Follow this blueprint to get your SMS channel off the ground, create your strategy, and drive immediate results.
Reaching shoppers with personalized messages they actually want to receive is increasingly challenging. And in this new era of marketing, SMS has become a “hero” owned channel, with many marketers engaging shoppers with messages tailored to their interests.
It’s no surprise—shoppers have made it clear they want to connect with brands via text messaging. In fact, 90% want to engage with brands via SMS, and 55% already do. This consumer demand is driving impressive results for brands. 95% of marketers say they've experienced both customer-facing and revenue benefits from SMS, and the majority say it outperforms their other marketing channels.
If you’re new to SMS, this 30-day guide will walk you through what you need to know to successfully get a program off the ground and start driving results from the get-go. If you already have an SMS program in place, use it as a refresher to make sure you’re not missing any opportunities to get even more out of your channel.
Day 1-3: Lay a strategic foundation
As with any other marketing channel, you need to figure out what goals you want to meet with SMS—and how you’ll meet them. The goals you set help shape your list growth, campaigns, and triggered message strategies.
Identify your SMS key performance indicators
Your key performance indicators (KPIs) set the foundation for your text channel’s success.
Think about how your SMS channel can amplify your brand’s broader goals, whether that’s driving revenue, acquiring new customers, or increasing repeat purchases. Example KPIs include:
- Subscriber growth rate
- Message click-through rate (CTR)
- Message conversation rate (CVR)
- Channel/message ROI
- Number of repeat purchases made within a given period
Create your SMS list growth strategy
Growing a healthy list of subscribers is essential to creating a successful SMS program.
Use these questions to guide your list growth strategy:
- How am I incentivizing shoppers to sign up for texts? We’ve found that incentivizing shoppers with dollar or percentage amounts off drives roughly 50% more sign-ups than other offers. If your brand doesn’t offer discounts, consider driving opt-ins with giveaways, first access to product launches, or the opportunity to “stay in the know.”
- Where am I promoting my SMS program? Your website should be the foundation of your list growth strategy. Decide which mobile and desktop pages you’d like to display sign-up units on, and at what point during the on-site journey you’d like to invite users to sign up for texts. If your brand has a physical footprint, think about how you can encourage shoppers to sign up for texts with in-store signage.
- How can I amplify my SMS list growth with my other digital channels? Think about how you can drive SMS opt-ins through your email, social, and paid efforts.
- Do I want to drive email sign-ups at the same time? If you’re eager to grow your email subscriber list, too, let your audience sign up for emails and texts in one simple flow.
Remember, you should never buy a list of subscribers or opt someone into your SMS program without their express consent. Doing so will open you up to costly litigation.
Create your triggered welcome flow
Activating your triggered welcome flow is one of the first steps towards achieving the SMS KPIs you’ve set. Think of your welcome flow as an opening line of a conversation—a way to introduce your brand or communicate your mission. It sets the tone for the rest of your relationship with your subscriber. It’s also your first chance to drive action—whether that’s encouraging a shopper to make a purchase or building brand loyalty.
Let’s break down what a successful welcome flow looks like:
- Send new subscribers a message that includes the description of the recurring program (e.g. Text alerts from Hudson & Ivy), the message frequency (e.g. Msg frequency is recurring), a disclaimer that message and data rates may apply, and information about how to get help or opt out. This is required by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). This message is legally required and cannot be edited.
- The next message should welcome subscribers to your SMS program. Remember that SMS is a personal channel—text your subscribers like people, using “you” and “we,” and infuse your brand voice into your copy.
- Provide shoppers with an offer. If you’re driving sign-ups with an incentive, include the coupon code or a link with the offer automatically applied. If you’re not offering a perk, link back to your best sellers or a piece of editorial content so subscribers can keep learning more about your brand.
- End with a strong CTA to immediately drive traffic to your website.
- Invite subscribers to save your brand’s contact card to personalize future communications.
Personalize your auto-responder message
People are used to getting replies to their text messages. An auto-responder message helps you answer your subscribers’ common questions immediately (and automatically).
These are the top three questions we see subscribers ask:
- What is my coupon code?
- How can I opt out?
- How can I get additional help from your support team?
Launch your sign-up units
After you’ve added your SMS provider’s tag to your website, determined your SMS sign-up strategy, and created your triggered welcome flow, you can build your sign-up units. Use your branding to ensure your audience has a consistent experience. You should also ensure your unit complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act for Accessible Design (ADA).
Once you’ve tested your sign-up experience, you’re all set to launch your sign-up unit and start growing a list of subscribers.
Days 4-7: Put your SMS strategy in action
You’ve built your SMS launch strategy and set up your first building blocks. Now it’s time to build a strong technical foundation and start sending messages.
Integrate with your e-commerce platform
The first integration you set up should be with your e-commerce platform (like Shopify). Syncing your SMS program with your e-commerce platform will allow you to enrich subscriber profiles. Connecting your website and text messaging channel also enables you to send highly targeted triggered messages and personalize future campaign messages.
Sync your SMS and email programs
If you’re driving email and SMS sign-ups at the same time, you’ll need to integrate your SMS program with your email service provider (ESP). Then you can start automatically passing back email opt-ins. This also helps you more easily understand who is subscribed to just SMS or email, and who’s subscribed to both.
Set up your abandoned cart reminder
After welcome messages, we’ve found that abandoned cart reminders are brands’ highest converting type of triggered message.
Send subscribers a triggered message 30 to 60 minutes after they’ve left something in their online cart inviting them to complete their purchase. You can compliment their taste or create a sense of urgency by encouraging them to shop before their items are gone. Personalize your reminder with the name and image of the item to remind them of what they’ve left behind. End with a link back to their cart so they can finish checking out.
Create your browse abandonment reminder
The next highest-converting triggered message is a browse abandonment reminder. This message is sent to shoppers who have looked at a product detail page but haven’t added the item to their online shopping cart.
Just like your abandoned cart reminder, include the product name and a picture. For best results, send your browse abandonment reminders 30 to 60 minutes after shoppers have left your site. Then, encourage them to take a second look and link directly back to the item they were browsing to make it as easy as possible for them to add it to their online cart.
Send your first campaign message
Sending a campaign message 2-5 days after launching your sign-up units engages your earliest subscribers and establishes what they can expect from your channel.
Depending on your channel goals, you can send a promotional or non-promotional message to drive action. There’s a large variety of high-performing SMS campaigns you can send, including:
- VIP content and perks
- New product launches
- Sale and limited-time offer announcements
- Invites to loyalty programs
Add multimedia to your SMS campaigns (like images and GIFs), as well as emojis, to grab your subscribers’ attention. And just like your triggered messages, your campaign messages should always include a strong CTA that tells them exactly what action to take, as well as a link.
Days 8-14: Maximize your SMS program ROI
Once you’ve started growing your subscriber list and texting your audience, you’ll need to keep an eye on the incentives and messaging that drive results so you can continue to optimize your channel over time.
A/B test your campaign messages
A/B testing your SMS campaign messages allows you to find what resonates with your audience. Especially in the early days of your SMS program, you should always create multiple variants to test your hypotheses and maximize your ROI.
A few questions that can inform your A/B tests include:
- Do my subscribers like emojis?
- Which increases conversions more—static images or GIFs?
- How long or short should my texts be?
- Does writing my CTA in all caps increase my click-through rate?
- What time of day are my subscribers most or least likely to convert?
Find your messaging cadence
Sending campaign messages regularly helps you nurture brand loyalists, maximize revenue, and minimize opt-outs.
You want to find a good text messaging cadence that makes subscribers feel happy to hear from you every time—not fatigued by an overwhelming volume of messages. At the same time, you don’t want to fatigue subscribers by sending them too many messages. Based on our experience working with 4,000+ brands, we recommend sending 8-10 text messages per month to maximize revenue per send, but you should test your messaging cadence to find what works for your brand.
Build your SMS segmentation strategy
Segmenting your text messaging campaigns allows you to increase your ROI and minimize opt-outs by targeting specific groups of subscribers with messages tailored to their preferences and behaviors.
You can tailor your SMS campaigns based on:
- How often a subscriber segment wants to hear from you
- Whether a subscriber has clicked or purchased within a given period
- What types of messages a subscriber is interested in (such as limited-time offers and behind-the-scenes looks)
- A subscriber’s browse and purchase history
- A subscriber’s VIP and loyalty status
- A subscriber’s geographic location (geotargeting is especially useful for driving foot traffic)
Want to get into the nitty-gritty of SMS segmentation? Check out our three-part series covering segmentation best practices, the different types of segments you should create, and how to put your segmentation strategy in action.
Send your first segmented message
After you’ve built segments for your most loyal subscribers, send them a super personalized campaign to capitalize on their engagement. For example, if you’re launching a new product, consider sending subscribers who have purchased a complementary item a text inviting them to shop your new product before anyone else.
Days 15-21: Add new strategies to your SMS toolbox
Now that you’ve laid a solid foundation, you’re ready to start adding new list growth and messaging strategies to your SMS toolbox.
Drive SMS opt-ins through your email program
Encouraging your email subscribers to sign up for text updates is a great way to grow your new SMS program.
Send an e-blast to your email list encouraging them to “stay in the know,” or offer them an incentive to redeem with their next purchase. You can also drive opt-ins with banners in your newsletters and product launch campaigns. All you need to do is link to a dedicated landing page where subscribers can learn more and opt in.
Convert your social following into SMS subscribers
Promoting your SMS program on your social channels helps you keep in touch with shoppers who have seen your posts and ads, ensuring they never miss an update.
Add a link to a dedicated sign-up landing page to your posts or bio so shoppers can easily opt in. You can also promote your program in paid ads across channels so you can directly communicate with shoppers who have just discovered your brand.
Optimize your campaign messaging cadence
Sending segmented messages allows you to engage with your audience on a more targeted basis. You can update your messaging calendar to reflect how often you should engage each of your segments. You may send messages to your most loyal shoppers more frequently, while you may engage subscribers in the consideration phase slightly less frequently.
Automatically engage customers with transactional updates
Transactional text messages—which give subscribers a heads up when their order is shipped and delivered—help you further establish your SMS program as the go-to channel for getting real-time updates. Sending transactional messages from the same phone number you use for your marketing messages also lets you further personalize your shoppers' experiences.
Set up your triggered post-purchase SMS flow
Triggered post-purchase messages are a great way to connect with your customers when they’re most engaged. You can use your post-purchase SMS flow to build brand loyalty and drive repeat purchases without any manual work.
Examples of successful triggered post-purchase flows include:
- Educate and inspire customers and help them get the most out of their new purchase
- Ask subscribers to leave a review or tag your brand in their social media post
- Invite shoppers to join your loyalty program
- Recommend complementary items
- Share offers (like free shipping) to encourage repeat purchases
Days 22-30: Expand and optimize your SMS efforts
Like any other channel, SMS gets better and more powerful the more you test and optimize. As you close out your first month with your SMS program, implement additional strategies and A/B tests that will help you continually improve your channel (and give you insights that you can feed into your other marketing strategies and channels, too).
Find the sign-up units and incentives that resonate with your audience
Use A/B testing to discover the sign-up units that are most likely to encourage shoppers to sign up for texts. You can A/B test:
- Sign-up unit types (e.g. full screen or partial sign-up units)
- Sign-up unit timing (e.g. showing sign-up units right away, or waiting until a user starts scrolling)
- Incentives (e.g. dollar-off or free gift with purchase)
- Copy and tone
- Imagery (e.g. color or background)
A/B test your triggered messages
Your triggered messages do a lot of the heavy lifting for you and your SMS program since they’re sent automatically. Make sure you’re maximizing revenue by A/B testing your triggered messages. You can A/B test:
- Message delays (e.g. sending 30 minutes after they’ve abandoned their cart, vs. 60 minutes)
- Copy and tone
- Types of imagery (e.g. image or GIF)
- Offering incentives (e.g. reminding them they left something in their cart, vs. giving them free shipping if they complete their purchase)
- User-generated content, like reviews or best-selling products
Integrate with your customer experience (CX) platform
Integrating your CX platform with your SMS program allows your customers to text with your customer support team. Giving your subscribers the opportunity to ask their questions via text allows them to personalize their interactions with your brand, creating a seamless customer experience.
Grow your list with in-store signage and collateral
Your list growth strategy shouldn’t be limited to your digital channels. Text-to-Join (TTJ) keywords allow you to grow your list with in-store signage and printed collateral. Use TTJ keywords to keep shoppers engaged well after they’ve left your store or event. Encouraging sign-ups on receipts and shipping materials can also help you convert highly engaged customers into SMS subscribers, giving you another touchpoint to build loyalty.
Prioritizing a few strategies each week can help you set manageable and measurable goals. Follow this guide and partner with a trusted SMS provider who can grow with you to ensure you can start driving results immediately—and in the future.