How to Choose the Best SMS Marketing Platform

The only thing more important than getting started with SMS is choosing the right platform. Here's what to look for to guarantee results.
INTRO
Every brand needs an SMS platform, but which one?

eCommerce is changing. Over the course of the last year, major shifts in consumer behavior, stricter privacy policies, and social media outages have driven brands to diversify their marketing in order to engage and retain their customers. With mobile commerce sales expected to double by 2025, SMS has emerged as a clear solution to falling revenue — and brands everywhere are already diving in.

Before you too can begin to leverage the power of SMS, you first have to find the best SMS marketing platform to use. This guide will show you how.

Table of Contents
01
Finding the best SMS marketing platform
02
SMS expertise when you need it, resources when you don’t
03
Multi-channel subscriber collection opportunities
04
Advanced messaging automations
05
Easy and effective campaign creation
06
Personalization and segmentation
07
Reliable tracking and analytics
08
Seamless integration with the rest of your tech stack
09
Global compliance and deliverability
10
Flexible payment options
01
Finding the best SMS marketing platform
02
SMS expertise when you need it, resources when you don’t
03
Multi-channel subscriber collection opportunities
04
Advanced messaging automations
05
Easy and effective campaign creation
06
Personalization and segmentation
07
Reliable tracking and analytics
08
Seamless integration with the rest of your tech stack
09
Global compliance and deliverability
10
Flexible payment options
Finding the best SMS marketing platform
Chapter 01
Finding the best SMS marketing platform

As a channel, SMS expertly caters to consumers who shop on mobile devices, who want immediate access to everything in the palm of their hands, and who expect the brands they do business with to provide a certain spark — a personalized, exclusive, and engaging experience that they can carry with them.

But as SMS marketing grows in popularity among brands and consumers alike, so does the number of platforms to choose from. New names and products are entering the market every day, so how can you tell which one is the right fit for you?

Alongside our brands and partners at Sticky Digital and Hustler Marketing, we explored what makes an SMS marketing platform great for business, from the core elements you need to get started to the advancements that will give you a leg up on your competition. Now we’re breaking down exactly how to choose the best SMS marketing platform, so you can build a stable, revenue-driving SMS program that can weather any changes.

If you can check off every one of the features listed here, you can rest assured that you’ve found your winner.

SMS expertise when you need it, resources when you don’t
Chapter 02
SMS expertise when you need it, resources when you don’t

Whether you are brand new to SMS marketing or looking to transition to another platform, the team at your back can either propel or hinder your success. So before diving into the more technical aspects of the platform, you’ll want to evaluate the overall level of support it offers. Ask yourself, does this platform have the potential to become my trusted partner? Are they equipped with extensive SMS knowledge to power my growth?

What to look for:

Customer Success Managers: Adding another marketing channel can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The best SMS marketing platform will give you a dedicated Customer Success Manager (CSM) to serve as your brand advocate and oversee your account. From thorough onboarding to sending your first messages, a CSM will use their product expertise to guide you as you grow a healthy subscriber list, design and launch new tools and strategies, and more. They can even provide white glove service to give you the best SMS experience.

SMS Strategists: An SMS Strategist, if offered, will work alongside your CSM to ensure you see value from SMS as soon as possible. With expert knowledge of SMS marketing, your Strategist can dive into your performance analytics to identify meaningful trends, provide strategic insights and best practices, help you determine the right audience to target and the right messaging to send, and provide ongoing optimizations to ensure our SMS strategy drives maximum ROI.

24/7 support: You shouldn’t have to wait until office hours to ask for advice or take action. Look for support agents that are available 24/7 so that every surprise can have a speedy resolution.

Easy channel management: While it’s great to have these experts by your side at every step of your SMS journey, it’s important that they are always enabling (and not restricting) you. Find out whether or not you are able to make agile and informed decisions about your SMS program yourself. Can you customize and launch your own tools on the fly? Can you track your performance and spend, or does your CSM have to do it for you? The best SMS marketing platform will give you the flexibility to manage as much or as little of your program as you want, when you want, so that your SMS marketing can evolve as your needs do.

Quote from Jason Daniel at LSKD

Multi-channel subscriber collection opportunities
Chapter 03
Multi-channel subscriber collection opportunities

So you think you’ve found your expert SMS team, now it’s time to evaluate the platform’s product offerings. Subscriber collection is a natural place to start. Your subscriber list will serve as the foundation of your SMS program, and sustaining and scaling that list will ultimately determine how much revenue and engagement you can drive with SMS.

For the best results, look for an SMS marketing platform that allows you to be everywhere your customers are with a variety of multi-channel collection tools. You should be able to reach your customers online as well as in-store, on your website as well as on your social media or other marketing channels. Brands who provide these varied subscriber collection experiences increase collection rates by over 40% MoM.

What to look for:

Tools for your website: Pop-ups, floating buttons, footer widgets, embedded forms, sign-up pages, and checkout opt-in

Tools for your social media and marketing channels: Keywords, shareable sign-up links, and social story links

Tools for your store: Text to subscribe, QR codes, and point-of-sale (POS)

These subscriber collection tools should not only come standard with your SMS marketing platform, it’s also essential that they are compliant, customizable, and proven to convert. You’ll also want to look beyond the general suite of tools for:

Ready-to-launch templates: A platform with an extensive library of beautifully designed templates, which are ready to launch and pre-built for compliance, will enable you to engage customers and collect their consent with minimal effort.

Complete customization: While these templates might be stunning by default, it’s important that you are able to put your personal touch on them. Every template should be completely customizable to fit your brand and reflect your personality.

Dual SMS and email collection: SMS is just one piece of the marketing puzzle, and the best SMS marketing platform will be committed to maximizing results across your entire strategy. Collection opportunities that capture both SMS and email, like Yotpo SMSBump’s winning pop-up, will allow you to grow both of your subscriber lists in tandem through one engaging touch point.

Conversion guarantee: Look for sign-up units that are designed with conversion in mind. Pop-ups that can minimize without closing or reappear during new site sessions to prompt engagement, for example, or advanced behavioral display settings to target each visitor based on their intent or location, are a sign that the team has built these tools to guarantee results.

Because the buyer journey now crosses multiple channels and locations, you need an SMS marketing platform that can capture customer traffic anywhere and provide the optimal experience to convert those customers into SMS subscribers.

Quote from Nikki Tooman at Sticky Digital

Advanced messaging automations
Chapter 04
Advanced messaging automations

With your SMS subscriber list built and growing, you can turn your attention to engaging customers with texts that build loyalty and drive them to purchase. Automations will play a critical role here, and there are two main types that you won’t want to go without: triggered SMS flows and 1:1 conversations.

What to look for:

Triggered SMS flows: Look for an SMS flow builder that can trigger SMS and MMS messages based on real-time events and custom conditions to drive the most conversions. So when a customer abandons their cart, reaches a new loyalty tier, celebrates a birthday, or places a high-value order, a message will be sent automatically to capture that customer’s attention and guide them down the path to purchase. The most essential flows to enable when getting started are welcome flows, cart abandonment flows, product upsell flows, and customer win-back flows. Transactional flows, such as order and shipping confirmations, are also particularly good at meeting consumers’ expectations — 55% say they prefer SMS to other marketing channels because it’s immediate, convenient, and allows them to quickly get updates. If your SMS marketing platform doesn’t offer any of these, consider other options.

Conversational SMS: SMS provides a unique opportunity to engage with customers 1:1 the same way they prefer to communicate every day. The best SMS marketing platform can transform your triggered flows into engaging Q&As to empower your customers to respond and share their information with you proactively. What are they searching for? Which product would they prefer? Do they have a specific concern that you can solve? Based on their responses to your messages, you can recommend the right products to establish trust and boost purchases. If an SMS marketing platform only offers one-way messaging, you will not only miss out on revenue, but also valuable customer data that you need to create meaningful connections.

To reach customers at pivotal moments in their shopping journeys, go with a platform that enables you to sync messages with real-time actions as well as simulate back-and-forth conversations through texts that run on autopilot. These automations are the backbone of a strong SMS strategy, working steadily behind the scenes to accelerate your growth.

Quote from Nikki Tooman at Sticky Digital

Easy and effective campaign creation
Chapter 05
Easy and effective campaign creation

Sending timely campaigns to your audience is one of the most important ways to stay connected and keep your subscriber list engaged, bring customers back to purchase, and maximize customer lifetime value. These campaigns should be easy to create and launch so that you can keep your eye on the results.

What to look for:

Message templates: With a collection of winning messages at your fingertips, you’ll never have to struggle with writer’s block. Choose an SMS marketing platform that offers campaign templates for every occasion — from product launches to flash sales or even holidays — complete with pre-built copy that is ready to go. Send the message as is, or customize it to match your brand’s voice and tone. Either way, these templates will have you sending timely messages in minutes to efficiently and consistently drive revenue.

Scheduling: Not ready to hit send? Make sure you have the ability to schedule your campaigns in advance for a specific time or date for added flexibility and more efficient program management.

Helpful resources: The best SMS marketing platforms turn marketers into experts at creating captivating campaigns. See if the platform you’re interested in has additional resources to help you craft compelling copy that converts, like Yotpo SMSBump’s SMS Analyzer, A+ Texts, SMS Marketing Examples, or SMS Campaign Planner.

Quote from Hustler Marketing

Personalization and segmentation
Chapter 06
Personalization and segmentation

Now more than ever consumers expect personalized and engaging experiences from brands. In fact, over 60% say they are more engaged by texts from brands that are relevant to their interests and past purchases. The best SMS marketing platform will make that easy to deliver.

To truly know your customers and reach them in a more thoughtful way, you’ll need access to extensive customer data at your fingertips, along with the ability to use that data to tailor your messaging according to each customer’s traits, interests, and shopping behaviors.

What to look for:

Readily available data: SMS is powered by zero- and first-party data, so your platform should be too. See if it’s possible to capture your customers’ demographics, location, average cart value, the amount of purchases they’ve made to date, which products they’ve ordered, their loyalty program details, and preferences to help you understand your audience and better target them.

Segmentation: The more data your SMS marketing platform shares with you, the more you can segment. Seek out a platform that gives you the ability to identify specific groups that you want to target (such as first time purchasers), then use the information you collect to create segments. By segmenting your audience, you can send them highly relevant messages rather than blasting them with information they won’t care about or act on, thereby maximizing the ROI of every text.

Quote from Sticky Digital about how the best SMS marketing platforms offer segmentation

Personalization fields for campaigns and flows: More than 41% of consumers prefer when brands greet them by name in their texts, making even the smallest personal touch critical to SMS engagement. Look for built-in discount fields and a library of dynamic short-codes that enable you to tailor your messaging and pull in personal details (e.g. first name or loyalty points balance) to excite and delight your customers.

As changes to consumer privacy make it harder for marketers to achieve personalized experiences, you need an SMS platform that is data-rich for effective targeting and the most engaging messaging there is.

Quote from Kim Zorn at Princess Polly

Reliable tracking and analytics
Chapter 07
Reliable tracking and analytics

Speaking of data, yours needs to be accessible, comprehensive, and updated in real time. Transparency is not only important to understand and target your customers, it’s also critical to understanding your SMS performance so you know exactly where to iterate and where to optimize.

What to look for:

Comprehensive analytics dashboards: In order for your SMS program to reach its full potential, you need a platform with advanced analytics dashboards that track every aspect of your program down to the individual message level. This will give you visibility into when customers drop off and re-enter the buyer journey, which campaigns and flows see the highest conversions, which SMS engagement led to the conversion, and more. You should also be able to measure the cost of SMS against the revenue that you earn, so that you can easily assess the impact your program is having on your bottom line. When evaluating the strength of these reporting and analytics functionalities, make sure the platform tracks the following SMS metrics: clicks, conversions, cost, revenue, and ROI.

Subscriber collection insights: Subscriber collection analytics are fundamental as you scale your list, giving you insight into how effective your collection tools are and where your subscribers are coming from. Choose an SMS marketing platform that gives you a bird’s-eye view of your subscriber growth in its entirety, including the ability to drill down into every tool you’ve enabled. This should include your growth rate over time and the number of subscribers broken down by source. So if you’re questioning whether your pop-up or your landing page is more effective, or what your growth rate looks like since adding social opt-in, you’ll always have an answer.

Flexible attribution model: Look for an attribution model that aligns with the logic used across your tech stack, with attribution based on last view and last click, to make tracking results across all of your active marketing channels simple and reliable. Advanced settings will yield even better results — make sure the platform’s attribution windows and UTM parameters are fully configurable to suit your brand’s size, strategy, and reporting efforts, and that you can seamlessly track revenue outside of the platform through third-party tools like Google Analytics.

Downloadable reports: Sometimes you need to share results and insights with your team without being tied to your dashboard, and the best SMS marketing platform will enable you to do so with ease. Platforms like Yotpo SMSBump that allow you to generate and download reports, from subscriber growth to campaigns and automations, get bonus points.

A/B testing capabilities: When you pair your SMS analytics with powerful A/B testing, you can clearly define a winning SMS strategy and optimize for the long-term success of your program. A/B testing two or more variations of a campaign or flow will help you understand what resonates with your audience, and the best SMS marketing platform will track their performance for you so you can instantly identify which is best and apply it to your strategy with data-driven proof.

Quote from Nikki Tooman at Sticky Digital

Seamless integration with the rest of your tech stack
Chapter 08
Seamless integration with the rest of your tech stack

It’s a fact that SMS is a powerful channel (92% of brands see a return within one month) but it was never meant to replace your other marketing initiatives. Instead, think of SMS as your ideal companion — when connected to the rest of your tech stack, you can leverage its strength to generate greater results across the board.

What to look for:

Platform integrations (with data synchronization): To create frictionless experiences for both your internal teams and your customers, opt for an SMS marketing platform that seamlessly integrates with other top platforms with the click of a button. For example, Yotpo SMSBump connects instantly to your Shopify store, automatically syncing all of your data so you can send more powerful SMS messages without any extra work.

Marketing integrations: Avoid SMS marketing platforms that keep your programs siloed. To make the most impact, look for a solution that offers synergy between SMS and your other programs and channels — like loyalty, reviews, visual user-generated content (UGC), and email service providers (ESPs) — for a streamlined approach that allows you to build loyalty and drive revenue faster than ever before.

Help desk integrations: Just like your marketing channels, the best SMS marketing platform will also be able to integrate with your preferred help desk solution, like Gorgias, Zendesk, and Re:amaze. This allows your customer service team to easily manage your SMS replies in one place, creating the best experience for your representatives so they can provide stellar customer service via SMS that wows every shopper.

Quote from Anthony Ridley at Til You Collapse

Global compliance and deliverability
Chapter 09
Global compliance and deliverability

Industry-leading subscriber collection, personalized messaging, reliable analytics, and product integrations might seem like enough fuel for your SMS marketing program. But all of this will be worth nothing if you can’t reach your customers on time, every time. That’s why you need an SMS marketing platform that prioritizes both compliance and deliverability worldwide.

What to look for:

Compliance with the top consumer protection laws and guidelines: When it comes to SMS marketing, compliance is not optional — it’s required. To prevent facing unnecessary challenges or penalties, choose an SMS marketing platform that is a certified CTIA partner, as well as TCPA, GDPR, CASL, and ACMA vetted. That way, you can connect with your customers and scale your SMS program with complete confidence. Other indicators of a platform’s commitment to compliance include sign-up units with explicit legal language already outlined, simple opt-out management, and smart unsubscribe safeguards to help you maintain compliance at every step.

Fast and reliable delivery: Capturing a customer’s attention before your competition does is a never-ending battle. If you choose an SMS marketing platform that specializes in deliverability and guarantees the fastest possible throughputs (regardless of your size or spend), you will always deliver the right message at exactly the right time to engage your subscriber, even during peak shopping periods or carrier network disruptions.

Phone number setup, verification, and onboarding: Not sure what phone number to use to text your customers? From dedicated short codes to toll-free numbers, the best SMS marketing platform will help you choose the phone number that is best for your needs and location, as well as do all the heavy lifting for you, including verification, provisioning, set-up, and onboarding.

Spam prevention: Rich features like smart sending, easy-to-save contact cards, and built-in carrier verification will help prevent your brand’s marketing messages from being mistaken for spam, so your customers never miss an important notification (or receive too many of them.)

International messaging: Does your brand have customers in other countries? If so, your text messages should be able to reach them there. Look for a platform with direct, high-quality routes all over the globe, as well as established relationships with the world’s top carriers, so that you can extend your reach and grow engaged communities everywhere.

Built-in quiet hours: Don’t sleep on this technology! If offered, quiet hours can be instantly applied to your SMS strategy, ensuring that your messages never disturb customers during inopportune hours, no matter their timezone. Not only will this keep you compliant and help you avoid hefty fines, it will keep your customers happy.

Quote from Kim Winter at Yotpo

Flexible payment options
Chapter 10
Flexible payment options

If these platform features are all must-haves, you might now be asking yourself, how much is it all going to cost me? The answer isn’t so simple. Every brand and every SMS program is unique, so rather than accepting a one-size-fits-all approach to messaging and spending, look for a payment plan that is unique to you too.

What to look for:

A plan for every brand: An SMS marketing platform with a flexible payment model will allow you to choose from a variety of plans and pay as you grow, so that you can keep your costs well below your revenue. Why would you ever want to pay for more than what you use?

Yotpo SMSBump’s payment model was designed specifically for marketers to solve this. When you use our SMS marketing platform, you only pay for the messages you send — our costs are inclusive of carrier fees, so there are no hidden fees waiting to surprise you at the end of the month. With this marketer-friendly payment model, you can maintain a stable SMS budget and a stable SMS strategy for long-lasting results.

Quote from Hustler Marketing

Conclusion

At Yotpo SMSBump, we know what it takes to captivate mobile consumers, increase customer loyalty, and maximize ROI through engaging SMS marketing. That’s why all of the above features come standard with our platform. So why waste time evaluating others?

To learn more about how we can power your brand to create an unbeatable SMS marketing experience, request a demo today. We’re ready to get you started.

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