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How Michaels Drove $63M+ by Amplifying Online and In-Store Experiences With SMS

wall of yarn and woman standing

$63M+

total SMS revenue driven*

8.5M+

active SMS subscribers

20.8%

average CVR on abandoned cart reminder text

Learn how Michaels launched their SMS marketing channel to expand, engage, and nurture their community of makers.


About 

Michaels believes anyone can be a maker. As the largest arts and crafts retail chain in North America, they’re on a mission to inspire and encourage everyone to unleash their inner maker.

Challenge

After scaling up their e-commerce footprint over the past two years, Michaels was looking for a new owned marketing channel to help them accomplish their primary goals: removing friction for shoppers and expanding their online presence.

The 2020 e-commerce boom encouraged executives to rethink their online and in-store experiences, placing customer ease and strategic fulfillment at the forefront. Michaels’ CEO, Ashley Buchanan, told Forbes, “When I took the job, I talked to hundreds of our customers, and what they told me was they loved the brand, but they wanted to know why we made it so difficult to shop at Michaels.” 

First, the retailer needed to tap into their physical locations as fulfillment centers to create seamless customer experiences. Then, they needed to translate the best elements of their in-store experience—product discovery and creative inspiration—into equally memorable digital ones. Michaels’ goal was to make it easy and delightful for consumers to shop, no matter where they chose to visit. 

Solution

Michaels launched their SMS marketing channel to expand, engage, and nurture their community of makers. The retailer partnered with Attentive in 2019 to create highly personalized experiences that foster discovery and drive immediate traffic to their website and physical locations. “We’ve integrated our SMS channel with a lot of our tech stack—from integrating with our loyalty program to collecting opt-ins at point of sale,” said Stephanie Turner, Director, Targeted Marketing at Michaels. “Most of that required a lot of dedicated support from Attentive, as well as some collaborative work between our partners and the Attentive team.”

Michaels is focused on delivering personalized experiences to their subscribers. Using Attentive's A/B testing, geo-targeting, and segmentation capabilities, Michaels tailors text messages to shoppers' preferences. "Consumers have become used to receiving impersonal updates,” said Turner. “Text messaging gives us the opportunity to tell quick, focused stories that resonate with each of our audiences. Using Attentive's segmentation capabilities, we're able to tell multiple stories to multiple audiences, driving increased engagement." 

We were looking for a platform that would be a true collaborative partner with our internal teams. Attentive supports our needs as a young and scaling SMS program. They’re always willing to work with us—not just from an account standpoint, but from a technical and development standpoint. 

- Stephanie Turner, Director, Targeted Marketing, Michaels

Strategy

Michaels has built their community of makers by offering inspiration and support at every step of the creative journey. They’ve replicated their signature in-store clienteling and discovery experiences on their text channel, helping shoppers feel supported and understood. 

Nurturing new subscribers

Michaels built a sophisticated welcome journey to nurture shoppers as soon as they sign up for texts. The welcome series—sent over 24 days—is designed to amplify other marketing and company-wide initiatives. “When we decided what to feature in our welcome journey, we looked at Michaels’ company-wide priorities,” said Turner. “We wanted to use SMS to drive engagement for the areas that were top of mind for us as a business." 

Our major focus is supporting our customers'  in their “maker journey”, through inspiration, education, and creating a personalized shopping experience. Our welcome journey has a balance of promotional and inspirational messages to help them feel supported in their creative endeavors. 

- Stephanie Turner, Director, Targeted Marketing, Michaels
Welcome text message series

After delivering their sign-up incentive —a percentage amount off—Michaels invites shoppers to engage with them online and in-store: 

  1. Three days after signing up for texts, subscribers are invited to share their creations on social media and get inspired by fellow makers. This message helps Michaels grow their social media presence through user-generated content and create a sense of community from the get-go. Plus, encouraging shoppers to share their work for the chance to be featured on their website incentivizes them to kick off their projects immediately. 
  2. One week after signing up, Michaels invites subscribers to join their loyalty program and start earning rewards. On top of building brand loyalty and growing their rewards program, this strategy helps the retailer build more complex shopper profiles—like whether they’re shopping in person or online—that fuel more personalized experiences. 
  3. 10 days after signing up, Michaels encourages subscribers to check out online classes. These free courses are tailored to makers’ interests and introduce them to new skills, from fine arts to yarn crafts. 
  4. 16 days after signing up, Michaels helps subscribers jumpstart their creativity with an invitation to explore the brand’s Projects Hub, full of inspirational videos, tips, and DIY how-tos. This message helps upsell tools and supplies to crafters for their existing passions, and exposes subscribers to new projects and skills.  
  5. 24 days after signing up, in the last text of their welcome journey, Michaels promotes their custom framing service. The retailer encourages subscribers to choose their preferred way to shop, linking to their website so they can get started online or book an in-store appointment. 

Michaels’ welcome series is an investment in customer retention. Building trust and loyalty with educational content—rather than purely selling by sharing promotions or specific product spotlights—helps ensure shoppers will keep coming back any time they’re looking for guidance or tools. 

Michael's access granted text message

Speaking to subscribers’ preferences through personalization

Sophisticated segmentation empowers the brand to deliver relevant content and remove friction by linking directly to the products, bundles, and educational content each subscriber needs to complete their projects. Michaels segments text messages based on:  

  • Seasonal preferences 
  • Crafting/DIY interests
  • Michaels Rewards membership status
  • Engagement history
  • Store location
When we send a text message, we want to make sure it's relevant and based on as many data points as possible. We combine our rich datasets—at the customer level—with the breadth and depth of our content to deliver incredibly personalized texts.

- Stephanie Turner, Director, Targeted Marketing, Michaels 

The retailer frequently sends SMS campaigns promoting new products and category-specific offers, and tailors them to the items shoppers have browsed online. "Using Attentive, we're able to target subscribers who have recently browsed certain categories or landing pages. These recency signals allow us to tailor messages to subscribers' interests in real-time," said Turner. They also personalize free and paid classes invitations with browse and purchase data to remove friction, helping subscribers enroll in programs that match their interests.

Michael's special offer

Segmentation helps Michaels connect the dots between their loyalty and SMS programs. The retailer targets subscribers who aren’t yet members of their loyalty program with invitations to join and start earning rewards. Promoting the program with limited-time offers and mystery perks helps the retailer build even more urgency. 

Once a subscriber opts into Michaels’ loyalty program, Michaels Rewards, the retailer uses SMS to encourage them to take full advantage of their perks. “We're able to not only increase redemption rates, but use it as a vehicle to drive web and foot traffic,” said Turner. “We also layer the incremental data sets from our loyalty members to drill even deeper into their preferences, delivering super personalized experiences. 

Bridging online and in-store experiences

Michaels has more than 1,200 physical stores across the country, which they’ve turned into micro fulfillment centers over the past two years. Buchanan told Forbes, “We used to ship between 86% and 92% of our online orders from our central [distribution center], but now it’s 16% because all of [our] stores have become mini-distribution points.” 

Buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pick up shopping options have removed friction for shoppers. They don’t have to enter their address details or wait for their order to ship. Instead, they can pick up their items from their nearest store location. 

When Michaels hosts location-specific events and promotions, they send geo-targeted messages personalized to subscribers’ locations. Subscribers can simply click through to find directions to their closest store. "Being able to segment our texts based on location is a huge engagement priority for us as a company—whether that’s to drive traffic to a store with a promotion or share location-specific invitations," said Turner. 

It's been fascinating to see traffic patterns emerge as shoppers began to interact with us both online and in-store. Whether they’re on their phones or out and about,  they're ultimately connecting with us via SMS, driving engagement.

- Stephanie Turner, Director, Targeted Marketing, Michaels

Results 

Over the past year, Michaels has seen a steady increase in SMS-attributed traffic to their e-commerce site. Since launching with Attentive in 2019, Michaels has driven over $63.2 million in revenue from SMS. 

Michaels has over 8.5 million active subscribers, and grew their list by over 51% YoY in 2021. These subscribers are engaged from the get-go—the retailer's welcome journey drives a 139x ROI. 

By tailoring their SMS campaigns to subscribers’ interests, Michaels has been able to drive engagement around company-wide goals. "Our text subscribers are highly engaged with inspirational and educational content," said Turner. "When we send invitations to our classes through SMS, we see an incremental lift in registration." 

We've seen tremendous growth within our SMS program. Our audience loves to interact with our brand via text messaging. 

- Stephanie Turner, Director, Targeted Marketing, Michaels

Michaels plans to make their program even more sophisticated by testing and optimizing their browse and cart abandonment messages. "Our focus for the next year is to get more targeted in how we engage our subscribers," said Turner. "We want to explore how we can build SMS journeys based on subscribers' engagement with our loyalty program, educational materials, and in-store experiences. That way, we can create exceptional omnichannel touchpoints that drive sales and brand awareness.”

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