Guide: Holiday SMS Marketing for the Retail Industry

The final two months of the year are always the busiest. Shoppers awaken from their year-long hibernation and begin their search for gifts.

Online, they spend billions every year. It’s so convenient now that shoppers don’t need to get out of bed to make a purchase.

Businesses spend billions advertising online too. Cost-per-click (CPC) advertising is more competitive than ever before. Instead of throwing all of your hard-earned money on CPC advertising, consider using part of your budget on SMS marketing campaigns—if you haven’t already.

Start driving traffic to your store with flash sales, offers, and promotions and boost your bottom line. Improve your customer experience by sending order confirmations, shipment notifications, and delivery notifications.

Not convinced yet? Need ideas or strategies to help you get started? Then you’re in the right place. In this guide we’ll cover:

  1. Why SMS marketing is effective for retailers during the holiday season
  2. Best practices to create an SMS marketing campaign
  3. SMS Templates
  4. How to grow your SMS list
  5. Improve workflow automation with our Zapier SMS integrations

Why SMS marketing is effective for retailers during the holiday season

#1 You can reach your customers almost anywhere

Unique Mobile Subscribers (GSMA)

Almost everybody owns a mobile phone (or several for that matter). According to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA), over 5 billion unique mobile subscribers exist today, and they expect it to reach 5.8 billion by 2025, a 71% penetration rate.

All mobile phones, as we already know, send and receive SMS right out of the box and don’t need a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection to work. You can reach your customer almost anywhere in the world if they have mobile reception.

#2 SMS marketing campaigns have a high open rate

Text messages have an unparalleled open rate of 98%.

That shouldn’t be a surprise though—some people check their mobile phones over 50 times per day on average, according to Deloitte. Email open rates remain low even though it’s very accessible by phone. To give you some context, let’s compare some SMS and email stats from Mailchimp’s 2019 benchmark report.

Open Rate Reach Time CTR Opt-outs Complaints CPS
SMS 98% 3 mins 9.97% 2.21% 0.21% 1.6¢-7.9¢\*
Email 15-18% 47 mins 2.43% 0.28% 0.37% 1¢-3¢\*

CPS = Cost per send • CTR = Click through rate

Elements of Control: In order to accurately compare email and SMS pricing, the above CPS price is from a prepaid pricing model. 1) SMS CPS: Pricing varies dependent on country (eg. US: 1.6¢-4.9¢; AU: 4.9¢-7.9¢; UK: 1.9p-2.5p; SG: 4.9¢) 2) Email CPS: Pricing based off MailChimp’s publicly listed pay-per-use pricing structure

#3 SMS reaches shoppers while they’re on their mobile phones

According to Adobe Analytics, smartphones accounted for 30% of revenue, 51% of traffic, and 31% of purchases made during the 2018 holiday season.

Mobile shopping in China is even more impressive. In 2017, Alibaba reported that 90% of their sales came from a mobile device during their Singles Day sale.

#4 It takes less than 10 minutes to send an SMS marketing campaign

We asked some of our clients recently about their experiences and how long it takes them to set up SMS, Google Adwords, and Facebook Ads campaigns.

Over 50% of respondents mentioned that SMS campaigns take under 10 minutes to create. When it comes to Google Adwords or Facebook Ads though, it takes much longer (upwards to an hour).

The humble text message is 160 characters long. Based on what we typically see, many SMS marketing campaigns that come from retailers fall under that. Below you’ll see some examples in our SMS Templates section to help you visualise what you can accomplish with only a few words.

#5 SMS is a very affordable way to reach your customers

A single text message only costs a few cents to send. If you compare that to cost-per-click (CPC) advertising, the results may surprise you.

SMS has a higher click-through rate than CPC advertising, which means that you get your customers attention at a fraction of the cost.

Average CPS/CPC Average CTR Average Cost per 10K CPS/CPC
SMS via Burst (CPS) $0.069 9.97% $690
Google Display Ads (CPC) $0.34 0.55% $3,400
Twitter (CPC) $0.40 1.33% $4,000
Facebook (CPC) $0.62 1.34% $6,200
Instagram (CPC) $0.81 0.62% $8,100
Google Search Ads (CPC) $1.39 2.65% $13,900
Bing Search Ads (CPC) $1.67 3.14% $16,700
YouTube (CPC) $2.37 0.34% $23,700
LinkedIn (CPC) $3.87 0.21% $38,700

CPS = Cost per send • CPC = Cost per click • CTR = Click through rate Sources: Adstage 2019 Q1-Q3, Burst SMS

Best practices to create an SMS marketing campaign

So now that we went through why SMS is such a powerful holiday marketing tool, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. Start by following these best practices and you should see results.

  • Keep your messages under 160 characters. Humans have shorter attention spans than goldfish at a mere 8 seconds, so make sure your offer and call to action are clear.
  • Identify yourself. Build trust and brand recognition by clearly stating who you are in the Sender ID or the body of the text message.
  • Send campaigns at the right time. Avoid sending text messages when they can’t take action, like during work hours.
  • Have an opt-out. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving messages that you don’t want.
  • Include a branded tracked link (optional). If you plan to drive traffic to your website, we suggest a branded tracked link. We recommend that you add UTM parameters to your URL to help you track your campaign’s performance.
  • Personalise your campaigns (optional). Use their first name or anything relevant to them.

If you’re not already a Burst SMS customer, click here to sign up for a free trial.

SMS Templates

Having difficulty coming up with words? No worries. Here are some examples to help you get started.

Sales and Promotions:

Customer Loyalty and Gratitude:

Order Confirmations:

Shipment Confirmations:

Delivery Confirmations:

Feedback and Satisfaction:

Abandoned Carts:

There’s more from where that came from. Check out our catalogue of SMS templates.

How to grow your SMS list

Wallets open up during this time of the year, but that doesn’t mean that shoppers don’t want a good deal. The holidays are a great time to start or add to your mobile database. Here’s how.

Create an irresistible offer

First things are first. Catch your customers’ attention with an irresistible offer like a giveaway or discount. It needs to be time-sensitive, because without an expiration date, there’s no reason for them to take action immediately.

Make sure it’s easy to claim—if they need to jump through hoops, they’ll give up and shop elsewhere.

Let them opt-in via text

Allow your customers to opt-in via text message. All they need to do is text you with an SMS keyword, and they can do it from anywhere—on the bus, in-store, or at home, and it’s that simple. They don’t need to visit a landing page or fill out a form.

For example, when your customers’ text in “coffee” to your dedicated virtual number (e.g. +61459333444), our online SMS service adds them to a list and automatically sends a response with their gift.

Here are some additional examples:

  • “Get 25% off your first purchase when you sign up for SMS alerts! Text ‘JOIN’ to +61459333444 to sign up”
  • “For exciting weekly deals, coupons, and offers, text ‘DEALS’ to 12345. Opt out any time.”
  • “Be the first to know about our Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales! Text ‘BFCM’ to +61459333444 to join.”

How to promote it

We recommend using both online and offline strategies to get the word out.

  • Social media

  • Email newsletters

  • Websites (Coupon sites like RetailMeNot)

  • Digital Ads (Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter)

  • Traditional media (newspapers, television)

  • Billboards, public transportation

  • In-store signage

  • On your receipts

Improve workflow automation with our Zapier SMS integrations

Integrate your favourite eCommerce and web applications with Burst SMS using Zapier (a quick and easy to use web integration service) and start automating your workflow.

Instead of manually sending a text message when one of your customer’s order status changes, let Zapier take care of it for you. No coding knowledge required. Just a bit of creativity.

Burst SMS can easily integrate with these eCommerce tools (and 1,500 more apps) with Zapier:

  • Amazon
  • Big Cartel
  • BigCommerce
  • Kajabi
  • Magento
  • PayPal
  • ShipStation
  • Shopify
  • Square
  • Squarespace
  • Stripe
  • WooCommerce

Check out our full list of Zapier SMS integrations.

Final Notes

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SMS marketing, but we hope you found the inspiration you were looking for. If you’re not a Burst SMS customer, check us out with a free 14-day trial.