Sep 20, 2021

Despite Some Risks, More Brands Are Blowing Up Consumers’ Phones With Texts

When done correctly, SMS marketing can strengthen customer relationships

When a brand interrupts your online shopping spree to offer a 15% discount in exchange for your phone number, ignoring it and paying full price feels pretty indefensible. Then you start receiving a constant stream of texts with abandoned cart reminders and flash sale notifications, and pretty soon you’re wondering why you didn’t just spend an extra $4 on those scented candles. 

With the death of third-party cookies looming, marketers are chasing first-party data, desperate to craft relationships with their audiences that prioritize personalization without compromising privacy. Brands are now looking for ways to connect with customers on every platform they touch, similar to what’s been exhibited through the convergence of content and commerce across social media. 

That’s led brands to try text message marketing, but when they lean into a channel that consumers consider sacred, it is dangerously easy to screw things up.

“I don’t blame consumers for not getting excited about some of the texts they get from brands, because the bottom line is that many aren’t doing it right,” said Kady Srinivasan, svp global head of marketing at automation platform Klaviyo. 

In an age of personalized automation, exchanging texts with brands feels similar to communicating with a customer-service clerk in real life: It can be pleasant and helpful or irritating and invasive, depending on the approach. 

While consumers aren’t jumping for joy over getting texts from brands, Greg Zakowicz, director of content at marketing platform Omnisend, said the emergence of SMS marketing is comparable to the slow normalization of email outreach. 

Pleasing your subscribers

Unlike email marketing, brands have found that SMS is most successful among a smaller, but ultimately more loyal, sector of its consumer base. 

“SMS marketing has a major place in building and maintaining consumer loyalty, but it isn’t the best place to try to gain new customers,” said Alexa McGriff, associate director of brand strategy at agency Chemistry. “The disruption may turn consumers off completely.” 

It’s a very intimate spot, so when a brand just pops in there, it can feel invasive. The fewer campaigns I send, the more successful those campaigns are.

Ashley Werner, director of marketing, GhostBed

While only 40% of email subscribers at Draper James, Reese Witherspoon’s clothing brand, also opt into text, CEO Erin Moennich said the outreach has helped the company foster and maintain a “brand fan club.”

Last holiday season, Draper James used SMS to create a concierge gift service, which consisted of associates from its Nashville flagship store texting consumers back and forth with product recommendations. This two-way communication is something the brand hopes to lean into more in the coming months, according to Moennich.

“It’s a really powerful group of subscribers that wants to be the first to know what Draper James is doing,” she said. “It’s all about how much they want to engage with us, and these consumers are telling us they want first access to our brand news.” 

Michael Donoghue, co-founder, and CEO of texting platform Subtext, powers one-on-one conversations between audiences and the brands, publishers, and creators they support. Aside from offering clients real-time feedback, he explained it’s also an opportunity to foster a relationship that can’t be replicated on other platforms, particularly since the senders introduce themselves and speak in the first person.

“On social media, you’re really only renting a relationship, instead of owning a relationship with fans,” said Donoghue, whose clients include BuzzFeed and USA Today. “We knew we wanted to facilitate a more direct connection, but only one that fans actually want to have.” 

Reviewed, an arm of USA Today that rates products, invites its Subtext consumers to ask for recommendations via text.

Dodging high churn rates

Text message marketing won’t be for everyone, though, Zakowicz noted. Some brands, such as mattress and bedding retailer GhostBed, use the channel more casually for abandoned cart reminders and discount offerings. Director of marketing Ashley Werner stressed that pace is everything.

“It’s a very intimate spot, so when a brand just pops in there, it can feel invasive,” she said. “The fewer campaigns I send, the more successful those campaigns are.”

In a study from software company SimpleTexting, 60% of consumers said too many text messages were the main reason they choose to unsubscribe. Aside from sending too many messages, Zakowicz pointed to a lack of interesting or personalized content as an explanation for failed campaigns. He offered Macy’s, which sends predictable sale notifications with “no element of surprise.”

At Subtext, Donoghue currently holds a 1% churn rate and more than a 92% open rate, which he attributes to an approach that values conversation over direct marketing.

“People aren’t used to that level of consideration from their brands,” he said. “If you get back to someone via text and are able to provide meaningful value, you have a customer for life.”

The original article can be found here.

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