When you run a retail business, you’re always looking for ways to increase customer engagement and improve lead generation. 

SMS for retail is an important strategy for nurturing leads, improving customer engagement, and driving sales. In fact, Gartner calls it “an effective, yet underutilized, mobile tactic among marketing leaders.”

But what is SMS marketing, and how can you use it to effectively improve your retail marketing game? Let’s take a deep dive into this crucial marketing strategy. 

What is retail SMS?

Before you can begin to use SMS marketing strategies, you first need to understand the answer to the question: What is text message marketing for small business? And, just as importantly, how can retail text message marketing help you connect to your target audience? 

SMS is an acronym that stands for Short Message Service. In essence, SMS marketing is synonymous with text message marketing. 

SMS marketing for retail focuses on using short-form text messages to help retailers engage with current customers and nurture leads. With SMS for retail, you can connect with your customers at every stage in the sales funnel, from when they first start perusing your product offerings through the purchase stage and the delivery process. 

Benefits of SMS marketing for retailers

According to Gartner, SMS boasts an open rate as high as 98% and a response rate as high as 45%. This makes SMS for retail one of the highest-performing marketing strategies. Benefits of SMS for retail include improved customer engagement, increased customer acquisition, and soaring sales rates. 

Improve customer engagement

One of the reasons SMS marketing for retail is so effective is that it reaches customers on a channel they already use. Instead of asking customers to download an app, you simply ask them to opt-in to your brand’s text message marketing. 

48% of customers consider text message marketing to be their preferred way of receiving updates from brands. This preference is especially true for millennials. Studies show that companies can see an 11 to 30% increase in engagement simply by using SMS marketing efforts to target millennials. 

Engagement with SMS marketing is higher than with most other marketing channels. The click-through rate (CTR) of SMS marketing is 36%.

Increase customer acquisition

When potential customers are first learning about your brand, SMS marketing provides a great way to nurture these leads. A welcome SMS sequence can be used to educate potential customers about why they should choose your brand and how you’ll provide a solution to their problems. 

Another way to use SMS marketing to increase customer acquisition is to provide a coupon code to everyone who joins your SMS marketing list. 

Drive sales

SMS for retail is most commonly used as a channel for driving sales. Messages with the power to increase sales include:

  • Promotional offers and sales
  • Coupon codes
  • Information about limited-time events
  • VIP offers
  • Loyalty rewards 

SMS marketing can also increase sales by generating demand for a product. Demand generation is different from lead generation because instead of nurturing leads, you’re nurturing the feeling of need for your product.

By creating a buzz around your product, showing how people use it in real-time and how it can benefit their lives, you can get customers eager to purchase from your company. 

How to promote your business with SMS for retail

So, you know that you should be using SMS for retail. But how do you actually incorporate retail SMS marketing into your everyday marketing strategy? 

Promoting your business with SMS marketing involves understanding best practices and folding SMS marketing into your omnichannel customer engagement strategy. 

Follow SMS best practices

Before you can get started with SMS for retail, you need to familiarize yourself with SMS best practices

SMS marketing is protected by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

To stay in compliance with TCPA guidelines, your customers must opt-in to receive marketing messages via text. You must let your customers know what types of messages they can expect to receive and how to opt out. Additionally, you cannot text customers between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. in their respective time zones, as these are considered quiet hours. 

Staying in compliance with these laws is important, not just for maintaining trust with your customers, but because there are serious consequences to breaking these laws. Violating TCPA guidelines can leave your brand susceptible to lawsuits and fines up to $1,500 per message. 

In addition to legal requirements, there are other SMS best practices to help you serve your customers well.

While it’s okay to send automated text messages, studies increasingly show that customers want to be able to communicate back and forth with companies via text message. SMS for retail can provide an avenue for customer service that allows customers to skip long wait times and avoid being stuck on hold while at the office. If they can text, and read responses on their own schedule, it improves the convenience of your customer service strategy. 

It’s also a good idea to keep SMS messages short and sweet. The average customer should be able to read and respond to a text message in about ninety seconds

Use retail SMS marketing and email marketing together

Omnichannel customer engagement strategies work better than any one marketing channel alone. SMS and email marketing strategies can be used together to create compelling marketing campaigns that sell.

For example, consider a retail store that was having a breakout sale one weekend. They might send an email to their customers explaining the sale and detailing what the sale is celebrating and some of the top products they should take a look at. Then, a little bit later, the company could send a coupon code via text message to their loyal customers. On the day of the sale, they might send another quick text reminding customers that it’s sale day, as well as an emailed catalog of all products on sale over the weekend.

Using retail and email marketing together can be a powerful way to keep customers engaged with your brand. It shows that your marketing team is in tune with each other and that you have a dedicated strategy, which makes you look reliable to your customers. 

Share time-sensitive product offers and updates

Americans check their phone an average of once every ten minutes, making it the perfect channel to use when communicating time-sensitive product offers and updates. 

This text message from Longhorn Steakhouse shows how brands can use SMS marketing to keep in contact with customers about things happening in real-time. Retail stores could use a similar strategy to create a virtual queue that allows customers to continue shopping while waiting for a customer service agent.

Ideas for time-sensitive SMS marketing for retail could include: 

  • Sending a text message when a hot product is restocked
  • Texting time-sensitive coupon codes
  • Responding to major news stories and how your brand feels about them in real-time
  • Communicating when something goes wrong, such as if a store has to close unexpectedly or your website is down

Send shipping and product availability updates

If customers have been to your online store and made a purchase, SMS marketing can be used to update them on the fulfillment and shipping of their order.

It can also be used to communicate with customers who have asked to be alerted when a specific product becomes available.

Using SMS marketing can improve your customer service in an easy, automated way. Customers will feel like your company is engaging with them and staying on top of their needs while your IT department needs to do relatively little on the backend to make this work. 

RealEats uses text message marketing to remind customers to update their meals and to provide tracking and delivery information.

Quick text messages keep customers informed and engaged with your brand but take minimal effort on your part.

Increase customer engagement with SMS for retail

SMS for retail is a powerful tool that can drive customer engagement through the roof. With so many things to love about SMS marketing, it’s no wonder that using text marketing is one of the hottest digital marketing trends right now. 

Get started by signing up with a professional marketing platform that provides SMS, like Constant Contact. Then reach out to your current email list and offer them an incentive to signup for SMS text messages as well. Be sure to let them know what types of messages you’ll be sending and when you’ll be sending them. Your customers will appreciate it. 

To get started, follow this tutorial on setting up SMS in your Constant Contact account.

*This content is not meant to replace legal advice or full regulatory guidelines around text message marketing.