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Text Subscriptions & SMS Marketing: Discover How a Text Message Has an Impact on eCommerce

Use of SMS, aka “texting,” for eCommerce is on the upswing, but still widely underutilized, creating major opportunities – particularly with subscriptions and customer service, in our opinion – for brands that are quick to the punch.

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SMS is exciting because it opens up a timely, direct connection with a customer. The rationale goes something like this. Nearly everyone has a cell phone. Texting is a preferred method of communication over voice for most people, with up to a 98% open rate. Not only do consumers read almost all texts, they respond to texts faster than they do to emails, and redeem texted coupons 10 times more often than traditional coupons. While consumers still like email as a communications channel, inboxes are very crowded, so emails have a higher potential to get lost. SMS is a great way to reach everyone – including consumers without smartphones – and break through the clutter as a complement to email marketing.

While SMS communications and marketing campaigns are nothing new, generally efforts haven’t been “enterprise grade;” that is, they have been non-scalable and unable to leverage data from a company’s systems, such as customer records and payments. Thanks to increased availability and use of APIs that allow developers to “connect” with business systems, the game is changing – and we expect to see increased use of “smart” SMS for communications about cart abandonment, discounts/offers, subscriptions, and more.

Friction is the enemy

Friction in eCommerce can affect both the conversion and the retention sides. For example, increasing conversions hinges on making it as easy as possible to find products, get any needed information, and purchase. On the retention side, if a subscription customer experiences friction in managing their subscription, they will likely churn out. SMS and “smart authentication” can be an effective way to reduce friction by enabling customers to take action -- quickly purchase or manage their text subscriptions -- without having to visit the mobile site or log in to an account.

SMS for eCommerce text subscriptions

Since subscription customers are more likely to cancel if they can’t tweak orders and delivery dates, providing user-friendly ways to do this customization is key to increasing customer retention. Text subscriptions provide an effective complement to email, with reminders about upcoming shipments and easy ways to make changes, such as texting back “skip.” SMS also can help prevent involuntary churn from soon-to-expire credit cards, with timely prompts to enter in the new number/take a photo of the new card.

eHouse Studio project example

Interested in finding out more about offering subscription management features for ReCharge subscriptions and Shopify Plus, please contact us.

SMS for upsells & cross-sells

One-click purchases on text! We see a big opportunity here for eCommerce brands for effective upsell and cross-sell campaigns, and “back in stock” notifications for people who opt into text subscriptions. With payment and customer information already on file, there’s no need to “add to cart;” customers simply text “yes” and receive a confirmation. Because the systems are connected on the backend, customers can see these additional purchases recorded in their accounts.

eHouse Studio project example

SMS for customer service

Good customer service can be defined by how long it takes to resolve an issue – and waiting on the phone is a major turn-off. In fact, 90% of consumers say they would like to be able to use messaging to talk to businesses. SMS not only is more convenient for consumers, it often is more cost-effective for customer service – a win-win.

Considerations for SMS marketing

While SMS has a potentially huge upside, there are a few challenges to consider before diving in.

Message length: With only 160 characters per message, brands are limited in what they can convey, often requiring two to three texts to get a message across. It’s key to keep texts as concise as possible, so customers aren’t faced with reading a long text chain.

  • Legal regulations: The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set best practices and regulations – specifically the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and CAN-SPAM – for SMS marketing. Key requirements to know about include consumer consent, opt-out and the specific window of time messages are permitted to be sent. A convenient way to ensure a brand is compliant is to work with an SMS service provider.
  • Cadence: Unlike email, where “more is more,” SMS campaigns are most effective when spaced out. For example, best practices show an optimal number of SMS campaigns is four to six per month, compared to 16-30 email campaigns per month.

Doing SMS Right: Gillette

One company that’s doing SMS marketing well is Gillette, a traditional brand up against eCommerce disruptors like Dollar Shave Club. As you can see below, the SMS option is seamlessly integrated into the text subscription sign-up process. In addition, what Gillette does particularly well is offer users several points of entry to opt into SMS updates. For example, if a user misses his opportunity to opt in during checkout, his order confirmation email will give him a second opportunity. Gillette also has done a great job of explaining a sometimes complex concept in a clear and concise manner by use of organized copy and visual representations.

Once a customer subscribes, he gets a confirmation text and can order via SMS, as shown below.

SMS and eCommerce have a bright future

Expanded use of AI for more personalized customer experiences also will affect SMS, enabling brands to send even more customized and timely messages and offers based on past purchase history, preferences, and more. In addition, geolocation capabilities will help brands send relevant SMS messages based on a customer’s location and factors like weather or local events. 

Recharge Text Subscription Management

Here is a recent project example walkthrough leveraging SMS with Shopify Plus and ReCharge allowing for text subscription management and upsells for brands. Allowing brands to offer their customers the ability to pause, skip, cancel and upsell using SMS. Each experience is customized to the brand's needs.

Interested in finding out more about offering subscription management features for ReCharge subscriptions and Shopify Plus, please contact us.

Great SMS Tools