Shoppers Tell All: How Brands Should Text to Drive SMS Success

In our latest consumer survey, shoppers revealed their motivations for texting with brands, what they like most about the channel, and how brands can create better SMS experiences with the right messages.
INTRO
The Secrets to the Best SMS Marketing Are Finally Revealed

Shoppers have kept their SMS preferences a secret, leaving brands guessing about how to craft an SMS strategy that truly engages them — until now. We polled thousands of consumers across six age groups to finally uncover what they want (and expect) from your brand’s SMS marketing, so when it comes to what, when, and how to text your shoppers, you can stop guessing and start knowing — and create the ultimate, revenue-driving mobile experience.

It’s time to text your customers the way they want to be texted. Spoiler: it may be different than you think.

In this survey report, we’ll give you key insights into:

  • What motivates shoppers to opt in to SMS messaging, and why they prefer it to other channels
  • What types of text messages shoppers want to receive from brands, and when they want to receive them
  • What reservations shoppers have about SMS, so your brand can combat them head on

Plus, we share six strategies for your best SMS marketing yet.

Table of Contents
01
Survey Methodology & Audience Data
02
Making a Great First Impression
03
The Need for Speed
04
Shoppers’ SMS Preferences Revealed
05
Stripping the Spam Stigma
06
Strategies for SMS Success
01
Survey Methodology & Audience Data
02
Making a Great First Impression
03
The Need for Speed
04
Shoppers’ SMS Preferences Revealed
05
Stripping the Spam Stigma
06
Strategies for SMS Success
Survey Methodology & Audience Data
Chapter 01
Survey Methodology & Audience Data

In July 2021, Yotpo conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers who had shopped online in the past year. These shoppers spanned six different age groups (16-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, and 54+) and four demographics (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers).

Of all the shoppers polled, 39% reported that they are only signed up to receive text messages from 1-4 brands, while 20% are signed up to 5-8 brands, and 10% are signed up to 9-12 brands. Approximately 13% reported that they are not yet signed up, perhaps indicating that they aren’t even aware their favorite brands have a text marketing program, or are unsure of what they can expect from joining one. Just over 15% of shoppers receive texts from 13 or more brands, while 2% are unsure of the exact number.

These numbers suggest that shoppers are selective about who they choose to text with, making it crucial for brands to make their SMS programs shine.

How can you ensure you stand out from the competition and get on your shoppers’ SMS short-list? It’s simple: start by making a great first impression.

Making a Great First Impression
Chapter 02
Making a Great First Impression

Because shoppers are selective when it comes to texting, it’s important that you demonstrate the value of subscribing to your texts across the customer journey to ensure you engage everyone.

When asked when they are most likely to sign up to receive SMS messages, answers between pre- and post-purchase were almost evenly split: nearly 34% of shoppers said they would opt in before their first purchase, while 31% said they would opt in after their first purchase.

Shoppers who answered, “Before my first purchase,” are likely more attracted to the initial discount or incentive that your brand offers — the 15% off their next order, or free expedited shipping for new subscribers. They have noticed your brand and are considering trying your product, but they are also on the hunt for a great deal. They want to know, if they share their phone number with you, what will they get for it in exchange? Giving them that dollar-off special encourages them to both purchase and join your subscriber community.

For the shoppers who answered, “After my first purchase,” a one-time discount is not enough; instead, they are interested in the overall value of communicating with your brand via text, such as the ability to have one-on-one conversations or receive personalized product recommendations. They may be asking themselves, were they happy with the product they ordered, and do they plan to purchase more? Did they have a great customer experience, and will signing up for SMS messaging make that experience even better? These shoppers see texting as the start of a relationship, and their intention to be a lifetime customer goes hand-in-hand with their decision to opt in.

Shoppers consider these perks and more when deciding if they want to receive text messages from brands.

We asked them about the considerations they make, and over 56% claimed they consider the types of incentives (like discounts) that the brand offers. Another 54% consider how often they purchase from the brand, and 48% if the products the brand offers are relevant to them. In a near tie for the fourth most popular response, shoppers said they consider how much they are enjoying the brand’s other marketing campaigns, customer reviews and ratings, and if they are a member of the brand’s loyalty program.

These numbers further highlight the importance of a worthwhile value exchange for shoppers, both in terms of short-term value (one-time discounts) and long-term value (customer experience and relationship-oriented incentives).

When asked specifically about which incentives would most motivate them to opt in, unlocking that one-time discount code was the most common answer (57%). Shoppers were also motivated by the prospect of getting early access to sales or new releases (53%), direct order status and delivery notifications (51%), regular text-only offers (45%), and faster responses to support queries (41%).

The data is clear. One-time offers are an absolute must for attracting shoppers to your SMS program, but they are just that: one-time only, leading to one-time sales. Consumers are also thinking beyond that initial purchase to how much they trust and enjoy your brand as a whole. They need to know that you will provide a full, engaging, and personalized experience just for them in the place they have previously reserved for personal conversations (their phones).

If there is one benefit to SMS that all shoppers can agree on, it’s how fast and easy it is to connect.

The Need for Speed
Chapter 03
The Need for Speed

Great SMS marketing is not passively consumed; it captures attention and prompts action. With 98% of text messages opened, and 90% of messages read within 3 minutes, texting provides a natural sense of immediacy for today’s mobile consumers who want everything at their fingertips — and that’s why they love it. Shoppers want real-time updates they can engage with, and texting offers a level of speed and convenience that other channels just can’t match.

However, brands need to be everywhere their customers are, and we believe the more channels you use, the more successful you will be at reaching and connecting with them all. To see how SMS fits into an omni-channel marketing strategy, we asked shoppers: why would they sign up for SMS messages in addition to emails?

Over 57% said they would also sign up for SMS messages because they want to know immediately about promotions, offers, and updates. In addition, 47% of consumers said their email inboxes are overflowing, so they are more likely to see a brand’s message if it’s via text, and 43% said they want the ability to quickly communicate with the brand one-on-one through two-way text conversations.

We also asked them why they prefer SMS to other marketing communication channels, and the results were similar. Over 55% said they prefer text messaging because it’s immediate, convenient, and allows them to quickly get updates.

Heavy email saturation takes away that experience of immediacy, even if the email is about a limited time sale. With SMS marketing, shoppers can receive and act on relevant information at the exact moment it becomes available (especially if you include a link to your site) — over 82% of consumers have their SMS notifications turned on, making your brand’s messages difficult to ignore.

Shoppers’ SMS Preferences Revealed
Chapter 04
Shoppers’ SMS Preferences Revealed

We know that texting is the communication choice for many consumers, but what do they actually want from your brand’s SMS marketing? Our data shows that they see more value in an SMS program that provides an element of control, creates engaging and exclusive experiences, and allows for communication without disruption.

Shoppers want to be in the driver’s seat

Consumers want to feel in control, especially when it comes to who can reach them on their phones. The nature of SMS marketing as a permission-based channel gives them that. Shoppers have to give their explicit permission to be marketed to via SMS by opting in, so you can’t text your customers unless they want you to text them. And if they ever decide they no longer want to hear from you, all they have to do is opt out.

More than 52% of shoppers said they prefer SMS to other channels because they can easily opt out if they need to, though they rarely do. In fact, SMS has a less than 5% opt-out rate. Being able to simply text “STOP” if they aren’t happy with the messages they have been receiving makes them feel like they are steering the conversation, not the sender.

Shoppers also expressed interest in being able to control the text messages themselves once they have opted in. When asked about which customization options they would be most interested in, shoppers aged 18-54 and older wanted to choose the types of messages they receive (such as sales offers, loyalty perks, and new product announcements). Shoppers between the ages of 16 and 17 cared more about specifying their product preferences (such as men’s or women’s clothing), indicating that they are open to any texts, as long as those texts are relevant to their purchase behavior.

Putting this control in the hand of the consumer and giving them the ability to choose makes every message more valuable to them. They get to decide not only who they receive messages from, but what those messages consist of, so that they are only seeing content that matters to them — leading to increased conversion rates and customer lifetime value.

Shoppers want to be engaged with exclusive experiences

Shoppers don’t want to receive the same message as everyone else. Every customer is unique, as are their shopping habits, and they want brands to cater to this individuality with messages that are personalized, relevant, and exclusive to them. To find out what content would best capture their attention, we asked them what would make a text message most engaging. As it turns out: it’s not just the cool GIFs.

Over 60% said a text message is most engaging when the brand sends them information relevant to their interests and past purchases, and 43% similarly noted that they enjoy when a brand asks them questions about their needs or interests. More than 52% prefer when brands include direct links to their website, so they can conveniently click through without having to search.

Message engagement is further increased when texts have visuals attached to them. To better understand what kinds of visual content perform best, we asked shoppers what they would most enjoy in an MMS message. They said they would most enjoy sneak peeks and behind the scenes content (54%), as well as product photos from real customers (54%).

This suggests that the content your brand shares does not always have to be heavily edited or stylized. Rather, insider looks at your brand and your products (especially before everyone else gets to see them) create an exclusive experience that makes shoppers feel special.

Social proof is also a significant driver of purchases — 98% of shoppers say authentic reviews are the most important factor influencing their purchase decisions — so sharing user-generated content via text can be extremely impactful, helping to elevate brand trust and inspire product interest.

What other text message content would encourage purchases? Loyalty perks and exclusive offers.

Of the shoppers surveyed, 60% said a personalized offer would encourage them to complete a purchase — a leading answer for every single age group — and more than 46% said receiving a text with information about their loyalty points or rewards would encourage them to do the same. Providing these exclusive experiences is key to keeping shoppers of every age engaged throughout the customer journey.

Shoppers want communication, without disruption

It’s not just important to send the right message to your customers, it’s also important to send the message at the right time. We asked shoppers what time of day would be best for brands to text them, so that your texts are always welcome and never bothersome.

The answer wasn’t so clear cut. Over 47% of shoppers said they prefer to receive texts sometime between 12:00pm – 6:00pm, with the 12:00pm – 3:00pm slot just leading the way at 28% of responses. Why might this be? These early afternoon hours (when lunch is often taken) offer a break in the day and therefore a prime opportunity for shoppers to engage.

Due to the high open rate of SMS, it’s important that text messages are sent at a time when the consumer can immediately take action, without feeling like they are being distracted or interrupted. This way, a text from your brand won’t ever feel like spam.

Stripping the Spam Stigma
Chapter 05
Stripping the Spam Stigma

Text message marketing is not telemarketing, but the days of endless cold calling have caused some consumer reservations to linger. Shoppers are wary of sharing private information with brands, fearing irrelevant and uninteresting spam. However, SMS has powerful personalization and customization capabilities, giving it the potential to change these perceptions.

We wanted to know, is spam the main reason why shoppers wouldn’t want to receive text messages from brands?

It certainly seems to be the case. Shoppers are worried that they will be texted by the brand too frequently (57%), or that their phone numbers will be shared with third parties (52%). Other responses included not being comfortable giving their number out, not trusting telemarketers with personal information, as well as complaints of “spam” and “soliciting texts.”

The frequency of spammy texts proved to be a main concern for the shoppers surveyed — 65% said receiving too many texts would make them want to opt out, and 56% said they would opt out if the texts are not relevant or helpful to them.

Does this mean brands shouldn’t text? Not at all. Over 51% of consumers worldwide want to text with their favorite brands. To ease concerns, brands should focus on sending more meaningful messages and offering shoppers control over the types of messages they receive (to make every message more relevant to them).

We recommend sending 4-8 proactive SMS campaigns a month, each one hyper-tailored to your shoppers’ preferences to ensure it’s always content they care about.

Strategies for SMS Success
Chapter 06
Strategies for SMS Success

Now that shoppers have spilled their secrets to engaging them the right way with SMS, we would like to share our tips for making your channel as successful as it can be. Here are six strategies to inspire your customers to opt in, and ensure they never want to opt out — because with SMS, it’s easy to give every shopper the exact experience they want.

1. Provide value to get them interested

In order to motivate your shoppers to sign up, your brand first needs to convey the value of SMS — and that looks different for every shopper. Some shoppers are only focused on getting great deals, while others are thinking about their commitment to your brand and your products. So offer them perks that are exclusive to your subscriber community, and show them how your relationship will grow and evolve once SMS is in the mix.

Our tip to engage both of these mindsets? Grab their attention from the start with the opportunity to unlock a coupon, such as $10 off, 20% off, or free shipping. But don’t stop at this limited sale — give them a glimpse of what your relationship will look like with SMS. This could be through offering exclusive first-access to new product releases, always keeping them in the loop about special events, or staying in touch with regular updates about their loyalty status. Experiment with different incentives and offer values to determine what is most attractive to your brand’s shoppers.

2. Make it easy for them to opt in

Once they know why they should opt in, give them multiple opportunities to do so. Meet your customers wherever they are by taking a multi-channel approach to subscriber collection, and include at least 3-4 on-site and off-site collection opportunities for maximum results. We’ve got some ideas to get you started:

  • Elevate branded pop-ups to catch your mobile consumer’s eye as they shop, or utilize our native tap-to-subscribe feature for even easier opt-in.
  • Add a footer or checkout widget to your website to ensure you are capturing all of your site visitors.
  • Send an email campaign to your email subscribers with a CTA that directs them to a dedicated SMS sign up page (where you can promote all the great things your SMS program has to offer).
  • Engage shoppers on social media by sharing a story with a unique keyword, or have them swipe up to subscribe.
  • You can even use QR codes to collect subscribers at your storefront, or as part of your packaging inserts for online orders.

Audiences differ, so test out different methods of collecting your subscribers across channels, online, and offline to engage them wherever and whenever they are most active.

3. Address privacy and security concerns upfront

For shoppers who are still on the fence, there is an opportunity for brands to provide clear direction on the privacy and security measures you have in place. Your list might be built for TCPA, CTIA, and GDPR compliance, but the average consumer might not know what that means.

Clearly communicate the strict SMS opt-in and opt-out policies you stand by, how you will be using their phone number, and why their private information will be safe with you to really create an aura of transparency and gain their trust, which will ultimately lead to higher opt in rates.

4. Leverage customer data to segment your audience

A one size approach does not fit all. Leverage the data you have at your fingertips — including gender, location, and purchase history — to segment your audiences so you are always sending the most relevant messages.

To further tailor your texts to your customers’ preferences, ask your SMS subscribers about their interests and give them options. What products are they considering, or do they want to hear more about? What types of messages would they like to receive from your brand? Not only will you learn more about your customers through this zero-party data, but you will also create a more personalized experience for every shopper, helping you to nurture the customer relationships your brand hopes to build.

If you send messages that are tailored to each shopper’s unique interests, needs, and purchase behaviors, you can guarantee that you won’t be mistaken for spam, and the frequency of your texts will no longer be cause for concern but excitement.

5. Send your most engaging content (when they can act on it)

Shoppers are most engaged by text messages that are relevant to their interests, which is why it’s so important for brands to learn about their customers and ask them about their preferences. What can you do beyond this? Greet them by name. Then include a clear call to action and a direct link in every text you send — this way, your subscriber can quickly and easily take action, increasing the chance of conversion. If they have to pull up your website or app on their own, it’s likely that you will miss out on potential revenue.

Visual content is great for engagement too. Mix up your SMS and MMS messages, and include unique and exclusive visuals that will inspire subscribers to shop. If you are thinking of sending a product cross-sell or up-sell, try using a photo or video that another customer shared in a past review. If you want to promote your upcoming collection, include teasers or behind the scenes snapshots for a sneak peek they won’t get anywhere else.

And don’t forget one of the biggest drivers of purchases: discounts. Give your subscriber community exclusive offers from time to time. If they are a loyalty member, reach out to tell them how close they are to reaching the next tier in your program, or let them know how many points they will earn from their next order.

Unless your message is automatically triggered by a customer’s action (like their latest purchase), we recommend delivering the bulk of these messages within the early afternoon to late afternoon hours, when you won’t be too disruptive to your customer’s morning or nighttime routines. If you have customers in different locations, make sure to text them according to their time zones so you can stay as true to this as possible.

To determine the preferred hour for your unique customers, consider running a test: send the same message at two different times to two different groups to see which performs better. Alternatively, look back at your message performance over time to identify trends — are your click-through rates higher when texts are sent at 12:00pm than at 5:00pm, or vice versa? Once you’ve narrowed down the optimal time to text, you can maximize the results of every message.

6. Supplement email with SMS

The data shows that SMS should not replace your other marketing communication channels, but complement them. Take a dual-approach to SMS and email to disseminate information appropriately and improve engagement across channels, and encourage your customers to sign up for both to always be “the first to know.” Leverage a subscriber collection tool that’s optimized for dual-capture of email and SMS, so you can consolidate collection efforts with one engaging touchpoint.

With these two different channels comes the opportunity for different content. 36% of shoppers would sign up for both email and SMS because each channel has its own exclusive offers — so don’t just copy and paste what you wrote in that email into your next text. Because of the brief and conversational nature of text messages, brands can take a more casual, fun, and personal approach to text messaging while still maintaining your unique brand voice.

If you are not sure which channel to use for which message, you don’t have to guess which is best — let your subscribers decide. Send a text to ask them which messaging interests them the most, so you can segment accordingly. Consider prioritizing SMS for messages of high urgency that your customers need and want to know, like order status updates or limited time offers — 40% of shoppers said a text with a countdown to when a sale or offer expires would encourage them to complete a purchase.

Keep an eye on your metrics, and A/B test your text messages so you can optimize for even better results. Adding a sense of urgency and personalizing the copy of your SMS campaigns can significantly boost performance.

 

Conclusion

With these SMS secrets revealed, you are one step closer to creating an unbeatable mobile experience for your shoppers, so you can achieve your full SMS potential and make them fall in love with your brand. But remember, SMS is not a set it and forget it channel — so keep asking your shoppers for feedback, keep analyzing your data, and keep optimizing along the way, and it will quickly become one of the top revenue drivers for your brand.

At Yotpo, we’re experts at building an SMS marketing strategy from the ground up and optimizing the channel to meet your brand’s goals, create captivating customer experiences, and spark relationships that drive revenue. Request a demo with us to learn more secrets to SMS success, or get started now.

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