What is SMS Marketing?
SMS marketing is a relatively basic concept - it utilizes text messaging to reach your customers about ordering and upcoming promotions to further facilitate the customer relationship. This type of marketing can be useful when marketing efforts need to be more focused or targeted. This type of touch point can also be perceived as more personal than other channels of communication, which has made SMS marketing one of the most effective marketing platforms, with open rates as high as 98% and conversion rates hovering around 45%.
Why SMS Marketing?
Currently, 3.5 billion people have smartphones and by 2021, it is estimated that 54% of total online purchases will be made on a mobile phone. Not only is text-based marketing a direct and effective strategy, but it helps to increase interactions in other marketing channels and adds value to your offerings. Consider boosting open and click through rates of emails by creating an SMS call to action for customers to check out what is waiting for them in their inbox. Additionally, 66% of consumers say they would pay more for a product or service if it was supported by a text messaging channel.
With 63% of consumers saying they prefer texting over an email or phone call, it is shocking that 61% of marketers are not using SMS marketing. Spearheading this marketing channel for your business will give you a major advantage over the competition - so what are you waiting for?
So What Tool Should I Be Using?
There are 3 different types of SMS marketing tools you will want to consider for your Ecommerce store:
- SMS stand-alone
- Multichannel - Often SMS + Messenger, perhaps even including WhatsApp and other channels.
- Omnichannel - Often Email + SMS + Other channels and in for the case of this article we are saying has to have CRM-type capabilities.
To help guide you to make the right choice for your business, we will be reviewing many of the best options available now.
The Shortlist of Best SMS Marketing Tools for Ecommerce:
Type: SMS Stand-alone
Best for: Small marketing teams / busy founders
SMS Live is a newer tool with less functionality (but that’s changing quickly). They are great for just the basics, and they take a marketer-centric approach to their dashboards and feature road map.
Since inception, they have prioritized being transparent to ensure that there are no surprises for merchants around pricing, offering, and security thereby, helping merchants revive relationships with their customers in a way that is personal, non-invasive and helpful.
- Personalized and customizable messages
- Integration with helpdesk system - receive and answer texts from support tickets
- Branded URL link shortening
- GDPR, TCPA and CTIA compliant
- Two-way messaging using a dedicated phone number
- Automatically deflects 87% of responses
- Advanced attribution reporting with View-Through Conversion and Click-Through Conversion breakdowns
Starts at $47/month + $.005/message, goes up to $197/month for enterprise accounts, which gains you access to your own custom url shortener when sending messages.
Type: SMS Stand-alone
Best for: Starting Stores, Growth Stores, Can be for enterprise stores, but not specifically an enterprise tool.
SMSBump is designed specifically for Shopify stores and is utilized by over 10,000 businesses. Founded in 2018, they are the largest SMS marketing tool in the Shopify app market. With integrations with Gorgias, ZenDesk, Klayvio, MailChimp, Slack, and ReCharge, this SMS marketing tool builds off your existing marketing efforts, offers robust features, and is easy to implement.
- Segmentation - can sement by country, price, and time of day
- Automations - abandon cart and customer reactivation
- Custom flows and campaign scheduling
- A/B Testing
- Opt-Out Lists - help keep track of those who unsubscribed
- Fully TCPA and GDPR compliant
What makes SMSBump different?
Their dynamic abandon cart message, which populates the exact items in the cart, with images, and drives the user back to purchase. They also have similar functionality for post-purchase upsells, yay!
Another crucial feature is the dynamic coupon code, so that you can send unique, time sensitive offers, that drive urgency and increase conversion rate.
They serve nearly the entire world and automatically navigate all compliance issues so that you don’t have to.
SMSBump offers a Pay as You Go option, but their most basic plan is $19.99/month + $0.0149 per text in the U.S. ($0.07 for a multimedia text).
Type: SMS Stand-alone
Best for: Enterprise brands
Attentive Mobile is a long standing player in the SMS Marketing space. They work with big brands like Coach and Sephora to implement massive SMS marketing campaigns. They actually invented a patent-pending "two tap" sign up process (the patent has been highly debated in the space...). And they've raised over $163 million to grow the company to be one of the largest in the space.
- Two-tap sign ups - easy to opt-in
- Email list building
- Campaigns, triggers, and segmentation - makes for more focused marketing
- Integrates with many other apps and can utilize data from SMS to improve other channels
- Perform analytics across channels to measure overall performance
They are not transparent about pricing at all, you must contact them for custom pricing, I'm betting it starts at over $1,000/month.
Type: SMS Stand-alone
Best for: Growth-stage Ecommerce
Postscript blends the simplicity of a starting tool with the complexity you may need for things like advanced segementation, integration with your Ecommerce helpdesk, and of course, growing your SMS subscribership.
They are a Y-Combinator company that has raised a seed round and they are built specifically for Ecommerce.
They integrate with many of the well-known Ecommerce/Shopify tools that you will need to execute good SMS list growth:
And their native mobile pop-up growth tool is pretty slick for maximizing your mobile conversion rate to SMS subscriber:
And they aren't the only tool to do this, but it is very important that your SMS tool is able to manipulate the checkout page to ask for a text notification opt-in, as this is where you will get a good majority of your new SMS audience:
- List building and automations
- Segmentation utilizing Shopify data
- Campaigns, flows, integrations, triggers, and segmentation
- Automation of compliance
- Opt-in checkout integration
- Mobile-friendly opt-in growth tool
- A/B Testing
- Two-tap sign ups - easy to opt-in
- GDPR, TCPA and CTIA compliant
Starts at $25/month which gets you 2500 messages (equal to $.01/message) and getting cheaper per message as you increase in volume.
Type: SMS Stand-alone
Best for: Enterprise Brands and Online to Offline experiences
From SMS to WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter and every app in between, IMPower aggregates messaging traffic from most platforms into one dashboard.
- Messaging via text, as well as, FB messenger, WhatsApp, and other social media messaging platforms
- Utilize data from your other platforms to create SMS marketing flows
- Smart Follow-on action system - helps to make interactions for genuine and personal
They are not transparent about pricing at all, you will have to contact them.
Best for: Mid-market brands wanting to connect on SMS and Messenger
Octane is a Messenger and SMS marketing platform built for Ecommerce stores, currently dedicated completely to integrating with Shopify and Shopify Plus. This fast-paced startup was founded in 2017, has over 1500 customers, and regularly adds new features. Octane’s integrations with Facebook messenger, Klayvio, and Yotpo (just to name a few) and their use of AI to offer special features, like their comment-response bot that turns commenters into subscribers, this multichannel marketing option is a good for those who want to utilize email and SMS together.
- Website pop-ups to gain subscribers via Facebook Messenger and SMS
- Abandon cart messaging
- Answer custom questions on Facebook chat utilizing Octane AI
- Conversational Facebook Ads
What makes Octane different?
Octane has some really great functionality, including a comment-response bot that allows anyone that comments on your posts to opt-in to Messenger.
They do both Messenger and SMS well, allowing for better cross-channel communication.
They currently claim to have the most Ecommerce specific flows of any Messenger platform, including Abandon cart, browse abandonment, welcome series, win backs, post-purchase flows, and anything else you want to build.
They have artificial intelligence working to identify common questions and proposing answers. Which makes for a scalable conversational marketing strategy and mitigates many customer service inquiries.
They have advanced analytics for tracking revenue from Messenger and SMS campaigns.
You can create sponsored message campaigns to anyone engaging with your Facebook page within the Octane platform and automatically tie it to your existing flows.
When should you use Octane?
The good thing with Octane, is that you can start with the plug-and-play version, and re-visit when you have more time to build out robust functionality.
This means that any and every store should have some sort of Messenger marketing strategy, especially if you advertise on Facebook.
As your store grows, and traffic grows, the channel becomes more powerful and you will appreciate the retention tools and customer service opportunities - that is, the ability to communicate with your customers 1 to 1, at scale.
To utilize their SMS Marketing, you will have to get their PRO plan, which is $209/month, plus $0.02 per message.
Best for: Conversion Rate Optimization and Abandoned Cart Integrations
Privy, is an Ecommerce focused pop-up building tool turned into a full-fledged conversion rate optimization platform, that helps increase your on-site email (and Messenger, and SMS) capture and conversion rate with easy to design drag and drop form collectors that work across all browser types - desktop, tablet, mobile, etc. With over 300,000 customers, Privy is an excellent tool for growing customer lists, intelligently segmenting customers, and shown to have great conversion rates in the realm of pop-up apps.
- Dynamic Shopify coupon integration
- Abandon cart retargeting across email and SMS (and integrates with Messenger tools for Messenger)
- Targeted pop-ups to intelligently grow SMS lists
What makes Privy different?
There are a couple that really stand out. They have an immense amount of integrations, which means most likely they work with your existing tech stack.
They now have the email automation functionality, which could be a substitute for a tool like Klaviyo, at least for some components of your marketing automation.
Their segmentation components are super powerful. Being able to dynamically segment users and serve them the right type of offer based on whether they’ve purchased before, what pages they visit, the size of their cart, the products in their cart, or user-input like if they tell you they have a cat or dog. So cool.
When should you use Privy?
I believe a pop-up builder should be used at all stages of your business. You should at least have something basic setup from day 1. But most specifically with Privy, you would go with them over more generic tools when you really care about on-site conversion rate, testing multiple creatives and offers, and driving the growth of your store.
Also, as you grow traffic, even at the 10,000+ visitors/month mark, you will really need a tool like Privy to get more granular with your segmentation and targeting.
Privy is very generous and offers all their main features on their free plan. So if you are just getting started and your site is getting 5000 views or less, it is a good place to start.
To use SMS marketing, pricing starts at $10/month.
Best for: Mid-market Digitally Native Vertical Brands
As the name suggests, Retention Rocket focuses their tools on retention. Having started at the angle of SMS and retention, they have many of the similar features as to the other players, and have recently added push notifications and Messenger to their channel mix.
They have easy to implement welcome sequences, order and shipping notifications, and a few other sequences. And they are also have their own patent-pending technology. My take on this is that because Attentive has a "2-click," Retention Rocket found a workaround and created the same type of process, but instead of clicking, you either swipe your finger or shake your phone. Otherwise its the same thing... But props to them for being able to challenge the patent in a creative way.
- SMS abandonment - reach out to complete a sale
- Product Recommendations
- SMS list builder
- Push notifications
- ZenDesk and Slack Integrations
- Patent Pending 2 swipe opt-in
- Order and Shipping Notification messages
They are not transparent about pricing, you will have to contact them.
Best for: Messenger and SMS chatbot flows
ManyChat was one of the first tools in the Messenger marketing space. With a very strong customer base and good funding, they are now pivoting strong into the Ecommerce space and consider themselves a Conversational Commerce platform.
- Detailed chatbot flows, tagging system, and segmentation.
- SMS integrated into chatbot flows
- Sell products, book appointments, nurture leads, capture contact info, and build relationships all through Messenger and SMS.
They keep things simple offering a free plan for new businesses or plans based on the number of subscribers starting at $10/month for rapidly growing businesses. You must be on a paid plan to have SMS. The first 50 text messages are free in the first month and then texts are billed at 0.01$ per SMS.
Best for: SMS and Messenger Abandon Cart
Tobi combines SMS and Messenger tools focused at key stages of the funnel: Abandoned cart, new customer, win-back, promotional offers and flash sales, and more.
- Welcome messages
- Promo messages
- Abandon cart messages
- Countdown messages - create FOMO; this is cool…
- Review requests
- New Product Announcements
Tobi bills by extra sales tracked back to their tool, as opposed to by contact or by message. Pricing starts at $49/month.
Best for: Conversational Commerce
Jumper.ai is a chat tool on the forefront of conversational commerce and social commerce. They enable brands to connect with their customers right where the customer wants to chat: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, SMS, Google RCS, iMessage - basically any conversation platform you can think of. They also go on your website, so that you can sell through chat. Customers can get personalized advice, ask questions, request a demo and tada, best of all, pay for products all within the chat box.
- Multi-channel conversation and flow integrations
- Social and live chat selling tools
- Integration with Adlingo for $150k/month+ ad buyers
- Customer service ticket mitigation tools
They do have a free plan, but this shouldn’t really be used as a free tool, either you can make the investment and want to try it out, or if you can’t afford it, you probably want to start with a simpler solution. They start at $200/month. Their enterprise plan, which is super powerful, starts at $2000/month requiring a 6 month minimum contract.
Best for: Email Marketing and SMS together
Klaviyo has been the market leader for Ecommerce email marketing service providers for quite some time. They have a robust CRM, great templates, and have recently launched SMS capabilities. That being said, their SMS capabilities are new and there are many features still being developed.
- Gender detection
- Email marketing
- Consent management
- MMS at no additional cost
For their SMS marketing feature, they charge based on usage, starting at $.0665/message. You would only use them in conjunction of using them as your email service provider, which starts at free up to 250 contacts, and then $20/month and going up from there. One thing to note is that since they bill email on contacts, they don't have any monthly fees for SMS, just the cost per message.
Best for: All-in-one platform
Omnisend was founded in 2014, serves over 50,000 customers and has been built from the ground up to serve omni-channel marketers (hopefully that is all marketers at this point). This automation platform which we highlight here for it’s SMS marketing, also serves via email, push notifications, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, pop-ups, segmentation, and dynamic Facebook and Google ad integrations. This makes it a truly all-in-one marketing automation solution.
- Email Marketing
- Omni-channel Templates and sequences
- Facebook Messenger
- Integrate SMS messages with other platforms, reducing cost and redudant messages to customers
What makes Omnisend different?
Certainly the reason to go with Omnisend is when you want to simplify an omni-channel marketing strategy, especially if you’re a solo head of marketing, but really for a marketing team of any size.
When should you use Omnisend?
Omnisend’s strength comes in when you have enough resources to utilize all of the channel tools to their fullest. This doesn’t mean you need a full-fledged team, Omnisend makes the execution much easier than the alternative piecemeal solution, but you should at least have a dedicated in-house marketer who has experience with marketing automation and can write good copy for each channel, and think strategically about how to merge the channels together into a cohesive customer journey.
Since this tool can satisfy many of your company’s marketing needs, they have robust tiered pricing. To be able to utilize SMS marketing, you must sign up for the Standard plan, which is $16/month.
After choosing the SMS Marketing tool that is right for you, you're going to integrate it into your site and you need to start opting in new users to the platform.
PLEASE OH PLEASE NOTE: Just because you have a list of phone numbers doesn't mean you have a list of opted in SMS marketing users. Texting over 50 non opted in users at one time could result in massive fines... That being said, and I do not advice this, but I've seen people send text messages asking people to respond yes to opt in. I prefer to email them asking them to opt in, and that is a great way to seed the list.
From there, you will look to add growth tools to your site, perhaps a pop-up that collects phone number (either instead or on top of email), and the checkout checkbox is extremely powerful, as well as any tool that shows up on the thank you page just after the user has purchased, great way to get them to opt in for order and shipping notifications while simultaneously getting them opted in for your next promotional campaign.
Over time you will grow your list and truly feel the power, and revenue, behind this channel. Be sure to integrate your customer service platform and have support agents standing by when you send out a blast, as there is sure to be multiple inquiries coming back at you and it is very important to respond and engage whit these prospective customers.
Consider integrating a referral and loyalty program into SMS by sending each user their own custom link and letting them know how many loyalty points they have as well as ways to get more.
Abandoned cart will always be the biggest revenue driver from SMS, with repeat purchase campaigns being very valuable as well.
Once you've got this setup, I'd say your SMS strategy is at least up to what I consider minimumly viable for Ecommerce today. Continue to optimize campaigns, test new messaging, incorporate emojis and GIFs, have fun with it. And for the love of Pete, be human with your messages, you do not want spam responses!