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Deep dive: Using SMS Marketing in your E-commerce business

1 min readLast updated: July 5, 2022
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Ramin, a Managing Partner at SKU Agency focused on growing your business through strategy, technology & design. Ramin loves to devour business books, podcasts, and blogs. In his spare time (which is minimal) he enjoys hanging out at home with his wife and three kids - and occasionally riding the Peleton.

If you’re worried about annoying your customers with SMS marketing, don’t be. Customers are begging for SMS from your e-commerce business. 91% of customers say they would opt-in for text messages, and 51% of consumers believe that SMS is the most effective way for a brand to communicate with them.

When they get those SMS marketing messages, 34% of people read them within five minutes. So not only are your customers asking for SMS marketing, they respond to it when they get it.
In this episode of the E-commerce Revolution podcast, we talk to Jack Binda, Account Executive at Klaviyo, about implementing SMS marketing in your e-commerce business.

Klaviyo’s planned SMS marketing expansion

Ramin: Last time you were on, you told us that Klaviyo was doubling down on SMS. How is that initiative going?

Jack: Yeah. So we’re constantly looking to improve our product, and we always listen to our customers about what needs to be fixed. So, we want to start, slowly but surely, expanding 

SMS from just the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. We want to start expanding into more of the European and APAC regions by adding on other providers. That would mean you can send your messages faster, you’ll have higher deliverability, and you’ll be able to hit them all over the world, not just in those four regions where it is available right now.

SMS is tied to those regions currently, but not email. Email you could do email anywhere. 

We’re also planning on allowing MMS for those international regions. So right now, MMS is only capable for the United States and Canada.

But we’ve been actively working with providers in the UK and Australia to allow MMS to those international customers as well.

Staying compliant with SMS marketing

Ramin: How does compliance work? Do we need to worry about it? 

Jack: Within every Klaviyo campaign you send, anything that you can toggle on and off means that it’s not required. Anything that you cannot toggle on and off means that it is required. So, for example, if you are sending to the UK, the UK requires a second message to be sent with an unsubscribe link.

We automatically send that because we can recognize by geotargeting and the phone number that this is a UK phone number. We need to make sure that we’re compliant with their phone provider.

SMS is very personal. I don’t give everybody my phone number, but I’ll give more people my email than I would from my phone number.

I like to think of compliance sort of like a first date. You have to ask for her phone number first. It’d be a lot weirder if you just went in and typed in your phone number in their phone, behind their back.

You need explicit consent to send that text and capture that phone number, rather than do it behind their back by buying a list or anything like that. That’s a hard “No” within Klaviyo. If there’s no timestamp associated with it, we will not even allow you to send it to that person.

SMS marketing as part of your digital marketing strategy

Ramin: So let’s talk about strategy and email flows for a moment. For example, a welcome series is a flow of emails that go through a sequence at a specific time. How does the strategy differ between an email flow and an SMS flow? Do you build the email first and then just follow suit with SMS?

Jack: So we recommend you build them together and have a cohesive strategy within your flows. We recommend using email. Email is a lot cheaper to send. Your ROI per customer purchase will be higher. So it makes the business more money. And email is a less intrusive channel.

If we can convert as many people through email, we’ll save that. If they haven’t opened it or if they haven’t engaged in the email, then we can send an SMS saying, “Hey, we don’t want you to miss this. We sent you this email, or you left this item behind.” 

So SMS is not replacing or competing with email, but it’s almost supplementing it and enhancing your email and SMS strategy.

Ramin: Now tell me about campaigns. Are you building out your email first and then adding SMS as a supplement?

Jack: We have two strategies that we recommend within Klaviyo. So the first would be a similar strategy: send out the email first and then send an SMS reminder. Maybe schedule it for 18 to 24 hours later.

But once customers use Klaviyo a lot, we start recommending that they have these separate segments.

One would be an email preferred customer, and one would be an SMS preferred customer. 

Some people’s preferred channel is one or the other. They don’t go for email, or they don’t go for SMS. So actually being able to use that data to say, Hey, this person hasn’t opened an email within the past 90 days, but they’ve been clicking on text messages.

Or, they haven’t clicked on an SMS but are clicking on emails, so they’re clearly an email preferred customer. You want to make sure that you meet them at their preferred channel.

Using images in SMS marketing

Ramin: SMS is heavy on the text, but do you recommend using images?

Jack: So it depends on the campaign or flow.

If you’re just providing a coupon code, there’s no need to add an image. It’s just going to cost more to send an MMS. So if it’s more transactional, like, Hey, your order’s been placed, we don’t recommend that you use an MMS. 

But if you’re showcasing a new product or an abandoned cart or back in stock flow, that’s when you want to showcase that.

So there are certain situations where maybe it warrants putting that image in the SMS. Otherwise, go text. Keep it simple. Put a link in there.

Getting started with SMS marketing

Ramin: So if I’m a merchant and I’ve been doing email through Klaviyo for a few years now, what is involved in adding SMS? What’s the process?

Jack: Well, first, I would tell them to go to SKU Agency 😉. But secondly, I’d recommend starting by turning on SMS in your account.

So within Klaviyo, SMS is free to turn on. You just go into your settings, and you just click “get started with SMS.” 

That gives you a toll-free phone number for free, and Klaviyo will auto verify that phone number for you. The verification process usually takes somewhere between seven to 10 days.

We like to have customers go through and use those seven to 10 days to set up some basics. You can get your welcome series setup, etc. So that way, when somebody does subscribe for SMS, you’ll automatically send them that text. 

The last thing we want is for people to sign up for SMS and not get any confirmation, and they don’t know what to expect from signing up. 

And then we risk sending them a late campaign two months from now that leads to a higher unsubscribe rate because these clients were hoping to get that discount code via text, and they didn’t get it.

So we recommend that you start by just turning on SMS, and then the next step would be to go through and get your welcome series setup. And then the third step would be to create a signup form for collecting SMS consent. That’s very simple: just clicking in your forms on Klaviyo, adding a step, collecting SMS consent, and then the signup form is already live.

Collecting phone numbers for SMS marketing

Ramin: Let’s talk about that form quickly. You guys call it the two-step form. Is step one the email?

Jack: We recommend leading with email. We don’t want to cannibalize your email growth just to capture SMS. We want both channels to grow, and we want both people to have the option to opt-in. So we recommend starting with, Hey, maybe get 10% off or whatever discount it is for email. Lead with that one first. And then when somebody clicks, continue.

But most merchants say, “Hey, do you wanna upgrade your discount to get 15% off? Put in your phone number” Or, “Do you want to join our VIP list and get first access to back items back in stock, new launches.”

Creating that exclusiveness with SMS is the most effective way to grow your list. The last thing we want is to have somebody say, “Hey, join SMS”, with no call to action.

And there’s no understanding of the benefits of joining SMS. Um, so we’re focused on providing some sort of value to join SMS.

Ramin: What are some other ways to collect phone numbers? In Shopify, you’ve got that ability to capture phone numbers at checkout. Do you guys recommend that? 

Jack: Yeah, we recommend you put it everywhere.

In Shopify, you have the option at check out, especially if you’re doing transactional messaging, “Hey, your order’s been placed. Your order’s been shipped.” You want to provide them with shipping info. That’s a great way to go through it and say, “Hey, do you want updates on marketing as well as your order status?”

We also recommend going through and grabbing the low-hanging fruit. Send an email to all of your existing customers or engaged email subscribers to say, “Hey, we just added SMS. 

Here are the benefits of joining SMS.” Clearly outline why somebody should be joining your SMS list in an email, and then have just a button there that will redirect them to a landing page.

And just say, if they click this link. Awesome. Thanks for joining. Take your 10% off. It’s a great way to get a quick win for a sale as well as capture some additional data there.

Ramin: What are some of those things that you would recommend to put into that email to encourage them to join the SMS list?

Jack: We recommend providing an incentive and outlining the benefits of SMS, such as getting early access to all of our products. You’re going to be on a first-to-know basis.

You will get exclusive discounts for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and any other major holiday. So letting them know that becoming a VIP member has its benefits.

Collecting phone numbers in a brick and mortar store

Ramin: And what if I’m omnichannel? What if I have a brick and mortar store and use a POS system: what do you recommend there? A lot of times, people are okay with giving their phone number because they can get a text message with the receipt a lot quicker.

What would you say to an omnichannel merchant that has a brick and mortar location helping collect phone numbers at the store level?

Jack: You can collect within the store. If you’re within Shopify, it makes it a little bit easier. So if you’re using Shopify POS and you have that sync to your e-comm store, then you’ll be able to pass that consent over immediately.

If you use a third-party other than Shopify, you can still pass over SMS consent. It would just be via API. You should be able to go through and still collect those phone numbers and those emails and pass them over. That just wouldn’t be as immediate as it would be within Shopify. It’d probably take a couple of minutes rather than instantaneously, but you still can pass over that data due to Klaviyo’s open API.

Ramin: Would you recommend segmenting that in-store customer so you can speak to them differently about different offers at that location?

Jack: Definitely. When you bring over that customer, if you have multiple store locations, maybe just add a tag to that to say, “Hey, they’re a store purchaser. And they bought in the Boston area.”

So, if there’s a flash sale within your brick and mortar store in one area but not the other, you can target based on that location. That way, you’re not sending it to everybody, but you’re just sending it to those within that five to 10-mile radius.

Orchestrating both email marketing and SMS marketing

Ramin: Let’s talk about somebody coming in fresh who hasn’t relied too much on email in the past or using other marketing channels. Are you seeing people just doing SMS and not email?

Jack: Yeah, it’s definitely happening. A lot of big influencer brands are doing that. Somebody who is an Instagram influencer will say, “Hey, this brand, I love this face cream. Text Jack to this number to get 10% off,” and then go through and come on the website.

So they’ll go through and use that text-to-subscribe capability to grow their list and make sure that they’re capturing that data, getting those additional data points and those analytics about your marketing outreach.

Ramin: So now, all of a sudden, I have email, I have SMS, and I have push notifications. I have three different channels. How do you see that working? What’s the best strategy in a scenario like that?

Jack: The best strategy would be to have everything consolidated within one system.

If they’ve received this push notification and we’re going to send an email and an SMS of the same notification, let’s go through and remove those people, so we’re not sending the same content on three channels. 

That’s when we want to go through and add an email or an SMS. So being able to create that logic of what’s working right now is what yields the highest results.

If you’re bombarding me with emails and SMSs and pushes, I’ll probably unsubscribe from at least two and just stick with my preferred channel. But that limits you on your outreach to that customer.

From what we’re seeing, the average person gets 112 emails a day, most of which are not read. But 90% of all text messages are read by the end of the day. So it’s a quicker, more transactional way to get in front of your customers. Demographics show the younger demographics, like millennials and even younger than that are preferring SMS over email.

The future of SMS marketing

Ramin: Where do you see the future of SMS going in the next five years?

Jack: We don’t think email will ever die, especially for brands that you’re not as loyal to. So you’ll sign up for email, but you’re not going to be like their VIP customer. SMS will mainly just be for your VIP.

So people subscribe to brands for SMS because they love their brand. If you look at Lululemon, some of their returned customer stats are crazy. People will sign up for SMS for them. But maybe for Nike, they’ll just be on email because they buy more infrequently.

We see SMS taking over the VIP space and email for your average customer, not those consistent buyers.

SMS marketing as a powerful owned marketing channel

Ramin: This is a powerful time in the world of owned marketing, and SMS falls into that owned marketing definition. Why is it so powerful?

Jack: First-party data is going to be the game-changer of what takes a business from good to great. Being able to own your true data, we saw what happened when Facebook had that fight with Apple.

Now they’re all these changes of creating temporary emails within Apple where you can subscribe and not allow Facebook to have access to that data, which then creates an increase in advertising costs. So now, in order to do your Facebook and Instagram ads, you basically need a PhD to do it; it’s so confusing.

It’s hard to ensure you’re hitting the right customers because that’s not your data anymore. 

Facebook owns that, and so does Apple, and they’re not sharing that data. If you can own it yourself and have everything under one roof, you don’t need to rely on Facebook or Apple to communicate your message.

You can own that channel on email, SMS, or push. You can say, I don’t need to pay Apple or Facebook to do this campaign. I will send them a text in SMS or push notification.

How SMS marketing folds into digital marketing

Ramin: What do you say to the brands new to marketing about marketing initiatives like paid advertising or search engine optimization? You have to bring in traffic. Is there a certain point where they can cut that off? Or do you always do it, but you do a better job of capturing that data on your site?

Jack: So we recommend that you still do some sort of advertising to drive traffic to your site and to ensure that you’re growing your list, sending emails, and capturing that data.

But scale it down as you start to grow your list. You don’t need to have such a high budget if you can still get your point across to many of those customers who have seen that ad already.

Scale that down and focus more on your own data and create your own content, and make sure that you are reaching out to your customer with the message you want rather than Facebook or Instagram making that choice for you.

Using SMS marketing in your content marketing

Ramin: Do you recommend using SMS to send notifications of new content on your website? Or is email a better channel for that? 

Jack: It depends. The answer is: wherever they prefer to be reached.

If they haven’t clicked on an email, maybe then send an SMS or if they haven’t clicked on an SMS, send it out as an email. But also use some of the behavioral things within Klaviyo to send blog notifications to people if it’s about a specific hair product or hair type. 

Don’t send it to everybody. Make sure that when you send an SMS that it’s relevant, and it’s got some reason for me to click on it. If you send it to just your whole list, somebody could say, “Hey, this doesn’t even apply to me. I’m not going to click on it.” It’s a waste of an outreach.

One tip for successful SMS marketing

Ramin: What one tip would you give them that could shift and change the trajectory of their SMS?

Jack: So one thing we always hear is, “My customers won’t like SMS. They won’t be receptive to it.” But, how do you know that if you’ve never done SMS before?

You can’t generalize everybody’s outreach. If somebody has purchased from you three times, they’re subscribed for email, but they’re not subscribed for SMS, the next time they come back onto the website, you could offer them 10% off by being a VIP member. 

That way, it’s not just, “Sign up for SMS, sign up for SMS.” It’s a little bit more personalized, and you’re giving them that feeling of FOMO. “Wow, I would’ve saved money if I became a VIP member. I should just sign up instead.”

Focus on your list growth. SMS is so strict that it’s an opt-in channel. If somebody’s putting in their phone number, they expect to hear from you.

Also, don’t generalize your whole customer list. Do not think of your customers as one person. Everybody’s an individual. And everybody has different methods of communication that they prefer. Then make adjustments from there. We have all these analytics in the data in Klaviyo to help you identify what’s working.

Get the most out of your digital marketing.

Our clients average a 38% INCREASE IN REVENUE with email and SMS marketing.

Connect with Jack or SKU Agency

If you want to learn more about owned marketing, go to klaviyo.com and click the email or SMS tab. They also have resources and case studies on email and SMS and the power of combining both. To connect with Jack Binda on LinkedIn, visit his LinkedIn profile and send a connection request. 

SKU Agency specializes in email, SMS and mobile push marketing services. If your company is focused on the direct-to-consumer segment, is driving significant top of the funnel revenue through SEO, social or paid ads and wants email and SMS to drive more revenue, then book a call. We’ll run a free opportunity audit worth $850 on your website to identify how much revenue you may be leaving on the table and could recoup through these powerful owned marketing channels. 

You can watch the full podcast on our YouTube channel, listen in on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Audible, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio (or wherever else you listen to your favorite podcasts).

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