undraw_Newsletter_re_wrob 1 (1)
Access premium content.

Subscribe to receive content like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Finding The Right SMS Marketing Software Service to Text Customers

image (5)

Table of Contents

It’s hard to keep up with all the marketing software available these days.

There are literally hundreds — maybe even thousands — of companies promising to better connect you with clients and prospects. Stalwarts like HubSpot and Hootsuite have become household names and defined their categories. Meanwhile, upstarts offer a fresh take on new problems. They’re the backbone of your email marketing campaigns, social media ads, and demand generation.

Now that SMS marketing is gaining popularity, software companies are promising more effective ways to manage campaigns, stay compliant with government regulations, simplify workflows, and drive revenue. The space is getting a little crowded.

In the following guide, we’ll explain the benefits of SMS marketing software, which features and functions to consider, and compare marketing tools and providers.

First some basics:

What is text message marketing?

Text message marketing empowers businesses to communicate with customers through SMS. Businesses use simple texting to send discounts, delivery updates or handle customer service issues. The human, non-robotic communication style is well-liked by consumers, making it a go-to service for businesses of all types.

What is SMS marketing software?

SMS marketing software enables businesses to plan, design and distribute marketing campaigns with text messages. The right messaging platform helps companies drive revenue, enables two-way communication, and keeps customers engaged.

Is SMS marketing effective?

Yes. People open almost every text message, respond quickly, and take decisive purchasing action if they like something a brand sends them. It's the perfect compliment to your existing customer service management (CRM) system.

Open rates and response rates are really strong

SMS open rates are nearly 100% and 90% are read within three minutes. More than 50% of consumers respond to texts in under three minutes, and 78% respond in 10 minutes or less.

Compared to a more traditional marketing channel like email — there really is no comparison. In email marketing with Mailchimp or another ad hoc tool, 21% open rates are considered good and consumers are 4.5x as likely to respond to texts vs. emails.

SMS marketing has high conversion rates, too

Text messaging is a natural way to communicate. It’s informal nature feels like chatting with a friend, not a business. Plus, consumers are getting increasingly comfortable buying on mobile — whether through iPhone or Android. In fact, mobile commerce more than doubled from 2015-2019 to an estimated $284 billion, or 45% of total U.S. ecommerce by the end of 2020. Quite simply, it’s easy for consumers to see a text, click through to your site, then complete a purchase.

With a comfortable communication channel and increased mobile buying, it’s leading to high conversion rates.

In the latest Postscript Benchmark Report, we found that text messages increase conversion rates across all industries. SMS messages see conversion rates as high as 9.1% with clickthrough rates as high as 30.3%. They can earn as much as $8.11 per message.
CTA module: check out our Benchmarks Report.

SMS Benchmark Report

Check out our Benchmarks Report!

Why do I need SMS marketing software?

  • Running a mobile marketing program manually can be a logistical nightmare. Brands that implement an SMS marketing campaign have large databases. Some are sending texts to 100,000 or more subscribers at once. Texting and responding to so many people manually would take an army of employees.
  • A central location helps you stay organized. Keeping everything straight is much easier with an SMS marketing platform housing all contacts, messages, unsubscribes, and other communications.
  • Compliance made easy. The most effective SMS marketing software will help you stay compliant with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and similar laws, helping to make sure you’re only sending SMS messages to consumers who opted in — and that you’re providing an easy way to unsubscribe.

CASE STUDY

How Cloudy recovered 16% of abandoned carts and increased ROI 12x

Cloudy offers products that help people relax and get better sleep. With SMS marketing powered by Postscript, Cloudy updated customers on orders, gathered product feedback, surveyed customers, recaptured abandoned carts, handled cross sells and upsells, and sent various creative campaigns to boost retention and LTV.

The results speak for themselves:

  • 133,000 compliant subscribers in seven months
  • 12x average ROI in seven months
  • 16% of abandoned carts recovered using SMS
cloud iphone mockup

Don’t take it from us, listen to John Robb, the founder of Cloudy:

“We recover an insane amount of revenue from abandoned carts using SMS. And Postscript has the features and integrations we need to send the most relevant messages to our customers.”

SMS Software Features and Functions

Keyword Opt Ins

By texting a word or phrase to a specific number, a customer can opt-in to receive text messages from your business. It’s perhaps the most straightforward way to get customers to subscribe. (They MUST opt in for compliance reasons. More on that later.)

Oftentimes, businesses use discounts or early access to entice customers to text. For example: a bakery could ask people to text “CAKE20” to a specific short code phone number for a 20% off deal on any cake in the bakery.

unnamed (10)

This SuperCoffee can tells drinkers to subscribe using their keyword.

Signup Forms / Easy Opt Ins

Another TCPA-compliant way to collect customer phone numbers through a digital signup form. Simply ask customers to fill out a form with their name, phone number and other information to be added to your subscriber list. Perhaps even more effective is adding a checkbox at checkout or another step in the buying journey. Make sure you include compliant opt-in language as part of this form.

Go Big Pop-up (1)

A SMS popup collection form from Go Big Energy.

Website Integration

Your SMS marketing technology should integrate with Shopify, WordPress, or other ecommerce platform to deliver functionality to your Shopify stores or native website. The best services auto-sync with your store, taking in any new relevant customer instantly. It should also support MMS (picture messaging) and help with the most important use cases like abandoned cart recovery by supporting the sending of dynamic product images as well as discounts. That could pay big dividends, as the ecommerce industry loses $4.6 trillion each year in lost sales.

Two-Way SMS Chat

Part of great marketing is great communication. When you communicate like a human, good things happen. That’s why the best text messaging feels like texting with a friend or chatting on Facebook Messenger, not a faceless robot. At the moment, most business texts are one way — which can be frustrating to a customer who wants to respond. Be sure your SMS marketing software supports two-way text chats so you can have back-and-forth conversations and better meet customer needs.

Transactional SMS

Your SMS software should also support sending customers important details as well as promotional offerings. Some examples include order status and shipping notifications.

Reporting Dashboards and Analytics

A program is only as good as its return on investment. That’s why you should hunt for a text messaging service with deep analytics showcasing not only opens, replies, and purchases but also allows you to analyze trends over time.

Short code and long code support

A short code is an easy-to-remember 5 to 6 digit telephone number used by a business to send texts while staying TCPA compliant. It allows you to both send SMS as MMS. The right vendor will ensure that your customers will not receive any cross talk — messages from other brands using the same short codes.

Campaign Creation Tools

Let subscribers know about your latest sale, new product offering, or a deal-of-the-day by sending an SMS drip campaign. It’s different from the auto-reply messages you send when someone abandons a cart or opts in for the first time. Your SMS software should easily walk you through starting a campaign, developing the right verbiage (and maybe even adding emojis), finding the right audience, and scheduling it to be sent at the right time.

Compliance

Like we mentioned earlier, the TCPA makes it very clear that customers must opt-in to receive messages. You can’t simply buy a list of phone numbers and start texting. Fines range from $500-$1,500 per violation aka $500 to $1,500 for each text message you send to a customer who either isn’t a subscriber or unsubscribed. Jiffy Lube, Microsoft and ADT are among companies that have been fined for non-compliance. Choose SMS marketing software with TCPA compliant mobile messaging and offer tips for staying compliant.

SMS seems fairly simple and straightforward, why not just use an
open source solution?

The rise of communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) and open source solutions help reduce complexity and can be downloaded for free on the web. But if they don’t comply with regulations, your business could be in for serious fines.

Types of SMS Marketing Solutions

Ecommerce SMS Solutions

Email, social advertising, and influencer marketing have been the go-to marketing channels for ecommerce companies for years. But recently they’ve been catching on to the power of SMS because of the high opens, responses, and conversion rates.

Ecommerce companies are using SMS in a variety of ways. It can help acquire new customers, drive repeat sales through VIP and loyalty programs, update consumers on deliveries, and disseminate important information like new sales. In all cases, treating customers like human beings by using natural, non-robotic language is a major plus.

Ecommerce SMS use cases:

Delivery updates. Send a quick text to let consumers know their product is on its way or has been delivered. With open rates so high, it’s the best way to communicate that information in real-time so they can retrieve the package quickly. In fact, consumers say the most effective type of SMS message is a delivery update.

Cart abandonment. The average cart abandonment rate is nearly 70%. Entice them with a text message and picture of the product they abandoned — and you just might get 5-10% of those abandoned sales.

Promote sales. Make sure consumers are aware of the latest sales and discounts — and have a quick path to purchase. You can also use SMS to promote time-sensitive flash sales. In fact, nearly 35% of consumers prefer to receive coupons and promotional codes from retailers via text message.

Replenishment reminders. When consumers are running low on a particular item in a subscription or if you’ve just calculated that they might be running low on a product, give them a text reminder. It’s a non-intrusive way to remind them that you’re ready to help but aren’t pressuring them to buy.

Product drops. Send an SMS when you announce a major product release. Loyal customers will love it.

Birthday/anniversary best wishes. Send best wishes and perhaps a discount coupon on their big day.

Ecommerce SMS Marketing Features and Functions

Stay compliant. Build your TCPA compliant subscriber list using pop-ups, landing pages, email opt-ins, and links.

Automate your text marketing. Drive traffic and sales with little effort by sending automated messages like welcome series, abandoned carts, shipping notifications, and cross-sells.

Make texts memorable. The right SMS marketing software will empower you to use images, photos, and GIFs to engage with customers.

1:1 conversations. Nobody wants to feel like they’re talking to a chatbot. Make sure to find SMS marketing software that allows two-way conversations.

Example: Postscript

Postscript was built for ecommerce. In fact, it focuses solely on SMS marketing for growing Shopify stores. It empowers marketers with tools to build a compliant SMS marketing subscriber list; automate text messages based on customer actions and Shopify data; segment audiences; send SMS campaigns; and track ROI.

For brands that need a little inspiration, Postscript offers ecommerce SMS templates to its clients, giving them proven verbiage for shipping updates, order confirmations, and feedback requests.

Free and proven templates from the industry's top agencies. One-click to add to your Postscript account.

Discover the best SMS templates from the most successful agencies.

For Nomatic — creator of high-quality bags, luggage, camera packs, and travel accessories — Postscript helped send hyper-targeted text messages to customers. They also powered a Justuno integration to collect phone and email subscribers in the same popup. Nomatic gained more than 47,000 compliant subscribers in 10 months; increased average ROI 37x; and earned $33 per message on abandoned cart automations.

“Text is a big part of being able to communicate with our most valuable customers and, thanks to Postscript, it has also become one of our most profitable revenue channels.”

— Russell Steed, Online Revenue and Marketing Manager at Nomatic.

Bulk SMS Solutions

Businesses of all sizes are trying to increase efficiency. That’s why many send bulk text messages. It allows them to reach large groups at once. Those one-to-many communications can include information about new product releases, sales, or updates.

Bulk SMS use cases

Disseminating information. Businesses of any type can send high-level information with a bulk text. For example, restaurants and bars can send updated hours of operation after a snowstorm — and doctors offices or healthcare providers can share new COVID-19 protocols.

Collecting donations. Political campaigns have been using SMS to drive donations. If you’re a registered voter, think about how often your cell phone blew up with messages from a candidate or fundraising group in 2020.

Event reminders. A concert venue, nightclub, free library, or theater can remind subscribers about a specific event — encouraging them to buy tickets.

Discounts and sales. Send discount codes or make people aware of widespread sales. A travel company can send hotel deals.

NanaMacs has been working with Postscript to send product release updates to their entire customer base. Here’s an example:

pasted-image-0-10

Bulk SMS Marketing Features and Functions

Build compliant SMS lists. Businesses of any type can send high-level information with a bulk text. For example, restaurants and bars can send updated hours of operation after a snowstorm — and doctors offices or healthcare providers can share new COVID-19 protocols.

Automate your text marketing. Political campaigns have been using SMS to drive donations. If you’re a registered voter, think about how often your cell phone blew up with messages from a candidate or fundraising group in 2020.

Event reminders. A concert venue, nightclub, free library, or theater can remind subscribers about a specific event — encouraging them to buy tickets.

Discounts and sales. Send discount codes or make people aware of widespread sales. A travel company can send hotel deals.

NanaMacs has been working with Postscript to send product release updates to their entire customer base. Here’s an example:

What are the drawbacks of bulk SMS marketing?

It doesn’t allow for 1:1 conversations with customers. In most cases, people either can’t reply or their replies are met with automated responses that don’t feel human. One-to-many texting lacks the nuance and personalization that many consumers crave from brands.

Example: EZTexting

Built for small and midsize businesses, EZTexting has served more than 160,000 customers. It offers mass texting and notification alerts. It powers sales and promotions, alerts and notifications, customer service, and lead generation. It also offers 1:1 chat functionality.

Plans range from $19/month to $299/month.

Example: Textedly

Textedly makes it easy to instantly send 10 or 100,000 bulk SMS and MMS mobile text messages. It was built for small, medium and large businesses. It is equipped to send marketing alerts, sales events, coupons, discounts, announcements, and notifications. Textedly helps businesses send keyword campaigns to help grow subscriber lists; send discount and alert messages to your entire subscriber base; handles customer service alerts; and handles business functions like billing, marketing, finance, and HR via text.

Plans range from $34 to $350 per month.

Small Business SMS Solutions

Not all SMS solutions are built the same. Small businesses don’t need to send texts to thousands of customers at once. They need one-on-one messaging that cultivates personal relationships. They’re also more likely to choose a plug-and-play solution over a complex API integration requiring high-level development skills.

Still, the use cases are basically the same as major corporations. They send discounts, sale notifications, delivery updates, and more. Here is a simple example of an appointment reminder for my friend (and editor!) Corinne:

Appt reminder

Small Business SMS Features and Functions

Two-way messaging

A small business simply can’t afford to appear like a faceless corporation. That’s why they need a service that allows more than mass texting. They need a software solution empowering them to easily send conversational SMS messages to customers' mobile phones and respond quickly to any customer concerns.

Easy setup

Small business owners don’t have time for complex setups. They likely don’t have deep software development skills needed to integrate an API. Plus they probably aren’t experts in SMS — meaning they’ll need a solution that makes shortcodes easy, automates responses to common concerns, and makes it easy to take action when customers text certain keywords.

Integrations

A small business needs its SMS marketing service to integrate with all aspects of their business — from their Shopify store to it’s customer support software. It could even integrate with Outlook or Google Calendars, making it simple to set-and-forget birthday wishes or holiday discounts.

Affordability

Many text messaging services scale pricing — meaning the more messages you send, the less you pay. But small businesses don’t have big customer bases and won’t send nearly as many as larger companies. So they need a service that’s still affordable even if they’re only sending a few hundred per month.

Example: Salesmsg

Salesmsg is a simple, scalable solution made for small businesses. With a pared down feature set, Salesmsg makes it easy to send and receive texts, send images, use local landline numbers, and help team members manage the queue. It also empowers mass texting and integrates with Hubspot, Salesforce, Marketo, Outlook and other popular platforms. Available in the U.S. and Canada.

Pricing starts at $35 per month.

10 questions to ask yourself when considering SMS marketing solutions

  1. How many text messages do you plan on sending a month?
  2. Do you plan to respond to customers that text back?
  3. Will you send mass texts to your subscriber list?
  4. Do you want to send transactional messages and coupons?
  5. How do you plan on building and maintaining a compliant subscriber list?
  6. Will you be using SMS for ecommerce?
  7. Are you interested in sending images with MMS for campaigns like abandoned carts or flash sales?
  8. Will you be using SMS to offer customer support?
  9. Do you plan on using audience segmentation to send more targeted sms texts to your audience? If so, would you benefit from a solution that integrates with your website or customer data?
  10. Are you looking for an out-of-the-box solution that’s easy to set up or are you interested in a custom API driven integration?

Now get started — but be smart about it...

Once you’ve found the right SMS marketing software, it’s time to get started! And you’ll be in good company. Everybody seems to be using text messaging to reach their audiences these days. Author and super consultant Neil Patel called text message marketing “underrated and underappreciated.”

“Watered-down, mobile-targeting tactics are costing you conversions, clients, and revenue. Meanwhile, SMS marketing is lurking in the background, waiting for you to capitalize on it,” he said.

Meanwhile social media influencers like Jake Paul And Lele Pons are urging people to text them to build up their subscriber bases.

But a word of warning: respect your subscribers. This is not email marketing where you can blast your subscribers’ inbox once or twice a day. Be choosy. Be smart. If your SMS messages start feeling like spam, people will opt-out and your brand will suffer.

Two to six messages per month is a nice rule of thumb, but there’s no universal answer. Ask yourself: Is your message timely? Is it really relevant to your audience? Is it redundant with a previous message? Is it targeting the right segment of your audience? Answering those questions will help ensure that you’re sending the right messages at the right frequencies.

Start your 30-day trial

Launch SMS customer support in minutes with Postscript. All you need to get started is your Shopify URL. Start a free trial now or contact sales.

jaredshelly_square
Author: Jared Shelly

Jared Shelly is the founder of Shelly Digital, a freelance writing and content marketing agency. He’s written for Philadelphia magazine, the Philadelphia Inquirer Business Journal, and Risk & Insurance, and his ghostwritten content has appeared in Forbes, Quartz, and Inc.