SMS in retail: Can it help your business?

With so many different stores occupying the average British high street, effective marketing will be a prime concern for most retailers. As well as sending the right messages to existing and potential customers, though, business owners must make sure they stand out from the crowd. Reaching the right people is essential if a campaign is to be successful.

With the above in mind, it’s no real surprise that so many companies turn to SMS marketing in their attempts to boost sales, awareness and customer engagement. In fact, data shows that 38 per cent of the UK’s major retail firms regularly send texts to shoppers. It makes sense too – with 93 per cent of the British population now owning mobile phones, there are few alternatives capable of matching it.

All of the signs point to continued growth in the popularity of SMS in the retail sector. If you’re considering joining the thousands of business owners who already rely on this hugely effective marketing tool, you’ll benefit from knowing exactly what it can do. Here are just a few examples…

Retail promotions and voucher codes

The most obvious – and perhaps most common – use for SMS in the retail industry is to inform customers of new promotions. Discounts and attention-grabbing offers are part and parcel of most shop-owners’ strategies, but even the most drastic price-cuts will fail if people don’t know about them. With the help of SMS, though, businesses are able to easily spread the word about upcoming sales, whether in-store or online.

If the offer is available online, it’s possible to go a step further by actually sending promotional voucher codes to shoppers. This is a particularly effective way of improving engagement and loyalty among your audience, as it makes each recipient feel as though they’re receiving something of value, instead of just being given access to information that might be readily accessible to everyone.

Sharing useful information for shoppers

Bombard your audience with nothing but details of special offers and they’re likely to get bored pretty quickly. Instead, you should use SMS to provide people with information they’re going to find useful. Think about what it is you’re sending, and whether it’s likely to improve their life in any way – it doesn’t take much to scare people away through irritation.

If a shopper is about to leave the store disappointed after failing to find what they were looking for, offer to send a notification by SMS when the product in question is back in stock. This kind of strategy isn’t restricted to high-street shoppers either – you could offer to do the same for web customers too. Email might seem like the most obvious option here, but texts are much more likely to be opened and read. In fact, data shows that 98 per cent of SMS messages are opened, compared to just 22 per cent of emails.

Delivery notifications can also help you get into customers’ good books. When you consider the average Brit spends five days of every year waiting at home for deliveries (figures courtesy of the Co-Operative), sending a quick text to provide an hour’s notice of arrival makes perfect sense. While it might not seem like much, most shoppers will appreciate the gesture – after all, the same Co-Operative study found that, out of 3,000 people, 90 per cent think the uncertainty of when their item will show up is the biggest frustration of shopping online.

Collecting consumer data with mobile forms and surveys

Whatever you’re trying to achieve with your SMS campaign, data should be an ally. Some businesses think the more people they contact, the more leads they’re likely to generate – but this isn’t necessarily true. Instead, you should focus on sending intelligently targeted messages to people who will actually find them useful. Your success here lies in how much you know about your audience.

For example, if a clothing store can separate customers based on gender and age, it will be in a better position to reach them with details of relevant products and offers. As more is learnt, the targeting can become more specific; information on baby clothing promotions could be sent to new parents, for instance.

It’s clear that data will come in handy, but the information you use must be collected in the right way – it isn’t as simple as paying for a list of mobile numbers. Instead, you need to populate your contact list with people who have already shown an interest in your business or the products you sell. They should have also opted in to receive messages from you.

There are plenty of ways to build your list up, though. First, don’t rule out just asking at the point of sale; just be sure to explain the benefits of signing up. Giveaways and special promotions which require consumers to register their details are also effective, especially when convenient short codes are implemented.

When the right approach is taken, SMS can be hugely beneficial for any business. The way in which you use this wide-reaching technology will depend on a number of factors – namely your industry, audience and budget – but get it right and the potential is huge.

For more examples of SMS retail success, read our latest mobile marketing case studies.