Five ways to use SMS to improve customer experience in retail

During the last few years, we have seen dramatic changes in retail. This is due to new digital services and solutions and our adapting to new conditions during the Covid-pandemic. The demand for retailers to always be wherever the consumer might look, regardless of where they are or when they are looking, has quickly become one of retail's biggest challenges. The new conditions also mean more competition; thus, the battle for consumer loyalty is the toughest it's ever been. So how can you turn the threat of new channels and technology into an opportunity to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction? The answer lies in consumers' smartphones.

As digital consumers' steady companion, the mobile phone has become essential to the buying journey. It is also the most direct way to reach your customers. Integrating mobile communication into your organisation's channel strategy gives you a powerful tool for awakening interest, inspiring new purchases, and strengthening customer loyalty. Mobile phones allow companies to communicate quickly, easily and inexpensively via SMS. As long as you ensure your SMS communication happens on the customer's terms, the channel is an invaluable complement to customer dialogue throughout the buying journey.

1. Engage new customers with the help of their mobile phones

Most companies make use of a mix of marketing and advertising channels. For some, this includes using outdoor advertising (billboards and bench ads, etc.), print ads, and TV commercials to catch consumers' interest. Allowing consumers to get in touch via SMS (using a short code) lowers the barrier for those who are interested in your products or services to get in touch. With short codes, customers can send a message to do everything from ordering a catalogue to subscribing to sales and special offer notifications. With the new rich channels, the customer can show his interest directly through a message to the store instead of having to commit the offer or the store's name to memory for the next shopping trip.

2. Enable purchases and send receipts via smartphones

SMS makes it easy for customers to order and pay for products and services from their mobile phones. Transportation companies, such as bus and train operators, use SMS to distribute tickets. Event locales and arrangers can also use SMS to send concert or sporting events tickets, for example. Abandoned carts in e-commerce can be counteracted by sending an SMS with a CTA button to complete the purchase. Parking companies let customers pay for parking via SMS. When they pay via SMS, customers get confirmations on their phones and reminders when their parking is about to expire. 

These uses of SMS make it easier for customers to purchase and for companies to drive sales and deliveries.

3. Build loyalty and increase sales

Good business is built on long-term customer relationships. Customer loyalty clubs are an established way of nurturing and developing customer relationships within retail. Today, more and more retailers focus their energy and resources on building entirely digital loyalty clubs and are moving away from physical membership cards and E-mail. Sign-up can often be as easy as sending an SMS to a short number, which can be done at the register or at home. Traditional email campaigns can be paired with well-targeted SMS campaigns for better conversion. It's cost-effective and more easily tracked.

Integrating an SMS service with your company's CRM, marketing automation, and loyalty system makes it simple to tailor campaigns to different segments of your customer base. Using these segmenting possibilities lets you send sale campaigns, event invitations, and new product information or inspiration to many other customer groups in one go. Similarly, you can send personalised offers like loyalty club sales and personalised offers with precision right to your customer's phones. The more relevant your campaigns are, the more customer loyalty you'll build for your brand with every SMS.

4. Order confirmations and delivery notices

Anyone who works with orders and deliveries in retail knows that what happens once an order is placed is as important as making the sale in the first place. Smooth and efficient delivery processes largely determine how the customer experience is evaluated. Whether you work with e-commerce or in a sector where orders are placed in-store, or you're selling books, electronics, clothes or anything else, the importance of the delivery processes to your customer relationships is the same. Quick and precise delivery becomes an important selling point when you work in a market where many vendors have similar offers (in terms of products, pricing, etc.).

Integrating an SMS service with your order handling system lets your customers know where their package is, its delivery stage, and when it will arrive. SMS is a cost-effective and easy way to send automated messages that are delivered and usually read very quickly.

Even logistics companies benefit from using SMS to regularly send updates about delivery status and alert recipients when their package is ready for pick up or when it will be delivered.

5. Improve customer insights with SMS surveys

SMS is also an effective channel for reaching out to customers and/or members with surveys. You can send surveys to follow up on purchases or customer service interactions and, thus, to get regular feedback about customers' expectations and satisfaction. A text message can contain a short survey or a link to a longer one. Using SMS-based surveys like NPS to get customer input is a great way to improve customer service and satisfaction.

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