SMS Marketing for Retailers

Why Retailers are Flocking to Text Message Marketing

SMS for Retailers

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Published July 18, 2020

We live in a time of drastic change. 

The global pandemic has not only shined a spotlight on serious supply chain issues around the world, but also jump-started a new, different economy in which retailers aren’t just supplying products –– they are also supplying connections.

That’s because connection is an essential service and good. We are social creatures after all (yes, even the introverted among us!), and physical distancing from those we love and even just those random, short interactions with strangers at a coffee shop or in line buying a pillow really, really matter. 

They help us form and understand our idea of our place in the world. And that idea ultimately forms our identity. 

It’s no surprise, then, that so many retailers have turned so quickly to SMS marketing and messaging as a way to build connections with potential and existing customers, and ultimately build a community and lasting loyalty. 

That’s because right now more than ever, and likely for the foreseeable future because there is no “back to normal,” retailers focusing on open channels of communication look more accessible to customers. Those channels can be Slack, Instagram Live and in so many cases it is SMS marketing. This open live of communication and accessibility is more important than ever to deepening a retailer’s relationship with the community, leveraging customer feedback to build trust, and building out a foundation for a new marketing channel that will continue to be critical to shoppers. 

If SMS marketing wasn’t already top of mind for retailers at the beginning of 2020, it certainly is now. In this piece, we’ll show you exactly what retailers are doing to build those lines of communication. And trust us, it isn’t bulk SMS marketing. 

No, the campaigns and text message marketing that is working best is personalized, often 1-to-1 and is rarely a one-size-fits-all blast to a list. Let’s dive in, and get you some ideas to get your own SMS marketing campaign set up!

What are the benefits of SMS marketing for retailers?

The benefits of SMS marketing for retailers span the entire marketing funnel. SMS marketing is a way to engage prospects higher in the funnel, and then nurture them through to becoming a customer, encouraging repeat purchases and ultimately increase loyalty. 

Where email marketing open rates have dropped –– and average about 20% –– more than 90% of text messages are seen and read, and they have an average return per text of more than $1. Many retailers see an increase in revenue from their SMS marketing campaigns in the 6 figures, and within weeks or months of launching. 

For those reasons alone, it is worth testing out for your own retail brand.

Which retail brands have adopted text message marketing?

Social proof is incredibly important, so it makes sense you’d want to hear some familiar names on this list. Here is a short list with a few names you may recognize:

  1. Perfectly Priscilla
  2. The Umbra Supply
  3. Native
  4. Maev
  5. E.l.f. Cosmetics
  6. Dirty Lemon
  7. CVS Pharmacy 
  8. Andie Swim 
  9. Verb Energy
  10. Love Wellness

Almost all of these retailers have seen a pick-up in press for their SMS marketing strategies, especially during COVID. Many of these retailers launched their SMS marketing strategies in the fall of 2019, when data surfaced that 54% of consumers want to receive text messages from retailers, but only 11% of retailers send them. 

That’s a wide gap, and it continues to be open water for retailers willing to take the plunge. Decide not to dive in, and, well, you’re leaving money on the table. 

“This time our [campaign] launch resulted in our 2nd highest revenue day in the history of the business and a 47.5% increase in sales compared to our previous launch of the same offer, prior to using SMS. This increase is all new revenue that the business would have otherwise left on the table,” says Tyler, Co-founder of BombTech Golf.

Even outside of the social proof of brands you might know, the data for implementing an SMS marketing strategy for retailers is convincing. 

Luxor Linens:

  • $13.5K additional revenue through SMS in the first month
  • $7 per text generated in revenue
  • 45X ROI


  • 7.2X ROI
  • 17% click-through rate
  • $.65 per text generated in revenue

Bailey’s Blossoms:

  • 45,000 compliant subscribers in 7 months
  • 27X ROI per month
  • More than $150,000 in revenue generated through SMS in 3 months

What are you waiting for?

Bulk SMS vs. business texting for retail

Real quick –– before you go and launch an SMS marketing strategy for your retail business, let’s set the record straight. 

There are two main ways that retailers go about SMS marketing. 

  1. Bulk SMS: Mass text blasts to a list with little if any personalization. 
  2. Business texting for retail: 1 to 1 customer communication via text that is highly personalized, timed, and relevant. 

Most retailer businesses use both options, one for marketing and sending mass SMS messages (often highly personalized) and the other for sales or customer service inquiries. 

You should start on your SMS marketing journey with your customers and potential customers in a way that makes the most sense for your brand. Let’s talk through some things to think about to make that decision. 

Short Codes v. Long Codes:

You can choose to use either a short code or a long code for your SMS marketing. With both numbers:

  • Your retail marketing SMS messages will come from this number. 
  • This is the number customers or potential customers will text a word to in order to sign up (or to opt-out).

There are a few big differences between short codes and long codes. We’ve put them together in a table for you.

Long codesShort codes
What is it?A unique 10-digit phone number that’s tied to an area code.(E.g., +1-555-555-5555)A 5 to 6 digit number that can be used nationwide. For example, 4EVER (43837)
What type of communication is allowed?More 1-to-1 communication is typically expected with long codes: Group messaging, agent-to-person apps, peer-to-peer apps.More marketing-type and bulk messages are typically expected with short codes (though these bulk messages are often highly personalized): Marketing campaigns, alerts, confirmations, two-factor authentication
How many can I send?With long codes, you can send 5 SMS / Second. Carrier regulations do not allow Long Codes to be used for SMS broadcasting.With short codes, the default base rate is 50 SMS per second.
Are there any limitations or carrier regulations in how often I send, or what I send? Carrier regulations require that the ratio of Inbound to Outbound SMS traffic be better than 1:3. Long codes can not send more than 200 SMS per day.No limitations of number of messages sent in a single day, nor a required ratio.
Which is best for international usage?Better for international brands: A long code is essentially a regular phone number, and can therefore be used with international customers or prospects, too.Good for nationwide use: A short code will only be able to send messages and receive messages from same-country phone numbers on operator networks that have approved the short code, as they are provisioned on a country-to-country basis.
Which retail teams typically use which code?Long codes are typically used by sales or customer service departments at a retailer.Short codes are typically used by the marketing team at a retail business.

Many retail brands will use short codes for marketing messages including promotions, loyalty programs, drops, etc. Short codes are what you will use if you expect to send a lot of messages. 

Then, retailers will use long code numbers for customer service. You can absolutely use both in conjunction with one another. 

Mass Texting v. One to One Customer Messaging

Mass texting versus one to one customer messaging isn’t just a difference in strategy or use case, the cell phone carriers and SMS messaging regulations view these two types of communications very, very differently. 

Pros & Cons of Mass Texting

With mass texting, you must:

  • Allow customers to opt-out, as well as give them information on how to find help (which is often calling or texting the long code and 1-to-1 line). 
  • Make it clear for customers and potential customers how often they will get messages, what they messages will contain, and how they can stop them all *before* they ever opt-in. 
  • Include detailed information in your T&Cs about your mass SMS messaging campaigns, how often customers get them, etc. 

The above might sound like a hassle, but it isn’t. These are all best practices, and help both the carriers as well as consumers feel comfortable giving you their numbers for additional information. 

Most mass messages include information about retail discounts, events (like a pop-up shop happening in the consumer’s area!), exclusive product drops, VIP offers, birthday messages and discount codes (mass doesn’t mean non-personalized!), and more. 

The options here are endless, and work similarly to how you might build out an email nurture stream for a consumer. Yes, it is a stream with a lot of consumers in it, but each email can be tailored to them based on their interaction with your brand and with previous emails. 

Pros & Cons of One to One Messaging

One to one messaging works similarly to how you text with your friends and family now. 

A consumer is sending a message to an individual at your company. Most one to one messaging will make sure that those texts end up in an easy to use customer communication platform so that your customer service team or sales team can easily see the communication, as well as other customer information, and get back to them ASAP.

This is great for the consumer, and really drives home the idea that your retail brand is around to help whenever, and in whatever way is the easiest (i.e. texting). 

The biggest con here, of course, is that you need folks to be ready to respond! Ideally in a branded way. There will be training that you have to do to make sure this happens, and some expectations you may need to set with consumers about when you will be responding (likely between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., right?). 

10 best uses of text message marketing for retailers

All right! Now, let’s get into the good stuff and show you what retailers around the web are doing to compliantly build an SMS list, market to their prospects and customers via short codes and opt-ins, wrap customer service into the mix, and ultimately increase their bottom line. 

In each example below, we’ll showcase at least one brand, include an image or two of how they are doing this, and make sure you understand how this can all be automated and improved with segmentation for your own brand. 

1. Loyalty Program.

Loyalty programs are all about personalization and making your loyal customers’ lives easier. To do that, Luxor Linens used SMS to make sure their VIP customers knew what their options were for the holidays, ensuring they got a nice discount and that the items would arrive just in time.

LUXOR Linens SMS Example

It is important for these kinds of programs that you use personalization. That you make sure you are messaging them, using their name! Also, it is helpful if you can segment this list and send these kinds of product-specific information updates for VIP customers based on what they have purchased in the past. 

For Luxor Linens, this campaign had a 45X return on investment. 

2. Text Out Coupons & Discounts.

Love Wellness is a rising DTC star and women’s health brand. They send regular SMS messaging in bulk to their customers –– and guess what? 

They aren’t even that personalized! Instead, they are keeping themselves top of mind for consumers with beautiful imagery, fun little messages, and percentages off just in case they need it!

Love Wellness SMS Example

3. Product Updates / New Arrivals.

SMS or MMS is a great way to alert loyal customers to new product arrivals or drops before they sell out. GruntStyle does this often, using MMS to alert customers to new products. Remember: MMS is SMS but with pictures. 

Be sure to use your brand’s tone and voice in these messages. That helps to connect with your customers, build loyalty, and ultimately get a good revenue boost as soon as the new product goes live. 

Grunt Style SMS Example


4. Items back in stock off backorder alerts.

BombTech Golf was baffled when their back in stock emails went so often undervalued. They’d send them out to folks who had asked to be notified, and see very, very few sales. 

They knew there was a disconnect somewhere between when the customer wanted the item, and when they sent that email. Before changing anything, though, their first thought was to test the medium –– rather than the message.

Maybe email just wasn’t working the way it used to…

"Historically, this offer has performed well. Not great, but well. It did exceptionally great this time! The difference was that we had SMS with Postscript implemented." - Chris Petitt, Co-Founder, Ecom Growers, BombTechGolf’s ecommerce agency.

Bombtech Golf SMS Example

This message produced a 47% increase in revenue on the product back in stock! 

5. Promote Events.

Whether you are throwing an online or offline event, or are part of one (like a major PR event!), SMS marketing for your retail business can be incredibly helpful to capitalize on the moment. 

This is exactly what Buttercloth did to make the most of their Shark Tank appearance. 

First, they made sure that they had a clear CTA on the website when all the Shark Tank traffic hit.

Buttercloth SMS Example

Then, they made sure to educate those new SMS subscribers on how they are, and what they offer.

Buttercloth SMS Example 2

This earned them $72,000 in 30 days through SMS, and grew their list to 5,000 subscribers. 

6. Abandoned Cart Recovery. 

UMZU wanted to implement an advanced cart recovery that goes above and beyond what typical retailers do. For them, they know their customers –– well. And they know that their customers like to be informed and educated about their supplements before they make a purchasing decision. 

So, they launched an SMS messaging program to win back abandoned carts by educating customers with new blog content based on what was in their cart.

UMZU SMS Example

In doing so, the company saw an additional $87,000 in monthly revenue from their abandoned cart customers. 

7. Welcome Series.

Grunt Style’s launch of text marketing was a resounding success! The number speak for themselves:

  • $100,000 in additional revenue in two weeks
  • $650,000 in additional revenue in 45 days

What’d they do differently? They focused on building a compliant SMS list that they could nurture, introduce to their brand and messaging, and then close (get them to their first purchase) within a couple weeks. 

To do that, they built out both a welcome series and an abandoned cart automation flow aimed at increasing mobile conversion. They also started sending targeted marketing campaigns for promotions and new product drops.

This is a great example of how you can combine a variety of these strategies to really increase your bottom line. Let’s look at their welcome stream, though, for example’s sake.

Grunt Style SMS Example

As you can see above, Grunt Style used a 10% off code to encourage prospects to sign up for their SMS stream. They also were incredibly clear about what they would be sending in that stream, and tied every single part of this communication back to their brand. 

8. Compliment Your Social Media Strategy.

After seeing email open rates decline and constant changes to Facebook’s Messenger platform, Bailey’s Blossoms was looking for a new, sustainable revenue channel to reach fans. 

Their social media following is massive, but with algorithm changes happening all the time, their team knew they needed a better way to talk to fans, and to own their audience. 

So, they launched a discount code that customers and prospects could get when they opt-ed in to SMS. In 7 months, 45,000 fans had subscribed! And, those fans are buying more than ever! The SMS channel is already producing anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000 in monthly revenue.

Baileys Blossoms SMS Eample

The moral of the story is clear. Social media is a fantastic place to build an audience and community, but ultimately, you will need to have more control over that audience. Facebook and Instagram, and any social media platform!, change their algorithms and often force you to pay to even have your audience see your information. 

An SMS marketing channel can be your saving grace. 

9. Customer Service.

Customer service can be a variety of things! From direct responding and answering questions to letting your loyal customers know that you have a new line, inspired by the pandemic! One local Austin, Texas-based nail salon, Cute, recently sent out a message to all their customers about their new hand sanitizer. 

For their customers, it is a product they need, and they can support local business by buying it from them instead of one of the larger chains.

Cute Nail Studio SMS Example

10. Reply to buy.

310 Nutrition’s reply-to-buy retail SMS marketing campaign drives more than $100,000 weekly in revenue on its own –– and it’s on autopilot! Beyond reply-to-buy, the example which is below, they have also set up industry-leading text support and seven highly targeted SMS automation flows.

310 Nutrition SMS Example

This type of reply-to-buy flow makes it so easy for the consumer to say yes, especially since they are already subscribed to the brand and getting regular products. This add-on is an upsell, but an easy one that builds loyalty with customers, expands their use of the product line, and drives weekly revenue for 310 Nutrition.

What retailers need to know about compliance & SMS

One more thing for us to cover before you hit the ground running with SMS marketing for your retail business, and that is compliance! 

SMS compliance and regulations are incredibly important, because they are pretty strict and can cost your brand millions of dollars if you ignore them. 

Don’t worry, though! The regulations aren’t impossible. They are common sense rules that help to protect the privacy of customers since we are using their phone numbers, after all! 

Here are a few things to know –– and what not to do –– before you get started.

SMS Compliance & Risks of Violating TCPA

In order to send SMS messages, you must get compliant opt-ins, and make sure those who opt-in know how to opt-out. Sounds easy enough, right? Sure! 

You just can’t send SMS messages to your entire database, even if you have their phone numbers. And that’s because, well, when you captured those numbers, they didn’t think you’d be texting them.  

Here is how it works.

Complaint Opt-Ins

Complaint opt-ins mean that someone has given you their phone number specifically for SMS messages. This means you will need to have legal language clearly visable next to where they input their number. This is a TCPA and carrier requirement. 

Here is an example of that legal language: 

“By subscribing, you agree to receive recurring automated marketing messages at this phone number. Reply STOP to unsubscribe. Msg & data rates may apply. View our Terms of Service for details.”

That language and a place for the person to input their number can live on:

  • Pop ups
  • Post purchase opt-ins
  • Smart links for email and social
  • Click-to-text opt in

The options are endless! You just have to make sure that the legal language is there, and that if / when someone opts out, that you take them off the list ASAP. Don’t worry –– Postscript does this for you, even with fuzzy opt-outs! 

Complaint Opt-Outs

One of the biggest requirements outside of a compliant opt-in with SMS marketing is allowing people to easily opt-out. Tools like Postscript make this easy, though, and even cover for fuzzy opt-outs. Here is the full list that Postscript will use to opt customers out, and keep you and your business compliant:

  • STOP
  • stpop
  • stpo
  • end
  • unsubscribe
  • cancel
  • do not text
  • do not call
  • don't text
  • don't call
  • take me off
  • wrong number
  • remove me
  • ***k you
  • ***k off
  • eat ***t
  • do not contact
  • don't contact
  • do not message
  • stop texting
  • stop ****ing texting
  • unsubscribe me
  • stop sending texts
  • stop sending me texts
  • Stop the text, please!
  • Stop sending me text message! I have asked many times and you continue to send them to me!
  • Stop 🛑
  • STOP SENDING ME THESE TEXTS... I already ordered one and I don't want to keep getting texts from you
  • Please remove. Thanks.
  • Stop all texts to me!
  • Please delete me from your text list. Thanks so much!
  • Stop sending me text
  • Stop sending these, please!
  • Remove this number
  • Do not text
  • Remove my phone number
  • Stop all
  • Quit texting me you already ripped me off
  • Please remove my number from your system. Thank you!

How Postscript makes compliant, growth-oriented SMS marketing a breeze for retailers

All right –– all of this sounds great, right? You can increase revenue, see higher engagement, grow a list of compliant opt-ins, and not have to worry about any fuzzy opt-outs. Great! 

Now, you can put your marketing strategy and mind to work – and let the tool do the rest. And the tool –– Postscript in particular –– does a lot! 

Here is how it can help you see your retail business’s SMS marketing dreams come true. 

Automate your text message marketing.

Trigger automations like welcome series, abandoned carts, shipping notifications, upsells, cross-sells, and whatever else your marketing mind can imagine. Postscript helps you drive traffic and sales with personalized SMS marketing for retailers that are easy to set up, and even easier to track their success. 

See a 20X+ ROI with targeted SMS campaigns.

Set up hyper-targeted customer segments using your Shopify store data –– or whatever ecommerce storefront you use –– to send text messages to customers based on their on-site actions, or any information you’ve collected (like their birthday, for instance!). 

Use images, photos and GIFs to build loyalty and create on-brand messages that make your customer feel part of the community. After all, they are! 

Can’t decide between 1:1 and mass SMS? Do both! 

There are pros and cons to both 1:1 and mass SMS messaging. And honestly, they are supposed to be sued for very different purposes. You don’t have to use a completely different tool for each option, either. 

With Postscript, you can set up both versions –– allowing you to have 1:1 conversations with customers that sync directly with your customer service team, or send mass, hyper-personalized messages based on actions to move your prospects and customers down the funnel and closer to your goal. 

This isn’t one or the other. This is text messaging marketing for retailers done right. 

Build your TCPA compliant subscriber list – and save millions (seriously).

Grow your subscriber list for text message marketing using pop-ups, landing pages, email opt-ins, links, and more. We’ll provide the language and guidance you need to do so compliantly, and make sure to opt folks out no matter what kind of weird new terms they are using to say, “I don’t want to get these messages anymore.”

No other is this convenient for your team, but it could save you millions in fines from TCPA and CTIA, the two organizations that oversee this type of marketing communication.

Want to see Postscript in action?

Easy! Text DEMO to 72599. 

We use our own product to educate brands and operators like you. We’ll send you on a nurture and drip series in which you can text out the tool in the same way your own customers would. 

Because when something is really easy, you don’t just sell it. You use it, and you tell the entire world about it as often as you can.

Start your 30-day trial

Launch your first SMS marketing campaign in minutes. All you need to get started is your Shopify URL. 

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.