2017 is all about providing great customer experiences for your clients. Personalisation and adding value will be critical to every interaction throughout the customer journey to create engagement and loyalty. In fact, according to McKinsey research, 70% of buying experiences are now all about the way your customer feels you’re interacting with them. Add in the ‘mobile first’ strategy being espoused by Google and Facebook, and SMS is an exciting way to engage customers on the move. For example, Marks and Spencer use SMS to inform customers of the latest ‘Dine In…’ promotions, taking care to text when busy commuters are homeward bound.
When handled correctly, SMS can be a dream partner for e-commerce and has a well-deserved place in your customer service suite. Once you have the all-important opt-in for SMS marketing compliance, you can begin to use SMS as a way to differentiate your e-commerce offer to make your customers’ purchasing experience particularly pleasurable.
Why Your Competitors are Already Using SMS
If you want to stay competitive, it’s important to remember that your competitors are already using SMS because it’s cost-effective and has far superior open and read rates to email. You’ll already know how effective SMS is for delivering offers and coupons, but it’s also a great way to add a security layer to your transactions and banks already use it to transmit pin codes, logins and security alerts. SMS is also the perfect way to let your customers update their preferences or for you to send value-added texts concerning product information like price drops or stock levels.
SMS For The Customer Journey
There are several distinct stages that make up your customers’ journeys and you can touch base during each one of them. More interestingly, you can identify other touch points during the customer experience and add real value to your interactions. Let’s look at the way you can take something as seemingly mundane as the process of order notification and use SMS to turn it into a personal conversation that directly engages your customer and adds value to the transaction.
1. Order Creation - Acknowledge The Order
This is where you can open the conversation and start to add personalisation to the interaction between yourself and your customer. Transactional SMS are not subject to the same rules as promotional SMS, so once your customer has placed an order using your website or app, then you have the perfect opportunity to thank them for choosing your business. A brief text thanking them for their order and letting them know you’ll inform them when it’s dispatched not only keeps your customer informed but opens a communication channel for any comments or questions they may have.
2. Order On Hold - The 'out of stock but coming soon' Message
If you accept orders on products that may be temporarily out of stock, a prompt and personal SMS will serve to reassure your customers that their order will be dispatched as soon as possible. A timely response letting a customer know the situation is a reputationally smart move. Even if their delivery is going to be delayed, 84% of UK customers would prefer to be kept informed about their delivery, not kept in the dark.
3. Order Cancelled or Closed - Be Polite
SMS is a cost-effective, timely and above all polite way of letting your customer know that there’s been a problem either with a payment method or with your ability to supply the requested item. In both cases, be polite and give the customer the opportunity to revisit their order and either update their payment method or choose another item – do this by posting a link to the website in your SMS.
Interestingly, the White House Office of Consumer Affairs in the US has found that excellent customer service, even if you’re unable to fulfil a customer’s order, means your customer is 4-6 times more likely to give you excellent feedback and talk positively about their experience.
4. Order Complete - Add a Little Sweetener
Obviously, once your customer’s order is complete and dispatched you need to update them on the status of their order, and an SMS is excellent for making that moment both a personal one and an invitation for repeat business. You can ask customers to follow you on social media, or better yet, send a website coupon code or money off voucher deal to prompt them to order from you again.
Optimising SMS for E-commerce
There are a variety of other ways that you can optimise SMS use for e-commerce beyond sending voucher codes and delivery notifications. It’s important to remember that for promotional messages you will need opt-in, but include a bonus code or a freebie as an incentive for customers to respond.
Abandoned shopping carts: these can be a huge problem for e-commerce businesses, so use SMS as a gentle reminder that your customer has some unfinished business
Get some rapid feedback: text a poll to your customers and act in a timely and appropriate manner whatever their response
Automate your customer service: encourage your customers to text you for customer support but set up some triggers for frequently asked questions so you can automate a response.
Best Practice for E-commerce SMS
SMS is incredibly powerful but needs the proper leverage to exploit its full potential. If you’re interested in seeing what SMS can do for your e-commerce business, then take a best practice approach:
Make sure you have opt-in as you can’t proceed without it
Be absolutely clear upfront about what subscribers can expect
Text 2-4 times a month and make frequency clear to your subscribers
Include any necessary disclaimers and an opt out in the form of a STOP option
Think about when you text: e.g. if you’re a restaurant, offer a free side dish and text your subscribers at home time
Use common abbreviations to save space but no-one likes textspeak as it’s unprofessional
Add value: whether it’s alerts or reminders, coupons or codes or hints and tips, try and add value for your customers with every SMS.
If you feel you need some professional help to get your SMS e-commerce campaign right, contact us today and we’ll be happy to advise you.