Top SMS Campaign Strategies To Boost Acquisition, Conversion And Retention

As the smartphone’s popularity intensifies among consumers, many retailers are focused on applications and mobile-optimized sites to increase engagement with mobile-savvy shoppers. However, Short Message Service (SMS) is a technology available in all cell phones, making text message marketing a tactical way to increase mobile presence and build buzz around new products, offers and campaigns.

To optimize customer acquisition, retailers must take an integrated approach to SMS, according to a white paper from Cellit, a mobile marketing and CRM solution provider and division of digital engagement company ePrize. Merchants can boost conversion rates by 23.3% with concise SMS announcements, such as seasonal promotions and other short-term offers, in conjunction with longer initiatives that span and develop over several years, according to the Cellit report. Cellit’s study results also indicated that the SMS strategy produced redemption, revenue and margin rates approximately six to eight times higher than the norm for other channels.

For its Retail Benchmark Report: From Implementation to Integration white paper, Cellit analyzed 1,180 nationwide SMS retail campaigns implemented during a 450-day period throughout 2011 and Q1 2012. Results offered insights into average SMS campaign conversion rates, as well as acquisition and retention strategies.


“SMS marketing provides a different type of engagement than other forms of media,” David Wachs, SVP of Mobile and General Manager of Cellit, told Retail TouchPoints. “The immediacy and intimacy of SMS produces higher engagement and more timely responses. SMS also is the most effective two-way communication channel, enabling retailers to engage consumers in fun polls and shopper surveys.”

The average mobile database consists of 40,868 subscribers, offering a unique opportunity for merchants to reach shoppers directly through their text message inboxes and drive in-store purchases, as well as purchases across channels.

To accelerate SMS program sign-ups, retailers can tap other cross-channel initiatives.
Cellit’s report provided specific strategies for promoting SMS initiatives, including:

  • In Store: Retailers can display signage at the point of sale and in store aisles to drive awareness and engagement. Additionally, store associates must be educated on all cross-channel initiatives, as well as the benefits of specific programs to pique shopper interest.
  • Web: By placing SMS program sign-up forms on brand web sites, retailers can offer shoppers an easy way to opt in while at home, and share in-depth details on mobile programs and their benefits. This also allows merchants to tie mobile numbers to additional customer information in their CRM databases, such as names, addresses, birthdays and past purchases.
  • Email: As consumers continue to use their smartphones to check emails and stay connected to friends and family, this channel presents an opportunity for retailers to send out dedicated messages highlighting new campaigns and offers.
  • Print: Despite the growing influence of online marketing channels, print strategies allow retailers to dedicate space in ads, billboards and other print collateral to promote SMS programs that emphasize the opt-in number and keyword.
  • Facebook/Social: Retailers can post status updates on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites about new offers and deals available via their SMS programs. This offers a compelling call-to-action to boost sign-ups. “In conversations with clients, it became clear that a significant overlap existed between early adopters of mobile and their other social communities,” the report stated.

Optimizing Message Relevancy And Frequency To Win The ‘Opt In’

Though retailers can pique customer interest via timely SMS promotions and deals, they must ensure that all SMS offers and messages are relevant and delivered in an efficient yet unobtrusive way to best obtain and maintain a heftier CRM database.

“We find a strong correlation between ‘unsubscribe’ and ‘outgoing message’ activity,” Wachs said, “indicating that consumers are more likely to unsubscribe if the messages they receive are not interesting or relevant. Overall, retailers must set and deliver on expectations to convince shoppers to opt in to the SMS list. Once consumers do, messages must be relevant to them in order to keep them engaged.”

While examining the cadence, or the pace at which messages were sent, Cellit found that retailers sent an average of 1.55 campaigns per week. Although retailers should send only one campaign a week, according to Wachs, daily deals, timely sales and other offers are exceptions to the rule.

“Deals of the day and other special offers break the ‘rule of one’ with good cause,” Wachs said. “Additionally, since every phone inherently is local, retailers can send offers based on subscribers’ proximity to a nearby store. This strategy can drive foot traffic to specific locations and increase sales.”

Retailers can maximize the success of SMS marketing further by integrating mobile information with additional data from CRM databases, leading to more relevant and personalized campaigns.

“Sending the right message to the right consumer at the right time is vital to SMS success, since messages are read 97% of time, primarily within the first several minutes of receipt,” Wachs said. “Retailers can accomplish this through deep integration with the overall CRM and marketing databases, front-of-house integration with POS systems and analysis of effective prior messaging.”

Click here to download a full version of the Retail Benchmark Report: From Implementation to Integration.



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