Great SMS marketing enables brands to reach, engage, and grow their mobile audiences like never before. But to do that, you must first understand how your customers prefer to text — so you can guarantee you’ll excite them with every message you send. That’s why we asked shoppers directly about their SMS preferences, so your brand doesn’t have to waste any time guessing.

In July 2021, we conducted a survey in the US, the UK, and Australia to finally uncover what shoppers want from a brand’s SMS marketing program (and what they don’t). The survey was taken by 2,000 consumers across six age groups (16-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, and 54+), all of whom had shopped online at least once in the past year.

After analyzing all of the data, we narrowed down a few key takeaways for brands looking to craft the ultimate, mobile-first experience:

Shoppers are selective when it comes to texting

Almost all shoppers are already signed up to receive text messages from brands, but most of them are signed up for very few. The data we collected from all three locations suggests shoppers are selective about which brands they choose to text with, making it crucial for brands to demonstrate the value of their SMS program.

  • Over 80% of shoppers are signed up to receive text messages from at least one brand. Just under 20% are not yet signed up.
  • Of those shoppers who are already signed up, 41% only receive texts from 1-4 brands.
  • Just under 18% text with 5-8 brands, while 8% text with 9-12 brands, and 4% text with 13-16 brands. Only 6% text with 17 or more brands, and 4% aren’t sure exactly how many.

The journey to SMS is different for everyone

The time in which shoppers choose to opt in to a brand’s SMS program varies. Brands looking to effectively grow their subscriber list must therefore engage shoppers at every stage of the customer journey, giving them multiple opportunities to opt in with multi-channel subscriber collection tools.

  • Over 23% of shoppers will opt in to SMS before their first purchase.
  • Over 32% will opt in after their first purchase — the majority answer by a slim margin.
  • Over 18% will opt in after a few purchases.

Speaking of opting in… 

Shoppers will give you their number (if you give them something in return)

Shoppers make several considerations when deciding whether or not to sign up for text messages, but they are especially attracted to the incentives — both short-term (one-time discounts) and long-term (customer experience and relationship-oriented perks).

  • More than 50% of shoppers take into consideration the types of incentives (like discounts) that a brand offers when signing up, and almost 41% consider if they belong to the brand’s loyalty program.
  • Over 54% of shoppers said that unlocking a one-time discount code (like 15% off their first purchase) would make them want to opt in, while 49% valued getting early access to sales or new releases, and more than 37% would opt in to receive regular text-only offers.
  • Exactly 33% of shoppers would sign up for texts to get faster responses to customer support queries.
  • Just under 26% would text with brands in order to get tips and personalized product recommendations from them.
  • Over 23% of shoppers are drawn to the opportunity to be part of an exclusive SMS community.

Shoppers have a need for speed, and SMS delivers

Shoppers want real-time updates, and texting offers a level of speed and convenience that other marketing channels just can’t match. Because SMS gives them the ability to receive and act on relevant information at the exact moment it becomes available, brands should supplement other channels (like email) with SMS to effectively disseminate information and maximize engagement.

  • Exactly 44% of shoppers say they prefer SMS to other channels because it’s immediate, convenient, and allows them to quickly get updates.
  • Nearly 53% of shoppers would sign up for texts from a brand in addition to emails because they want to know immediately about promotions, offers, and updates.
  • Over 36% say their email inboxes are overflowing, and they are more likely to see a brand’s message if it’s via text.
  • Almost 32% want the ability to quickly communicate with brands one-on-one via text.

It feels good to be in control — and it pays off

Shoppers want control over who can text them, but also what those text messages consist of, so that they are only seeing content that matters to them. Brands can satisfy this craving by asking subscribers directly about their text preferences or product interests. This will give you essential customer data that you can use to expertly tailor your messaging, which will help to increase conversion rates and customer lifetime value.

  • More than 44% of shoppers prefer SMS to other channels because they can easily opt out if they need to, though they rarely do — SMS has a less than 5% opt-out rate.
  • Over 50% of shoppers want the ability to customize the types of messages they receive from brands (such as sales offers, loyalty perks, or new product announcements).
  • Almost 30% want control over the text message frequency, and 20% only want brands to text them based on their specified product preferences (such as men’s or women’s clothing).

The more engaging and exclusive the text, the better

Shoppers are most excited by SMS experiences that are both engaging and exclusive. A brand’s SMS program needs to deliver relevant, actionable, and personalized content (and offers) that they wouldn’t get anywhere else.

  • Over 56% of shoppers would be encouraged to complete a purchase if they received a personalized offer (such as 10% off or free shipping) via text.
  • More than 47% of shoppers would enjoy being sent product photos from real customers, as well as exclusive sneak peeks and behind the scenes content via text. Over 39% would also like to see professional photos that are on-brand, and 38% would enjoy the inclusion of humorous memes, GIFS, and other trending content.
  • Over 45% prefer when brands provide direct links to their website in the text message so that they can conveniently click through without having to search.
  • Exactly 43% say they would be more likely to purchase when the brand tells them what points or rewards they will earn as a loyalty member.
  • More than 36% of shoppers want the brand to greet them by name.

Say no to spam, or else

Text message marketing is not telemarketing, but consumer reservations still linger, making it especially important for brands to send the right message to the right shopper at the right time. Brands can combat the spam stigma by being transparent about SMS opt-in and opt-out compliance, only sending texts at times when they are least disruptive, and leveraging customer data to make every message meaningful.

  • More than 55% of shoppers worry that brands will text them too frequently, and 45% say they are concerned brands will share their phone number with third parties.
  • Over 65% of respondents would opt out of text messages if they received too many texts, and 54% say they would opt out if the texts are not relevant or helpful to them.
  • Nearly 56% of shoppers would be more likely to engage with texts that contain information relevant to their personal interests or past purchases, and almost 35% like to be asked directly about their needs or interests.
  • 45% of shoppers prefer to receive texts from brands between the hours of 12:00pm – 6:00pm. Just over 22% of shoppers prefer the morning to early afternoon hours (9:00am – 12:00pm), while only 15% want to be texted after 6:00pm, and 18% had no preference.

Want to know more?

To get deeper insights about the data presented here (plus several of our top strategies for SMS success) dive into our complete US, UK, or Australian consumer survey reports. They’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to build an SMS program that truly engages every shopper, so you can accelerate your business growth.

To learn about Yotpo SMS and start crafting your best SMS strategy, click here.

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