Most marketing decision-makers started 2021 wanting to connect with consumers in a more direct, meaningful way—and they’re relying on text message marketing to do so.

Attentive surveyed nearly 400 retail and e-commerce marketers to learn how impactful text messaging has been on their businesses, how they’re leveraging this channel to engage consumers, and where they have room to enhance their strategies. Among other findings, our research revealed:

  • Where SMS fits into marketers’ overall strategies
  • How marketers rate their current text messaging programs
  • The most common tactical and strategic challenges marketers face

Explore the 2021 SMS Marketing Benchmarks Report to see what we discovered and learn how you can build a successful text message marketing strategy or drive even better results with your existing program.

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Marketers are using existing tools and resources to elevate their SMS marketing

Marketers are amplifying text messaging performance via technology integrations and cross-functional collaboration. They’re positioned to clear their most common strategic hurdle by expanding how they leverage their existing technology stacks and strengthen their team’s expertise.

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Marketers recognize the importance of targeting and optimization

Marketers have prioritized segmenting their subscribers based on purchase history and conducting A/B tests to develop more personalized, impactful content. But they have the opportunity to deliver more relevant and effective text messages by using all the segmentation and testing options available to them.

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Marketers are following best practices to acquire and connect with subscribers

Most marketers are using proven techniques for opting consumers into their text messaging programs and driving incremental revenue. But there’s room to expand their list-growth strategies and diversify how they communicate with subscribers to maximize engagement across the customer lifecycle.

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Marketers are concentrating on list growth and channel alignment

Marketers’ top tactical and strategic text messaging challenges were related to subscriber growth and alignment with other marketing channels. They’re looking for ways to increase subscriber sign-ups and ensure text messaging is holistically incorporated into their digital marketing strategies.

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Marketers want to strengthen their SMS strategies

While most marketers agree that SMS has been very or extremely impactful on their businesses, approximately half rated the sophistication level of their text messaging strategies as average. Marketers believe they can do more to fully realize this channel’s potential, and they’re eager to fill in knowledge gaps.

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Marketers are driving exceptional results with SMS

The majority of marketers agree text messaging has significantly or overwhelmingly increased revenue generation for their businesses. Most marketers also acknowledged that this channel generally performed better or much better than other marketing channels, illustrating why brands are increasingly investing in SMS.

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Marketers are driving exceptional results with SMS

The majority of marketers agree text messaging has significantly or overwhelmingly increased revenue generation for their businesses. Most marketers also acknowledged that this channel generally performed better or much better than other marketing channels, illustrating why brands are increasingly investing in SMS.

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Marketers want to strengthen their SMS strategies

While most marketers agree that SMS has been very or extremely impactful on their businesses, approximately half rated the sophistication level of their text messaging strategies as average. Marketers believe they can do more to fully realize this channel’s potential, and they’re eager to fill in knowledge gaps.

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Marketers are concentrating on list growth and channel alignment

Marketers’ top tactical and strategic text messaging challenges were related to subscriber growth and alignment with other marketing channels. They’re looking for ways to increase subscriber sign-ups and ensure text messaging is holistically incorporated into their digital marketing strategies.

chapter 4 circle decoration

Marketers are following best practices to acquire and connect with subscribers

Most marketers are using proven techniques for opting consumers into their text messaging programs and driving incremental revenue. But there’s room to expand their list-growth strategies and diversify how they communicate with subscribers to maximize engagement across the customer lifecycle.

chapter 5 circle decoration

Marketers recognize the importance of targeting and optimization

Marketers have prioritized segmenting their subscribers based on purchase history and conducting A/B tests to develop more personalized, impactful content. But they have the opportunity to deliver more relevant and effective text messages by using all the segmentation and testing options available to them.

chapter 6 circle decoration

Marketers are using existing tools and resources to elevate their SMS marketing

Marketers are amplifying text messaging performance via technology integrations and cross-functional collaboration. They’re positioned to clear their most common strategic hurdle by expanding how they leverage their existing technology stacks and strengthen their team’s expertise.

1. SMS is marketers’ next most impactful channel (if not already)

Nearly 96% of marketers using text messaging say it's helped them drive more revenue—and almost 60% say it’s significantly or overwhelmingly increased revenue generation.

SMS is a win-win for marketers and consumers, the majority of whom primarily use mobile devices when shopping online. 66.5% of consumers signed up to receive text messages from more brands over the past year, contributing to marketers’ success on this channel.

Attentive customers drive an average 18.5% of total online revenue from SMS, and our internal research shows that, on average, our customers in the retail/e-commerce industry generated $71 for every dollar spent on their text message marketing programs in 2020.

The majority of the marketers we surveyed also told us SMS generally performed better or much better than their other marketing channels during the past year. As shoppers continue to embrace a mobile-first mindset and use text messaging to interact with the brands they love, the bottom-line impact of SMS will only continue to grow. This explains why even among marketers who are not currently using text messaging, investment in this channel is top of mind.

revenue generation bar chartrevenue generation bar chart - mobile version
Over 66% of marketers not currently using text messaging say they’re likely to start in 2021.

Approximately one-third of marketers who have yet to invest in SMS told us they’re very likely to implement it into their strategies this year. Nearly the same amount told us there’s a reasonable likelihood they will.

Beyond the clear revenue benefits of adopting text messaging, marketers may also be motivated by keeping up with their competition. When asked if their competitors were using text message marketing, 36.5% indicated that some, most, or all of them were. 43.7% were unsure, and only 4.2% of marketers could say with certainty that their competitors were not yet using this channel.

2021 marketing strategy pie chart2021 marketing strategy pie chart - mobile version
Diving deeper

Among those marketers who have yet to incorporate text messaging into their marketing strategies, the biggest barrier to adoption is uncertainty over how to best leverage this channel.

But with experts forecasting that mobile will account for nearly three-quarters of all e-commerce sales in 2021—and more than 90% of consumers expressing interest in signing up to receive text messages from their favorite businesses—marketers have plenty of motivation to continue to educate themselves.

The first step is to choose the right tool for the job. A text message marketing solution that ensures message deliverability, compliance with industry regulations, and the ability to grow alongside your business is critical to long-term success. If you’re unsure where to start, prioritize working with a vendor that provides expert advice and guidance on setting goals, launching your text messaging program, and scaling it to maximize results.

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Craft Your Program
Attentive’s Client Strategy team provides dedicated support for managing day-to-day strategy to help you reach your marketing goals. Attentive University and Attentive Studio also give you access to best practices content, tutorials, design resources, and integration engineering expertise.
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If you’re an early adopter of SMS marketing who’s already seeing success with your program, consider how investing more resources in the channel—and ensuring you have the right solution in place—can help you drive even better results.

2. Marketers have room to improve and are eager to learn how

Approximately 51% of marketers who currently use text messaging say they're using SMS to its full potential in some areas.

Marketers want to build on their text messaging strategies and drive even better results. Nearly 50% rate their SMS marketing sophistication level as average, but believe they can and should do more to fully leverage the channel.

22.5% of marketers we surveyed feel very confident about their SMS strategies, saying they believe they’re using text messaging to its full potential in most or all areas. On the flip side, 26.4% of marketers don’t believe they’re making the most of SMS and need to do more to maximize its value in most or all areas. This is understandable, given text messaging is an emerging opportunity for many businesses.

how sophisticated? pie chartsophisticated pie chart - mobile version
Diving deeper

Text messaging is still a relatively new marketing channel that many brands are just beginning to tap into. And while the ROI can often be seen almost immediately, many marketers realize they may only be scratching the surface and are ready to learn how they can drive an even better return on investment.

According to a commissioned study conducted by Forrester on behalf of Attentive, 69% of marketers cite meaningfully engaging consumers as an overall marketing challenge. Another 65% said they struggle to stand out amid a high volume of marketing messages across channels. To counter this, text messaging enables you to connect with consumers on a 1:1 channel that captures their attention. Tailoring messaging to individual subscribers is key to delivering content they’ll care about.

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Craft Your Program
Attentive lets you use subscriber actions, behaviors, preferences, and more to create a personalized experience across the entire customer journey. Our Segment Builder allows you to target specific audiences and send more relevant and personal messages. Built-in A/B testing ensures you're sending the most impactful content to drive more engagement and conversions.
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Personalize your text messages based on the actions subscribers take, customize content using relevant subscriber data, and consistently evaluate how different elements of your text messages resonate with your target audience. And don’t forget that when and where a text message is delivered is just as important as taking a subscriber’s shopping history into account. Use time zone-based sending and geographic data to ensure messages are delivered at the right times for specific regions and don’t contain irrelevant content.

Personalization helps strengthen subscriber engagement, but don’t slice your list too thin or only focus on specific segments. Pigeonholing certain subscribers could cause them to miss out on valuable content they may want or that could boost sales, and regularly sending both campaign and automated messages to your entire subscriber list is key to maximizing incremental revenue.

3. List growth and channel alignment are top of mind

Marketers say increasing subscriber sign-ups is their top tactical challenge.

Marketers know that a healthy subscriber base is essential to the success of their text messaging programs, so they’re focused on increasing sign-ups. Beyond list growth, developing personalized content and using text messaging throughout the customer lifecycle are high on marketers’ to-do lists.

Interestingly, while a commissioned study conducted by Forrester on behalf of Attentive showed that integration with current marketing tech stacks is a top-three priority when selecting a text message marketing solution, Attentive customers ranked SMS integration at the bottom of their list of tactical challenges—indicating this was not a problem for them. While marketers new to text messaging may initially worry that integrating it into an existing tech stack is difficult, with various options for data-sharing and direct ecosystem integrations with popular softwares such as Shopify, Salesforce, and other leading solutions, this isn't the case.

tactical challenge chart
tactical challenge chart - mobile version
Diving deeper

Consumers are value-driven and price-conscious—which makes incentives an important part of driving subscriber sign-ups. Survey results from our 2021 SMS Marketing Consumer Trends Report show that a dollar-off discount on a purchase is the preferred incentive among consumers, followed by percentage-off discounts and free gift offers. But discounts and special offers aren’t the only ways to drive results—consumers also indicated that loyalty or rewards points and access to exclusive content would make them willing to sign up to receive text messages from your brand.

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Craft Your Program
With Attentive, you can automatically apply coupons to shoppers’ carts. You can use dynamic coupons to send unique discount codes to each subscriber, combining them with auto-apply URLs to create a sense of urgency, drive purchases, and ensure a smooth checkout experience.
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Give consumers a reason to opt in to your text message marketing program. For some shoppers, new and back-in-stock product alerts or shipping updates may be enough motivation. But illustrating the advantages of joining an exclusive community and making it clear that subscribers will be rewarded for doing so goes a long way toward enticing them to join. Text messaging subscribers are likely to be your most loyal customers—incentivizing them to opt in is well worth the investment.

Marketers say aligning text messaging with other marketing channels is their biggest strategic challenge.

Marketers want to make sure their text messaging strategies complement their other marketing initiatives and are working to align their SMS programs with other marketing channels. Apart from considering channel goals and alignment, securing enough time and people to support SMS marketing programs are top priorities. Fortunately, as Attentive customers can attest, client strategy support and automated technologies make it easy to quickly launch SMS marketing programs and start seeing results immediately.

Getting the necessary budget for SMS marketing and support from company leaders ranked lowest in terms of marketers' strategic challenges, indicating that business leaders are well aware of this channel’s value and are willing to invest resources in it.

strategic challenge chart
strategic challenge chart - mobile version

Diving deeper

Consumers want more options for how they interact with their favorite brands. As a best-in-breed marketing solution, SMS doesn't require orchestration with other channels to drive incremental revenue. That said, making sure the cadence and content of your text messaging program complements your other channels will help you optimize overall marketing performance. And not only will you support consistent cross-channel messaging, you’ll empower consumers to interact with your brand in the way they want.

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Craft Your Program
Attentive offers a large library of integrations with different technologies to help you more easily coordinate your cross-channel strategy. These include e-commerce and CRM platforms such as Shopify Plus and Salesforce Marketing Cloud, as well as leading email, customer data, and customer service solutions.
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Consider the unique strengths of your SMS marketing program and implement integrations to synchronize and share data as it makes sense for your brand. Connecting the dots between your different marketing tools will help you evaluate how different channels can work in sync with one another.

4. Marketers have more tools at their disposal than they may realize

Mobile sign-up creatives are the list-growth leader.

Marketers know that converting website visitors into SMS subscribers is key to supporting healthy growth. They’re following best practices by leveraging their website traffic to drive sign-ups via mobile creatives, as well as desktop creatives and dedicated landing pages.

But they should maximize their online real estate by implementing checkout page sign-up forms as well. And while Text-to-Join (TTJ) campaigns currently rank lower in terms of priority—potentially due to the lingering effects of COVID-19 on in-store traffic—marketers should consider how TTJ can be used to grow subscriber lists across digital channels in addition to offline.

subscriber sign up chart - mobile version
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Diving deeper

Website creatives are fundamental to opting consumers into your text message marketing program, but you have many list-growth tools at your disposal. With increasing subscriber sign-ups ranked as marketers' top tactical challenge, you should double down on different ways to drive people to this channel and get your SMS marketing program in front of consumers at every opportunity.

While engaging website visitors is and should remain the top priority, other marketing channels—including both email and social media—offer the chance to acquire off-site subscribers.

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Attentive’s Instagram Stories Swipe-Up feature lets you grow your subscriber list directly from Instagram. Followers simply swipe up on a Story, open up their phone’s native text messaging application, and hit send on a pre-populated text message to opt in to your program.
craft your program - instagram swipe up image

Use cross-channel list-growth techniques to widen your pool of subscribers. Beyond capturing offline shoppers via in-store signage and physical mailers, use TTJ campaigns to drive sign-ups across digital channels such as email and social media. Be sure to test variations of your sign-up units to understand how different types of copy and imagery may impact list growth.

Triggered welcome messages are the go-to for automated engagement.

Marketers are focused on nurturing relationships with their new subscribers and setting the tone of future communications, using triggered welcome messages to greet subscribers. They’re also re-engaging high-intent shoppers via triggered cart abandonment messages that remind subscribers of products they added to their online carts but didn’t purchase.

But marketers shouldn’t let other automation opportunities fall by the wayside. Triggered browse abandonment messages automatically remind shoppers of products they recently viewed but didn’t add to their carts—helping turn browsers into buyers. And triggered post-purchase messages are valuable for building long-term brand loyalty, surfacing word-of-mouth marketing, and driving repeat purchases.

triggered text messages chart
triggered messages chart - mobile version

Diving deeper

Since triggered messages are sent to subscribers based on certain actions they’ve taken (or not yet taken), they’re ideal for automatically engaging shoppers at every stage of the buyer journey—from interest to consideration to decision. By leveraging all triggered messaging options, you can automatically drive incremental revenue while ensuring your subscribers receive communications that are relevant to where they are in the customer lifecycle.

Triggered post-purchase messages in particular are excellent for customer retention, enabling you to incentivize repeat purchases via recommendations based on past orders and loyalty or rewards programs.

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Attentive’s triggered text message functionality lets you automatically follow up with subscribers after they’ve completed a purchase and encourage them to provide feedback, write a review, and more.
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Use post-purchase messages to turn your buyers into brand advocates. We recommend waiting at least one week after your subscribers’ products have arrived before getting in touch. And make sure to end with a clear call to action and a direct link to complete the action you’re asking them to take, whether it’s reviewing a recent purchase, referring family and friends, or some other post-purchase activity.

Special offers take the top spot for most common campaign messages.

Marketers want to create a sense of urgency among SMS subscribers and keep their brands top of mind. They’re using limited-time sales, free shipping, and similar promotions to drive immediate action. They’re also generating buzz with new product announcements and sharing subscriber-exclusive content—such as early access to products and mobile-only coupons—to treat their subscribers like VIPs.

Yet, marketers have an opportunity to diversify their messaging even further to build stronger connections with subscribers. Branching out with content that highlights their brand’s mission and values, humanizes the people behind their products, or educates consumers will help marketers differentiate their brands from competitors, all while driving incremental revenue.

campaign types chartcampaign messages chart - mobile version

Diving deeper

SMS doesn't just boost sales—it helps you support overall brand marketing goals and develop long-lasting relationships with your audience. Consider the role non-promotional text messages can play in building brand awareness and guiding subscribers through the consideration phase of the buyer journey.

Content related to the causes a brand supports is especially effective among younger consumers. 72% of Gen Z said they’re more likely to buy from a company that contributes to social causes, and 84% said they’ll actively promote brands that stand up for something they believe in.

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Attentive’s real-time data analytics tools let you measure how different types of content perform with your audience, giving you insight into which text messages garner the most clicks and conversions.
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Supplement your sales-focused content with text messages aimed at deepening emotional connections and building brand affinity. Behind-the-scenes content that spotlights your employees, content that provides insight into your brand story, and educational content relevant to your products and services will help you stand out from your competitors.

5. Personalization + testing = massive opportunity

Purchase history is most popular for segmentation.

Marketers recognize how important historical data is to personalizing their text messages. They’re focusing on developing audience segments based on subscribers' purchase histories, as well as using past SMS engagement to tailor messaging.

But there’s a lot more data available to work with. Web browsing behavior and geolocation both empower marketers to ensure their text messages are as relevant as possible, whether they’re recommending certain products or highlighting region-specific promotions. And join dates and sign-up sources provide insights into when and how subscribers opted in to their programs, allowing marketers to inform their list-growth strategies accordingly.

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segmenting text messages chart - mobile version
Diving deeper

After driving subscriber sign-ups, marketers said developing personalized content that resonates with their target audiences was their most pressing tactical challenge. This aligns with data showing that the ability to personalize content in messages was the most important factor in marketers’ choice of a text message marketing solution.

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Attentive's Segment Builder lets you build targeted audiences that update automatically based on their location, browsing history, purchase behavior, device type, and much more.
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It also fits with consumers’ priorities. While survey results from our 2021 SMS Marketing Consumer Trends Report show text messages featuring multimedia are more likely to drive consumers to make a purchase, 33% of consumers said they have no preference regarding media as long as the text messaging content is relevant to them.

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Attentive’s integration with Shopify lets you deliver personalized experiences by creating segments based on customer attributes and historical purchase data stored in the e-commerce platform, such as lifetime spend, products viewed or added to cart, total orders, and more.
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Use customer data to deliver truly personalized content. You can segment your subscribers in numerous ways, such as when they last interacted with your brand via text or how much money they’ve spent with your business over a specific timeframe. Consistently send messages to your entire subscriber base to get the most overall return, but always consider how to make your content as relevant as possible to your audience.

A/B testing copywriting and CTAs ranks supreme for analysis.

In a more data-driven world, marketers are constantly testing and refining their text messaging strategies. They’re regularly comparing copy, calls to action, and multimedia (emojis, images, GIFs, videos, etc.) to understand which versions of their text messages perform best, and they’re using this data to inform future campaigns.

But marketers shouldn’t stop there. They also need to consider how messaging cadence may impact results. The day, time, and frequency of your messaging should play a significant role in evaluating and enhancing text messaging performance.

testing messages charttesting messages chart - mobile version

Diving deeper

Consumers have clear preferences when it comes to text messaging frequency. Based on survey results from our 2021 SMS Marketing Consumer Trends Report, 58% of consumers are interested in hearing from brands via text message multiple times per week, and approximately 19% are open to hearing from their favorite brands on this channel once per day.

Our internal research indicates that the day and time a message is sent can impact text messaging performance, and varies across businesses. Revenue per message is typically higher for texts sent after 1pm vs. in the early morning (before 9am), with campaign messages seeing higher click-through rates in the afternoon and evening. Campaign messages sent on weekends generally drive higher click-through rates while weekday messages often see higher revenue per message. However, no two businesses are alike, so it’s important to test what works for your unique audience.

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Craft Your Program
Attentive’s built-in A/B testing lets you compare and contrast how different versions of text messages perform side by side. And with Attentive’s frequency capping and quiet hours functionalities, you can automatically limit how many messages a subscriber receives over a set time period and ensure messages aren’t delivered too late at night or early in the morning.
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Start enhancing your performance by ensuring your messaging content is optimized for the mobile consumer experience. Messages should be short and to the point, and end with a strong CTA to drive action. And don’t forget visuals. Approximately 51% of consumers we surveyed said they are more likely to make a purchase if text messages include media such as images, GIFs, and videos.

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Attentive’s customizable reporting allows you to set up recurring reports, pull ad-hoc reports, and format data to fit your requirements. And by integrating Attentive with your customer data and analytics platforms, you can dive even deeper into different metrics to assist with sending optimization.
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We recommend sending 8-10 text messages per month to your entire subscriber list, adjusting your frequency based on subscriber response. Analyze click-through rates, conversion rates, and attributable revenue to measure the performance of different messages.

6. Integration and cross-functional collaboration can amplify results

E-commerce platforms lead integrations.

Marketers are maximizing the impact of their SMS programs by integrating with online commerce technologies. Doing so lets them pull valuable customer data from their e-commerce platforms—such as Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce—and use it to develop even more personalized, impactful text messaging campaigns. They’re also focused on ensuring their overall marketing campaigns and subscriber lists are connected via integrations with their email service providers.

Customer service software ranks third on the list of integrations. Marketers should consider how these and other technologies—including data analytics and CRM—can be used to share data between platforms and deliver exceptional SMS experiences that keep customers coming back for more.

integrations chartintegrations chart - mobile version
Diving deeper

SMS is a top performance marketing channel on its own, but when combined with other marketing technologies, it can become even more powerful. The data you pull from your existing tech stack—especially e-commerce platforms such as Shopify and Shopify Plus—can be harnessed to create more relevant text messages, drive upsells, and build brand loyalty. And by integrating your SMS marketing solution with other platforms, you can centralize subscriber data and use engagement with your SMS program to inform other initiatives.

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Attentive’s integration with Salesforce lets you match and unify customer profiles by collecting email and phone data together, providing a comprehensive view of your customers and enabling true orchestration.
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Integrations also enable you to deliver on the experiences your subscribers want. Results from our consumer survey showed that nearly 70% of consumers would be likely or extremely likely to connect with a brand via text message to receive customer support. Yet approximately half that number currently does, indicating that many brands aren’t integrating their SMS marketing solutions with their customer service software and offering customer service as part of their text messaging programs.

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Attentive’s integration with leading customer service solutions lets you automatically sync all support-related text messages with your customer service platform so your brand representatives can quickly respond to inquiries sent via SMS.
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Tap into consumer demand for two-way conversations. Our research found that Attentive customers drive 31% more spend from shoppers who receive replies to their text messaging inquiries compared to those who don’t. On top of that, research from Gorgias, an Attentive Technology Partner, showed that SMS-based pre-sale conversations that receive replies in less than 10 minutes have a 28% conversion rate, significantly higher than desktop-based pre-sale chats.

Email marketers are most likely to collaborate on SMS.

Marketers want to drive better results by informing their text messaging strategies with input from other internal teams. They’re collaborating with email marketers and also getting cross-functional feedback from colleagues focused on social media, e-commerce, and paid media.

It’s wise to consult with other teams inside marketing to consider the unique role SMS will play for your company, but SMS marketers should also take into account feedback from various angles, both inside and outside the marketing department.

teams contribution chart
team contribution chart - mobile version

Diving deeper

Text messaging doesn’t exist in a silo. Providing visibility into SMS programs and collaborating with different teams on your channel strategy positions you to maximize the impact of your marketing efforts more holistically. Every marketing touchpoint—SMS, email, social media, paid ads, etc.—is part of a whole, and they’re more powerful if they inform each other.

Customer-facing teams can provide valuable insights marketers may miss. Consult with teams both inside and outside your marketing department to enhance your text messaging strategy. Get input from other marketers to help you understand how your messaging complements different channels, and solicit feedback from your sales, customer service, and product teams to uncover key details related to consumer questions and trends. Doing so will help you develop content that aligns with your various marketing channels and addresses subscribers’ most-pressing wants and needs.

7. Methodology

Parameters

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parameters chart - mobile version

8. Ready to implement these findings in your 2021 mobile marketing strategy?

Attentive helps over 3,000 brands effectively engage their mobile audiences with personalized text messaging. Using real-time behavioral data, Attentive automatically sends engaging text messages to each subscriber at every step of the customer lifecycle.

Have questions about our survey findings or how to implement these learnings in your own text messaging program? We’re here to help! Reach out to us at info@attentivemobile.com or request a demo.

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