With the new rise in text message marketing success, e-commerce vendors are just beginning to notice how results from two-way SMS conversations overshadow one-way blasts.
Our goal in this article is to differentiate the two approaches (one-way blasts vs. two-way SMS). We will demonstrate how each works and then offer some direction as you decide which marketing tactics work best for you.
One-Way Text Blasts Produce Limited Results
Until recently, all B2C (business to consumer) e-commerce SMS and email marketing has taken the form of one-way blasts. Generic, one-way marketing automation can be useful because it allows you to deliver information to large groups of people in seconds.
But over the past decade, email, PPC, and other one-way digital channels have become saturated. As a result, performance has declined sharply. Spam folders, filtering, number blocking, and more have rendered one-way communication ineffective compared to 10-20 years ago.
How One-Way SMS Blasts Work
Some SMS marketers only use texting to send one-way blasts. This tactic is unfortunate because SMS is one of the few marketing platforms that empower two-way engagement.
Doing one-way SMS blasts effectively (using dedicated short code) is also too expensive for most e-commerce vendors. As a result, they try to save money through less-than-ideal platforms, such as shared short code and standard long code formats.
With dedicated short code, an organization can send a single message to thousands of phone numbers at once. Additionally, vendors can brand their 6-digit numbers (short code) with catchy words or easy-to-remember sequences.
For standard long code, organizations can't send the same volume of texts at a time. That said, the 10-digital number (long code) does feel more personal to recipients. However, cell carriers are increasingly blocking these standard long code numbers for "gray routing" reasons.
When One-Way SMS Blasts are Successful
One-way SMS blasts have their place.
For example, municipalities can send Amber Alerts or extreme weather warnings to residents efficiently. Additionally, coupon codes over one-way blasts from your favorite restaurant will incentivize you to buy.
However, these one-way blasts lack potency for e-commerce vendors. One-way messages obviously want customers to buy now (often when they are not yet ready). Customers who are not prepared to buy can't ask questions or respond in any other way but click a link or ignore the text.
As such, the only way to measure ROI with one-way text messaging is to count clicks and resulting sales. But two-way SMS offers you another way to measure ROI - engagement.
The Emergence of Two-Way SMS Marketing
Thinking in "direct messaging" terms allows e-commerce vendors to engage consumers with personal feedback. Online shoppers can ask questions and get an immediate reply - just as though they were texting a friend.
Plus, the introduction of 10DLC A2P numbers ensures more reliable deliverability than does standard long code. Cheaper than dedicated short code, 10DLC is the perfect platform for two-way SMS marketing.
But as personal messaging started gaining traction, several constraints arose.
Conversation Portals to Manage Responses
Initially, e-commerce brands used two-way text messaging to engage shoppers directly. It resembled the sequence below:
Brand A sends a message to User A
User A replies
Responses from User A go to a conversation portal for the brand to manually respond
While the human touch of chatting directly with customers produced significant engagement, manually responding to every message was a weight too great to bear for most e-commerce brands. However, this emergence of two-way messaging profoundly changed SMS marketing.
A KPI Shift: Engagement
In one-way text message blasts, customers have three choices:
Click the link to buy
Ignore the text
Opt-out of future messages
SMS marketers might initially see some conversions on the first few blasts, but recipients soon tire of the one-dimensional approach.
With two-way SMS conversations, customers have more choices:
Return to purchase
Ask a question
Answer a question
Opt-out of future messages
This critical KPI shift - engagement - gives interested consumers the ability to provide feedback and complete a sale later on. More importantly, two-way messaging is more compelling, and shoppers are far less likely to opt-out of future messages.
Retaining more phone numbers on your text message marketing list means you can engage them repeatedly with limited-time offers, special events, social media contests, and more.
Sales Versus Customer Service
In its infancy, two-way SMS placed undue stress on customer service agents (usually managing online chat windows). Two-way text message marketing is a sales role, not a customer service one.
As a result, employees trained to handle post-purchase issues were also forced to handle sales inquiries. The new direct messaging strategy lacked some refinement.
Solution: Sales-Based, Two-Way SMS Platform
Today, two-way SMS thrives with the help of sales-based direct messaging and two-way text platforms like Emotive.
Let's take a look at an example (Glossier) of how sales-based, two-way messaging can work.
Case Study: Glossier's gTeam
To boost their direct-to-consumer (D2C) business model, Glossier retrained and rebranded their customer support team to think bigger than traditional customer service. Glossier's Customer Experience Team - more affectionately known as "gTeam" - focuses on delivering value to customers through meaningful engagement.
"The team is integrated into the larger marketing department, regularly advises on product development decisions and, according to [Jessica White, the executive director of customer experience], is actually helping to drive customer loyalty, retention and conversions." - Digiday
In other words, the gTeam is responsible for everything from sales services to product development. Direct messaging with consumers nurtures a more authentic relationship with the Glossier brand. Engagement leads to sales, which leads to stronger brand loyalty and future purchases.
Using Emotive to Outsource Two-Way SMS
Most e-commerce stores do not have the payroll budget to create a sales team or gTeam like Glossier. That's why Emotive built a two-way platform designed to help brands outsource two-way SMS engagement.
E-commerce vendors only deal with the more unusual customer cases, while Emotive teams handle more routine opportunities and queries. Emotive two-way messaging works as follows:
Brand A sends a message to User A
User A replies
Emotive will interpret the reply and respond to 90%+ of the conversations on behalf of Brand A.
Replies outside of Emotive's automation go to customer service (less than 10% of interactions)
For example, one of the most important conversion opportunities occurs when an online shopper abandons their card. Emotive can text the shopper and inquire about why they didn't complete the purchase. In many scenarios (such as the example above), an introductory offer will close the deal. But for others, Emotive can address questions related to shipping, product descriptions, card declines, and more.
When consumers have the option to engage, you can achieve long-term ROI in more subtle ways, such as:
Redeeming abandoned carts
Gathering product feedback
Identifying website UX issues
Incentivizing user-generated content online
The Bottom Line
We're not trying to say that one-way text and email blasts are bad. On the contrary, both have their place, and your organization may be a good fit for those mediums.
But if you're looking to tap into the SMS marketing approach with the highest ROI, you should seriously consider two-way SMS conversations. Authentic engagement is key to delighting your customers and sending them text messages that they will love.