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With 55% of Retail Execs Investing in SMS, 2020 is the ‘Year of Mobile’

A recent Adobe study indicates that mobile commerce sales increased 10 percent from January to June, but shifts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic indicate that like e-commerce, mobile is here to stay. As many as 58 percent of consumers expect to retain new mobile shopping behaviors over the long term, one Coresight Research study found.

A recent webinar from CommerceNext highlighted both of these stats as evidence of the growth of mobile—and more specifically, SMS messaging—as a service that has benefited retailers during the coronavirus crisis, especially if they didn’t have a full-fledged strategy beforehand.

For example, Darn Good Yarn, a digitally native retailer that sells yarn, craft kits and apparel, didn’t establish a mobile strategy until the start of the year, according to founding CEO Nicole Snow. As of July, mobile accounted for 7 percent of the company’s overall revenue.

“When I look back at last month, we had spikes where 81 percent of our conversions on certain days were coming from mobile, which blows through a lot of records we’ve been seeing,” Snow said. “I don’t see that decelerating at all.”

Snow said that due to the company’s recent introduction to mobile, Darn Good Yarn “learned segmentation as we went along” and has now built hyper-segmented lists to see click-through rates on SMS messages of as high as 9 percent. Additionally, the retailer focused less on directly selling products and more on DIY and other free content options as a means to reignite customers who haven’t visited the site in 90 days.

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Kent Zimmerman, vice president of e-commerce and consumer technology at Shoe Carnival, noted that the footwear retailer has text messaging capabilities since 2017, but overhauled its approach after partnering with personalized mobile messaging platform Attentive coming out of the 2019 holiday season. While the company had doubled its SMS lists every year from 2017 to the start of the 2020, Zimmerman said Shoe Carnival doubled its list in the first five months since tapping Attentive’s expertise.

“We had spent the prior year or two trying to organically build the list in really just offering SMS as a communications vehicle for our customers to learn about promotions. That was really it,” said Zimmerman. “We now do a lot of time-sensitive promotions where we want a customer to know when a promotion is ending or a flash sale is ending, and I think we’ve just learned how to better position SMS more as a call to action.”

Zimmerman said the SMS experience became a huge customer acquisition channel once Covid-19 forced Shoe Carnival to temporarily close all stores. And although leveraging cart abandonment messaging through SMS is new to Shoe Carnival, the footwear retailer is seeing more than 30 percent and higher click-through rates through those messages.

Robby Facer, director, digital brand marketing at Unique Vintage, said the vintage-inspired apparel retailer already saw a high penetration of mobile prior to the pandemic, but indicated that the company’s strategy was “all over the place” to start when it began working with Attentive in 2018. After going through a trial-and-error stage through early March with its collaborative launch of “I Love Lucy”-themed dresses and outfits, the company learned that its core shopper base responded most eagerly to early access opportunities, among all possible perks and sales offers.

“Early access to big launches is actually what outperforms everything else, even if it was an incredible promotion, because I think they’re super engaged,” Facer said. “If you want to actually have someone come into your phone and not just an email inbox, it’s a different experience.”

During the webinar, 53 percent of attendees said they saw mobile traffic somewhat higher since the pandemic started, while another 33 percent said it was significantly higher, illustrating that more shoppers are getting used to the medium. These retailers are starting to have more faith in their consumers receptivity to text messages, with 87 percent saying they believe their customers would embrace receiving promotions from them via SMS.

The Attentive team has benefited from the increased comfort in SMS adoption, with the daily number of people signing up for texts from its clients from March 30 to April 12 coming in 53 percent higher than the months of January and February.

In fact, when comparing 2020 investment plans in emergent tech channels from January to June, retail marketers who said they were increasing investment in text messaging/SMS jumped from 51 percent to 55 percent, according to CommerceNext’s June post-Covid survey. This was the only tech that saw an increase in the period, other than augmented and virtual reality applications within online stores, which more than doubled from nearly 9 percent investing to 21 percent.

During the period, marketers deemphasized investments in emerging technologies including customer data platforms, alternative payments, security/privacy measures, and advanced attribution and management.

“Why is that happening? Well, if you get a text message, you almost always read all of them,” said Brian Long, Attentive’s co-founding CEO. “There’s not that much content, so the link might be a third or half of the content in terms of its position on the screen. The opportunity to then engage is much higher.”