Let's face it, nearly everyone texts. In fact, I bet your phone is within eyesight right now. Is it? Because so many of us keep our phones close by, the time between when text messages are received and read is probably seconds! This alone makes SMS marketing a potentially powerful tool. However, many companies are missing a huge opportunity with their SMS marketing programs.


The problem is that many marketers don’t think of SMS the same way they think of other promotional channels. That is to say they assume batch and blast, unoriginal messages will convert subscribers. You wouldn’t send the same email to your subscribers every single week, would you? Yet this is exactly what many companies do when sending SMS messages. Today I am going to show you just a few a few examples of the SMS good, bad and somewhere in between.

The Bad

This first set is from Macy’s.

Notice anything here? One of the problems with the Macy’s program is the promotion is almost always identical. In almost every message I am offered 20% off my purchase. I know it is coming, so there is no reason for me to check the message. Where is the urgency to purchase? Why would I shop now when I can simply wait for the next one? Here is a prime example where I may see the text within seconds or minutes after receiving it, but the CTA is lacking.

Here is an opportunity to test different incentives to see if a discount threshold can be found, or simply to give the appearance that a specific discount is not standard.


The In Between

Here is an example from buybuy Baby.

You can see this follows the same concept as the Macy’s SMS. The incentive is for 20% off, which we all know is the standard coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond stores. I have stockpiles of BBB coupons. What sets this apart from that piece of direct mail I have? These two examples are the SMS version of batch and blast emails. Although I don’t see the value in these messages, I can give BBB a small pass, as I don’t think anyone buys from BBB without one of their 20% coupons. This just provides an on-the-go coupon for people.

Also, the use of the word "Ur" seems a bit loose to me. I don't see why they couldn't just write out "Your". I know it is "text speak" but it doesn't seem natural from this specific brand. If length was a problem, then they could have shortned the URL, similar to how Macy's shortens them in their example.

The Good

So how can SMS be used in a manner that sparks an action? Here is an example.

OK, I have a confession. I drive an Altima (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Just like a re-order email or SMS message would function, this message reminds me when I am due for an oil change. What this message has that the previous two examples don’t is it provides value and has a clear CTA. While it is not a typical retailer, it does demand action from the subscriber. Typical retailers could learn from implementing these principles into their messages.

Using SMS for a product reorders can be very valuable. Making it possible for one-click reordering while on the go can also drive more conversions than a random batch and blast text message like the BuyBuyBaby or Macy’s messages.

One final example to look at is from Target.

Target does exactly what Macy’s doesn’t, they change it up. The links in these messages drive me to a Target page that shows all of the different coupons they offer. The product coupons change from message to message so they force me to look at them when I receive the SMS. I don’t often make a trip to Target, but I have found two independent offers via these messages that drove me in-store to purchase. Success!

I would bet that if people were signed up for both the Target and Macy’s SMS programs they would be more engaged with the Target program.

Keys to Success & Pitfalls to Avoid

Types of campaigns where SMS can be effective:

  • Reorder reminders
  • Informational alerts, like flight delays or event reminders
  • Transactional messages, such as order confirmations or shipping confirmations
  • Special deals or campaigns, such as 12 days of deals for Christmas
  • SMS can also be a great way to grow your email subscriber list with text-to-sign-up

SMS Tips & Tricks:

  • Don’t send the same message time after time – (you wouldn’t do it with an email, why do it with SMS?)
  • Send messages that provides the subscriber with value
  • Have a clear CTA
  • Make the CTA easy to redeem
  • Make the offers unique – if I get the same offer via every channel, why should I subscribe?
  • Treat your SMS program like an independent marketing channel – after all, it is!
  • Test incentives and promos to determine what converts best

Whether you are thinking of, or currently are using, SMS as a marketing channel, be sure to think through your program and how it connects with your subscribers. Otherwise, it will be like getting texts from a stranger. Want proof? Give me your cell number and I’ll text you my weekly grocery list. Let me know how long it takes you to stop reading my texts, LOL.

Greg Zakowicz
Marketing Strategist at Bronto