How to use text messaging at every stage of the purchase lifecycle.
We spoke with three marketing experts—Matt Suraci, Commercial Director at Klarna, Sammy Tran, Co-Head of Lifecycle Marketing at MuteSix, and Allison Kelly, VP of Partnerships at Attentive—to get their tips for using SMS to convert browsers into buyers, improve the customer experience, and drive repeat purchases.
Empower shoppers to feel confident in their purchasing decisions during the consideration phase
Use the consideration phase to set the tone with new subscribers and introduce incentives that help convert them into shoppers.
Tip #1: Make the first text memorable with MMS
If someone has signed up to receive text messages from your brand, chances are they’re already considering making a purchase. The first touchpoint in any SMS welcome flow is an opportunity to introduce a potential customer to your brand—and get them excited about buying.
One way to get the most value out of your welcome message is by including an image or longer text to help capture the attention of new subscribers when they sign up. Even though it’s an added cost to send an MMS or exceed the character limit, Sammy Tran, Co-Head of Lifecycle Marketing at MuteSix, suggests it's worth it because conversion rates are typically higher on that first message.
Don’t be afraid of MMS costs! Including more content in your first welcome message can help establish your brand’s style and voice, which is important to show to the top-of-funnel consumer.
- Sammy Tran, Co-Head of Lifecycle Marketing at MuteSix
Tip #2: Use discount codes to incentivize first-time purchasers
Shoppers always appreciate discounts. In fact, according to our recent survey, consumers are most interested in receiving marketing messages that offer coupons after signing up for texts from brands they love.
While dollar-off and percentage-off discounts are highly effective, you can start small by offering new subscribers 10% off just for signing up, or you can lead with a simple welcome message introducing your brand. If a subscriber still hasn't converted toward the end of their welcome journey, you always have the option to increase the discount as a final incentive to purchase before they exit the welcome flow, advises Tran.
When you have a new subscriber, it’s also important to understand which types of incentives they're interested in receiving from you as a brand. "Do they want SMS-exclusive discounts and content, or do they only want to hear from you when their intent is at its highest? It’s best to learn about their preferences at the beginning of the consideration phase,” says Allison Kelly, VP of Partnerships at Attentive.
A/B testing various offers and campaigns in the early stages can help you better understand which incentives resonate with specific groups of your subscriber base. Then, you'll be able to more effectively connect with each segment by sending relevant text messages while also maximizing your revenue potential.
Tip #3: Promote flexible payment options early in the shopping experience
Letting shoppers know they can buy now and pay later (BNPL) is an effective alternative to offering discounts, especially during the consideration phase.
“Splitting payments feels much more digestible to shoppers,” explains Matt Suraci, Head of Commercial at Klarna. “It gives them flexibility, convenience, and confidence without interest or late fees.”
Leading brands like fashion retailer rue21 (an Attentive and Klarna customer) use BNPL language in their triggered text messages to drive higher conversions—and it works. "Since rue21 implemented Klarna and advertised flexible payment options across their marketing channels, they've seen a 73% increase in average order value," says Suraci.
You can also leverage your SMS program to A/B test various payment options on abandoned cart notifications or back-in-stock alerts, for example, promoting BNPL versus a small discount.
Provide customers with value-add experiences at the point of purchase
After a subscriber has placed an order, engage them with helpful content that enriches their post-purchase experience.
Tip #4: Offer support before you upsell
It’s important to nurture customers with your post-purchase follow-up communications rather than sending promotional messages right away. MuteSix recommends taking an educational approach and introducing customers to their new products with how-to guides or relevant FAQs.
"Customers don’t typically want to be marketed to immediately after they buy something," explains Tran. "It's better to offer complementary products or upsells after someone has had a chance to use the product they purchased."
But how do you know when a customer is ready to buy again?
“Product data and behavioral insights can help brands understand how long it takes for someone to consider another purchase,” says Tran. "Use that data accordingly to serve upsells or replenishment messaging at the right time.”
Tip #5: Share timely transactional updates via text
SMS is an easy way to keep customers informed about the status of their orders in real-time. For people who opt-in to receive transactional messages such as live delivery tracking updates, Klarna suggests using SKU-level data to personalize these texts with the product name and image.
Post-purchase text messaging is also an opportunity to facilitate helpful interactions with subscribers. "Allow customers to engage beyond the transaction by creating and sharing wish lists or signing up for push notifications so you can drive them back to your website," says Suraci.
Cultivate customer relationships during the retention phase to drive loyalty and repeat purchases
The goal is to keep the relationship warm and continue to provide your subscribers with relevant messages and campaigns.
Tip #6: Give your subscribers exclusive first access
When it comes to fostering SMS loyalty and retention, all three experts agree about the power of exclusivity.
"If you give your SMS list early access to product alerts or sales before anyone else, it drives list engagement and makes those customers feel special, which often motivates them to buy more," says Tran.
Many of Klarna's retail partners successfully use this strategy, offering deals, collections, and exclusive drops to keep their subscribers engaged and excited about the brand.
Tip #7: Use customer data to add a personal touch
SMS is a highly personal marketing channel, so every interaction your brand has with a subscriber through text needs to be treated with care. MuteSix advises leaning on the customer data available to you—whether it’s their first name, last name, or the specific product they purchased—and using dynamic variables to customize the whole message to each individual.
"Great personalization begins with identifying who, what, and why across all shopper engagements and experiences,” says Kelly. “All of these pieces together, in combination with historical and current behavioral data, help measure shopper intent."
Brands focused on increasing order frequency, for example, can analyze subscriber behavior to develop campaigns based on when certain segments typically make purchases and send an offer several days ahead of time.
Getting to know your customer will help you send messages that resonate with what they love and what they’re looking for.
- Matt Suraci, Head of Commercial at Klarna
"By keeping track of your shoppers' purchase intent and shopping history, you can better understand their buying behavior, brand affinity, and taste preferences, then tailor their shopping experience accordingly," adds Suraci, noting that retailers can gather these insights based on shopper activity in the Klarna app.
Tip #8: Reassess your SMS strategy on a regular basis
Whether you recently launched your brand's SMS channel or have been using text messaging to engage potential customers for years, it's important to remember: Each new campaign is an opportunity to learn more about what your subscribers want.
Dig into the data you have and use it to inform how you engage on this channel and reduce opt-out rates.
What does this look like in practice?
When Attentive customer Swap.com—a leading online consignment and thrift shop—analyzed the performance of their triggered text messages, they discovered that their subscribers make at least two purchases after signing up.
To learn even more about how they could evolve their triggered campaign strategy and drive more revenue from those repeat purchases, Swap.com implemented personalization in their abandoned cart, browse abandonment, and post-purchase messages.
The strategy worked, and Swap.com's browse abandonment text reminder has outperformed their triggered email reminder.
As consumers acclimate to their own comfort level of hearing from brands via text, you have to carefully assess the frequency of your sends and the content you're sharing and measure the intent of each individual subscriber—over and over again.
- Allison Kelly, VP of Partnerships at Attentive
Want to know how sophisticated your SMS strategy is and get relevant resources to continue evolving your text channel program? Take our SMS Maturity Self-Assessment.