Go Back SMS Marketing Guide

How Does SMS Marketing Work?

Brands have a lot of options when it comes to SMS marketing, but there’s a lot they need to consider. This lesson covers compliance issues and the questions to ask before getting started.


Brands have a lot of options when it comes to implementing an SMS marketing solution, but there’s a lot they need to consider to make the best decision.

Plus, there are a lot of compliance guidelines that need to be followed. This chapter helps you cover all of your bases.

SMS marketing basics

Before we dive into how to get started with SMS, let’s talk about what it is and how it works. SMS is a permission-based marketing channel that allows brands to better reach, engage, and connect with their shoppers on their mobile devices. Customers have to opt in before you can start texting them, which can be done in a variety of ways, such as texting a keyword to a brand’s short code or entering their phone number and agreeing to receive texts via an on-site pop-up.

Once consumers are opted in, brands are then able to send promotions, offers, news, and more to their subscribers’ phones. This can be done in bulk, or to specific groups or audience segments.

A key benefit of SMS marketing is that it’s highly customizable. Brands can rely on customer data to create more personalized experiences for every shopper, and the more SMS marketing you do, the smarter and more targeted that data will get.

When getting started with SMS marketing, there are a few questions brands need to ask:

What are my goals for SMS?

Obviously, the end goal for every eCommerce brand is to increase sales and revenue, but you should have specific primary goals for each marketing channel. Whether your goal is list building, enhanced customer service, loyalty integration, or something else, clearly defining what you want to accomplish with texting will help inform your overall strategy.

How will I acquire SMS subscribers?

There are several ways to build your SMS subscriber list, including on-site pop-ups, opt-ins at checkout, or through other channels like email or social media. Many brands opt for a text keyword approach — for example, if a hat brand asks customers to text the word FEDORA to a short code or phone number, then FEDORA is the keyword.

You also have to consider at this stage how you’ll segment your subscribers into lists, and what criteria you’ll use to group them. For example, you may have a welcome flow for new subscribers, but what happens after their second purchase? Or, how long do you wait before adding a customer to a win-back campaign list?

What types of messages do I want to send?

This is where the overall strategy comes in. What automations do you want to have? Do you want to send SMS messages, MMS messages, or both?

There are so many options when it comes to the types of texts you can send subscribers. You can automatically trigger messages to send at specific days and times, or when a customer takes a specific action in the course of the buyer journey, such as abandoning their cart, to engage them at exactly the right time for them to convert.

You also have choices when it comes to how you want those messages to look. Messages can contain text, emojis, clickable links, and/or visual content like images and gifs.

In the beginning, you’ll want to test as many types of messages as you can, so you can measure what engages your subscribers the most. Then, you’ll be able to hone in on the strategy that will allow you to send the right messages to the right consumer at the right time.

What’s my budget for SMS?

We’ll go into pricing a bit more in the next lesson, but knowing how much you want to spend will have a huge impact on which platform or partner you choose, how many flows you set up, and other aspects of your SMS marketing strategy.

How will I measure success?

Whatever solution you implement for your SMS marketing, you’ll have to make sure you can collect the data you need to measure and optimize your campaigns. You should choose a solution that either provides you with advanced data and analytics, or integrates with your own preferred analytics tools.

SMS marketing compliance

SMS marketing is different from email when it comes to compliance. Consumers often have multiple email addresses, or filters for promotional messages, but they just have one phone number — and the last thing they want is to get spammed on it.

Several guidelines exist to ensure consumer protection from abusive SMS practices under the CTIA and TCPA in the U.S. and the GDPR in Europe. Regulations exist in other countries as well, so you need to be aware of what guidelines exist where you’re marketing. Generally speaking, these are the rules that brands have to follow when sending text messages:


  • Explain to consumers what messages they are agreeing to receive and how they can opt-out.
  • Obtain consent of the consumer to send them marketing text messages.
  • Honor opt-out requests sent through any channel.
  • Refrain from sending messages during the “quiet hours” of 9 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the message recipient’s time zone.

The importance of working with a trusted partner for SMS marketing

Getting the basics right is important when it comes to SMS marketing, and working with a partner who understands technology and compliance issues can make the process run much more smoothly.

Many SMS platforms like Yotpo SMS integrate seamlessly with the rest of your tech stack and are updated based on the latest compliance guidelines for each country, so you can get a holistic view of text marketing performance without having to worry about running afoul of rules.