SMS Marketing for eCommerce: An Introductory Guide

SMS marketing offers a faster, more reliable, and actionable path to achieving one’s business goals.

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on
In-depth YouTube video about everything you need to know about SMS Marketing

You might have seen me frequently talk about email marketing and the different tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of it, but a business’s marketing endeavors don’t just end at that, and there are many other exciting things to unpack as well, one of which we are going to discuss today – SMS Marketing for eCommerce.

And since SMS marketing is still relatively new, not all businesses are aware of how it can complement and supplement the efforts you’re already making to create more brand awareness, gain credibility, boost revenue, and earn customers’ trust. 

  1. What is SMS Marketing?
  2. How to Start and Grow Your SMS Marketing List?
    1. Know your Audience
    2. Test and experiment
    3. Ask for it later in their customer journey
    4. Be ready for a two-way street
  3. Benefits of SMS Marketing for Ecommerce
    1. You can make someone’s wrist vibrate
    2. It’s getting popular day by day
    3. Offers a high open and engagement rate
    4. More intimate connection
    5. Opens a door for better one-to-one communication
  4. Conclusion

So let me explain today how SMS marketing can work for you, fit in your marketing mix, and how you can leverage it for your eCommerce business. 

What is SMS Marketing?

Short Messaging Service or SMS marketing is a text-based communication system, quite a lot similar to the text messages you send to your friends. 

It’s just a little bit different way of using that channel and normalizing the communication through it as we did in the email when it was specifically a personal thing. So now, people are getting more and more used to and easy with it, which opens a door for a lot of cool opportunities. 

How to Start and Grow Your SMS Marketing List?

So how do you get started with building your SMS marketing list? I have compiled a list of a few tips that can help you heaps with that, so head down!

·      Know your Audience

First off, I’m always a big proponent of knowing your audience. Like, even before you have connected to them at a deeper level, be strategic and thoughtful with what you say to them and how you behave with them.

For example, some groups are more open to SMS than others; if my target audience is a 20yr old, they may react completely different than a comparatively older person who’s a bit less tech-savvy.

So understanding your audience out of the gate is crucial for knowing if this particular channel is going to work for you or not.

But how do you do that? You first get to know how this channel works and then understand what would you need to do accordingly. For example, what does compliance looks like on this channel, how do you add it to your privacy policy, and those nuts and bolts things, you know?

And the good thing is that SMS service providers make this pretty simple and easy to work. 

·      Test and experiment

So once all of that front work is done, we move on to our next big step – collecting the list. That can be done via SMS pop-overs since we find a lot of success in email pop-overs; we’re a big fan of that, but there’s going to be a lot of testing for that, like is this going to be text to opt-in? Or checked box to opt-in? How should we do this differently on mobile and desktop? And exploring a lot of different options for capturing that list.

Also, you can use data collected at checkouts like Shopify and a lot of other eCommerce channels do or by understanding how you can incorporate some different code bases or some different snippets into your actual process to make it a little bit easier.

Some groups may be a kind of an SMS first communication style, in which case, leaning into that early out of the gate strategy is important, but again, typically, most of the other groups are going to be a little bit more open to email marketing right now because Heyy, this is May 2022! Not to mention that email marketing offers a highly consistent way of doing things. 

Also, about this, I was kind of thinking in the background that Heyy, make SMS more of a ‘VIP’ thing, in a way that in your audience hierarchy, you should be focused more on getting someone on your email list first and then SMS list because communication via SMS is a little bit deeper and offers a more intimate interaction with them. 

And also, once you earn the right to ask for SMS, you can use that as a foundation to think about how we’re going to make it a part of our marketing mix and when would be the most effective time for doing so.

·      Ask for it later in their customer journey

So thinking about making them opt-in for our VIP list and, consequently, SMS list, I want to share with you what worked best for our clients; so these groups had a lot of success when they asked for it later in their purchasing journey. 

For example, when a person has purchased quite a few times from you, you may fire that secondary pop-over asking them to become a part of our VIP list for added benefits. 

So the main point is to collect the data after we’ve added enough value to earn it.

Although pop-overs are an easy way to do that, sometimes it can be like a specific form to fill out after they have made a purchase, and that can be one way of collecting a bit more data to make that relationship stronger over time. 

·      Be ready for a two-way street

When you’re starting out on SMS marketing, you’ll need to become smarter. 

I always joke about this that Heyy, this is your new channel, and it would cost you no more than a new puppy, so that way, it’s cheaper at the front end. And you may not necessarily understand the cost right away because, like when a puppy starts growing up, things start to add up, such as food, litter, boarding, grooming etc.; in a nutshell, eventually, you have to start taking care of it. 

And this channel is no different than that because once you indulge in SMS marketing, you have to understand that you’re opening a two-way street. You have to be more available to communicate promptly. So how do you do that? How do you plan it out? How do we communicate effectively consistently through this as a channel, and how are we going to fit this into our larger marketing mix? That’s where you need to be thinking in terms of, like, how do we plan, execute and know that we’re going to be in a good place and not going to be overwhelmed with the response we may get.

Because people messaging you back is a huge win, that’s a considerable way to actually develop some conversational relationship, but again, a tidal wave of messages could be a little intimidating.

So those are going to be some of the ways you can start to build your list from scratch while experimenting over time to make it something that would add more value to the efforts you’re already making in the marketing domain.

But just so you know beforehand, SMS compliance is a little bit higher and more intense than email compliance at the current moment. But, that may change and evolve in the long run. 

So you have to be communicating that compliance on the front end and to your email service providers so that they can help you be able to understand what the nuts and bolts are, see what other brands are doing and how they’re doing it, and what wording they’re using, what’s effective and what’s not.

And then, you can leverage all of that information to create a good baseline to start from.

Benefits of SMS Marketing for Ecommerce

Now let’s dive into some benefits of SMS marketing that I find really unique and profitable.

·      You can make someone’s wrist vibrate

A marketing channel that can cause vibrations? Yes, that’s one of the perks of SMS marketing. 

Almost everyone out there now owns at least one smart device that they always carry with them. For example, we have Apple and other smartwatch users and then phones, of course, which vibrate when a notification pops up and eventually make them check what it is about. 

Typically, most people don’t have that kind of direct notification for email turned on the way they have it for SMS. And that’s something that gives SMS an edge over email marketing because it’s going to be way fast and quick. 

So if you need to communicate something in a short window of time, or you want to drive a certain level of urgency, that SMS is going to work fast.

Why? Because the cultural expectations and behaviors are a little bit more immediate on SMS. For instance, people expect to get an email back within 24 hours and an SMS response within a few minutes. 

Message inbox on Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday Message Inbox

With every passing day, SMS marketing is becoming more popular and gaining more importance among younger consumers and audiences. This is a really easy channel for them to communicate as compared to email.

For example, they might have their messages open on their computer while working. And also, if someone checks their screen time on the phone, they’d probably have multiple hours spent on messaging apps because, again, that’s fast and convenient. 

On Cyber Monday, I think I receive more messages from brands than people.

·      Offers a high open and engagement rate

Inbox zero
People don’t like having outstanding messages in their inbox

They have a high open and engagement rate because, unlike email, nobody likes to have outstanding messages piled up in their inbox. They open it up regularly, check what’s in there, and clear the unwanted messages because no one really enjoys having that red dot on their phones.

In the future, we might have different tabs in the inbox, like have we in email, but for now, it’s that same unified inbox experience. 

So rest assured, your message is going straight to them with high chances of being opened. 

·      More intimate connection

So from the benefit perspective, with SMS marketing, you can develop a very unique and intimate connection with your customers because you’re communicating with them through the device they most spend their time on.

But also, you really have to be respectful here as well, like talk to them in a conversational tone, something that humanizes the business and gives a nice feel as you try to communicate your urgency or exclusivity because we don’t have all of the bells and whistles of an HTML email to lean on.

Also, you must deliver your message in a really precise and concise way while being friendly as well. (I’m a big believer of the fact that most human brands win)

And in that manner, you can really go a long way because if you don’t follow this style, you’re likely to burn them out fast. 

Because don’t forget trust is built in drips and lost in buckets. And this is a place where you need to think about that.

Delta becomes first airline to use Apple's Messages app with customers for on-the-go assistance.
Delta becomes first airline to use Apple’s Messages app with customers for on-the-go assistance.

·      Opens a door for better one-to-one communication

SMS marketing has opened a door for one-to-one communication like nothing else. And I can see more and more brands leaning into it just because of that reason. 

And also about that, I recently had this conversation with Delta and found they can handle multiple conversations at a time, making it all a very seamless process.



All in all, SMS marketing has a lot to offer if we understand how to leverage it. And this was just an introduction to what more we have in store for you, so stay tuned because we’ll be posting a part 2 soon, where we’ll get into the details of how to make the best out of SMS marketing, how it can complement your email marketing efforts, and many other tips to make your SMS and email marketing game strong!

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