Why SMS Marketing Makes Sense for DTC Brands

The humble text message has come a long way from the first “Merry Christmas” message sent in December of 1992. Today, there are about 6 billion SMS messages sent every day in the United States, and over 2.2 trillion are sent each year. SMS (short message service) marketing has proven to be a simple and powerful tool that brands are utilizing more than ever during COVID to communicate with receptive customers. With higher open rates than email, as well as the potential for immediate results and positive customer reception when utilized tactfully, SMS marketing is positioning itself in the current moment to have serious staying power, even long after the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.

During these past few months, DTC e-commerce brands have been flocking to SMS marketing even more than traditional brands as they pivot away from flashier marketing channels.

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What’s Behind the Renewed Focus in This Almost 30-Year-Old Communications Method?

First is the availability of the audience. Studies show that, on average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text message as compared to the 90 minutes it takes for someone to respond to email. Plus, the fact that most customers carry their phones at all times makes SMS a highly reliable way to reach them and engage in a two-way conversation. There has also been an exponential rise in smartphone usage and messaging apps (e.g., Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, Slack, and Snapchat).

Now that messaging platforms and comprehensive carrier plans are more widely available, text messaging has become less sacred and more accepted as an engagement channel between businesses and their customers. And though text messages aren’t the most glamorous form of communication, their simplicity and compatibility with every mobile device are major reasons for their popularity.

DTC marketers have learned customers want to feel as if they can control and regulate the messages they receive from businesses. As email inboxes and Instagram feeds become cluttered with direct-to-consumer brands urging people to get 20% off a new mattress or cookware set, brands are in search of new places to talk to customers where they aren’t yet sick of hearing from brands.

Is SMS Marketing Still Perceived as an Intrusive Channel?

In fact, more than 75% of consumers say they prefer to receive promotions via text message than seeing ads while browsing the Internet and social media channels. While SMS marketing is perceived as an intrusive channel, in reality, it actually proves to be less so than email and paid social ads because customers must deliberately consent to receive texts, giving them control of what they receive and when they opt-out.

For example, Loverboy prompted e-commerce orders via text alerts to soft launch a new wine-based spritz. According to the company, Loverboy received 1,500 orders on the first day alone, resulting in almost 50% of inventory being sold before the product was officially launched. Giant Eagle Grocery started texting customers in March with information related to COVID. Since then, the company has reported that more than 10,000 customers have used text to communicate with the store about curbside pickup or delivery.

SMS is also effective at enhancing customer service efforts. Many DTC brands are trying to acquire new customers with the promise that their text-based customer service will make it easier for customers to buy and ask questions about products. As a result, more and more brands are using texting to answer more complicated customer questions that require a human response. Anomalie, a custom wedding dress brand that primarily communicates with customers via text message about design confirmation and fabric approval sent and received over 100,000 texts in one month alone. And swimwear brand Summersalt launched Joycast in March, a free text hotline where customers can request a mood lifter in the form of a text such as a puppy GIF or self-care tips.

It’s taken almost 30 years for SMS to hit its stride, but text messaging may be peaking at just the right time. Now is the time for brands to take another look at this channel to cultivate direct relationships with their customers.

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