategies. Brands use coupons in SMS marketing in the same way they use them in email, social media, and paid advertising. One difference is that SMS marketing is a better avenue for flash sales, or discounts that only last a small amount of time. This is because the average customer looks at their text messages more often than email, so they’re less likely to miss out on a quick deal if it comes through that channel.
Don’t forget to segment coupon codes if you want bottom-of-funnel analytics for your marketing channels. If you use the same code across different mediums — like SMS and email — you won’t know where to attribute the sale.
How do brands use SMS marketing to get feedback from customers?
SMS marketing is a great way to communicate with customers throughout every step of the purchasing process: from consideration, to conversion, all the way through to delivery.
If a shopper is familiar with your use of text messaging, you should also use that channel to solicit feedback and reviews from them. Even better: time your messages to send once the order is physically delivered.
Imperfect Foods does a great job of this — which is especially important because some of the items in their delivery are perishable.
Even if you don’t have an integration with your shipping software, you can still time messages to arrive after the order’s been delivered by using an estimate. If, on average, it takes five days for a centrally-located warehouse to ship to a consumer, consider sending a message on the sixth day to follow up.
This works in a number of ways: the customer will be delighted that you’re thinking of them and following up, plus the purchase will be fresh in their mind so they’ll be more likely to provide honest and useful feedback (or a great review!)
What are some examples of advanced integrations for SMS marketing that plug into the rest of the ecommerce marketing stack? (i.e. Shopify, Gorgias, ZenDesk, Optimonk, Sumo etc.)
The integration options between ecommerce technologies are essentially endless, provided that they have an open API or work closely with an integration provider like Zapier.
Some of the most common SMS integrations are around customer service, payments, and fulfillment.
Customer service integrations make it easy to connect your customer support platform, (like Gorgias or ZenDesk) with your SMS provider to send messages asking for reviews or communicating with customers about their orders.
Payment integrations make it easy to set up replenishment sequences, like in the Hydrant example above. By linking your SMS marketing with a payments provider, customers can re-order by simply replying to your text message (as long as they opt-in.)
Fulfillment integrations allow you to communicate with your customers about the location and tracking of their orders. Send day-by-day (or even hour-by-hour) SMS message updates letting customers know when their package is scheduled to arrive.
Cart abandonment integrations through providers like CartHook let you SMS message potential customers once they’ve browsed for a product and left it in their shopping cart without purchasing. Abandoned cart campaigns add instrumental value when it comes to “low-hanging fruit” — the customers who’ve already shown interest in your products.
The “secret sauce” to SMS messaging for many cutting-edge ecommerce brands has two main ingredients:
- Standardized SMS lead-capture, typically through a pop-up form, and
- As part of the core product.
If you want to fully reap the rewards of SMS marketing, you should consider going beyond using SMS as a simple marketing channel. Instead, make it part of your core product — whether it’s personalized recommendations, refill notifications, 1-on-1 conversations with an expert, or something else.
Keep in mind, there are a few things you should figure out before going all-in on text messaging. First things first: make sure that your shoppers are SMS consumers. No matter what, you should test the channel before diving in — perhaps with a small month-long campaign. This is especially true if your ideal buyer is in a less-tech-savvy segment (like B2B, or baby boomers). Set goals and KPIs around what you will define as success in this channel. If you don’t meet those goals, reconsider your approach.
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