How to Use SMS Marketing for Ecommerce?

SMS marketing is of the hot new things in the ecommerce marketing world. So we wanted to help you understand how to use it to compliment the work you are doing in to your email marketing and grow your business.

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on

Just as promised, I am back with a more in-depth blog about SMS marketing. 

If you remember, in the previous blog, we talked about the basics of SMS marketing, whereas today, our focus will be on how to effectively use SMS marketing to grow your businesses.

But before we dive deep into nuts and bolts, you need to think about two things:

  • What is your goal for SMS?
  • Who is your audience, and what is their preferred channel for communication?

From there you can start designing your SMS marketing strategy to bring in more revenue or drive specific behaviors from your audience. 

Then to make sure communication is aligned smoothly across SMS and Email we recommend using a single email/SMS service provider. This gives you one centralized point of truth, and allows you to understand which components are driving the results you want to see.

We lean on Klaviyo for this for most of our clients, as it gives us one single stream of data that we can leverage in different ways.

This allows you to fully leverage SMS to connect the content with the context of a specific person according to their own experience in their customer journey. This is super helpful and valuable for both you and your audience as it allows them more flexibility in interacting with the brand.

So let’s talk about how you use your SMS marketing to impact your audience and drive the behaviors you desire.

How to Use SMS Marketing for Ecommerce

·      Automation

Automations are a really fast and effective way to bring SMS marketing to life and the first place you should be experimenting with SMS.

In fact, I think it is a really smart way because you can get a level set for your audience. Understanding how comfortable they are with SMS and where you want to fit that into your existing automations.

Maybe you put that into your welcome sequence, maybe into your abandoned cart, or maybe into your browse abandonment. 

Those are really easy kinds of leavers to pull because these are the certain kinds of behavior that the audience shows during that time. And when this is triggered off of behavior it is generally much more relevant than a broad campaign SMS message.

You just need to SMS messages at certain stages or in certain situations, for example, you may send an SMS message an hour after a browse abandonment or may send something after the seventh day of a welcome sequence, or the third day of an abandoned cart, etc.

All of these are just different leavers you can pull to communicate with that person and give that messaging sequence a little bit of a few different channels. This makes it a little bit more holistic view and a different way of driving the behavior you want to see.

Testing through automation also helps you understand what’s working and what’s not, and then helps you figure out how you’re going to start using it so that the first experimentation is super helpful. And ideally, you should be learning something every time you’re building one of these.

It is also important that you keep an eye on your surroundings environment and learn and understand how different brands are leveraging SMS along with their email. A fun way to do this is to also subscribe to a few other brands, we always recommend subscribing to at least 3 inside and 3 outside your industry.

Brands that are doing different things in different verticals are super helpful to subscribe to because you can see who’s doing it well and what they’re doing well to borrow from it as a level set.

For example, I prefer to look at the women’s cosmetic industry as they’re doing effective and cool things right now.

·      Campaigns 

Now, this is where you can expand on what you do in your SMS marketing.

But please, do not overdo it! 

SMS is an easy channel to burn people out. People have a very intimate relationship with their phones and SMS inbox, different than the way they do with their email inboxes.

So respect that and be careful with the frequency of your messages. One time a week is probably a good baseline to hit, or maybe two times a week but more than that is going to be a little bit intrusive. So you shouldn’t probably venture past that.

Notifications about early access exclusivity, sale promotions, major announcements, and product releases, all of those things are great to send through the SMS channel. 

Once you’ve got a certain level of comfort doing these things, you may be able to start to expand, but you would still want to keep it lighter on that side, thinking about where this can fit into automation too consistently because, again, you have that first three automations, you may be adding it to, but you can always expand to always grow.

·      Transactional Emails

Transactional SMS and messages are also really helpful in SMS marketing, and some people may prefer this.

Like some people opt into this from the Shopify side. It’s just an easy way of informing your audience that their product has been shipped or that their order is confirmed. 

All of these things are easy ways to use this. So that may be an effective tool to work on.

·      Be ready to Engage

When you’re getting started with SMS marketing for eCommerce, be ready to manage the engagement side of things.

Like many other marketing channels, SMS is a two-way street. People will respond!

When someone responds to an SMS message, you want to be on the other side, ready to communicate because that communication is going to happen sooner or later. So being there and being present is super helpful. 

This also opens the door for a lot of cool opportunities. Be ready to communicate to get your customers to communicate with you. The more you interact and the deeper somebody gets into your customer journey, the more data you can collect and the more you can customize.

·      Customizations 

Customized messages are the kinds of interaction that are hard to duplicate and hard to scale in an E-commerce business, but when you can do that effectively, that’s where some of the real magic can happen. 

So let’s use one of our old examples of one of our equestrian clients,

To get on our VIP list, we ask:

  • What’s your horse’s name? 
  • What’s your horse’s birthday?

You can have some fun in this way, as you can see in the image below. You can have some real human experiences. 

example of sms marketing for ecommerce
SMS message from the Horse Birthday automation

So when they realize that you know their horse’s birthday or that you know the horse’s name, that goes a long way. These little small things that you do over time to improve your customers’ experience.

Using data to connect content with the context of their lives.

But the fact remains, as I said before, you have to earn the right to ask for that kind of data. That doesn’t happen overnight. But once you have it, it’s an effective way to do more and to expand what you’re already doing.

·      Start small

Again a very crucial recommendation for you at this point in your marketing would be to start small and then expand. Because if you go about firing things, you can burn out a list. It’s very easy to do that. 

This is a channel where you have to be good about that and diligent about not burning out your audience because the opt-out rate is very easy.

·      Retention

Thinking about these SMS as a retention tool, this is a way that you can pull people back in based on different stages of their customer journey. 

This may be something you can incorporate to a win back or maybe something you can incorporate into replenishment automation or a notification. There are lots of different ways to use it, but thinking about it as a way of pulling people back and keeping them coming back, making it a retention channel.

You must use it effectively to see good results; however, not necessarily expect it as a great way to acquire customers. But when you can take that data and use it to deepen your relationship with the customer, it can be really helpful.

·      Loyalty Programs

You may incorporate this into your loyalty program and send customized loyalty messages saying things like,

  • Hey, you have {points total} loyalty points.
  • Hey, you’ve earned {points total} points. 

·      Review Requests

You may also use it for review requests, like or a, as an option of sending an SMS message to ask for reviews.

When you’re doing this as a holistic process, look at it where this fits into the rest of your SMS marketing, and try to make it at least rhyme with the rest of the work you’re doing.

·      Compose your messages

Pro tip: I always recommend people who are trying SMS marketing for the first time to compose their messages with their phone because it’s just the way you do this anyways. 

But this also helps you imagine that you’re sending that particular message to a friend, so you act like a friend too. You think about if I were sending a message to my friend, how would I do it? 

It’s a just fast, effective way of doing this and getting your content to be very structured, a little bit more reverent, a little bit more fun, and a little bit more native and natural to the platform. This provides a fun experience for people, which they always expect.

·      With great power comes great responsibility

Just like you don’t take your office furniture into the parking lot and set it on fire, because you would be wasting a business asset.

Similarly, so your SMS list is an asset, so make sure you don’t burn it out.

You also want to stay compliant. That’s one thing that’s going to be important over time. So, communicate and educate the rest of your team about how to be compliant.

This is going to be one area where people are going to ask if they can send an SMS to your list, make sure it’s compliant, and make sure you’re being smart. You can’t just send one message to everybody. You should look for opportunities to connect the content with the context of someone’s experience. 

How Does SMS Marketing Complement Email Marketing?

SMS marketing and email marketing are two members of the same team.

SMS marketing is a great way of creating another channel that complements email marketing and enhances that one-to-one communication you’re already doing.

So this should be thought of in the same way, just through a little bit different lens. 

I like to think about SMS and email as like playing ping pong. Like those back and forth communications are an effective way of doing this, or just like the soccer players, kicking the ball and passing it to each other. 

analogy of sms marketing for e-commerce

In simple words, you want to be using both your SMS list and email list in a collaborative way for these to work together to achieve a goal. This helps you understand the customer journey and reverse engineer the behavior you want to see.

 As SMS is going to drive different behaviors in different ways than email, you want that to work smoothly together and not be battling each other or, again, not competing for your audience’s attention.

For example, you shouldn’t be sending an email and SMS at the same time. You need to be thoughtful as you make such decisions while using both marketing strategies. 

Suppose you have already sent an email for an abandoned cart that happened today; now, you may use SMS, to follow up after three emails, to remind them of their cart. 

These are the ways you will experiment and will understand what’s going to work and what’s not. This testing is going to be what helps identify what that perfect mix of SMS and email is going to be.

With email and SMS, as I said before, having a unified CRM or a unified place where your data is going to be stored and leveraged will keep everything clean and be more accurately attributable.

So you can use that data most effectively at different stages of the customer journey to make sure that you’re communicating smoothly.

Also, you should keep in mind that the frequency of email and SMS differs too. People expect more frequent emails than they do SMS from brands. 

Try to make sure that you are not sending too many SMS messages, so you can get away with a little more frequency on the email side, on campaigns, and also from the emails in terms of automation.


So to wrap everything and put a nice bow on it, SMS marketing is still the wild west for most brands. 

No perfect and accurate behavior has been created here as of yet.

Nobody knows what looks good in so many different industries. 

Not everything has to be perfect out of the gate on the first few tries. 

This will be a whole process. It will be like an evolutionary channel in which the businesses and brands that are willing to experiment and explore are going to be the ones that will succeed on the other side because, again, if you’re not testing and growing, you’re not moving forward.

70% of your marketing budget and time needs to be on your core activities. 20% needs to be on evolving those core activities, and 10% are high-risk rewards. 

This is probably in the 20% category where you’re using this as a way of evolving your current activities and your current retention marketing efforts.

The most important thing is that your goal here should be that the most human brand wins. And when I say the most human brand, it is a way of saying the more authentic I can be, the tighter relationship I build, the better this is going to work for my business.

With all of that being said, SMS marketing is a fun place to start experimenting for eCommerce businesses.

You may also like:

SMS Marketing for eCommerce: An Introductory Guide

How Do Email & SMS Automations Generate Revenue in E-Commerce?

How To Incorporate SMS Into Your Holiday Marketing

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