If you're reading this blog post, I think it's safe to assume your commerce marketing program includes email. It also probably includes some combination of social media and other branded items, but does it include SMS messaging? If not, it might just be time to give it a try.

Texting Is On the Rise

Think for a minute. How many people do you know who do not have a cell phone? I tried and came up with zero. Be honest. If you’re reading this article on your phone and you get a text message notification, would you keep reading or switch to the SMS? For that matter, if you unlock your phone after being away for a while, which would you check first? I asked my Twitter followers to send in a screenshot of their home screen and found that everyone had unread emails (sometimes across several different apps), but the text messaging notifications were being cleared immediately. iPhone screens During a recent study, Pew Research Center found that 97% of smartphone owners surveyed used the text messaging feature on their phones, compared with 88% for email and 75% for social networking. With such a high adoption rate and the tendency of users to check text messages so quickly, SMS is a perfect option for announcements or contests. And due to much stricter regulations around sign-up requirements, there is almost zero spam with SMS. It can also be tricky to delete an SMS message without reading it, which leads to negligible ignore and spam complaint rates.

Speak to Your VIPs

While email is definitely still one of the most effective marketing tools, the level of engagement for your subscriber list can vary. Providing an email address, particularly as part of an online transaction, has become so common that it’s not a decision many people hesitate over anymore. Unfortunately, that means that a percentage of new subscribers who sign up won't ever engage with your brand once your email messages begin to arrive in their inbox. Those who sign up for your SMS, however, tend to consider you one of their favorite brands. Most people don't give their phone number out to just anyone. They tend to sign up for only those brands they truly love. So remember: Your SMS lists will never be as large as your email lists, but your SMS subscribers will likely be incredibly engaged with your business.

Getting It Right

Ready to jump in head first? Here are a few tips to get you started: Choose one call to action in an SMS message or campaign. Remember, you've only got 160 characters to work with. Give customers one link, one action item, one question, etc. One reason SMS is so successful is the messages are easy to understand and digest. Don't overcomplicate it. Be aware of your audience and stay (somewhat) professional. Use shorthand or abbreviations to save a few characters, but don't make your message indecipherable. As much as I love them, I immediately unsubscribed from Chipotle's text messaging program because my first text included the phrase "Ur cpn nm is XXX". Yikes! Be sure your website renders appropriately for mobile. Consider the consumer’s point of view. If you're linking to your site, the landing page must render well on mobile devices. As an added bonus, try including Google Analytics tags in your URL so you can identify the incoming traffic as mobile click-throughs. Choose your keyword wisely. You can't (or won't want to) change it once the campaign starts. Keywords are not case-sensitive, but they do have to be unique and should reference your brand in some way. And be aware of the dreaded auto-correct! If you're using multi-part words, or have numbers in your keyword, be sure a phone won't autocorrect to something ... unsavory. Make the sign-up worthwhile. As with email, offers and incentives can encourage users to sign up. Consider including an incentive in the form of a mobile coupon. Be sure to give them a unique code so you can track how the coupons are being used and see where sales originated. Remember that less is more. The most successful campaigns only send four to six times per month. And be sure to avoid weekends and overnight hours (9 p.m. to 9 a.m.) … in the recipients’ time zone, of course. If I get a text at 2 a.m., and no one is dead or the building isn't on fire, you’ll no longer be one of my favorite brands!

Kick It Up a Notch

Once you've got the basics down, try branching out a bit with MMS. The text of this message is perfectly fine, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't show up to that meeting for the doughnuts. MSS Example Just remember that MMS messages count for two messages from your allocation – one for the picture and one for the text. Even animated .gifs work, but keep the files very small. I've seen customers use MMS images to highlight a new product, an item that is back-in-stock, or one about to be discontinued. As the saying goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and it’s especially helpful when you only have 160 characters of text.

Learn More

You can find tons of great documentation on SMS in our Help library. Be sure to check out the two Workflow templates that show you how to use SMS responses to collect additional information (zip code, first name, email, etc.). And as with everything else in Bronto, once you have that data, you can use it for SMS personalization! If you'd like to give SMS a trial run in your marketing program, contact your account manager for pricing. Our support team is always available for technical questions, but you're also free to reach out to our SMS team directly at sms@bronto.com.