SMS marketing is about promoting your brand, product or service through text messages. It enables you to connect with customers and leads in a direct and personal way.

Text message marketing is frequently used in retail through SMS APIs – by both large enterprises and small businesses. Read on to learn about SMS marketing for retail – how it's used, its benefits and how to get started with your first campaign.

How to use text message marketing in retail

Text messaging can be used at every step of the customer journey, from attracting new prospects to your store and converting them into buyers right through to sales aftercare. Here's how:

1. Acquiring new customers

Retail text message marketing is ideal for getting new customers. Once you've collected SMS opt-ins, you can send a range of SMS sales campaigns aimed at first-time buyers.


Welcome aboard, Eva! As a thank you for signing up, here's 20% off your first purchase. Enter code: 20OFF at checkout. Browse all products here: [URL]

2. Communicating special offers and discounts

Texts are delivered virtually instantly – and they have great impact. This makes them useful when you need to notify customers about time-limited offers or important VIP loyalty program rewards.


FLASH SALE! Christina, don't miss these HUGE discounts on our end-of-line kids' clothing and footwear. Hurry while stocks last: [URL]

3. Sending order and delivery notifications

It's common practice for retail businesses to send out an order confirmation and despatch note for online purchases to reassure customers and reduce post-purchase anxiety. If you set up automated text messages, this will happen in the background while you focus on other tasks.


Hooray! Your order ref: 12345 has been received, James. We'll text again when it's out for delivery. Here's your receipt: [URL]

4. Administering customer service

Texts are highly convenient for answering straightforward customer service questions. Customers can message back and forth with an agent in real-time without having to wait on hold to speak to someone on the phone.


[Customer]: Hi, how long does shipping take to Australia?

[Agent]: Hi, it takes 10-14 days from when you place an order with us. You can upgrade to faster shipping for $5. Would you like to do that?

5. Launching new products or services

When you launch a new product range, you'll want to spread the word quickly to as many people as possible. It's easy to send bulk SMS marketing campaigns to get sales off to a great start.


Hi Brad, our brand-new 90-day weights programme will help you get lean like never before. Sign up for it this week to receive 10% off! [URL]

Example retail SMS marketing message

Benefits of SMS marketing for retail

The SMS marketing channel offers several advantages for retail stores compared to other channels:

  • Impressive open ratesSMS open rates are 98%, whereas email open rates are significantly lower at just 20%.

  • High conversion rates – according to MobileMonkey research, those who receive promotional text messages are 40% more likely to make a purchase compared to those who don't.

  • Direct link to customers – who doesn't take their mobile phone everywhere these days? The Gen Z demographic, in particular, is attached to mobile, with 78% saying it's their most important device to go online with.

  • Fast campaign creation – SMS has a 160-character limit, so campaigns don't require any serious creative design.

  • Unsaturated market61% of marketers still don't use SMS marketing for retail, so now's the time to tap into this channel and get ahead of your competition.

Retail SMS marketing in action: real-life examples

Take a look at how some well-known brands use SMS marketing to drive sales and boost engagement.

1. Starbucks

Starbucks is a leader in mobile marketing, which includes SMS. They focus on their consumers, inviting them to opt-in to rewards and encouraging them to visit their brick-and-mortar locations to try their latest specials.

2. Nike

Nike created a customised SMS marketing campaign (NofyMe) to alert customers about its new products, with the objective of driving customers to to learn more.

3. Peace Out/Sephora

Peace Out is an acne skincare brand exclusive to Sephora. The brand offers 15% off the first order for new customers that opt into SMS marketing via its e-commerce homepage. Subscribers are sent two to three promotional messages per week with content around new products, sales and skincare education.

4. Nordstrom

Nordstrom uses SMS marketing to help credit card users (those with a Nordstrom card) shop online. By combining mobile payments with text message marketing, customers can quickly pay their bill by text.

Best practices and top tips for SMS campaign success

Here are some key pointers to help you maximise your retail SMS marketing campaigns while ensuring compliance with global data protection laws.

Build your subscriber list

You can't get started without an audience! So collecting opt-ins is your first port of call. (Getting permission to send SMS marketing is required by law in most countries).

This can be done by asking customers to text a keyword to your phone number. It can be as simple as displaying a banner on your website with text such as:

Be the first to know about exclusive sales and discounts – opt into SMS marketing by texting the word 'YES' to subscribe.

You could also create an opt-in box on your checkout page, where customers naturally fill in their details to make a purchase. Note that you must also allow subscribers to opt-out at any time – the easiest way to do this is to include an unsubscribe link in every text marketing campaign you send.

Encourage multi-channel opt-ins

Ask subscribers to opt-in to email at the same time as opting into SMS. If someone unsubscribes from one channel, they may remain opted in to the other.

Personalise your campaigns

Ensure your content is highly relevant and targeted to each subscriber. Include their name to grab attention and use any available customer data (past purchases, items added to the shopping cart, wish list items, etc.) to inform your future campaigns.

Track campaign performance

Continually check how your campaigns are performing to see what's working and what isn't. Important metrics to monitor include click-through rates (CTR), opt-out rates and the cost per conversion.

Campaign analysis concept

How to start your first SMS marketing campaign

Getting started with SMS marketing for your retail business is simple – you need just two things. A list of phone numbers for leads and existing customers (who've already given express consent for text marketing messages) and an SMS platform, like Messente.

Follow these steps:

  1. Create a Messente account for free and receive your API key.

  2. Verify yourself as a sender by following the prompts on-screen.

  3. Upload your database of phone numbers (and segment your contacts into groups if you wish).

  4. Create your first text message in our user-friendly dashboard.

  5. Select your list of contacts.

  6. Hit send (or schedule).

For more details, take a look at our Getting Started guide.