Great SMS Campaigns Start With Action Analytics

Starting in 2011, mobile phone users in South Florida were swamped with unsolicited text messages like:


The SMS volley was widely covered in regional media (one man claimed to have received about 3,500 of the intrusive texts) and led to a class-action lawsuit against the scrap-metal dealers behind the spam.

Then, in late 2012, pizza-delivery giant Papa John’s was slapped with a $250 million class-action suit in Seattle for SMS spam, with some plaintiffs complaining of getting 15 or 16 unwanted texts in a row.

With stories like these making headlines it’s no surprise that even now, 20 years after the first text message was sent, many marketers are concerned about using SMS to reach their customers. No reputable marketer wants to look like a mobile spammer.

text-message-SMS-300But while text spam is a real problem that nearly everyone with a mobile phone has experienced at some point, SMS remains one of the best ways to reach consumers because of its ubiquity and functionality on nearly all devices and operating systems.

Research shows that while 20% of emails are opened, that number soars to 98% for texts. Furthermore, SMS coupons are 10 times more likely to be redeemed than mail or newspaper coupons and 22% of SMS coupons are shared with at least one friend.

SMS, as we’ve seen from some mobile campaigns, can work very effectively as long as marketers get it right. And by get it right, I mean measuring message effectiveness through action analytics techniques.

Action Analytics: Customer Insights for Relevant Messaging that Gets Results
That’s because measurement of mobile messages helps marketers assemble and then reassemble the many bits of data that customers produce as they interact with messages into detailed snapshots of each customer’s wants and needs. Action analytics provides business intelligence marketers can use to create messaging that is both relevant and timely – two attributes that separate effective mobile messages from annoying spam.

If you’re a retail marketer, it’s very likely that you’ve considered or are planning on deploying an SMS marketing campaign. Maybe it’s a campaign leading up to the July 4th holiday. Or maybe it’s a back-to-school campaign that you’re already working on. Unlike other direct channels, however, you only have 160 characters to work with so it’s necessary to make each one count.

Here are a few tips that can help you get the most engagement and ROI out of your SMS campaigns:

  • Run A/B split tests – A/B Split Test your message copy and creative to see what drives the most conversions. This helps marketers know exactly which messages are compelling customers to follow the call to action
  • Test for tone and word choice – Some customers prefer to be addressed in formal and businesslike language while others might prefer messages that speak to them in an upbeat, casual voice of a friend. Others may want a happy medium between the two. When running your A/B tests, make sure you include messages with different tonalities, so you can speak to your customers in the right voice.
  • Test for length – Texts are short to begin with, but some consumers prefer even greater brevity. Try A/B test messages of different lengths remembering to keep it brief enough so that the message preview that appears on customers’ phone screens shows all of the text, allowing the customer to read the entire message even before opening it.
  • Retarget – Once you’ve sent out your winning messages, retarget those customers who didn’t open them or who opened them but didn’t convert. Do that by sending follow-up messages with a more enticing offer or more urgent call to action.
  • Keep measuring – Customer tastes and moods change and can be influenced by situation. Regular message measurement using data from previous rounds of testing will help keep your messages fresh, relevant and effective time and again.

Finding the Right Message Tone and Length for Maximum Engagement
Here’s an example of action analytics using A/B split testing and retargeting, to measure the impact of mobile messaging. A popular parenting website wanted to increase users’ engagement with its 40 Weeks section, which helps women track their pregnancy stage-by-stage.
The site designed an SMS campaign using “teaser” messages to entice customers to click a link taking them to 40 Weeks. It A/B split tested messages that varied in length, tone and word choice. For example:

  • A: From this week, your baby’s fine lanugo hair may begin to disappear. Why? Let’s find out!
  • B: You’re in your third trimester! Baby is now laying down body fat and growing hair and nails. Lovely! Find out more.

The split tests showed that, across the board, women preferred shorter, more clinically-worded messages ending in the words “let’s find out.” By sending these winning messages, the site saw an engagement lift of 200-300% after sending out the winning texts to wider audience segments. It then adjusted the messages and retargeted moms who didn’t respond to the original text.

This proves mobile measurement works because it tells marketers what’s effective and what’s not, allowing them to adjust those that aren’t getting the desired results right away.

Utilizing one of the most personal forms of communication, it’s no longer enough for marketers and retailers to create and launch a SMS campaign, regardless of how thorough initial research is. Mobile message testing is invaluable for brands seeking to continually understand and monetize their largest and most diverse audiences.

By taking the natural next step and measuring the impact of your SMS messages, you can give your customers what they want, when they want it – building long-lasting engagement and ROI from each message you send.

Brendan O’Kane is CEO at OtherLevels.

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