Email + SMS: The recipe that capitalizes on the shift to ecommerce

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Email and SMS (Short Message Service) messaging are the chocolate and peanut butter of the digital marketing world. Each is great on its own. But they’re unbeatable when you pair them up in a program that uses the strengths of each channel to create a communications mix that recognizes when, where and how consumers want to be reached.

This synergy is even more important today, given the pandemic-drive move from physical to digital commerce. We don’t know whether consumers will continue to stick with digital-first for shopping. But marketers should do all they can to capitalize on this shift, and forging more cooperation between the two channels is one way to do it quickly.

What you miss with an ‘either-or’ mindset

SMS is usually touted as the ultimate email-killer. A 2020 Omnisend study credits SMS with an average 14.2% click rate and having SMS in the mix of an omnichannel campaign increases conversions by 47%
Still, email hangs on as consumers’ No. 1 preference for brand communications. Here’s why you need to create a partnership in your marketing decisions:

1. The two channels share some big benefits:

  • Real-time content based on time, location, transactions and more
  • High ROI 
  • Low barrier to entry
  • Easy to automate and personalize

2. Each channel does some things better than the other. 

The 160-character limit on an SMS message doesn’t give you much room for education and nurturing. And an emailed fraud alert or flight change might not get seen in time. That’s why you need both to serve your customers best. 

3.  Each channel can build up the other one. 

SMS to email: Send a message with a link to your preference page so they can sign up for email messages. Email to SMS: Add a tap-to-text function to your email that lets customers opt in to SMS with just a few taps. 

Both of these help you widen your contacts with your audience and give them more options to stay in touch with you. Win-win for everyone.

Caution: Remember “WIIFM!” Figure out ahead of time how each program fits into your messaging plan, and tell customers up front what you’ll send and when and why it benefits them to opt in. That’s the WIIFM, or “What’s In It For Me?”

How email and SMS can work together

You can probably come up with dozens of use cases to join up email and SMS that benefit everybody. For example, Thrive Market, an online grocery retailer and Sailthru customer, uses email and SMS marketing in tandem. If someone hasn’t engaged with email, Thrive Market tries to reach them via SMS.

Here are three tactics that you can test and implement quickly:

1. Create a new engagement segment.

If you already ask for mobile phone numbers along with email addresses (that is, you ask specifically for a mobile number and not a general number), run a query to see whether customers who provide both are more likely to buy or use your services. If your query pans out, target them for special treatment in high-traffic periods like holidays or travel high seasons to increase propensity to purchase.

2. Use tap-to-text to contact customer support.

Your email can become another port of entry for customers who need to contact customer support. Add tap-to-text to open an SMS conversation with a customer agent to resolve problems like missed deliveries, rescheduling services, travel hiccups or order errors. Or use tap-to-text to encourage subscribers to opt-in to another form of communication.  A leading brand in the travel industry gained over 1600 opt-ins in 24 hours by implementing tap-to-text with Liveclicker.

3. Combine email and SMS in retargeting sequences.

Abandoned-cart reminders are a natural place to start. Add an SMS alert to your abandoned-cart email series if a product in the cart is about to sell out or go on sale. If you don’t maintain perpetual carts, alert via SMS before you close out the cart. Test to see which actions are better suited for email or SMS. 

Final thought: Set up your SMS strategy before you start sending texts 

Nobody wants a mobile phone that buzzes or pings every five minutes. Decide which messages are suitable for the always-on immediacy of a text and which need email and its richer information environment. It takes less time to type “STOP” on a text than to find and click an unsubscribe link.

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Brittany is a digital marketer with experience building an online presence for both B2B and B2C brands. As the S. Content Marketing Manager for Liveclicker, Brittany plans and produces effective communication across channels, creating valuable content that helps clients and prospects harness the power of moment-of-open personalization.

Brittany King
Author

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