Bringing Sexy SMS Back

Jesus Sanchez
Jesus Sanchez
Head of Targeted Marketing & Mobile Engagement

Once the ‘belle of the ball,’ SMS texting is now an often overlooked channel for direct communication to consumers, but one that can quickly and easily be enhanced to deliver timely, relevant and very personalized messages to shoppers and brand loyalists.

Once upon a time, just 15-20 years ago, SMS text messaging was new, and it was decidedly cutting edge, even sexy and glamourous. It was the “must have” technology, so much so mobile devices were designed around text messaging, and anybody who was somebody just had to be seen texting.

T-Mobile SidekickParis Hilton Texting on her Bedazzled Sidekick

It didn’t take long for businesses – retailer marketers included – to take note. SMS texting provided direct access to shoppers, and many brands jumped in wholeheartedly. Over time though, a slew of new communication channels opened and stole SMS’ luster, and what little luster left was tarnished by misguided SMS strategies that misused and even abused those coveted direct-to-shopper channels.

It’s now gotten to the point where many retailers currently don’t execute on direct SMS texting to shoppers and customers.

That’s a mistake.

According to comScore, Inc., at the end of January of this year, 198.5 million people in the United States owned smartphones, representing a 79.1 percent market penetration. Moreover, Pew Research Center reports 97 percent of Americans use SMS at least once a day.

Those numbers represent a lot of opportunity for a retail industry that is desperate for more opportunity.


A Smarter Use for SMS Texting

As a platform, SMS’ core strength lies in its immediacy, and it offers extraordinary value to consumers in circumstances where they are on the move, and when they need time-sensitive information right away.

Southwest Airlines and other airlines put SMS to great use with notifications of changes in gates or departure and arrival times. They understand SMS messaging on the day of a flight is neither the time nor the place for promotional campaigns, corporate announcements and other “noise,” all of which are better shared at other times and through other channels like email.

Retailers, take note: All messages are not appropriate for all platforms or channels. Each channel has its own strengths, and consumers – particularly digital natives like millennials – have little tolerance for brands that don’t get it (and, in turn, don’t get them).

A Higher Value for SMS Texting

Some retailers prove they understand SMS texting by delivering to shoppers timely information that adds immediate value. And, I’m not just referring to pushing sales promotions on umbrellas during winter rain storms (although, that is a nifty SMS application).

Wal-Mart is among the retailers who text receipts to its shoppers. Not only does it cut down on the fuss and muss of printing and carrying (and losing) a receipt, it also makes organizing receipts incredibly simple for the shopper. Additionally, that humble receipt, that most basic and overlooked beast of burden in the retail industry, becomes a critical key for data collection and subsequent marketing efforts once married into a company’s CRM database.

Retailers, take another note: It’s important your SMS strategies solve for your shoppers’ problems, or the pain points/friction points they’re experiencing in their shopping journey, not your own problems. What’s good for shoppers is good for your business, plain and simple. Be innovative and focus on addressing the needs of shoppers first.

A Sexier SMS Texting with Personalization

SMS test messaging is a two-way street between shopper and store, but because of misuse by retailers, it’s usually a one-way street (store to shopper) and the same one-way street for all shoppers at that. And, that’s a mistake, as shoppers – and their shopping needs – are distinctly different and unique.

Shoppers are different, and they should benefit from different, more relevant, SMS experiences. Yet, all too often, retail marketers deliver a SMS with a hard coded URL that once opened is exactly the same for everyone. So, the 25-year old mother of newborn twins gets the same homepage experience as the single 45-year old male with no children. It’s enough to make shoppers wonder if brands listen to them or even know them at all.

RetailNext’ Mobile Engage solution doesn’t send a brand’s SMS text messages. The solution makes a brands SMS texts better and more effective. How much more effective? Using Mobile Engage, Sears saw an 1,100 percent increase in the mobile redemption rates for its offers.



Remember that humble receipt mentioned above? It represents purchase history. And, there’s even more data that helps a retailer tailor and deliver timely, relevant (read: personal) messages to shoppers, including retail analytics data on online and in-store shopping behavior.

With RetailNext’s Mobile Engage, that mother of newborn twins will see offers and promotions perhaps on diapers, clothing, and pediatric health care products. The single man, on the other hand, will see something entirely different. Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks – it’s the critical first step and differentiating distinction that empowers personalization.

Optimizing each and every channel

SMS text is still a great tool for retailers, and one that should be slotted into a retail marketer’s portfolio right alongside email, social media and other channels. Each shopper represents opportunity, and opportunities not taken advantage of are lost – often forever.

For more information on how to use the powerful RetailNext platform to make your marketing efforts more effective, visit RetailNext’s In-Store Marketing page.

Join the #retail and #inspiringretail conversations on Twitter @jsanchezve & @RetailNext, as well as at