The open and read rates for SMS have remained strong for over five years, with 98% opened and nine out of 10 opened in the first three seconds. Whether it is informing your customers that their parcel will be delivered today, or letting them know about a deal you have on that you know will benefit them, A2P messaging (Application to Person or basically any texts going from a business to their customers) has infinite amount of uses, without any of the tricky time-consuming efforts of formatting a rich message like an email. So the question is, are you getting the best out of SMS?
SMS stands for short message service, and they are not kidding when they say short! A single message or text consists of just 160 characters (including spaces).
To put that in context, the two sentences above are made up of 160 characters exactly. It may not seem like a lot (and you should note, it’s a bit less if you start using things like emojis), but when restraint meets creativity, there is great power in this form of communication.
Unlike an email, a single segment is so concise, you can be almost certain that your customers have read and consumed the material, simply by the act of opening the message (which we know the overwhelming majority are doing). So long as your text is written clearly, a simple glance is enough to digest the information at that scale. This means you can be sure your customers are not only getting the message, but that they have actually given their attention to it, which puts you at a huge advantage.
Here are 9 of our top tips for ways you can take further control of this unique benefit:
- Make sure you have an opt-out!
You must supply an opt-out option in the body of the message as the law dictates your customers must be able to opt-out by text if you are contacting them by text. This is not the end of the world – the last thing you want is a captive audience who resent you for not providing an escape hatch. If a consumer doesn’t want to hear from you, that’s one less person to worry about converting, making your ROI richer. Allow for space in your message for a simple opt-out such as: Optout? Text STOP to 1234.
- Links, links, links
Links are a great way to include more information in your text without using up too much character length. There are many link shortening services you can use to get more for your message’s worth, but you might consider ones that offer you unique UTMs (a unique code in your link) that you can track so that you can tell how much of your traffic is coming from your SMS campaign specifically.
An SMS cannot contain rich content such as imagery, but a link to a site can – just make sure the site is mobile-friendly as 100% of your traffic using that UTM will be on a mobile device, and make sure it is relevant to the information in the text and not just included for the sake of a boost to traffic – tactics like that will only make consumers view the message as spam. Always provide benefit to your customers with the content you are providing. If your text is to inform of a sale on, your link should refer to the ecommerce section of your site, or to a way for customers to find the nearest brick and mortar store to them, not to your latest blog or about us
- Get your customers even more invested in your product or service
You can also use links to your advantage by allowing customers to track their order, claim a voucher, respond to a survey, view a video or open a PDF or an email. By clicking through to the link, your customers are engaging and pulling information to themselves. Anyone who’s been around kids knows that people respond to things more when they think it’s their idea. By providing some action for the reader to complete like clicking on the link, it’s (hopefully) added value for them, but it’s also a way for you to sneak more information about your business into their bubble by getting them to do the fetching, and it’s info that they are now invested in because they retrieved it themselves.
- It’s a conversation!
Don’t forget, a text is not only a way for you to communicate, but you can use it as a channel for your customers to start a dialogue with you. Encourage your customers to text you back by including something like: Have any questions? Reply to this message. This social aspect is already something customers are increasingly coming to expect as standard. You can also take advantage of keywords to complete an action. For example, if a customer needs to alter the time an agent will be visiting them, your message could say: Need to change your appointment time? Reply CHANGE with your required time to 1234. Just don’t forget to send a confirmation text to let them know their new appointment has been accepted, which leads us too…
- Have the last word
If your SMS campaign is a conversation, make sure your last text really is your last text. Don’t leave a customer hanging in ambiguity town, waiting to find out whether their order has been received or their feedback has been logged. You are using SMS to provide better communication to your consumers, not worse!
- Choose wisely
Just like the early days of 140 character Twitter, 160 characters can force you to be creative by making sure you only include the bones of what you are trying to communicate. In short: get to the point. Your customers want to immediately know why they are receiving this message, not why you are sending it (yes those are two different things!). For example, the reason you are sending the message might be that there is a new range of products you want to tell people about, but the reason they are receiving is so they can browse and purchase from those products. Instead of saying: View our new product range, try saying instead: Time for a new xyz? That way, you have immediately established a need for the customer that your message can also fulfil. If there is extra value such as a voucher to redeem or limited time discount, let that be the cherry on top that closes the deal, not the hook.
- Don’t forget your USP!
Is there something about your product or service that is unique? Do you offer same-day delivery or fully customisable features? Include this in the message with a word or two (no need for a sentence) and be specific. Don’t say: speedy turnaround, try instead: same-day repair.
- Don’t cross the line
While text messages are informal, an A2P message (a text from a business to its customers as opposed to one between friends), there is a line that should not be crossed when it comes to contractions and abbreviations. By all means say ‘you’re’ and ‘thanks’ instead of ‘you are’ and ‘thank you’, but ‘ur’ and ‘thnx’ or ‘ta’ is almost certainly taking it too far. There might be exceptions that you know your customer base is familiar with, for example, saying LDN as an abbreviation for London, but be mindful of your customer’s understanding when it comes to these, as well as any jargon. Having someone (as many people as possible, ideally) read over the message who is not familiar with the idea you are trying to communicate will help eliminate any misunderstanding.
- Remember your brand!
Finally, remember, even though it’s just a text, think about your brand and the tone of voice your business uses. Are you the kind of company that says ‘Hello’ or ‘Hey’, or is it okay for you to dive right into the facts? Is it appropriate for you to use an emoji? A smiley face could either endear customers to your business or destroy your credibility, depending on the sector you are in. With SMS such a strong tool for communication, it could be integral to establishing your brand and ethos.
We hope this has been useful for your SMS campaign, and don’t forget, we are on hand to answer any more questions you might have. With decades of experience in the SMS game, there hasn’t been a campaign we haven’t been able to help with yet. Give us a call, email, or of course, a text to find out more.