SMS Holiday Marketing Best Practices

SMS Holiday Marketing best practices

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Introduction

BFCM 2020 is sure to be one for the books. Likely, retail sales will surpass 2019 – despite economic slowdowns around the world.

That’s because while many physical stores had to shut down in the spring and early summer to slow the spread of Coronavirus, consumers didn’t stop shopping.

At the end of 2019, ecommerce represented ~11.4% of US retail sales. During the pandemic, ecommerce represented from 12% to 64% of total retail sales.

Instead, they went online to buy their goods.

At the end of 2019, ecommerce represented ~11.4% of US retail sales. During the pandemic, ecommerce represented from 12% to 64% of total retail sales.

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Both retailers and analysts were surprised by the massive growth of ecommerce during the pandemic. Chart from Deloitte.

And that massive jump didn’t just happen because a bunch of folks went to shop on Amazon.

Instead, you say some of the biggest ecommerce players like Shopify and BigCommerce reporting that their platforms were handling above Black Friday level numbers of transactions.

Even digital advertising agencies like Common Thread Collective were reporting Black Friday-level revenue for their clients.

Rev._Change_and_Spend_Change_During_COVID-19

There is little reason to think that the actual BFCM of 2020 won’t post record levels of sales as well.

Sure, the mix of what people buy might be different (more home activities and less ski trips maybe), but consumerism in the United States is still going strong, especially as so many online brands have extended their product line into the services realm — most of them doing so via SMS.

So, to capitalize on what is coming, it is crucial that ecommerce brand owners and operators get started right now.

SMS is not a tactic to just tack onto your holiday strategy. It is a crucial channel for prospect and customer conversion and information. In that way, how you think through it should have the same level of importance as your website design and UX.

Here is all you need to think through to make sure you have everything ready to go for the holidays.

Just getting started with SMS?

If you’re just getting started with SMS, your first step is getting your ducks in a row. You’ll need to:

1. Update language across your website.

(including in your Terms & Services and Privacy Policy) about how you plan to use SMS, making it clear how folks can opt out.

2. Plan out paths to grow your subscriber list.

No, you cannot use phone numbers you collected before. People must opt-in to your SMS marketing, not be opted in. This will likely require site updates where you collect information from prospects (pop-ups, checkout, etc.). The rules here are much more strict than they are for email marketing.

3. Determine what types of SMS messages you will send.

Abandoned cart, welcome series, product updates, loyalty programs, etc. Your best bet is to start small and with segments of your audience so you can test and iterate.

Once you are up and running (and tools like Postscript can make this process much, much easier and faster for you), then you can start planning out your holiday campaigns.

Your holiday SMS examples... delivered.

Fantastic Texts makes it easy to browse and discover the best *real* text messages from hundreds of ecommerce brands. We just added a Black Friday / Cyber Monday section, just for you. 

Techniques to consider for holiday campaigns

For brands that already have their SMS marketing ducks in a row and are ready to go, it’s about time to call a brainstorming meeting with your team. After all, the holidays give us a highly consumer focused point in time to try out a variety of tactics and grow our audiences, customers, and revenue.

There is a lot to think through — mostly because the options are decently endless. So, grab your creatives together and send them a quick hit list of the things you’ll be brainstorming in your hour together (or more likely, over Zoom).

Our list below contains 4 topics of conversation, and some ideas to help set the stage and get the teams thinking strategically about the topic’s importance.

1. Testing.

Testing is #1 on our list because it should be a part of every single strategy you employ with SMS marketing. This is for a couple reasons:

  1. You should A/B test just about everything on your site. Minimal increases in performance add up over time, and can be the lever you need to stay one step ahead of competition (with a lot of extra revenue in the bank).
  2. SMS marketing is a new channel. What works for one brand won’t work for them all. And what works for you in the summer might not be what works during the holidays. Testing is important so that you make sure you are both growing brand affinity as well as growing brand revenue.

As you think through your SMS marketing strategy for BFCM 2020, be sure to test variations of messaging, segments and cohorts, timing, streams, etc.

Of course, be sure that you do these tests all one at a time so that you can see what actually dorve meaningful change versus what may have been a fluke.

Oh, and make sure that you are actually measuring success rates here. Set a KPI.

  • Is the goal that more people click on the link and come to the site?
  • Is it that they purchase the product?
  • Is it that they sign up for a loyalty program?
  • Maybe it is that they use a discount code?

Whatever it is — be sure you have a set KPI you are measuring when you test.

2. Timing.

SMS and MMS marketing is challenging because you can so easily get in front of a customer, but you only want to do it when absolutely necessary.

  • Send too many texts, and you’ll get ignored.
  • Send too few, and folks will forget they signed up and opt-out when you do send a message.

The balancing acting here is to work to have your SMS message build brand affinity (loyalty, relationship, etc.) as well as revenue.

One sure fire way to burn the brand affinity bridge? Send a text at 3 a.m. Unless you are some kind of sleep aid (and even then, aren’t you hurting more than helping), no one but emergency services should be texting at that hour.

Take timing into consideration when sending your messages, including time zones! Time your sends with activities folks do that are related to your product, or time your SMS messages with when folks are more likely to be relaxing and browsing.

You want to come off more as a friend than as a brand. Experts say this again and again:

  • Michael Wieder, Co-Founder, President & CMO, Meet Lalo: “Be human. Text like a friend.”
  • 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?”
  • Austin Brawner, CEO, Brand Growth Experts: “Use casual language and stay aligned with the tone your brand is already using across your other communication channels. Use emojis, use GIFs, make it feel like the message is coming from a friend, not a business.”
  • Gina Perrelli, Director of CRM, Lunar Solar Group: “Be casual, authentic, and understand texting is personal so don't overdo it.”

And finally, on Gina’s point, don’t overdo it. Think through how often you are sending text messages to people, and why. Test your timing (and measure unsubscribes!).

Be sure that every aspect of your holiday SMS marketing campaign thinks through the time of day, when the last text was that you sent, and if a friend would actually say this to someone.

3. Conversational marketing.

A great way to build brand affinity as you grow revenue through SMS marketing is to launch a conversational marketing channel or shortcode. Conversation SMS marketing is often 1:1 — where a customer and an employee are literally texting back and forth.

What are they talking about?

Well, ideally they are talking about things relevant to your brand’s niche and expertise.

  • Cookware brands like Great Jones have a recipe program.
  • Mental wellness brands have therapy programs.
  • Bathing suit brands like Summer Salt have “feel good” channels in which someone will text you a happy quote to help brighten your day.

Whatever you do, be sure that you have a tool or system in place to route these messages to the proper employees who have the knowledge and the time to talk directly with customers about things both customers and the employees are passionate about (one of which should be your brand!).

4. Support via SMS.

Outside of conversational marketing, which is more of a relationship building and brand affinity activity, think too about how you might be able to provide customer support via SMS over the holidays.

People are busy after all, and sometimes it's just easier to text someone a question rather than emailing, looking it up, or calling. The same is true for returns, or wrong shipping addresses. There are so many things, as you likely know, that your customer service team deals with on a daily basis – big and small.

Many of those things can be taken care of over SMS with the right tool. It makes it easier for your customer, and should just work in the same customer service system you already have.

This way, questions get routed appropriately, answered in a timely fashion, and everyone is merrier for it.

The do’s and don’ts of SMS for holiday

All right — now that we have you brainstorming the possibilities, let’s talk real quick about guardrails. There are some SMS marketing basics that may be good for you and your team to know before you hit the ground running.

Don’t worry – most of these are fairly easy to understand. Many marketers already have a deep understanding of what makes their customer tick, and what turns them off immediately. The following don’ts live on the list of the latter.

1. Don’t over send messages.

Timing is so important with SMS marketing messages. You don’t want to set all of this up for this channel, promise a high return on investment and then see negative results solely because you spammed your prospects and customers.

Send SMS messages sparingly, and with good reason. Make sure the messages contain interesting information said in a friendly tone. Two good rules of thumb:

  • Things that relate to an order are always helpful and can come more often.
  • Marketing and promotional messages should be fewer and further between.

Instead, segment your audiences.

With Postscript and Shopify, this takes all of 2 minutes to set up. Then, you can send regular messages to various groups, running tests, and seeing incremental revenue gains weekly.

2. Don’t ignore responses. Don’t monitor messages.

You’ve done it. You’ve set your SMS messaging system and it is sending and people are responding. Sales are coming in. You’ve done it!

As with all things, nothing is set it and forget it — especially when it comes to people. Do not ignore responses. The same way that so many brands have policies to reply to every single comment on a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn post (paid or organic!), you should also be ready to respond to every single message that comes in.

This is the relationship building side of SMS. This is work, yes. But it is worth it. Is it rewarding. It is the reason why you set it up to begin with.

3. Don’t forget about in-store traffic.

The year 2020 will go down in history for a ton of reasons. Don’t let one of them be that you got so wrapped up in the commerce frenzy that you forget entirely about in-store or printed materials.

To solve for that, consider putting your short code on packaging. This will be helpful for gift-giving, as well, so that new customers can get to know you and the brand more quickly after they receive the gift.

Conclusion

The sky is the limit with SMS marketing for BFCM 2020. Pull your team in and start brainstorming about the possibilities, the branding, the conversation, the information, the shortcodes, whatever you want.

Just keep in mind that SMS marketing gives your brand the power to show in someone’s phone in the same way as friends and family. Abuse that power and you will lose it. So don’t.

  • Be mindful of your messaging and your timing.
  • Be friendly and helpful, and go above and beyond.

This is your chance. This is your year. How will you leverage it for the best possible outcome?

Kickstart your holiday SMS

BFCM at PostscriptDownload 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.