Columnists

Creative Connecting: To Text, Or Not To Text

ColumnistsOct 20, 2021

Creative Connecting: To Text, Or Not To Text

In their latest column, Duvall O’Steen and Jen Cullen Williams make the case for SMS marketing.

Duvall O’Steen, left, and Jen Cullen Williams are independent communications strategists and senior consultants for the Luxury Brand Group. They can be reached at DuvallOsteenNYC@gmail.com or Jen@JenCullenWilliams.com.
According to a report circulated via BusinessWire, mobile commerce reached value of $628 billion globally in 2020, and it is expected to grow around 34 percent over the next five years.

As more and more of us are on our mobile phones for longer and longer periods of time, it’s no wonder marketers are turning to Short Message Service (SMS) or text message marketing to reach consumers where they are.

A new study from SimpleTexting, an SMS marketing service provider, found that of the 1,300 consumers and marketers surveyed, 62 percent of consumers said they had subscribed to receive texts from at least one brand within the last year.

It is clear today’s customers who have opted in do not mind engaging with brands via text messaging.

Also, the latest updates from Apple include a new Mail Privacy Protection that is now making it harder for email marketers to study open rates and the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns.

According to Hubspot, “This update may hinder your ability to accurately target emails based on location and will inflate your email open rates, since emails will be pre-loaded by Apple. Other marketing efforts that rely on open tracking, like list and workflow enrollment, will be impacted too.”

The potential effects of Apple’s mail privacy updates create a strong business rationale for getting more involved with SMS marketing.

Ben Smithee, CEO of digital marketing agency and consultancy The Smithee Group, said many people see SMS marketing as a modern version of clienteling. But he believes it’s even more important and advanced. 

“SMS provides retailers with an opportunity to personally communicate with consumers on the platform they use most—the phone.”

Here we will take a look at some best practices and helpful tips for SMS/text message marketing.

Marketing & Promotions Tips
One of the primary ways brands and retailers use SMS messaging is to deliver marketing messages and promotional offers to get loyal customers to shop more frequently. 

Whether you are sending a trunk show event invitation, a coupon for free jewelry cleaning, or holiday sales promotions, make sure you are abiding by the following best practices.

— Don’t send without a clear opt-in; include an initial text confirming the customer’s choice to opt in with a simple YES or NO reply. Consider offering a discount at point-of-sale to incentivize customers to opt in to your SMS service. And be sure to promote your SMS marketing on all of your media (website, social media, e-commerce, branded app, newsletter, mail, etc.).

— Always include instructions for opting out.

— Identify your company every time you send an SMS message. Do not assume the customer has your brand saved in their contacts.

— Carefully choose the timing and frequency of sending text messages. Send during normal waking hours and limit your messaging to once a week or less.

— Use link shorteners like Bitly to fit your brief message within the 160 character limit. Avoid emoticons, all caps or abbreviations. It’s best to use simple, clear language.

— Have a clear call-to-action and create a sense of urgency with deadline-oriented offers. Use a hyperlinked “click here” or “Buy Now” button that links to your app or e-commerce site.

— Hook your SMS message to social media. Whatever you are promoting on social media can be texted to your customer with a link to the social post for more details.

— Personalize your messages. If your store tracks birthdays and anniversaries, use that data to reach out specifically to customers with upcoming events. For example, wish them a happy birthday and offer an exclusive discount if they shop before or by their birthday. According to Smithee, “The key to SMS success is bite-sized personalization and differentiation. Remember, the more targeted the channel, the more personal it should become. SMS should feel special and personal to the consumer.”

— Integrate Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) with visually compelling jewelry images, animated GIFs or video clips. You can also include URLs to your YouTube to introduce your business and new products.

— Gain inspiration from popular brands and retailers, especially from other lifestyle consumer categories such as beauty, fashion, wellness, and travel, to see what other types of messages and promotions your customers are receiving.

— Let the experts do it for you. Consider using an SMS marketing company. Smithee recommends Clientbook and Podium

“We most frequently recommend Clientbook because we feel its platform offers the most robust, cost-effective solution for small businesses,” he said. “I know the leaders and founders and they are big supporters of our industry, and that makes a difference for me.” 

Other options include SimpleTexting, EZ Texting, Sparkcentral by Hootsuite, Omnisend or Attentive. The expertise and technology owned by these companies can help to ensure that your messages are properly delivered and tracked. Their teams can also advise on ideal content, timing, and frequency of messaging. 

To start, focus on your best clients and gauge their reactions. Use them as influencers who are likely to get other people they know to opt in to your highly personalized or exclusive offers.

 Related stories will be right here … 

Customer Service
To keep your customers engaged and subscribed to your SMS service, consider adding customer service messages as opposed to simply marketing messages. 

Use SMS or text messages to confirm appointments, send shipping details/notifications, or to alert the customer when curbside pickup or a jewelry repair is completed. 

According to Hootsuite, “Customers perceive these service SMS messages to be the most valuable ones sent by businesses. Appointment reminders, delivery updates, and booking confirmations all rank above product or service discounts in terms of perceived value. Customers are more likely to stay subscribed to SMS messages when they see real value in the messages you send.”

Jewelers can also use SMS to exclusively invite customers to events. For example, every customer who has opted in and purchased a specific designer’s jewelry before could get a prestige invite via SMS to that designer’s trunk show or personal appearance. 

Customers who opt in to your SMS marketing could also be offered exclusive types of customer service, like free jewelry cleaning, discounted repairs, expedited shipping for holiday orders, one-on-one consultations for gift shoppers, or free gift wrapping.

According to Virtual Diamond Boutique, a software and virtual marketplace provider for the fine jewelry industry, 70 percent of online commerce happens on mobile devices. If your store has its own branded app or if you have an e-commerce site, all the more reason you should be using SMS marketing. 

“Text message (SMS) marketing has been and is still one of the most powerful marketing solutions available to retailers. With today’s world of integrations and apps, it is easy, quick, and cost-effective to integrate SMS marketing solutions to any mobile website or app,” VDB Chief Technology Officer Elliot Atlas said. 

“My recommendation is to find a marketing solution that offers SMS marketing (most do), and use it to reach your customers on the devices they use most, driving them to your mobile-optimized website or to your app, which is where they also shop the most.”
Be sure to integrate with your CRM so text messages can be linked to specific customer events, like birthdays, anniversaries, or the religious holidays they celebrate. 

As you begin to use SMS marketing, feel free to get creative as your distribution list will be fairly short at first. 

The testing time for SMS tends to be shorter than other types of marketing because people generally respond quicker to text messages. The SimpleTexting study referenced above found that 72 percent of consumers respond to texts within 10 minutes, far below the response time for most email marketing messages. You can quickly gauge what is working well and tweak your messages/offers accordingly.

Smithee sums it up nicely, noting that the biggest secret to SMS is targeted segmentation. 

“Similar to email, the more strategically segmented your database is, the more advanced you can be with your communication and personalization strategy,” he said. 

“Think small-batch segments that enable you to add nuanced details to your messages that make the consumer feel like they are being sent highly individualized messages that are extremely relevant to their behaviors as a consumer.”

Jen Cullen Williamsis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.
Duvall O'Steenis an independent communications strategist and senior consultant for the Luxury Brand Group.

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