How Web-based Retailers Can Use Email and SMS

How Web-based Retailers Can Use Email and SMSWe think of email as this great stand alone channel because of how much you can do with it. From its appearance to its tracking capabilities, some businesses live and die by it. Like email, SMS is starting to become a standard form of communication, and with its rising popularity, there is a lot of debate whether or not it can be used as a primary marketing channel. Certainly, they are two very different channels.

For instance, you only have 160 characters to say what you want with SMS. On top of that, there is no color or pictures and it offers few tracking capabilities. Plus, when you are driving someone to a mobile Web page, both the screen size and the keypad used by your consumers tend to be very small. This is hardly a perfect environment for shoppers. Email on the other hand is a great channel to sell goods/services and/or drive traffic back to your site. Does this make email a better channel than SMS? Or better put, does this mean that SMS is a channel that cannot stand alone in the e-commerce world?

We have all heard of the term ”form vs. function.” Form is the look, feel, and design of something; form is more marketing than anything else. Function is how something operates or performs. It is not there to up sell, but to get you important information you need to facilitate a transaction. Each plays an important role in the buying process. When form and function is applied to communication channels like SMS and email, there are lots of possibilities. Form and function can even be used at the same time, as I will explain a little later. Once you break down each channel and decide how it can be used (whether as a form or a function), it is easy to see that having a strategy utilizing only one channel isn’t going to cut it. Savvy businesses these days know this, and understand that by deploying multiple channels, your chances of converting prospects into customers increase tremendously. This is especially true when it comes to e-commerce-based businesses that directly measure ROI with products or services sold.

So maybe the question we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether SMS can be used as a stand- alone channel, but whether email should be allowed to. There are a lot of scenarios in the buying process you have to consider, and each scenario can use a different channel depending upon if it is a form or a function job.

Below are three important jobs you have as a retailer:

    1. Engage – Get prospects to become buyers by making a purchase.
    2. Facilitate – Facilitate their purchase and ensure they receive your products/services.
    3. Re-engage: Get your customer to purchase something in the future.

There are all kinds of ”form and function” scenarios going on with your three jobs above.
Let’s first talk about how a few ways in which email and SMS can be used to engage your customers. Since you likely already know that you need a customer’s permission to market to them via email and SMS, let’s say your good marketing efforts have at least built a good email database.

 Engage
Message Type Action Form vs Function?

Email

Promote a sale via email with pictures of products with links back to the sale on your site.

Form

SMS

Offer secret last-minute sales in your buyers’ cities that are only announced
via SMS. Opt-in is done by texting a keyword like SECRETSALE to a 5-digit short code like 99158.

Form

Email

Create a viral email marketing campaign whereby if a customer makes a purchase, you will give his or her friend a discount as well. All the buyer has to do is input the friend’s email address.

Form

 Facilitate
Message Type Action Form vs Function?

Email

Ask your customer to opt-in to receive your email newsletter or to be included on your database for future offers. Immediately send an email with a confirmation link that the customer must click in order to join your database. This ensures you have their correct email address and that they really want to receive future emails from you.

Function

Email

After the buyer makes a purchase, email him or her a receipt. Include within the receipt a recommendation for a similar product or service.

Function
& Form

SMS

Offer an SMS receipt sent directly to the customer’s phone. This is especially handy if you are providing a confirmation number. A customer can save this message on the phones and reference the number at a later date. You can also use a little space to promote an upcoming sale, such as,  “Don’t forget Men’s Half Yearly Sale Dec. 26th.”

Function
& Form

 Re-Engage
Message Type Action Form vs Function?

Email

Automatic email sent based upon behavior such as previous purchases and the length of time the buyer has not been back to your site.

Function
& Form

SMS

To help prevent fraud, implement a solution to deliver an SMS message with a security code to customers’ cell phones. Customers must enter this code on your website before they can complete their purchases. Only deliver the security code to the cell phone number on file. This way, a thief would have to steal both a customer’s credit card and phone in order to make a purchase from you. 

Function

SMS

If you provide a service in which you send invoices, use SMS as a way of letting customers know they are late paying a bill, or that they have an invoice due on a specific day.

Function

Consumers have increasingly more choices these days. Even though I only covered email and SMS in this article, if you want to stay competitive you will want to explore how other channels might continue to help you engage, facilitate, and re-engage.

Let me know if you can think of any other types of form or function messages for email and SMS. I would love to hear your feedback.

Jared Reitzin
CEO
mobileStorm Inc.
Successful Entrepreneur

 

One Response

  1. Jennifer says:

    Voice broadcasting is also another type of both form and function messages. It can be used in conjunction with the sms/email purchase confirmations and over-due payment notices as a function. As a form message, it could be used to create excitement with an energetic message announcing last-minute deals or upcoming sales :)

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