What is SMS marketing (AKA text message marketing)?

SMS marketing is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: using text messaging as a marketing channel. It’s still relatively unused—only around 14% of businesses reported using text messaging as a marketing channel in a recent Podium survey. But it’s incredibly effective, primarily since it’s a casual interaction that almost everyone uses all the time. In fact, 98% of text messages get opened, almost entirely within 3 minutes of being sent. That’s pretty darn powerful. 

By using SMS marketing, you’re getting deals, promotions, and other messages in front of your most loyal customers. And not only is it welcomed by your customers—increasingly, it’s expected.

So how can your retail business take advantage of this marketing channel? Let’s dive in.

SMS marketing for retail

Emails vs. text messages

As stated above, text messaging shines because of its outstanding open rates and click-through rates. And it really shines compared to email. When you consider that marketing emails average around 15-20% with a microscopic CTR, texting looks absolutely stellar.

Why is that? It’s not that email is terrible—email marketing is a pretty important part of an overall marketing strategy. But part of the reason email doesn’t perform quite as well is that email is just so swamped with other marketing messages. If your customers wake up in the morning to a couple dozen emails from stores and businesses, yours might end up right in the trash along with the rest of them. It takes a lot more effort to make an email shine. 

The other reason is that email is pretty impersonal and just slightly formal enough not to be super convenient. It takes just a bit more effort to check and read an email than a text message. (Some of that may just be perception, but the results support that perception.)

And besides that, when you send a marketing email to your list, that’s pretty much the end of the conversation. You send it, you measure the clicks, you make your reports, and you repeat. With text message marketing, there’s an actual opportunity to receive a reply. You can still gather valuable insights, but you can also get responses and turn a campaign into a conversation—more on that in the next section.

text message marketing statistics

Business text messages vs. bulk SMS marketing for retail

Any time you’re texting your customers, technically, you’re using an SMS marketing channel. But there’s a difference between business text messages and bulk SMS marketing for retail.

With bulk SMS messaging, you usually have an opt-in list of customers who have consented to receive your text message marketing. You may also have subsets of customers so you can segment them and personalize the messaging a little more. You build your list, select your subset, and build your campaign—for example, a 25% off for a clearance sale, and send a text. “Come in this week to take advantage of low prices, as low as 25% off! Find out what’s on sale here: [url].”

Bulk SMS messaging can be handy, but you also want to make sure your business messaging software can handle the other side of business text messages, which is more personal than blasting out to a list. You should be able to receive responses and have conversations. With the right kind of message, you can actually encourage replies (“Text back with any questions!” or “Does that sound like something you’d be interested in?” could be some prompts.) Then, you can start with a general message and get specific. The deal you sent might be good, but they might be interested in something else or even ready to make a purchase right away.

What retailers need to know about SMS compliance

text marketing illustration

An important thing to remember is certain rules apply to business messaging. The first and biggest one is to make sure you’re texting people who have opted in to receiving messages from you. Building your opt-in list is key to staying compliant. If you just purchased a list of phone numbers somewhere and started messaging them out of the blue, first of all, you won’t be sending effective campaigns, and you could also wind up in trouble with mobile carriers.

Once you’ve cultivated your opt-in list, you want to make sure you’re not spamming them. Be courteous; text like you’d want to be texted. Don’t send too many messages, and make your messages valuable to your customers. 

How do I text my customers?

The one thing you should remember when texting your customers is to text like a human. It’s pretty easy to get lost in marketing language and jargon, but the further you get from natural human speech, the less effective you’ll be. You are, of course, texting as a business. Still, you’ll get better results by identifying yourself by name, keeping your message short and sweet, and having some personality without trying too hard. “Hi Danny, it’s Steph from Julian Floral. We’re doing a discount on Valentine’s preorders. Would you like to get on the list? 💐 Order form here [url] or text back with questions.” Something like that is direct, personal, and succinct and will be very appreciated by your customers.

Don’t sweat it; you’re going to do great.

text marketing example

How to create a campaign for SMS marketing for retail

If you’re feeling ready to dive into SMS marketing, make sure you’ve got a plan. Here are some helpful steps for creating an SMS marketing campaign:

  • Identify your campaign. End of season? Holiday? Clearance? Even coming up with a unique name will help you keep things straight and compare results with other campaigns.
  • Set goals. What are you trying to achieve? How are you providing value to your customers with this campaign?
  • Identify your recipients. Which customers will benefit? Can you segment them, so you’re getting more precise results? Maybe that means sending text messages to people having birthdays this month or people who haven’t purchased anything for the last few months. 
  • Set up the deal. Make sure you’ve got everything in place to make good on your offer.
  • Write your message. Follow the guidelines to write a message that’s clear, concise, personal, and valuable. You may even try a couple of different wordings to A/B test what works best.
  • Send. And then start conversations.
  • Measure results. Evaluate what went right and what went wrong. Apply those lessons to your next SMS marketing campaign.

sms text message example

Best uses of SMS marketing for retail

Promote events

Whether your event is a limited-time sale or an actual event at your retail store, text messages are a great way to let your customers know how and when to participate.

Items back in stock off backorder alerts

Sending a quick text once a back-ordered item is back in stock is a great way to build loyalty and provide value to your customers.

Loyalty programs

Many retail stores use text messaging as a channel for their loyalty programs—or if you already have a loyalty program through an app, you can use this as a great opt-in point for existing customers. “Thank you for signing up for text marketing alerts! Want to join our loyalty program? Follow this link to download the app.”

Complement your social media strategy

Use text marketing campaigns to back up your social media and vice versa. Make your campaigns multi-channel and see better results.

Abandoned cart recovery

“It looks like you left some items in your cart. Would you like to continue shopping where you left off?”

Please reply to buy

The conversation doesn’t have to end with a click away. You can keep the conversation going and close in the same thread. Try sending a text and letting people purchase with a reply.

Product updates / new arrivals

For highly-anticipated product arrivals, text marketing messages might be the perfect answer. You could even link to a pre-order.

Text coupons & discounts

Coupons and discounts are great incentives for people to opt in, so don’t forget to reward your loyal customers! Text-only deals and coupons are easy to run and will keep people coming back for more.

Texting solutions for retail SMS marketing

When it comes to SMS marketing for retail, there’s really only one solution. With Podium, you can plan and execute SMS marketing campaigns from start to finish, truly: gather opt-ins, compose messages or choose from templates, measure and analyze, start two-way conversations, and even close deals and accept payments, all from one easy-to-use platform. 

Get started today with Podium and see the results for yourself.

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

Adapt the way you do business. Press send.