Insights & Resources5 min read

How to Drive In-Store Sales with Retail SMS

As online shopping continues to grow, learn how retail is adapting by leveraging conversational SMS to drive in-store sales.

Brian Segal
Retail SMS transaction
Most people think of in-person experiences as a sort of opposite from virtual experiences. So SMS might seem out of place in the retail space. But SMS for retail is actually a perfect booster for your retail advertising and customer experience.
SMS isn’t the opposite of an in-person shopping experience, SMS is an integral part of the retail buying experience.

Why it’s Time to Embrace Retail SMS

Over the last five years, the performance of almost every marketing channel has fallen off. Email performance is down by 47%. Facebook CPM has increased by 171% within the last three years. And retail sales continued a downward trend in 2020, with the continued ecommerce onslaught.
However, retail is still very alive. Retail stores offer a more unique shopping experience and a more personal touch. Also, customers know exactly what they’re getting when they pick something up off the shelf. Whereas the online shopping experience is often sterile and robotically efficient. And it’s difficult to get a good understanding of a product based on a short product description and a few photos (which explains the high return rates in ecommerce).
SMS ties into the unique, personal experience of retail shopping because you can use it as a channel for having one-to-one conversations with people, rather than sending mass blasts of marketing messages. SMS for retail can be an extension of the smile and conversation that you have with customers at the register, so long as you send personal messages that continue the conversation.

Cut Through the Noise

Email and social media advertising have taken a hit in their performance in part because those advertising channels have become saturated. It’s estimated that a person gets 121 emails per day, on average. And, if you’ve been on social media lately, you know how much attention the ads get.
However, people still use text messaging primarily to talk to their friends. Yes, people get SMS marketing messages. But there’s far less noise in a customer’s texting app.
That’s why SMS open rates have remained astonishingly high (up to 98%). Most text messages are read within 3 minutes. And SMS-delivered coupons get redeemed 10 times more than coupons delivered through other channels.
SMS simply gives you a more personal connection with your customers, with far less noise and distraction.

Improve Customer Experience

At its core, SMS is for communicating. In almost every situation, better communication means a better experience for everyone involved.
In the retail business, SMS is an efficient and non-intrusive way to communicate with customers throughout the sales process, offer post-purchase support, and send additional offers to customers.
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 that are ready for in-store pickup and what products are in stock at your store. And, if customers have questions about products or need help with something they’ve purchased, texting is a quick way to provide customer support.
Ultimately, SMS improves customer communication. And that makes a better customer experience.

Answer Common Questions

Most customer questions can be answered with a sentence or less. What are your holiday hours? Do you have a certain item in stock? Can I return an item, even if I’ve opened it?
Sending an email for questions like these is inefficient. The holiday might have passed by the time you’re able to answer an email about your holiday hours. And you can only answer so many phone calls in a day.
SMS is hands-down the most efficient way to handle simple questions like this. It takes just a few seconds to send a simple text. And you can use keywords to automate the process of answering certain questions. That way customers can get the answers they need immediately, and you can spend less time on the phone or buried in your email inbox.

Building Your Retail SMS List

Obviously, you can’t send texts to customers if you don’t have phone numbers. Fortunately, getting phone numbers is relatively easy, especially for retail businesses. Here’s what you can do.
  • In-Store Opt-In
    If someone is already in your store, it’s easy to ask them for their phone number. Most people will willingly give you their phone number if you explain that you just need their phone number to give them SMS product support and order information, and that you won’t spam them with messages.
    Once you have a phone number, make sure that the first message you send is an opt-in message that asks the customer to confirm that it’s okay for you to send them messages. Be sure to let customers know that they will receive this opt-in request.
  • Promotional Offers
    Offering a discount or small gift in exchange for a phone number is also incredibly effective. This method can be much more automated. Simply set up a sign in your shop 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, followed by their discount code. Customers will often redeem their discount before they even leave the store.
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 just make people opt-out of your SMS program.

Get Conversational with Telnyx

Obviously, automation is key to using retail SMS. The main challenge in automating SMS conversations is tracking the state of each conversation, similar to how a person remembers what’s been said in a 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, your programmable SMS system will open a session and create a cookie for that session. The cookie temporarily stores information about how many messages and what keywords the customer has sent. 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 thousands of SMS messages, and leverage the power of text messaging to deliver a complete buying experience, without ignoring the customers who walk through your door.
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.
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