You may recall a time in business where your winning sales strategy was in the quality of the product or service you delivered coupled with a competitive price. If you maintained a quality product and a supply necessary to fulfill your customers’ needs, you were smooth sailing after that initial customer purchase, and repeat purchases were almost a given.
That was then.
Nowadays, while having the best product and price is still great they are no longer the key brand differentiators that drive purchases. Brands must work to win consumers over for every purchase they make.
This is largely driven by the fact that today’s consumers have a lot of options when it comes to where they shop and with what brands they do business with. As a result they are more empowered to interact with you however they want and on their terms. And they also expect you to cater to their expectations.
Amid strong competition and these ever-growing consumer expectations, it’s no longer enough to win a consumer over for a one-time purchase and expect their repeat business to follow. If that business model worked, we wouldn’t see 32% of customers abandoning a brand they love and shopping elsewhere because of just one bad experience.
In other words, consumer buying decisions today are less likely to be brand-driven as they are experience-driven, which means now’s the time to invest in strategies and tools to meet consumers where they are in their buying journey in order to be at the top of a consumer’s consideration set every time they intend to make a purchase.
Although the pandemic accelerated the “digital revolution” for brands in many ways, services feeling impersonal to consumers has actually grown 5% between 2020 and 2021.
But the pandemic wasn’t the first catalyst to drive brands to elevate the customer experience. Consumers have expected a lot from brands for quite some time. Nordstrom, Virgin Airlines, The Ritz Carlton. For those that have had the pleasure of doing business with any of these brands, they know that they are the gold standard when it comes to exceptional and personalized service.
That’s because they are committed to making the customer experience all about the individual in an authentic, non-intrusive way. And it makes interacting with their brands genuinely personal and enjoyable.
So to do this right as a brand, you need to stop talking at your customers and invite them to have a dialogue. Welcome them into a conversation that shows them you’ve been listening to their needs.
What Is Conversational Commerce?
When the term was first invented by Medium in 2015, conversational commerce was defined as the act of companies having interactions with consumers either through chatbots or conversational apps like WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook Messenger. Through these mediums came the opportunity for brands to offer personalized recommendations on products or services based on data gathered from the interactions in real-time.
In addition to helping drive purchases, these interactions also help drive brand awareness as well as elevate the post-purchase experience, from offering more automated tailored customer support, providing shipping and delivery notifications, and more.
The opportune word here is interactions, the root of what’s occurring between a brand and their customers to drive the customer journey. So while these chatbots have become a marketing communication trend, let’s not forget the O.G. of interactive marketing channels, the one that still reigns as the top choice for communication channels: SMS.
A major trait of text messaging is how extremely personal a text message is – we use it every day to talk to our family and friends – which means consumers are looking at their texts constantly.
SMS is not only personal, but it is also a meaningful message coming from someone they want to hear from - often requiring a prompt reply or action.
By using SMS messaging as a brand, you unlock this exciting and intimate world that exists on the most personal device everyone wants to engage with the most. A world that is often reserved for just family and friends.
Conversational Commerce via SMS Marketing: Numbers to Know
Consumers pay attention and respond to their text messages. In fact, they are 1.8X as likely to prefer text messages over other channels. Here are some other interesting stats to further support SMS as the preference:
- When surveyed, 38% of consumers say text messaging is their preferred channel with only 13% preferring the WhatsApps and Facebook Messengers of the world
- About 78% of U.S. consumers say texting is the primary activity they do on their phones in a given day, a higher percentage than other daily activities such as checking social media, consuming content, using email and making phone calls
- 60% of consumers read and respond to a text within 1-5 minutes, a response rate that’s 209% higher than phone, email and Facebook
- For brand interactions, consumers primarily engage with marketing content on their smartphones, 48% of which prefer direct communication from brands they love via SMS
- 73% of marketers state they excel a delivering personalized communications but only 34% of consumers agree - if you deliver outstanding conversational experiences via SMS you can become the leader in your space
How Does Conversational SMS Marketing Actually Work?
Conversational commerce doesn’t just mean two-way text messaging - there are other ways you can create an ongoing dialogue with your customers that drive engagement and build trust.
SMS as a channel helps you grow and maintain customer relationships by garnering insights from customer behavior to deliver relevant content they care about.
For example, if you’re a retailer whose most loyal customers are budget-conscious shoppers you can send them discount codes and special offers.
Or let’s say you’re a quick service restaurant who has local limited-time offers for your lunch hour: with SMS you can target by zip code and include customized copy for different locations so that segment knows how long their specific offer is available.
Need to increase sales on a certain product or product line? Target your SMS subscribers based on their past purchases, promoting the products only to those that would be likely to buy.
In other words, SMS has the ability to deliver an intentional, personalized experience by observing behavior and understanding customer preferences so you can target them with the right content.
You can also send personalized, targeted text messages based on a wide array of custom attributes including:
- Message views and clicks
- Consumer behavior
5 Examples of Conversational Commerce via SMS Marketing
The customer is often the one responsible for opening the dialogue with the brands they like. With mobile engagement it happens once they’ve agreed to sign up for your SMS program. They want to hear from you, but a lot of times they expect you to know them and understand what they want without them having to explicitly tell you.
Here are some examples of what putting conversational commerce into practice via SMS looks like.
1. Personalized Interactions From the Start with Contact Cards
With SMS you also have the ability to send out your brand’s Contact Card, a feature that allows you to create a personalized contact ID, helping to further solidify you as a known entity so that your customers always recognize who is messaging them. The cards are delivered via SMS so that your customers can easily save your information in their Contacts just like any other contact is stored.
Once you’re a known contact that’s locked into your customer’s consideration set, it’s time to start building thee customer : brand relationship through conversation.
2. Text to Vote
Text-to-vote is an interactive experience that drives customer engagement in a fun way that also keeps their levels of interest up.
You can take the approach of asking your customers to vote as a means of introducing new products or services. Or you can ask them to vote on something product related, using that engagement data to follow-up with similar products they might like.
By prompting customers to respond to a question, you are gaining insight into their preferences and activity so that you can create a tailored experience for them based on their response.
Consumers seek out rewarding shopping experiences, and it’s unlikely they’d turn their backs on an interactive, gamified one. Couple this with the element of a good surprise and you’ve got their attention.
Don’t just give out offers, prompt your customers to play to uncover a reward for themselves. You can capture the attention of your mobile subscribers by texting them a gamified experience, such as a scratch-and-reveal or spin-to-win interaction.
Providing a playful mobile experience elevates the interaction your customers can have with you to build brand loyalty, which is evidenced by Vibes customers seeing an average 15% engagement rate on mobile experiences they deliver to their customers through SMS.
As much as consumers like to be delighted, most are competitive by nature as well, even if it’s competition with themselves.
You can use SMS to engage with your customers by texting them trivia questions, using their responses as a means to collect shopper preferences to help you create relevant segments to better target going forward.
Through a few simple keywords, you can use the various responses to help guide different subscribers to personalized recommendations.
5. Cart Recovery
Globally, retailers see $18B in annual losses purely through abandoned shopping carts.
Whether your customers not completing a purchase is driven by a cumbersome checkout process or that they simply got distracted going down the shopping rabbit hole, actions speak louder than words. Use the behavioral data from their visit to your site to follow up appropriately in a way that shows you’re listening.
For example, you can set a series of automated messages to trigger out based on a customer’s previous action.
Message #1: If items were abandoned → send automated reminder message to complete a purchase
Message #2: For customers who did not engage with initial reminder message → offer a discount to incentivize them to come back to your site and complete their order
At Vibes we’ve seen our retail customers generate 6-digit figures of incremental revenue from cart recovery SMS messages. For one retailer, their cart recovery SMS messages contributed to 7% of the total revenue driven by their SMS program overall.
The Bottom Line
Conversational commerce paves the way for you to build authentic 1:1 relationships with your customers. And what better way to build a meaningful, personal connection than through the inherently conversational SMS channel.
When conversational commerce is done right, you’ll have created a dialog over time that feels genuine to your customers and empowers them throughout their buying journey, which helps you increase revenue and sales.
So what are you waiting for? I bet your customers can’t wait to hear from you and have a chat.
Talk to your Customer Success team or contact our sales team to learn more about how easy it is to begin your conversational journey.
Mara Miller — Director, Content Marketing | Vibes
More Content by Mara Miller
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*Results based on Vibes customer data