Text Message Marketing Playbook (2022)

Boost revenue and connect your customers with products they love

Text Message Marketing

Where’s your cell phone? I’ll bet it’s within easy reach. Mine is right next to my computer (albeit face down so I can focus). Mobile phones are how people connect with everything. Most teens today get their first smartphone at age 12.

In a world full of disruption and distractions, our phones are one of the few direct channels that can snag and keep our attention. So not surprisingly, phones are one of the best channels for reaching your customers with relevant, personalized messaging.

What is Text Message Marketing?

Text message marketing is the process of marketing your products or services through permission-based text messages that consumers receive on their mobile devices.

Consumers typically opt-in (like with email) with a 5-digit distinct shortcode. This stores the consumer’s phone number in a company’s text marketing software, where it can send the consumer updates, discounts, reminders, and alerts.

Text marketing helps you accomplish three important things:

  1. Build a database of easily identifiable, engaged customers who have chosen to opt into your marketing messages.
  2. Deliver reminders, discounts, and updates that convert, retain, and re-engage customers.
  3. Reach consumers with marketing messages that feel timely and relevant yet not interruptive, unlike social media or email, which require push-notification applications.

What are the benefits of text messaging marketing?

Cell phones help us do nearly everything: shop, connect, navigate, entertain ourselves, and more. Despite the rise in messaging apps like Facebook and WhatsApp, the vast majority of smartphone users (94%) still send texts. And 80% of people use texting for business chat with clients, vendors, coworkers, and customers.

The use of text message marketing grew almost 200% between 2015 and 2017 and continues to rise in popularity and effectiveness. This isn’t surprising, given that the average person responds to text messages within 90 seconds.

For business owners and marketers, text marketing presents a unique opportunity to reach your audience in real-time, through a channel that promises near-immediate attention and personal engagement. Keep reading to learn how to get started with text marketing.

Why are eCommerce Marketers Embracing Text Marketing?

Text message marketing is a win-win. For businesses, it’s one of the most effective ways to reach their customers and drive new sales. For consumers, it’s fast, efficient, and helps them get things done.

Text message marketing offers a much higher ROI than most other channels. Unlike channels like paid social, CPC, or display, Text is an owned channel: you own the data and the means of distribution. Unlike display where consumer reach is dependent on your bid and competition, the price for text messages remains constant.

Text message marketing lets eCommerce marketers speak in a consistent voice. Text is a fantastic opportunity to interact with your customers in a highly-relevant, brand-specific way that matches your brand’s distinctive voice and style. Look for a partner that can personalize your texts based on your audience’s behavior on your website. This helps drive relevance, urgency, and revenue.

Text message marketing has unmatched immediacy. Unlike banner ads or videos that can be ignored or skipped, text marketing has an almost 100% open rate. Texts — especially when they’re relevant and useful — feel less like an ad and more like service.

Types of Text Marketing Campaigns

Not all text marketing messages are created equal. Depending on who you’re texting and what you’re asking them to do, the type of text marketing will vary.

There’s more to text marketing than simply sending messages. Let’s review some types of text marketing as categorized by two strategies below.

On-Demand Text

The first text marketing strategy is On-Demand Text. These are universal text messages sent to segments of your audience based on your marketing or promotional schedule, such as general discounts, company alerts, or holiday promotions. On-Demand text marketing isn’t based on subscriber activity.

Discounts and Special Offers

Discounts, sales, and promotions engage your audience with urgency. They typically offer a dollar amount or percentage off full-price products or services or a promotional deal like “Buy One, Get One Free.” These messages should always be time-sensitive and include a strong call-to-action (CTA) that encourages recipients to visit your website.

Alerts and News

Alerts and news keep your audience up-to-date with company and product information. These text marketing messages could notify customers about store hours, new product arrivals, special events, or simple holiday greetings. You can also offer recipients more information if they respond to your message.

Competitions and Contests

Competitions, contests, and text-to-win campaigns are common ways that businesses use text marketing to engage both new and current subscribers. To enter, consumers must text your shortcode with the required entry information, such as a photo of them using your products. In these text messages, be sure to include whether or not you’ll be adding those who entered into your subscriber list.

Behavioral Text Messages

The second text marketing strategy is Behavioral Text. These are triggered messages sent according to subscriber activity, such as making a reservation, abandoning a shopping cart, or requesting customer service. (For reference, On-Demand Text is to bulk email as Behavioral Text is to triggered email.)

Personalized Discounts

Personalized discounts are discounts, sales, and promotions customized for each recipient, either in the timing and/or the discount code. They’re typically sent following subscribers’ recent browsing or purchase activities to re-engage them. These messages can be effective because recipients feel as if they’re receiving a unique discount opportunity—like a special, private sale. Make these messages time-sensitive to create urgency.

Reminders

Reminders are helpful for subscriptions, special events, reservations, and appointments. These text marketing messages are sent based on subscriber activity on your website (e.g. buying a ticket, making a reservation, etc.). They’re also effective to send when subscribers are at similar events or nearby your stores to remind them to consider an additional, relevant purchase. Customers rely on text reminders, so be sure your messages are time-sensitive and sent with enough notice to change or cancel any reservations or appointments if necessary. (These can also help you cut down on last-minute cancellations and no-shows.)

Product or Loyalty Program Updates

Some updates are only relevant to certain customers, such as back-in-stock updates of certain products or loyalty program updates with new points or rewards. These messages can make customers feel special and valued, especially because they’re being delivered right on their phones. Send these types of updates following behavior like customer purchases or restocking a product on customers’ wish lists.

Building Your Text Marketing Database

You can’t deploy text marketing tactics if you have no audience to text. Regardless of how your business applies the text marketing strategies above, here are some ways to grow—and keep—your subscriber database.

1. Set up your phone number.

Your digital number can either be shortcode (XXXXX) or phone number length (XXX-XXX-XXXX). Many organizations opt for shortcode as it’s easier for consumers to type in and remember, and it stands out from the typical phone number.

Popular text marketing software includes Wunderkind, EZTexting, SimpleTexting, and SendInBlue.

2. Get permission.

This is a text marketing non-negotiable. According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), written consent is a requirement. If you text people without their consent, your messages will be considered spam and you may face legal consequences.

In this case, written consent can be in the form of an opt-in text message or filling out an online form. Both count in the eyes of the TCPA.

How can you get your audience to intentionally opt in? Consider these strategies:

  • Advertise your text program as you would an email newsletter. Publish your shortcode and ask customers to text a simple word like “YES” or “JOIN” to be added to your list.
  • Encourage customers to sign up for an account or join your loyalty program, and ask for their phone number in the process. Don’t forget to include that you will be sending marketing material if they give you their phone number.
  • Request a phone number during in-store or online purchases. Include a disclaimer about your text program so that those who aren’t interested in joining can opt out.
  • Include a simple sign-up form on your website promoting your text program.
    Offer special discounts or promotions only accessible via text.

3. Send a clear confirmation text.

The first text subscribers get from you is arguably the most important. It’s their first impression of your text marketing program and may dictate if they stick around or not.

Here’s what you should include in your confirmation text:

  • The name of your business or organization. This tells recipients who’s texting them.
  • The purpose of your text marketing campaign. This tells recipients what to expect from your text messages (e.g. updates, promotions, or contests)
  • The frequency with which you’ll send text messages.
  • A notice about the text message and data rates (e.g. “msg & data rates may apply”).
    • Unlimited texting has become increasingly common, but this is still important to include for those subscribers who don’t use that.
  • Instructions for how to opt-out of your text marketing list.
  • Instructions for how to receive help or access your customer service team. For example, subscribers can text the word “HELP” to trigger a customer service sequence with a support email or phone number.

4. Keep messaging concise and personal.

The typical length of a text marketing message is around 160 characters. To keep your audience engaged, avoid exceeding that length. The brevity of text messages is what can set this strategy apart from email marketing—and what makes it so successful.

Moreover, always personalize your text messages with your organization’s name. We’ll discuss this more in the following section.

5. Speak to your persona(s).

As you would with any other marketing material, consider your target audience when developing your text marketing copy. It may be tempting to save space in your messages, but avoid industry jargon or text language (i.e. “ur”, “2day,” or “gr8”).

Not only is it bad form when representing your brand, but you can’t guarantee that every recipient will understand your message—and you don’t want to lose subscribers from poorly-written texts.

Exceptions to the text language rule would be using a common shortcode like “msg” and “txt” or using numbers in place of words (i.e. 2 instead of two).

6. Pay attention to time and frequency.

The timing of your text messages is arguably just as important as the content. Although people tend to always have their phones nearby, that doesn’t quite guarantee they’re always ready to engage with your texts or respond to your CTAs.

As a rule of thumb, the TCPA stipulates that you only send text messages between 8:00am and 9:00pm according to the time zone in which your recipient lives.

Here’s a more specific breakdown of when to send your text marketing messages based on the campaign type:

  • For general marketing messages like discounts and updates, send mid-morning (10:30 am) or mid-afternoon (2:30 pm). Avoid sending these at the top of the hour to help your messages stand out.
  • For time-sensitive messages like flash sales and special promotions, send two days before the sale. To be courteous, send reminders on the day of the sale as well as the final day, too.
  • For seasonal and special messages like holidays, events, and new product launches, prepare to send multiple text messages. To build adequate buzz around your event, send the following:
    • Introductory message at least one month before
    • Reminder message with necessary information two weeks before
    • Brief reminder message three to five days before
    • Final push message one day before

The frequency of your text marketing messages is also important. Research shows the optimal amount of text messages to send is around 10 per month. Start with four to five each month to test how engaged your audience is, and go from there.

Also, it’s advised to never send more than one text per day. (The only exception would be if you’re set up automatic appointment confirmation and reminder texts, and someone has made or changed multiple appointments in one day.)

7. Always offer an opt-out.

According to the TCPA, your subscribers must always have an option to opt-out of receiving your messages. Choose opt-out words like “STOP,” “QUIT,” or “END” to make this process simple for subscribers. Hopefully, your audience won’t choose this option, but at least they know it’s there if they need it.

Text Message Marketing Strategies

Ready to get started? Let’s dive into examples of how leading brands are crafting plays their text marketing strategies. We’ve organized them from beginner to advanced to help guide you on your text journey.

1. Welcome Series

One of the best times to engage your mobile subscribers is immediately after they join your text messaging program. Consumers are never more engaged as they are when they first sign up. Once you’ve sent all of the necessary legal and compliance language, use your welcome series to thank new subscribers with an exclusive mobile offer. You can also encourage subscribers to add your phone number as a contact so every time they receive a text from your brand, they can identify it immediately.

2. Abandonment Text

Mobile customers are distracted shoppers. Use automated texts to remind them of what they were browsing or left in their cart by triggering a text that converts this abandonment into a sale. Take it a step further by pulling shoppers’ browsed or carted items into your text to remind them why the item caught their eye.

3. Catalog Alerts

Your customers want to know when your items go on sale or come back in stock. Catalog Alerts allow you to do just that but in a more personalized way. If products in your inventory drop in price, send all interested shoppers an automated Price Reduction Alert for their favorite products. If a shopper has browsed at an out-of-stock product, you can alert them the moment it is available again with a Back in Stock message. And when you’re running low on an item, you can make sure your engaged shoppers don’t miss out with a Low Stock message. These are powerful, one-to-one, automated messages that convert because they’re based on what the shopper really wants.

4. Product Launch

Shoppers are always interested in what’s new and what they haven’t seen before. This means Product Launch announcements are always a strong way to re-engage both your most loyal customers and subscribers who haven’t visited the site or made a purchase recently.

5. Product Restock

As powerful and unique behavior-driven messaging is, there are also opportunities to reinvigorate sales by sending messages to larger segments of your subscriber list at once. Product Restock messages are a powerful way to let subscribers know about popular items that sold out are back again and ready to shop. Don’t miss an opportunity to include strong imagery to create additional excitement in these texts for your best-selling items.

6. Flash Sale

Shift your customers from browse to buy mode with a Flash Sale text. You can personalize text messages to shoppers who have shown interest in the category that’s part of the Flash sale or send to your entire list. Sending to all subscribers is a good idea for site-wide sales.

7. Seasonality and Holidays

Your customers expect to hear from you during the holidays, as well as from your competitors. How can you stand out during these potentially brand-building moments? The brands successfully using this channel to break through the holiday noise aren’t just repurposing their email strategy for text messaging. Instead, they use imagery and urgency to inspire their customers to act, while keeping their copy to the point. Savvy mobile marketers are also pairing seasonal events to relevant categories, inspiring customers to view their product line in a new way.

8. Custom Auto-Reply

Custom Auto-Reply campaigns are automated messages that users receive immediately, based on keywords that opted-in subscribers text back to your shortcode. It fits the call and response nature of texting. Subscribers are often more likely to click on a link when they feel it was generated just for them. Use these campaigns to delight your mobile subscribers by guiding them to the products or categories best suited to their needs.

9. Two Way Messaging

Customers don’t like waiting for help and it’s not good for business when they go to Twitter to complain publicly. Two-Way Messaging integrates directly with Customer Service Platforms so your customer support teams can get mobile subscribers answers they need fast, delivered straight to their mobile messaging app.

Conclusion

Regardless of whether you feel you are doing text message marketing the right or the wrong way, the most important thing is to begin testing this channel asap. Each new campaign you launch will give you the data you need to create more and more texts that convince your customers to love your brand and complete a purchase. To learn more, we’ve put together an awesome Text Message Marketing Playbook with the ultimate revenue boosting plays.

Author

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Elliott Moore

Elliott Moore is Wunderkind’s Senior Marketing Manager, overseeing content, PR, partner marketing, and social media. Elliott brings over 5 years of MarTech experience working for firms in New York, San Francisco, and Helsinki, working across product, sales, and content teams to bring the most actionable marketing experiences to his clients. A resident of Brooklyn, Elliott spends his free time running, visiting local shops, or testing new IPAs with friends.