You Should be using Text Message Marketing

Updated: December 30, 2020 

Originally published: May 18, 2017 


People are more intimately connected than ever to their cell phones. To be completely accurate, it’s not the phone part that grabs and holds their attention. Facebook, Instagram, text messaging, along with millions of games and apps of all types guarantee many consumers have their eyes locked on their phones for several hours every day. During the pandemic lockdowns, the devices literally became lifelines as people changed the way the communicated, interacted, learned, shopped and more. 

According to a report from the Pew Research Center 96% of Americans own a mobile phone of some kind, and a study by Gartner Research found text open rates are as high as 98%. That makes text message marketing one of the most cost-effective ways to reach consumers and drive substantial engagement. 


Short Message Service (SMS) or text message marketing gives you the ability to send your customers information about your store, new products, or your next promotion directly to their phone. Even if they can’t take advantage of your current offer, seeing your message regularly displayed on their phones is a great way to maintain customer awareness of the products or services you offer. 

Here are some compelling statistics that make this type of marketing attractive to retailers of any size. 

The open rate for text messages is around 98%.

Text messages have a 209% higher response rate than phone, email or Facebook messages

Roughly 90% of text messages are opened within three minutes of being received.

Consumers redeem SMS-delivered coupons 10 times more than other types of coupons


Getting started isn’t expensive either. Texting plans range in scale and price, starting as low as a typical entry-level phone plan – around $25 per month for 1,000 texts – up to a few thousand dollars a month which could allow for upward of 250,000 messages.  

Does it Work?

Businesses of all sizes have successfully improved their earnings by sending their message to mobile devices. Mobile messaging service, Tatango, cites several case studies showing how companies have made mobile marketing work for them.

National Wholesale Liquidators tempted customers to sign up for mobile marketing with $5 off their next $25 purchase. The twelve-store chain amassed 50,000 mobile phone numbers from their customers. NWL determined that customers who were part of the mobile marketing campaign spent 80% more on average than customers who chose not to participate.

Three hardware stores in California discovered the effectiveness of mobile marketing by tracking purchases of mobile subscribers. They established an annual subscriber value for their mobile marketing customers.

Castro Valley hardware store $401 annual subscriber value
Brentwood hardware store $529 annual subscriber value
Fremont hardware store $267 annual subscriber value


Increasing the number of mobile subscribers is only going to increase the bottom line for any store.

Content is Key

Once you have some customers on your list, you can start sending your message to mobile devices. Use your message to mobile platform make them aware of:

New products

Popular items that are back in stock


Upcoming sales

New blog posts

Money-saving tips

Company news

Product videos

Create Your Own Unique Message

Choose between two message formats to send to your subscribers.

  1. SMS (Short Message Service) allows you to send simple text only messages with a maximum of 160 characters. A great way to keep your message short and sweet.
  2. MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) allows you to combine text with pictures, video, or audio. Design a message that conveys elements of your brand or use MMS to create messages with greater impact.

Tools You Can Use

While not all services are exactly alike, each will have some tools to make text message marketing efficient and effective. Here are some basic features to look for when shopping for an SMS provider.


When someone signs up using their mobile device, they get an automatic reply in seconds. You can use the auto-reply to offer a discount or other thank you gift to your new subscriber.

Group Texting

Send one text to everyone on your list with a single click.


Set up your next message to mobile subscribers well in advance of your next promotion. You determine the day and time it hits the street.

Drip Messages

Send an initial message to announce an event and follow up with a series of enticing reminders to build anticipation

No limits

Sign up as many subscribers as you can get. Of course, as your list grows, you may suddenly find yourself bumped into a more expensive tier of service. (Not a bad problem to have, really!)

A Few Rules to Know

The cellular network in the U.S. is regulated by an alphabet soup of government agencies, trade groups, mobile carriers, and others. Their job is to protect the integrity of all mobile communications and to help foster growth in mobile marketing. By going down the straight and narrow you’ll stay on the good side of your customers and the law.

Make Sure They “Opt-In”

Participation by your customers must be voluntary. They must take deliberate action to opt-in to your list before you can start sending them anything.

Everyone has seen television messages or on a sign that says something like, “Text turkeyonrye to 12345 to get weekly offers for our tasty sandwiches.” When the customer follows through, this signifies their consent to receive text messages in the future.

Don’t even think about buying or renting some old, outdated list from that guy hangin’ out in the alley behind your store. If you do this, the people receiving unsolicited messages will opt-out in droves, wiping out any benefit you’d hope to gain. When these same people begin to complain to the regulating agencies about your unsolicited text messages, the backlash will be colossal.

Take the time to build your own list from your own customer base. Most of the people who sign up are already your biggest fans.

Be Clear and Consistent

When you sign people up to your list, let them know exactly what to expect. This should be done in the first text they receive confirming they have opted-in to your list. Be very clear about how frequently you will be sending your subscribers a message and what to expect from your offer. In the above example, subscribers are expecting weekly text messages about sandwiches… and that’s all!

Nothing will cause people to bail from your list faster than switching from your original offer or flooding their inbox with too many messages. Being consistent is also the best way to keep yourself out of hot water with the alphabet soup guys.

It’s also important to spell out your program clearly in any brochures, counter cards, signage, or other marketing materials. Be sure to include an easy method for them to opt out of your text messaging program should they decided to leave.

No Such Thing as “Free”

When you’re asking people to sign up for your text messages through printed material, TV or radio ads, etc. you aren’t allowed to use the word “Free” when you describe your messaging campaign.  The carriers (ATT, Verizon, T-Mobile, etc.) prohibit this because some users (roughly 12%) may not have a messaging plan. Subscribers without a messaging plan will be charged for each message they receive. This should also be spelled out in that first text your send when they opt-in.

OWoman's hands texting on a cell phone.ther Ways to Bring Em’ Onboard

Besides having people sign up by texting a keyword directly to your phone, you can also add people to your list through your website or by using a paper sign-up form at a checkout counter or some other conspicuous place in your store. You can also print an offer to opt-in at the bottom of store receipts.

In any case, your offer must be laid out clearly to the person subscribing. Once you have their information, you’ll use the tools provided by your SMS service to send them a confirmation text message.

After signing up using these other methods, the user is required to reconfirm their desire to receive your offers by typing in Y (Yes) or N (No) on their confirmation text message and sending it back. This process verifies that the person who filled out the form is in possession of the mobile phone number used to opt into the program. You’re required to keep a record of people who sign up through these methods, just in case the alphabet soup guys come knocking.

Text Message Marketing is Highly Effective

Text message marketing is an economical way to reach your customers right where they are, on their phone. The companies that provide the platform for your messaging campaign also provide the tools you need to automate the process. By following some common sense and best practices, you’ll be able to keep your business in your customer’s minds while encouraging them to return to your business again and again.

George Maginnis