A Guide to Bulk SMS / Text Marketing on Shopify Stores
Did you know that, as of Q2 2020, over 51% of internet traffic comes from mobile devices?
Huge numbers of people today browse the internet either partially or completely from mobile devices. Younger generations in particular use their phones for just about everything. Shopping, talking to friends, taking photos and videos; it’s all done with that little device in their pockets.
When we say the younger generation, we don’t mean children; anyone under the age of 30 makes heavy use of mobile devices, and many of these people have significant buying power.
SMS marketing is a way to take advantage of this. SMS, or Short Message Service, is just the official way of saying texting. For the people who use it, it’s a highly engaging and natural way to communicate. That makes it an ideal marketing channel.
Don’t believe us? Take a look. SMS advertising has:
- An average open rate of 98% (compared to email, which ranges from 10-30%)
- An average click-through rate of 36%
- An average conversion rate of 45% (according to Salesforce)
Meanwhile, texting a lead after the initial contact increases conversion rates by 112%, at least. Some brands reported 200% increases or more.
SMS marketing has some incredible benefits for a Shopify store. The question is, how can you use it, and use it effectively?
Learning the Ground Rules
There are a couple of ground rules when it comes to SMS marketing. First and foremost, you must obtain consent. Sending an unsolicited text message is the same as sending an unsolicited email; it’s spam, and it will get your business blacklisted. This shouldn’t be a problem, since the apps you use will have opt-ins built into them. Still, it’s something to keep in mind in case you have the bright idea to add a bunch of phone numbers to a list to use for marketing.
We’re not kidding about this, either. It’s not just for the sake of being polite, it’s the law. In 2012, Papa John’s settled a class-action lawsuit over unsolicited text messaging, paying $16 million. That’s not something you want to deal with!
For the second thing on the list, you must have disclosure. When a user is prompted to enroll in a text messaging campaign, they need to know:
- The purpose of the campaign.
- The frequency of the messaging you’ll be sending.
- The fact that messaging charges may apply, depending on the carrier.
- A link to terms and conditions for your marketing, including opt-out information.
While this might seem like a lot, it’s not particularly difficult to include everything in a single CTA pop-up or opt-in form.
Third, you must include a double opt-in. When the user signs up, your system should send them a text message immediately that confirms their enrollment and gives them an immediate way to opt-out if they change their mind.
Finally, remember S.H.A.F.T. SHAFT is the acronym of things you cannot advertise via text messaging. It stands for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco. There are some exceptions – a bar can advertise specials, so long as their opt-in has an age-gate and uses a toll-free number – but it’s better to avoid them whenever possible.
You can read more about all of these ground rules here. Remember, compliance is not optional, and there can be legal and financial consequences for breaking the rules. These integrations can be very valuable but also tricky to implement, so you may want to hire some help so an expert can set this up for you.
Picking an SMS Shopify App
If you’re interested in using SMS marketing for your Shopify store, the first thing you need to do is pick an app. There are a lot of different apps on the Shopify app store, and others that don’t list their apps there, so you have plenty to choose from. We’ve listed five of the most popular options below:
Rating: 4.8/5 with 1000+ reviews.
Price: Free to install + 1.5 cents per message, or higher tier plans with additional features.
Probably one of the most popular SMS marketing apps on Shopify, SMSBump has built-in compliance with both text messaging regulations and GDPR. It allows you to create text-based drip campaigns, abandoned cart reminders, and has MMS support for images and gifs. It also has a full suite of marketing features, including split testing and integrations with other useful apps.
Rating: 5.0/5 with 750+ reviews.
Price: Free to install, 1 cent per message at a minimum of $25 per month after the first month. Higher tier plans offer cheaper message rates.
One of the few apps to have universally positive reviews, Postscript is a low-cost alternative to other SMS marketing platforms. They include trigger-based messaging such as abandoned cart recovery and other automated messaging options. Overall, it’s a simple, effective, and powerful SMS messaging option.
Rating: 4.8/5 with 750+ reviews.
Price: $20/month for SMS support plus 2 cents per message. Higher tier plans offer advanced automation and other features.
This app is not strictly an SMS marketing app. They focus primarily on push notifications, hence the name, but they also do email marketing and SMS messaging. They have a variety of advanced automation and marketing features, which makes their platform more complex but also more robust than the others on this list. If you want an all-in-one solution, this is a good place to start. If you want just the SMS options, the other apps are likely better.
Rating: 4.9/5 with 75+ reviews.
Price: Free for 14 days, $20/month afterward, with a $50/month plan that includes advanced features.
Messent is a simple toolkit and wizard-guided SMS marketing app. It’s great for newcomers to SMS marketing, and its visual editor is perfect for charting out message flows. Unfortunately, it’s a little too simple for the advanced uses many marketers tend to want. If you’re just dipping your toes into SMS marketing, this can be a good basic option. Otherwise, it might be better to find one with better analytics and more customization.
Rating: 5.0/5 with 75+ reviews
Price: Free to install, but charges 10% commission on sales through the platform. Higher tier plans offer more features and a lower commission, for a monthly fee.
TxtCart is a unique spin on SMS marketing: they use real people to do the texting. Rather than letting an automated workflow, a trigger-based system, or a bot handle the messaging, they have a staff of real people who send text messages and can initiate and hold conversations with customers in real-time. This can be very powerful for B2C stores, but isn’t the ideal choice for every business. We can see businesses running into problems with an outsourced staff answering questions about highly technical products.
Building a Contact List
Different apps have different ways to harvest phone number information. You’ll need to consult the app you use to see what options they offer and what integrations they might have.
For example, you could:
- Add a phone number field to your existing email opt-in form.
- Use a website push notification to ask for a phone number.
- Ask for a phone number as part of a CTA in a Hello Bar.
- Use an exit-intent pop-up to display a CTA asking for a phone number.
- Ask for a phone number as part of the account registration.
- Ask for a phone number as part of the checkout process.
There are a ton of different options. In every area that you display a call to action on your site, you can add a new field to ask for a phone number. You simply need to make sure you follow the rules above and ensure that anyone adding their phone number knows that they’re enrolling in text messaging marketing. We highly recommend making the phone number field an optional field for this reason.
SMS marketing works best because it requires permission to use. It means the audience you build is already highly engaged with your business. Email? That’s easy to give away. People often have burner email addresses specifically for that purpose. Phone numbers are much more valuable, and thus a taller ask to get from your customers. This is why your engagement and open rates are so much higher; these are the only people in the audience that are interested to begin with.
You’ve harvested numbers; now what? What kinds of messages do you send them, and when? The only limit is your creativity, but here are some ideas to get you started.
Offer a sign-up discount. When a user signs up for your SMS list, immediately send them a message with an incentive. It could be a coupon code for free shipping, or 10% off their order, or a free upsell. You can use whatever Shopify system you use for coupon codes to generate and deliver this code automatically.
Remind users of a cart they abandoned. Abandoned cart recovery is a massive industry, with lost sales from abandoned carts totaling $18 billion per year or more. Sending a message to customers whose information you have, when they abandon their cart, can remind them to come back and check out. You can even offer an incentive to complete the order or offer support if they were having trouble.
Promote your content. Content marketing can take advantage of SMS marketing as an additional channel to promote through. You won’t want to send a text notification every time you publish a new blog post, but when you publish something important, like a piece of pillar content, you can promote that.
Solicit reviews. After a customer has made a purchase, give them enough time for shipping to deliver the item, and enough time for them to use it. Once that amount of time has passed, send them a message along the lines of “we hope you are enjoying the product you ordered. If you have the time, we’d love it if you could leave us some feedback.” Soliciting reviews helps with social proof, helps convert future users, and helps remind people to use your product if they haven’t gotten around to it. You can also include a line in this message about responding if they need support or have questions.
Build hype and awareness. Are you opening a new branch of your restaurant? Offering a new item on the menu? Developing a new product, or releasing a new update for your product with a highly anticipated feature? Any time you have something new coming down the pipe, you can use SMS marketing to let your customers know what’s coming and build awareness.
Offer your expertise. One interesting thing some brands are doing is offering an SMS option for a direct connection to someone you employ as an expert. For example, the disaster preparedness company Judy offers an SMS service you can text to ask questions about preparedness and receive answers in real-time. If you’re an expert in your niche and are willing to answer questions, setting up this kind of service can be excellent for engagement.
These are just some ideas of what you can do with SMS marketing. Again, though; the only limits are your imagination and what your users find valuable enough to not unsubscribe.
Optimizing SMS Conversions
While SMS open rates are high, conversion rates will always depend on the quality of your messaging, your offer, and your timing. If you want those huge conversion increases from SMS marketing, you need to monitor how your messaging is performing, create variations on your ideas to test and make changes to optimize the process. Here are some optimization ideas.
Make sure your messages are clear and concise. Most phones will display the first portion of a message as part of the notification and on the lock screen. Phrasing your call to actions in a clear and concise manner will help your users decide whether or not to open the message, and it avoids the confusion of “what is the point of this message?”. The first sentence matters the most, since it’s what is displayed in the Messages app before the user taps on the message. Mentioning your brand name will help them recognize where it came from.
Use basic personalization. The
%name% trick might be obvious to everyone by now, but it’s common because it works. These templates will automatically grab the customer’s name from their profile so that you’re addressing each customer by their first name. Personalizing your messaging, even a little bit, helps users feel more connected to the brands messaging them, and it encourages them to dig deeper and engage more. Nobody wants to read a message that starts with “Hello Valued Customer”.
Split test everything. Your message formula, your offer, your personalization, your timing; everything about your message should be tested. Segment your audience into similar groups and test different forms of messaging against each. Make sure to only change one variable at a time, though, so you know which change results in which effect.
Most standard conversion optimization options work with SMS marketing, so monitor your user data, figure out what behavior can be improved, and make changes to test it out.
SMS marketing can be very tricky, and choosing a compatible partner, carefully integrating your app with your store and your customer list, and messaging responsibly and safely is something that may be best left to a professional. If you need help setting up a marketing automation funnel, feel free to leave a comment or reach out to us and we’ll do our best to help!
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