e-commerce SMS Marketing: Five Questions to Ask Before Launching

Your five step guide to starting, building and fueling the fire of your SMS marketing.


Here’s the truth: you never leave a text unread. Texts are for friends, family, and people you trust and actually want to hear from. That’s why SMS has a 98% open rate — compared to the average marketing email which has an open rate of about 20%.

Texting is personal, intimate, direct and most importantly when it comes to your marketing, effective. But if you’ve never sent text messages to your customers before - where to start? Where do you even get people’s phone numbers? What do you say to them? How often do you text them? Can you text logos? Photos?

Here’s our Five Step Guide to starting, building and fueling the fire of your SMS marketing.

1. What’s the goal of texting with my customers?

SMS is a powerful sales channel. First, your customers are practically guaranteed to see and read what you’re offering. Second, you can check out right from your texts, so it’s much easier for customers to buy from you this way. The funnel is super short - no navigating a website on your phone, just reply Yes to buy.

Setting a clear and specific goal is crucial before launching an SMS campaign. Without a defined objective, it is difficult to determine the effectiveness of the campaign and measure its success. Setting a goal helps to focus the campaign on a specific outcome, whether it's increasing sales, improving brand awareness, or driving traffic to a website.

It also enables brands to tailor the message and call-to-action to the desired action they want the recipients to take. Additionally, setting a goal provides a framework for evaluating the success of the campaign and making necessary adjustments for future campaigns.

Nurturing your existing customer base with this one on one conversation channel can drive more purchases from existing customers and get them to come back for more products, more often. It’s a personal way to share content and stories. And most importantly, it’s a direct sales channel, so even if you’re just texting customers a new recipe or a new brand update, they can buy something right then and there, when you’re top of mind. 

2. What technology do I use?

There are so many text message marketing providers to choose from. If you’re using Shopify, find one that integrates there so that you can automate some of your texts. For example, when someone abandons their cart, or checks out, you can send them a message instantly. Here are some topproviders to explore. No matter who you use, you can drop Whym links into all your texts here.

  • Klaviyo
  • Postscript
  • Attentive

Your email provider may offer SMS too, Klaviyo for example, and this way you can keep your stack simple. Search the Shopify App Store for even more SMS platforms and be sure to compare prices, whether it’s a monthly fee or a cost per text sent.

3. How do I acquire a list of customer phone numbers?

Building a list of phone subscribers from scratch might seem intimidating at first, but it’s exactly like building up your email list - so worth it. It can take time, but will work steadily if you just give people easy places and good reasons to hand over their info. Here are some simple strategies to try:

  • Add a pop up box to your website asking visitors to add their phone number
  • Add a Text button to your Instagram page
  • Tell your email subscribers to sign up for your texts
  • Tell your social media followers to add their numbers to your list

Let them know that certain products are only available for purchase over text, SMS exclusives. It’s all about incentive to get people to give you their number. Include one of the following to get people excited about your messages:

  • Get 10% off your first order over text
  • Join our VIP text list for exclusive discounts and products
  • Be the first to know when new products drop 
  • Text subscribers get one free X every month

With all of these, you must include a check box that explicitly states that the customer is giving you permission to text them. This bit of legalese is a necessity.

4. What do I text about?

First and foremost, texting is personal. Text with your customers the way you would with friends - informally, casually and conversationally. Keep it short, light, and be very clear. If there’s a message that feels like it needs several photos or a longer explanation, save that content for your social or email. Texting is for quick hits, easily actionable.

Here are some basics to follow when getting started:

  • Not all marketing should be about sales. Think about it from your own experience: you wouldn’t want to get texts advertising coupons or the same products to buy every single week. You might very well unsubscribe from those texts. But a new recipe? A fun style tip? A personal message from the founder? This is the kind of thing you should build your text content around.
  • In each text, no matter what you feature, link with Whym to a product that’s relevant to what you’re sending, i.e. style tips with a link to your new top, recipe with a link to an ingredient you sell, a founder story with a link to your favorite piece, etc.
  • Text timing rule of thumb: never more than once a week, never less than once a month. This will keep your customers engaged without driving them crazy.

Use this recent data from Omnisend and Postcript regarding the conversion rates of different SMS campaigns to define the content of your texts:

  • Promotional SMS: 0-2%
  • Abandoned Cart SMS: 7-16%
  • Winback SMS: 1-5%
  • Post Purchase SMS: 2-7%
  • Welcome Series SMS: 4-10%
  • Browse Abandonment SMS: 1-3%

5. How do I take my SMS marketing to the next level?

Now that you’ve set up your SMS program, started building your subscriber list, and a content calendar of fun things to text about, here’s how to add fuel to the fire of your text message marketing. Here are three things you can do to take your SMS campaigns to the next level:

  • Segment your list: Just like with email, you send different messages to different customers at various stages of their purchase journeys. Same goes for SMS. Be sure you’ve got several distinct lists. For example, VIP customers who purchase often, lapsed customers who haven’t bought in a while, customers who recently bought something, etc. You can also segment by types of products purchased, zip codes and locations for local mentions or promotions, by gender, by engagement rates.
  • Test it out: Now that you’ve divided up your audience, try different things with different groups to see what works - do some A/B testing. The best thing about SMS is how fast it is, so you’ll know right away if something is resonating with customers or not. Based on click and response rates over the course of 1-2 days, you can easily see what’s working. You know your marketing and inventory best but here are some test ideas to try out: Whym links VS link to your website, Photos VS text only, different copy styles and ways of describing a product or service, offering different discounts, percentage VS dollar amount off 
  • Add some photos: You can text pictures to your customers too, from shots of the product in use to graphics of your logo or promotions. Just keep in mind that adding pics to your SMS is slightly more expensive than text only.

The world of SMS marketing is evolving everyday, as a channel it is becoming one of the most effective ways to engage with customers and drive intent-based sales. As you build the foundation for your program, focus less on promotions and explore more personal touches like a welcome campaign or post purchase discount—become more intentional with your offers by using your customer data more wisely.

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