SMS Marketing Over the Holidays: What it Means for 2023

SMS marketing dude on phone feature

How will you apply SMS marketing lessons from 2022 holidays in 2023? (credit: Emmanuel Ikwuegbu on Unsplash)

The use of SMS marketing has been steadily growing, but what role would it play in generating sales during the holiday shopping season? That’s the question ecommerce brands were asking themselves.

This year, faced with an uncertain consumer spending outlook due to inflation, fluctuating costs and the performance of relied-upon marketing channels like paid social, brands were in a precarious situation as they looked to optimize marketing spend in order to effectively capture sales and maximize profits.

After the dust settled on the November holiday push, it turns out brands relied more heavily than in years past on email and SMS marketing to generate those sales, and saw success with them. And while email marketing saw impressive holiday gains, it was SMS marketing that really stood out.

According to data from Omnisend’s 80,000 brand clients, SMS marketing saw a 94% increase in year-over-year usage in 2021 and a 47% increase in the first six months of 2022. During this year’s holiday marketing period it surged even further, signaling we’re at a “get on the train or be left behind” moment for SMS.

SMS Marketing Takes Hold During the Holidays

Based on our data, brands stepped on the gas in November in terms of scheduled SMS marketing campaigns, sending 64.5% more messages compared to November 2021. When the pinnacle shopping days arrived, brands doubled down, sending 68% more messages on Black Friday and 47% more during Cyber Weekend (Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday). This resulted in a 57% and 23% increase in orders, respectively. In all, November’s SMS-generated orders increased by 29% year-over-year.

Black Friday was one of the strongest-performing days in November, boasting a conversion rate that was 29% better than the monthly average, generating 136% more orders than the next closest day (the day after Black Friday). In all, Black Friday was responsible for 23.2% of all SMS orders in November.

Automated, behavior-based SMS told a similar success story. In 2021, automated messages increased by 258%. This year, the number has fallen as brands have more strategically used SMS within their automated workflows, like for cart abandonment messages. However, the effectiveness of marketing automation is unmatched.

Automated SMS sends decreased by 34% in November but still managed to generate a 1,600% increase in orders compared to last year. It is becoming evident to brands that sending timely, relevant messages based on consumers’ behavior are well-received by shoppers and can have a sizable impact on sales.

Looking Ahead to 2023

We’ve seen the evolution of SMS marketing over the past several years and the growth shows zero signs of slowing down. What was once an up-and-coming channel is now a must-have one for ecommerce brands. Even with the growth, there is still plenty of opportunity for brands to capitalize on it, especially when combined with their email marketing program.

Here are five benefits for brands to fully adopt SMS in 2023, to help you convert those new holiday shoppers into loyal customers.

Gives consumers a choice

Shoppers want to choose how and where they interact with brands. Email marketing is so effective and engaging because consumers choose to receive messages. The same is true with SMS. Only consumers who want to receive them will. Because of this, they tend to respond to the messages.

Improves the shopping journey

When used in behavior-based automation, shoppers are helped along their journey by relevant, timely messages. Whether it’s in shopping cart abandonment, welcome message or browse abandonment automations, using SMS in the same workflows as email can keep shoppers engaged and guide them toward a purchase.

Enhances the post-purchase experience

Customers like to be in the know with their orders. Using transactional SMS, such as order and shipping confirmation messages, provides transparency and reinforces consumer confidence in your brand. Of course, sending a thank you and first-order check-in SMS can also go a long way.

Lowers retargeting costs

Using SMS and email subscriber data in your retargeting strategy can help lower paid retargeting costs.

Using SMS and email subscriber data in your retargeting strategy can help lower paid retargeting costs. Knowing a shopper recently completed a purchase or is actively engaging with email and SMS messages, especially automated ones, allows brands to strategically target or exclude those shoppers in the segments that make up the retargeting ad audience.

Replaces email unsubscribes

Email unsubscribes are the nature of the business. But just because someone unsubscribes doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t want to hear from you again. SMS may be their new preferred opt-in channel. And of course this direct line of communication can again save you from spending big on paid re-acquisition campaigns on third-party sites.

Final Thoughts

The rise of SMS marketing is one thing. Brands’ utilization of it and its effectiveness during the holiday shopping season is another. It’s more evident by the day that consumers look to SMS to help make purchase decisions. Expect SMS to further accelerate in 2023.

The train is leaving the station, and there’s no turning back now.

Greg Zakowicz is a senior ecommerce expert for Omnisend