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The top SMS secrets for retail holiday campaigns

The holiday season is here. Is your retail business ready? From November to December, you can keep customers buying with the power of SMS. With overall retail sales on the rise and changing consumer buying behavior, retailers that want to compete must make better connections with shoppers — and there is no better way to do that than by texting them.

How big has the holiday retail season become?

According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales in the November-December 2020 holiday season grew from 8.3% to $789.4 billion, despite the economic challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic.

And the trend is expected to continue. According to Deloitte’s annual holiday retail forecast, holiday retail sales are likely to rise between 7% and 9% in 2021, with eCommerce leading the charge at 11 to 15% growth.

How to grow your retail sales this year

Tip 1. Build your marketing campaign plan early

The months leading up to, during, and immediately following the holiday season are crucial to delivering maximum retail sales.

For many years, Black Friday has served as the unofficial start to the US holiday shopping season – although retailers have been pushing holiday shopping earlier for the past decade. The pandemic accelerated this trend in 2020, and with unprecedented supply chain disruption widely published. A recent survey from The NPD Group reveals that 51% of U.S. consumers plan to start their 2021 holiday shopping before Thanksgiving Day.

With this in mind, we recommend planning for a holiday season that covers sales opportunities from September through January.

Here’s a simple timeline to help maximize the holiday season:

The new normal for holiday retail campaign planning:

September = plan
October = test
November = implement
December = refine
January = review
  • Plan in September: Start planning your holiday marketing campaigns while assessing your current sales performance. Your plan should start with evaluating your marketing strategies from last year. Once you’ve determined what worked well and what could be better, start exploring options for the upcoming season. You may want to invest your budget in a new communication channel, like text message marketing, improve your website speed, or eliminate roadblocks to an ideal customer journey.

Related: Read our top 20 strategies to grow your text subscription lists.

  • Test in October: For most of October, you should plan and prepare, but also start testing some of your campaigns. Data reveals that customers search for gifts and deals as early as September. Grab those early birds by getting them to subscribe to SMS, email marketing, or your social channels for great deals. Customers you pull in now can be remarketed to later on.
  • Implement in November: With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday kicking off the seasonal rush, you want your holiday season marketing campaigns to work for you by the beginning of November. We recommend you have a tight handle on inventory and delivery, and find ways to keep customers informed of when they can expect to receive their purchases.
  • Refine in December: Use what you’ve learned in October and November, and continue to refine your campaigns to ensure all elements are optimized. Make the focus for this month, providing an ideal shopping experience, delivering excellent customer support, and ensuring gifts arrive on time! Leverage days like Small Business Saturday, Free Shipping Day — and others for mini-campaigns — that keep customers coming back to your store. Well into December, customers are still hoping to uncover terrific deals (sometimes for themselves). So figure out how to make it easy for them – and continue to increase your sales.
  • Review in January: It may be a relatively quiet month, but customers are still looking for good deals. Follow up with your holiday shoppers to strengthen those relationships and turn them into loyal customers. January is also an excellent time to analyze your results for the last five months to uncover what works best for your business. Capture these insights while you can easily recall them to set yourself up for success next year.

Related: Explore our list of SMS campaign ideas for the holidays

Tip 2. Streamline customer communication

Low inventory and delays in shipping have plagued business owners and consumers alike, leading to fears about holiday planning. But with SMS, you can quickly reassure customers about their delivery date so they can rest easily. You can also provide stock updates to staff and other key business updates.

Top tip: Make sure to get permission to send and receive SMS before you send your first message. Legal compliance requirements change country to country, but consent is always a must.

Why not send automated texts to customers who are still considering a purchase to inform them of the last day they can order and still receive their item in time for the holidays. Providing these helpful details is an excellent way to keep customers engaged and encourage them to buy.

An example SMS for delivery communication and customer service

These efforts will leave long-lasting impressions and reduce customer anxiety.

Tip 3. Create loyal customers

It’s always easier to get customers to buy when they have bought from you in the past and had a positive experience. Think about building customer loyalty before, during, and after the seasonal rush. Every sales opportunity is a chance to form a loyal customer.

Here are some quick tips on how SMS can help:

Make current customers happy

Do you already have a contact database filled with customers who love your retail business? Surprise, delight, and reward them with what they want most. Is it an added discount, access to pre-sale deals, or the first shot at limited inventory products?

Find out what they want and give it to them. And then make sure they can share their appreciation (and promote their exclusive access) on social media and by word of mouth with their friends and family.

Pay attention to post-sales care

Never underestimate the value of staying in touch with customers after a purchase. Most brands forget – but it’s easy to keep in touch. Post-sales care could include a simple text asking for their feedback after a purchase.

Successful brands automate follow-up with SMS templates containing helpful purchase-related content, or refill reminders scheduled at exactly the right time.

Strengthen new customer relationships

January may be a slow sales month. But that means it’s the perfect time to nurture relationships you’ve established or strengthened over the holiday season, so customers continue to feel positive about your brand and look forward to revisiting you in the future.

Customer retention is a significant part of driving purchases for the year ahead. With more consumers relying on businesses they trust, expanding your contact list and creating long-term loyalty should be a priority.

RELATED: Read our two-parter on how to gain customer confidence and trust with text and the seven simple ways you can earn customer loyalty right now.

Tip 4. Provide a seamless shopping journey

Although discounts for retail SMS marketing campaigns work well, collections or gift guides are another way to engage customers without excessive advertising. Curate specific collection or catalog pages to promote your sales, and allow last-minute or time-constrained shoppers to make selections quickly.

It’s easy. Create your collection page, and then add it as a URL to your promotional text message. Here’s an example:

An example SMS which includes a hyperlink to a landing page for dog collars

Top tip: Notice how the URL looks different? We used a short trackable link in this example, which shortens long URLs (and saves on characters). It also lets you track conversions, as it measures customers who click-through to purchase. Try it right now for free when you enable short trackable links with a free trial of our SMS service.

You can further engage customers by sending a survey to subscribers or VIP members to get input on what to include in the collection. This can make customers feel special and invested in your holiday activities, which means they’re more likely to purchase and drive other new customers to buy.

Tip 5. Automate helpful reminders

It’s likely, with increasingly busy lives and the annual stress of holiday preparation, your customers are a little more absent-minded than usual.

Nudge customers with text reminders

Give customers a helping hand by nudging them with ‘final warning’ reminders, like offering last-minute shopping hours, deals, and extended pick-up dates the weekend before the holiday. You can also give customers the opportunity to subscribe to text reminders, which is helpful for service-based businesses.

An example SMS used for a customer booking and booking confirmation

Text reminders are also helpful in eCommerce, especially in reducing abandoned carts or driving win backs. When it comes to certain sales dates, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, businesses lose almost 7 of 10 sales because consumers leave their carts in search of another deal or due to a distraction.

Automating text reminders is an easy solution to get customers to return and complete their purchase. Add time limits and extra discounts to ensure they buy and keep coming back.

Tip 6. Offer coupons and discounts

If you’ve ever encountered text marketing, it’s likely been through a personalized discount or coupon advertising a specific brand sale. Such promotion tactics, though common, are incredibly effective marketing tools.

Example SMS sent at Christmas advertising a sale

During the holiday rush, retail promotions and offers are out in full force to promote new products and encourage customers to select a particular brand or store. Unlike the typical sale signs you might pass as you walk through a shopping center, SMS discounts and coupons can be personalized.

You can even base your text offers on the value of the customer (i.e. provide high-value customers who shop with you frequently a higher discount versus low-value customers).

Example SMS sent at Christmas advertising a sale with follow up message for additional discount with a strict time limit on the offer

Where SMS discounts and coupons work best is to drive immediate conversions or sales. Our customers have reported that 45% of recipients react to a text in less than 10-15 minutes.

Tip 7. Provide outstanding customer support

Your relationship with a customer doesn’t end when the purchase is complete. It’s also your job to ensure they’re satisfied and that your brand has left a good impression. But what if they’ve ordered the wrong size, the product arrived damaged, or it’s not what they expected? It’s important to provide opportunities to remedy the situation for your customers without adding additional frustration.

Here are some ways to offer extraordinary customer support with SMS:

1. Automate follow-up communications

Set up a simple automated feedback message to go out after customers receive their gifts. Is it working? Are they enjoying it? How would they rate it?

Example SMS used to ask for product feedback, and follow up message thanking the customer for participating and offering 10% discount on the next purchase

This reveals their satisfaction with your business and also demonstrates you care beyond the transaction. It also established trust by showing that your business solves problems.

2. Enable customer service through text

The next thing you should do is make full use of conversational, two-way text messaging so customers can message you if they have problems or questions.

Example SMS message thanking the customer and inviting questions. Customer replies asking when the next sale is, and the business follows up with a date and link to their site.

With integrations into your business management software like NetSuite, HubSpot, Shopify, and more, you can direct these messages to your customer success team, who can get in touch and continue chatting with the customer until they resolve the issue.

Tip 8. Engage with your customers

When you invite responses to your messaging, communications become interactive, real-time, and personal. And this can lead to a sales boom in the time leading up to the holiday.

Most brands are more concerned about what to put out during the seasonal rush, with little consideration of what they could get back.

According to DemandGen, interactive content gets 2x the engagement of static content, and 77% of marketers believe it has ‘reusable’ value meaning that its creation results in repeat visitors and multiple exposures to bigger and bigger audiences.

While some brands have pulled out all the stops for interactive content, like scavenger hunts and contests, it can be simpler than that — especially when it comes to text. Consider a quick survey to gauge customer sentiment toward a new product line or a quiz that guides customers to the right gift from your inventory.

Tip 9. Look at your journey from end-to-end

There are so many ways to offer an engaging customer experience. And remember, it’s not just about the holidays. Consider your customer journey end-to-end and think about how you can impress them with a frictionless experience and connected communications.

Final thoughts, further reading

Give yourself the gift of better customer connections this holiday season. With 90% of SMS read in under two minutes, it’s the perfect way to grab attention from shoppers during the busiest time of the year. To learn more about our industry-leading retail SMS solution request a demo here.

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