If you are the owner-manager of a UK retail business, then you will know that it’s vital to use every weapon you have available to battle with the big guns on the high street and online. That must include embracing all the advantages modern technology provides, including a communications campaign based on the Short Message Service (SMS) – better known as text messages.
Not sure what SMS is about and how it will work for your shop?
Then read on, because you are missing a golden opportunity to give your small shop a much bigger presence and outreach.
Corner shops battling e-Commerce
The need to be proactive in your customer communications and marketing is particularly vital if your main competitor is not just local supermarkets.
For many smaller retailers, your biggest threat is from the increased opportunities for customers to buy an ever-widening range of goods without even leaving their homes. Rapidly advancing technology is providing people in your area with new ways to shop remotely – and the growing abundance of apps means it’s easier by the week to make buying decisions using their phone.
Sound a bit depressing? It doesn’t need to be – as long as your shop is getting a good share of the opportunities presented by this technological revolution. Instead of watching e-Commerce and the big stores clean up and steal your customers via their mobiles, build your own route to local buying decisions. Get your shop in front of customers via handheld technology.
Why local corner shops should use SMS
There really is no reason why your physical store shouldn’t use SMS to attract and retain loyal customers.
Around 99% of text messages are opened (that compares with only 22% of emails). People admit, too, that they feel obliged to action a text message within 2 or 3 minutes of receiving it.
So clearly your customers are going to read your texts. And don’t be fooled into believing you have “nothing to say” and you couldn’t sustain an SMS marketing and customer engagement. In fact, using the right UK-based SMS provider, it’s likely to be far easier to set up and run an SMS system than you could possibly imagine.
The main reason to do it is to make your shop more competitive and successful, but let’s look at that in more detail.
Making customers feel appreciated
The big advantage local shops have over supermarkets and e-Commerce is the customer service they offer. Taking five minutes out of your day for a chat with a friendly local shopkeeper can be worth the extra pennies for the goods. And being able to pop in and ask someone for help with a special request is so much better than soulless online ordering.
So why not celebrate that personal, friendly and one-to-one customer service by communicating with your customers via texts?
Local customers may well feel like a VIP because they receive regular messages from you (as long as they are not too frequent and enter the realms of being annoying). It reminds them that you are there. If you time your SMS message right, you may even jog their memory to call in for something on the way home from work. Or text them at weekends when they have leisure time to saunter down to your corner shop for a chat and to pick up goodies.
Give them special offers because they have opted into your text message service to make them feel even more appreciated. Promote products – tell them when things have been reduced in price, or you are stocking something new. Everyone loves a bargain and the British public also loves having “inside knowledge” and being first in line for anything new.
You can also use SMS for occasional surveys and to get customer feedback too. So for example, ask them if your opening hours are convenient or if there are new things you should stock. Feedback from your text messaging service can help you to make decisions about your business operations, and how to increase sales.
Getting the content right for shop SMS messaging
You have just 456 characters in an SMS text – that’s letters and spaces, not 456 words. So, your message needs to be well thought out, short and to the point. Preferably, it should include a link to your website and any online pre-ordering systems you use.
What you need to avoid is text messages with no clear message or purpose. If you get carried away and text customers with cheery but superfluous stuff, they may opt out of receiving your texts. For example, an SMS marketing message just to say “Hi” or to deliver blatant sales speak such as “Shop at Derek’s Deli, for all your meats and cheeses” may not attract customers. Instead, each SMS needs to have a distinct purpose and a call to action.
It could include, for example, telling them that you have new stock of something they regularly buy. “New arrival of Appledore cheese, fresh from the farm. Pop in while stocks last”.
SMS to build customer loyalty
Sometimes texts can have a more subliminal marketing purpose, as they appear to offer information and help instead – this is good customer engagement to enhance their experience of shopping with you. For example, you could text to let them know the magazine they ordered has arrived, or to suggest a recipe you think they will like.
In this way, you can build customer loyalty and give them more reasons to come into your shop and buy from you.
Online SMS integrated into other software
It’s worth emphasising again that introducing SMS communications into the way your shop runs is straightforward. It’s easy to use the system, as the SMS campaigns and reminders are all done from your computer.
One of the important advantages of using the right SMS service is that it will all be integrated into any other software you use, such as an ordering or invoicing calendar. So, for example, if you have a customer pre-ordering system online, people who receive a text can click on a link that takes them directly to the opportunity to reserve or order something.
Contact Fastsms today so we can provide you with the right level of support and integration to connect your shop to existing and potential customers. Time for small retailers to think big.