Why you should be using SMS marketing for your eCommerce business

Considering the fact that most of us keep our phones at arm’s reach, it’s no surprise that SMS messaging can be a strong retail marketing strategy to effectively increase reach and advertise your brand.

While research by Oracle Marketing Cloud found that email campaigns have an average open rate of 22 per cent, the same research suggests that SMS marketing has a remarkable near-perfect open rate of close to 99 per cent. On top of that, messages are read within three minutes of being received!

If this doesn’t make SMS marketing tempting enough, you should also consider the fact that the character restrictions with SMS marketing force you to be clear and concise – which is the best way to communicate with your customers anyway!

When it comes to SMS marketing, keep these six steps in mind to get the most out of your campaign:

  1. Create a valuable offer for your customers. This will make them feel like they are receiving a message that’s worthwhile.
  2. Start with the offer. Everyone is time poor, so you need to be short and to the point to make sure you communicate your message upfront to people.
  3. Include a direct call-to-action. This way, your customers will have a clear instruction for what their next move should be, which could give them the push they need.
  4. Inspire customers to take action. Create a sense of urgency with your SMS campaign, such as ‘offer available today only’.
  5. Make recipients feel special. If you make the offer exclusive to those who are receiving the SMS, it’s much more appealing than an offer they perceive as being available to everyone.
  6. Mention your brand name. It might sound like common sense, but this is both for the law’s sake (explained below), and also so recipients know exactly who they can redeem their offer from.

Know the law

For those using an SMS marketing campaign, be sure to familiarise yourself with the Spam Act 2003 (Commonwealth), as it applies to mobile phone messaging and means that under Australian law it is illegal to send unsolicited commercial electronic messages. This includes anything that offers, advertises or promotes the supply of goods, services, land or business, or investment opportunities.

In its most simple terms, there are three main rules from the Spam Act that you should be aware of.

1. Consent

All commercial messages must be sent with either express or inferred consent from the recipient. Express consent means they’ve intentionally opted in to receiving the messages (eg. they’ve ticked a box on a form, asked to be contacted, etc.), whereas inferred consent means you have an existing relationship with that customer and infer that they might be interested in receiving messages about a similar product or services. For example, if you subscribe to a magazine, the publisher could infer that you would be interested in text messages that promote other services they offer.

2. Identify

All commercial electronic messages must contain clear and accurate identification of the sender, as well as information on how you can contact the sender.

3. Unsubscribe

All commercial electronic messages must contain a facility that allows the receiver to unsubscribe at any time. There must be instructions on how to opt out of receiving messages. For example, including something as simple as “reply ‘stop’ or ‘unsub’ to opt out”.

Campaigns with great success

If you’re thinking about using an SMS marketing campaign for your business, consider these examples of effective campaigns from other businesses.

The Iconic

Australian online fashion retailer The Iconic used SMS marketing for their Friday 11am outfit campaign, where an outfit was sent out by MMS with a three-hour delivery offer. The campaign received a 10 per cent strike rate.


The American beauty chain used SMS marketing for a six-month campaign where customers could sign up and receive three location-specific offers per month by texting KIEHLS to the short code advertised or by signing up on the Kiehl’s website. The campaign proved successful for both sales and customer feedback. Kiehl’s learned that more than 73 per cent of the opted in customers made a purchase after receiving the messages, and 81 per cent filled out a survey to provide valuable customer feedback.

Carl’s Jr.

The American fast food company created a limited-time offer for a burger and fries combination that was only $2.99 instead of the usual $6.00. Very quickly, 20 per cent of Carl’s Jr.’s opted in customers redeemed their unique code at restaurants, highlighting how time-sensitive offers can deliver seriously good results.

What to do (and what not to do)

As well as the six steps to successful SMS marketing, you should also consider these fundamental dos and don’ts when creating your campaign.


  • Include a keyword and call-to-action that are easy to remember
  • Use words for urgency. For example, “valid for three days only” is more powerful as an incentive than “expiry: 31/5/17”
  • Send a confirmation text that makes the person feel good, such as “Thanks for being awesome!”
  • Include a web link to your website to drive traffic
  • Shorten URLs with or something similar to reduce message size.


  • Buy lists of mobile numbers and send unsolicited messages; it’s not effective and there are strict laws against it. It’s much better to build a list on your own of engaged customers and prospects
  • Make your call-to-action an instruction to call your business if your phone networks can’t handle the number of potential calls. An SMS is usually read within minutes of delivery, and you don’t want your phone lines to get flooded, so consider encouraging recipients to text their response instead
  • Be offensive. While it pays to take risks, be careful you don’t go one step too far. For Anytime Fitness, their “F*ck unfit” campaign, including mail, posters, social, outdoor and SMS format, was banned by the Advertising Standard Board after being deemed offensive, inappropriate for children and unnecessary.

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