We’re betting that 2021 will be defined by more personalization, maturing text messaging strategies, and two-way conversational commerce. 

No one could have predicted what 2020 had in store. Yet much of what we saw happening reflected marketing trends that have been bubbling under the surface: a shift toward more screens and mobile devices, virtual experiences, and e-commerce.

For mobile marketing, specifically in the retail and e-commerce space, the pandemic only accelerated these trends into “the new normal.”

Reflecting upon everything we learned in 2020, here are five mobile marketing trends we think will be at the forefront of marketing leaders’ minds in 2021. 

The acceleration of e-commerce (especially via mobile) will continue to fuel the growth of text message marketing.

Globally: 

With physical store locations shut down across the globe due to COVID-19, consumers turned to e-commerce, with 84% having shopped online since the start of the pandemic. By the end of 2020, global e-commerce sales were expected to reach $3.9 trillion. By 2024, that number is projected to rise to $7 trillion, or 25% of total retail sales.

In the US: 

During Q1 of 2020, e-commerce growth in the US that was projected to take place over 10 years happened in just three months. Q2 and Q3 saw an average year-over-year e-commerce spending increase of 40%, and the percentage of consumers who shopped “heavily or exclusively” online grew by 133% between September 2019 and September 2020. By the end of 2020, e-commerce sales were projected to account for 14.5% of total retail sales, surging 18% year-over-year.

Via mobile: 

According to our recent survey of 2,000 US consumers, 75% indicated they shopped online more in 2020 than they did in 2019. More consumers than ever used their smartphones to complete their online purchases. Our survey showed that 57% of consumers primarily use their smartphones when shopping online, with 37% using an equal mix of mobile and desktop. Only 6% indicated they primarily use a desktop. 

The share of mobile commerce in the US increased 10% from January to May. By August, 60% of US online retail website visits came from mobile, accounting for 40% of all online sales, or $190 billion in spending. By the end of 2020, mobile commerce in the US was expected to reach $338 billion—up 25.8% year-over-year.

What this means for 2021: 

Many consumers have signaled that they’ll take their new online shopping habits into the new year, citing convenience, better prices, and free shipping as the main drivers. With the acceleration of e-commerce—including more purchases made on smartphones—the ways that consumers interact with brands will continue to fundamentally shift. 

Even as we begin to return to some semblance of our lives pre-Covid, brands will continue to see the impact of reaching consumers through a direct line of communication. As a result, in 2021, more brands will invest in text message marketing—whether launching their SMS channel or building upon their existing program.

[2020] accelerated an already powerful shift in consumer behavior towards e-commerce and mobile. Our goal is to build the best technology to help brands connect with consumers through personalized, two-way mobile messaging at scale.

– Brian Long, Co-Founder and CEO of Attentive.

Predictions from e-commerce marketing leaders:

Digital revenue attributed to text message marketing will increase year-over-year.

Consumers are eager to engage with their favorite brands via text messaging. In our recent survey, 66% of consumers said they’ve signed up to receive text messages from more brands over the past year.

They’re increasingly interested in receiving text messages throughout the customer journey—from the welcome message after they’ve subscribed to a brand’s SMS program, to marketing updates and back-in-stock alerts, to transactional updates once their order has been shipped or delivered. 

So, text messaging has become more than just a “nice to have” means of communication. It’s a performance marketing channel delivering incremental results for the brands who’ve prioritized it.

SMS as a top revenue channel

On average, our customers drive 18.5% of total online revenue through SMS. In 2020 alone, Attentive’s platform generated over $4.5 billion in revenue for e-commerce brands.

Results like these are why over 50% of the top 1,000 online retailers currently use SMS to reach their audience, compared to just 4.5% in 2016. As both consumers and brands increasingly adopt SMS as a marketing channel, the percent of digital revenue attributed to it will continue to increase year-over-year, and it will remain a top revenue channel for the brands using it. 

Case study:

Lifestyle accessory brand Dorsal Bracelets launched their text messaging channel in partnership with Attentive. They were able to get their program up and running in just two days. They soon noticed that SMS was surpassing email in terms of revenue generated. Even though Dorsal Bracelets’ email subscriber list is three times larger than its SMS list, when they send emails and text messages featuring the same offer, the two channels provide nearly identical returns. 

Just seven months after launching their text messaging program, sales attributed to text messages sent via Attentive account for 30% of Dorsal Bracelets’ total revenue.

Predictions from e-commerce marketing leaders:

SMS marketing will reach a new level of maturity and success as marketers build out sophisticated strategies based on continued testing and optimization.

Text messaging as a communications channel between friends and family has come a long way since its inception (remember texting with T9?). For brands, it’s come even further. List growth capabilities include more than just Text-to-Join keywords; marketers are no longer limited to manually sending mass text messages to every single subscriber; and messages can include emojis, images, GIFs, and even videos.

As text message marketing has become easier for brands to use (and more effective in driving revenue), more brands will adopt SMS in 2021, resulting in more innovation in strategies and unique approaches to the channel.  

The need to innovate: 

According to Forrester, marketing message volume—across email, mobile, and more—will increase by 40% in 2021, forcing brands to innovate their marketing channels to “be more contextually relevant and responsive to customers’ needs.” 

To do so, marketers will lean into the behavioral and predictive data they’re allowed to collect from consumers to send moments-based messaging. This will take the form of triggered messages which are automatically sent (and can be highly personalized) based on behavior—including welcome, browse abandonment, cart abandonment, and post-purchase reminders. 

Other strategies include implementing robust segmentation strategies, conducting A/B tests to understand what resonates with subscribers, and integrating with other marketing technologies—including e-commerce platforms, email service providers, customer service help desks, and more.

Case study: 

Mented Cosmetics creates individualized, memorable SMS experiences throughout the customer lifecycle based on actions a subscriber has taken, including: 

  • VIPs who have spent a set dollar amount
  • Engaged vs. unengaged subscribers 
  • Shoppers who have made a purchase or have viewed a specific product page 
  • Subscribers who live in a given geographic area

It took a lot of testing and iteration to create a mature segmentation strategy. Sometimes we’ll test a message and find a clear winner, but we don’t just stick with that winner. Instead, we test several times. In 2021, SMS marketing will be big for everyone, so we will need to be smarter about why one should keep themselves on our list. What additional value can we bring to the table?

– Chandra Cooks, Head of Marketing at Mented Cosmetics

Predictions from e-commerce marketing leaders:

Brands’ most loyal customers will subscribe to SMS—and the channel will play an important role in building relationships and communities.

Marketers need to remember that text messaging is one of the most personal channels that consumers use, so they need to build and maintain trust with subscribers. But there are often discrepancies between what consumers want and how brands engage them. 

What consumers want:

Consumers want brands to interact with them in a way that makes them feel heard and valued, whether that means seeing their feedback incorporated or receiving rewards for being engaged brand loyalists—a valued member of that brand’s community. 

They’re also placing an emphasis on activism and want to know what brands stand for and how they’re moving toward a perceived greater good. Today’s consumers are acutely aware that the dollars they spend go toward more than just a product—that by buying from a certain brand, they’re endorsing that business’s mission and actions. 

More than ever, consumers want human-centered experiences that serve their community and offer them the opportunity to give back through their purchases. When faced with a choice between two different brands, consumers are now more likely to purchase from the business that embodies their own ideals and purpose

What this means for brands:

Because of the 1:1, personal nature of text messaging, it’s the ideal channel for marketers to create more meaningful interactions with their most loyal customers—with an emphasis on “meaningful.”  

According to Forrester, spend on loyalty and retention marketing in 2021 will increase by 30%. Brands will “double down on retention efforts and lean on brand loyalists (and their wallets) to help weather the economic storm.” This means digging deeper to understand what types of messages subscribers want to receive. 

Brands will focus on sending text messages that are motivated beyond just driving sales—sharing content that builds their brand, engages their audience, and shows what they stand for—ultimately adding more value for their subscribers. 

As an inherently personal channel that helps brands foster a deeper connection with subscribers, SMS will play an active role in building an engaged community through both brand loyalty and activism. 

For example, to create more loyal customers, lingerie brand LIVELY sends an automated text message to subscribers 30 days after they make a purchase. This message invites them to sign up for LIVELY’s customer loyalty rewards program—an ideal way to retain customers and encourage them to stay connected to the brand.

Accessories brand Pura Vida Bracelets uses SMS to update subscribers on new products and sales. But, they also use this channel to communicate the many causes they support—demonstrating an authentic commitment to values that modern consumers not only appreciate but have come to expect.

Predictions from e-commerce marketing leaders:

Brands will rely on text messaging as a two-way, conversational connection to their audience to drive commerce.

In 2021, marketers will rely on text messaging to deliver more than just relevant deals and offers. They’ll prioritize two-way, real-time interactions—including conversational commerce to help minimize the friction around checkout, customer service, and transactional updates.

“Within a few years, consumers will expect all of their favorite brands and businesses to support real-time conversations via text messaging, in the same way they expect brands to have social media accounts today,” predicts Long.

SMS for customer support:

According to our recent survey, almost 70% of consumers indicated they would be extremely or very likely to interact with a brand via text message to receive customer support and another 24% would consider it.  

Providing customer support through SMS helps brands connect with customers on a much more personal level. And, it’s much faster than email or phone. With SMS, customer support reps can quickly exchange necessary information with consumers, leading to much faster resolutions. 

We’ve found that brands who quickly respond to shoppers’ inquiries received via text messaging are driving 31% more spend from customers vs. those who do not receive replies.

If you’re an Attentive customer, you can take advantage of our various customer support help desk integrations, including Kustomer, Gorgias, Freshdesk, and more. Through these integrations, you can ensure your customers are getting the best support experience possible, whenever and wherever they need it. Choose between automatically forwarding all messages to your customer service team or having shoppers confirm they would like assistance.

Transactional updates:

Our recent survey indicated that transactional updates (e.g. order confirmation and shipping/delivery updates) is the type of communication that consumers are most interested in receiving via text messaging—followed by customer service and marketing alerts.

After an order has been placed, brands can share real-time information about shipping and delivery via text messaging. This helps reassure the customer about the status of their order, notify them of any changes, and let them know once it’s been delivered—creating more trust and building the customer relationship. 

Minimizing friction at mobile checkout:

As consumers are increasingly shopping online via mobile devices, brands are prioritizing their mobile marketing strategies. That means ensuring their website is optimized for the mobile consumer, including adding ways to minimize the friction at checkout to allow consumers to easily and seamlessly complete their mobile purchases. 

As more brands adopt SMS marketing, they’ll be driving even more mobile traffic to their websites. It will become more important than ever that they optimize the checkout process and simplify the online shopping experience through the elimination of many of the friction points that consumers may encounter.

Predictions from e-commerce marketing leaders:

This year, e-commerce brands will prioritize strategies that drive incremental revenue, increase online sales, and make it easier to reach consumers. On mobile, there is no channel more immediate and direct for brands to communicate with their audience than text messaging. 

And now, we want to hear from you! What are your mobile marketing predictions for 2021🔮? Let us know on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram. 

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