The Executive’s Guide to Using SMS Marketing to Grow Ecommerce Sales & Retention

In the ecommerce space, SMS marketing has quickly shifted from a novel concept to a marketing essential. But not all ecommerce businesses have fully bought into its importance or taken the leap to get started.

With its low cost and high engagement rate, this channel has the ability to add multiples to your marketing strategy. Afterall, on average, people check their phones more than 80 times per day.

However SMS is also a channel you can easily get wrong without intentional strategy. You’ll need to follow best practices to respect customers’ space and keep them happy and engaged (instead of annoyed and unsubscribed).

In this post, we’ll cover an overview of SMS marketing for ecommerce and 6 rules for getting SMS marketing right in your business.

What is SMS marketing and how does it work?

SMS marketing for ecommerce works much like email marketing, but messages are delivered via text message to the customer’s phone rather than over email.

The important thing to note is that, like email, SMS is an “owned” channel and therefore much different than PPC. With traditional PPC advertising, whether on Google or on Facebook, the customers you are marketing to are not your own. You’re also at the mercy of the advertising platform and all of their rules, algorithm changes, privacy regulations, and potential account shut-downs.

With owned marketing through email and SMS, you are in control. You are building a customer list that adds value to your business, creating relationships with customers, building brand fans, and increasing revenue as a result. Facebook and Google ads have their place, but without owned channels you will not be able to build a healthy, profitable business.

Benefits of SMS for Ecommerce Brands (and Your Customers)

Statistics make it clear that ecommerce shoppers engage with SMS marketing— and some even prefer it. Let’s check out a few things you might not have known about texting with customers.

1. Convenience
According to Optimonk, 71% of Shopify orders come from mobile. Meeting the majority of your customers where they are— on their phones— is simply convenient for the customer and effective for you.

2. High Visibility
According to the SMS platform, 90% of all texts are read within the first few minutes of receiving them. This offers much higher visibility than email, where you have the potential to get buried in a customer’s inbox.

3. Strong Engagement
98% of texts are read by the end of each day and 32% of consumers respond to texts from a brand. This is quite different from email marketing, where a 20% open rate and 2% click rate is about average. (Source:

6 Rules for SMS Marketing for Ecommerce Brands

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of SMS marketing, let’s outline a few ground rules. As we mentioned earlier in the post, SMS can be highly effective but it must be done well in order to maintain customers’ trust and engagement.

1. Importance matters.

Do not send text campaigns about anything and everything. SMS should only be used for messages that are urgent or have a clear call-to-action. For example, announcing a new product that has limited quantities or a promotion you’re running are great opportunities to text your customers. If it doesn’t feel particularly exciting, time-sensitive, or urgent, send it over email, saving the top 10% of your messages for text.

2. Less is more.

It may seem counter intuitive, but less is more with SMS marketing for both your customer list and the content you send.

On the list side, focus on building a quality list of names. You want a list of explicit opt-ins— and it’s even better if they opted in for a specific reason so they know exactly what to expect from you.

As for content, you will need to strike a balance of texting customers enough that they’re accustomed to receiving valuable texts from you, but not so much that they get tired of it. Your best bet is to focus on sending fewer, more impactful texts.

3. Provide extreme value.

Think of each message as having a value assigned to it for the customer. Craft texts that are concise with an offer or call-to-action that feels valuable enough to be interrupting whatever the customer is doing (in a work meeting, at dinner with their family, at the gym, etc). We’ve all experienced the irritation that comes from receiving a notification that you didn’t actually need to know about— so don’t do that to your customers. The more value your message has, the less annoying the interruption will feel.

For example, maybe a product on their wishlist just dropped in price or a product they wanted is now back in stock. Maybe you’re running a flash sale just for the weekend or you’re offering SMS subscribers early access to the biggest sale of the year. Experiment with different types of offers to build your brand and keep customers interested.

4. Make SMS subscription an explicit opt-in.

As we mentioned when talking about your SMS customer list, be intentional with how you acquire those phone numbers. You want people who really want to see messages from you, ideally about a specific topic. On your SMS sign up form, mention what customers can expect such as early access to promotions, notifications when items of their choice are back in stock, shipping notifications, etc.

5. Think of SMS as a supplement to and subset of email marketing.

SMS marketing for ecommerce does not replace email, but can enhance your efforts. If you position SMS so that it falls underneath your email strategy as a supplement and subset for it, it becomes quite easy to determine which messages are good for SMS and how to keep your frequency low.

For example, your email marketing should do the majority of the heavy lifting during your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale. But you can use SMS to help announce when the sale is live, any new deals that pop up, and/or a reminder when the sale is about to end.

Note: If you don’t have a thriving, revenue-generating email marketing, this should be a priority asap. Check out our six-part, in-depth guide for email marketing here to get yours started today.

6. Timing matters.

SMS marketing is obviously unique because it interrupts your customers wherever they are. Emails sit in customers’ inboxes until they go check their email, and even app notifications can be silenced. Since texts behave much differently, it’s important to consider timing based on the customer’s timezone, lifestyle, and the general calendar. This consideration can be the difference of a campaign failing or being a huge success.

Here are a few timing-related elements to keep in mind:

Schedule texts in your customer’s timezone, not your own. Platforms like Klaviyo have this feature and make it extremely easy.

Customer’s lifestyle:
Are your customers mainly stay-at-home moms, a full-time office employee, or retired? People in different life stages have different schedules, so if your customers fall into one niche, it can be helpful to take this into account.

Context during holidays:
Ecommerce promotions often fall on holidays— from Memorial Day to Labor Day to Black Friday. These are weekends where customers can be extremely busy, out of town, or just enjoying time with their families. Be a brand that cares about the lives of your customers, and takes time of day into account. You can even use this context to make messages more personal. For example, on Thanksgiving, wait until the later evening to reach out with a message like, “Now that Thanksgiving dishes are done and you can put your feet up, be sure to use this link for early VIP access to our Black Friday sale going on now!”

When and Where to Use SMS Marketing

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of keeping SMS marketing intentional and valuable for your customers. Now we can get more specific with inspiration for when and where to incorporate SMS marketing in your channel mix.

Here are a few scenarios where offering an SMS opt-in could be really valuable for your customers:

If you have a sale coming up or currently running, create an SMS opt-in for customers to get notified when the sale goes live or “exclusive access” to the sale that’s running. You could also make a note of products that are going fast or potential price increases coming.

New products:
Encourage customers to sign up to be notified when new products are being released. You could also tailor this opt-in further and offer it to segments of customers who purchased a related product.

Brand content:
There can be cases where customers sign up to be notified via SMS when you release new and interesting content. Just be sure to use SMS sparingly for this and always add value.

Back-in-Stock notifications:
If you have a “Notify Me When Available” option on your product pages, why not link it to SMS in addition to your email platform? This is especially helpful if the product quantities are very limited and customers want to be alerted about availability immediately.

Price drops:
Notify customers when items on their wishlist or in their cart are on sale or have dropped in price so they can jump on the deal.

Gathering feedback:
This should be done cautiously, but when it’s done right, SMS can be a great way to gather customer feedback and reviews.

Shipping notifications and other logistics:
This is usually offered at checkout so customers can track their order’s shipping and get other updates to their phone.

Customer service communication
This is not as common yet, but some brands have started using SMS as a way for customers to talk with your customer service team about questions or problems.

How to Start Integrating SMS into Your Marketing Mix

If you’re looking to integrate SMS into your marketing mix but aren’t sure where to begin, simply start small. Start with a simple entry pop-up on your homepage or an opt-in at checkout and begin building your list. Have conversations with your marketing team about what is most important to send via text and what could be fine to send over email. Test different offers and messaging on your opt-in form and experiment with the types of texts you send to see what your customers value most.

Recommended SMS Tools for Ecommerce

Our top recommendation for SMS marketing for ecommerce is Klaviyo, which is also our top choice for email marketing. Klaviyo makes integrating SMS into your marketing communication extremely simple. They have a direct integration with Shopify and if you’re already using Klaviyo for email, it just makes sense to have all your customer’s contact info in one place.

Another SMS platform to consider is Emotive. This software offers conversational text message marketing for you and your customers, so it is more of an interactive personalized experience than standard texts. Emotive integrates with Shopify and Klaviyo as well, so customer data can be shared across all platforms.

Ready to Grow Sales and Lifetime Value with SMS?

If you’re looking for ways to increase revenue in a way that is actually profitable, owned marketing channels are a must. SMS can be a valuable addition to email marketing and can integrate seamlessly with platforms you’re already using.

If you’re a 6-9 figure brand and want to increase your revenue using more owned channels rather than paying for PPC advertising, contact us below. We’d love to help grow your SMS and email marketing channels.


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