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Five ways to use SMS to improve customer experience in retail

The last decade has seen dramatic changes in how the retail game is played. New digital services make it easier than ever for consumers to get products and services from anywhere, to anywhere. The demand on 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 from new types of players, so the battle for consumers’ loyalty is the toughest it’s ever been.

So how can you turn the threat posed by new channels and technology into an opportunity to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction?

The answer lies in consumers’ cell phones. As digital consumers’ steady companion, the cell phone has become an important part of the buying journey. It is also the most direct way to reach your customers. By integrating mobile communication into your organization’s omnichannel strategy, you get a powerful tool for awakening interest, inspiring new purchases, and strengthening customer loyalty. Cell phones present companies with the opportunity 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 compliment to customer dialogue throughout the buying journey.

1. Engage new customers with the help of cell phones

Most companies make use of a mix of marketing and advertising channels. For some, this includes using things like outdoor advertising (billboards and bench ads, etc.), print ads, and TV commercials to catch consumers’ interest. Giving consumers the opportunity 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 anything from ordering a catalogue to subscribing to sale and special offer notifications. Instead of trying to remember the name of a brand, store, or company until the next time they need a certain product or service, customers can act on their interest immediately, right from their cell phones.

2. Enable purchases and send receipts via cell phones

SMS makes it simple for customers to order and pay for both products and services right from their cell 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. Parking companies let customers pay for parking via SMS. When they pay via SMS, these customers get confirmations to their phones, as well as reminders when their parking is about to expire.

These uses of SMS make it easier for customers to make purchases, and for companies to make 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 mail. Sign up can often be as easy as sending an SMS to a short numer, which can be done at the register or at home. Traditional mail campaigns are replaced by email campaigns, which can be paired with well-targeted SMS campaigns to be greener, more cost-effective, and more easily tracked.

The ability to integrate an SMS service with your company’s CRM, marketing automation, or business systems makes it simple to tailor campaigns to different segments in your customer base. Using these segmenting possibilities lets you send sale campaigns, event invitations, and new product information or inspiration to many different customer groups in one go. Similarly, you can send individualized offers like loyalty club sales and other personalized offers with precision, right to your customers 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 determine in large part how the customer experience is evaluated. Regardless of whether you work with e-commerce or in a sector where orders are placed in-store, and regardless of whether you’re selling books, electronics, clothes or anything else, the importance of the delivery processes to your customer relationships is the same. Particularly when you work in a market where many vendors have similar offers (in terms of products, pricing, etc.) quick and precise delivery becomes an important selling point.

By integrating an SMS service with your order handling system, you can keep your customers in the loop about where their package is, what stage of delivery it is in, 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 to alert recipients of when their package is either ready for pick up, or when it will be delivered.

5. Improve customer insights with mobile market research surveys

SMS is also an effective channel for reaching out to customers and/or members with market research surveys. You can send surveys to follow up on purchases or customer service interactions, and to thus 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 to get customer input is a great way to learn how to improve customer service and satisfaction.