Insights & Resources • PUBLISHED 3/1/2021

How to increase online sales with ecommerce SMS

Learn how to improve customer experience in ecommerce by leveraging conversational SMS

By Brian Segal

ecommerce graphic with SMS

Sixty-three percent of all shopping journeys begin online, whether or not the consumer ends up making their purchase online or in-store. If you’re a retail brand, it's time to consider the potential of ecommerce.

Regardless of whether your brand is completely web-based or if you mix brick-and-mortar stores with online shopping experiences, you should be looking to ecommerce SMS as an effective channel for driving sales. SMS marketing is a powerful tool for creating personalized shopping experiences. With SMS, you can quickly build a list of customers, craft compelling messages, and have conversations in real time.

In this blog post, we'll look at why it's time to embrace ecommerce SMS, how to build your list of customers, and how to get started with programmable SMS.

Why it’s time to embrace ecommerce SMS

Over the last five years, the performance of almost every traditional marketing channel has fallen off.

However, retail is still very alive. Many retail stores have pivoted to offer online shopping experiences and a more personal touch by incorporating omnichannel touchpoints into the customer journey. And other brands have chosen to sell their products and services solely online via ecommerce platforms.

SMS ties into the way retailers are revolutionizing the shopping experience. SMS will enable retailers to have one-to-one conversations with people rather than send mass marketing message blasts. SMS for ecommerce can be an extension of the smile and conversation your employees may have had with customers at the register—so long as you’re engaging with customers the right way.

With SMS for ecommerce, you can reach more customers, improve customer experience, and answer customer questions quickly.

Cut through the noise

Email and social media advertising have taken a hit in their performance, partly because those advertising channels have become saturated. The average person gets 121 emails per day.

However, people still use text messaging as a primary form of communication. While people get SMS marketing messages, there’s still far less noise in a customer’s texting app.

That’s why SMS open rates have remained astonishingly high (up to 98%). Most people open a text message within 3 minutes. And SMS-delivered coupons get redeemed 10 times more than coupons delivered through other channels.

However, it’s essential to adhere to best practices. You don’t want to annoy your customers or, even worse, get slapped with fines for failing to comply with telecommunications regulations. When executed correctly, retail SMS provides a more personal connection with your customers and is an efficient, effective way to get your message across.

Improve customer experience

At its core, SMS is for communicating. In almost every situation, better communication means a better experience for everyone involved.

Today’s customers expect to engage with brands via channels they prefer. And according to HubSpot, 58% of customers expect brands to make them feel heard, appreciated, and valued.

SMS allows you to achieve this by communicating with customers throughout the sales process, offering post-purchase support, and sending them personalized offers.

For instance, customers can redeem SMS-delivered coupons simply by showing the coupon on their phone to the cashier. SMS messages also provide instant information about orders ready for in-store pickup and which products are in stock at your store. If customers have questions about products or need help with something they’ve purchased, texting is a quick way to get customer support.

Ultimately, SMS improves customer communication. And that makes for a more satisfied customer.

Answer customer questions quickly

You can answer most customer questions in one sentence or less. For example:

  • What are your holiday hours?
  • Do you have a particular item in stock?
  • Can I return an item even if I’ve opened it?

Sending an email for questions like these is inefficient. For example, a holiday might have passed by the time your staff can answer an email about your holiday hours. And you can only answer so many phone calls in a day. Plus, customers simply don’t want to wait for a reply.

SuperOffice reports that 90% of customers view an instant response as either crucial or very important when they need customer service assistance.

SMS is hands-down the most efficient way to handle simple questions like this. Sending a simple text takes just a few seconds, particularly if you leverage automated responses. That way, customers can get the answers they need immediately, and your staff can spend less time on the phone or buried in their email inboxes.

Building your ecommerce SMS list

You can’t text customers if you don’t have their phone numbers. Fortunately, getting phone numbers is relatively easy, especially for ecommerce businesses. Here’s what you can do.

Opt-in at checkout

If someone is already in your physical store, asking them for their phone number is easy. The same goes for ecommerce. Just include a field for customers to enter their phone numbers as part of the checkout process. Most people will willingly give you their number if you explain that you’ll use them to provide them with product support and order information—and that you won’t spam them with messages.

Once you have a phone number, make sure the first message you send is an opt-in message. An opt-in message asks the customer to confirm that it’s okay for your brand to send them messages. It also mentions approximately how often they can expect to receive messages from you. Be sure to let customers know they’ll receive this opt-in request and if any action is needed on their part (like replying “Y” for yes).

Promotional offers

Offering a discount or small gift in exchange for a phone number is also incredibly effective and can even be automated. Simply set up a sign in your physical store or a pop-up banner on your website that offers a discount code for texting a keyword to your business number. When people text the keyword, they’ll get an opt-in confirmation and a discount code. Customers will often redeem their discount that same day.

Social media

Another way an ecommerce business might collect customer phone numbers is through social media. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook have become increasingly popular for businesses to connect with their customers. Ecommerce businesses can use these platforms to create posts and stories that invite customers to join their SMS list.

For example, a business might create a post that says, "Text 'SALE' to [phone number] to receive exclusive deals and updates via SMS!" This method is effective because it reaches customers where they already spend their time online and can easily capture their attention.

As you build your retail SMS list, be mindful not to abuse it. It might become tempting to start sending marketing blasts to hundreds of customers. But sending too many mass messages will encourage people to opt out of your SMS program.

Get conversational with Telnyx

Automation is vital to using retail SMS. The main challenge in automating SMS conversations is tracking the state of each conversation. The best way to do this is with programmable SMS.

Your programmable SMS system stores each text conversation as a session. When a customer texts your automated SMS number, the system opens a session and creates a cookie. The cookie temporarily stores information about how many messages the customer has sent and which keywords they mentioned. That way, the system doesn’t send redundant text messages.

Storing conversation data also enables you to create more conversational messages for your automated text messages because your programmable SMS system will remember what’s already been said. And, if a customer stops texting, the cookie will expire after a certain period of inactivity.

This automated process makes it possible to handle hundreds or even thousands of SMS messages. High volume messaging allows you to leverage the power of texting to deliver an engaging and personalized buying experience, whether the customer shops at your physical store or on your website. And, of course, a happy customer is more likely to give you repeat business and speak positively about your brand, resulting in increased sales.

If you’re ready to add retail SMS to your marketing strategy, Telnyx has everything you need: a powerful and reliable network with full API support for integrating SMS into the tools you already use. Talk to a Telnyx programmable SMS expert to get started today.

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