With customer acquisition getting more expensive, many brands will double down on loyalty and retention this holiday season. Here’s how SMS can help.
With recent shifts in inflation, privacy, and more—and during a time when shoppers are already seeking out the best deal or most convenient shopping option—how can you a) capture shoppers’ attention and b) get them to come back?
Marketers who lean on SMS marketing to increase loyalty and nurture new customers are the ones who will come out on top this season. Here’s how to ramp up loyalty this holiday season—and all year round—by tapping into brand voice, storytelling, special perks, and two-way communication.
Why is customer loyalty important?
Loyalty is what transforms your brand from just another company to a part of your customers’ lives. Loyal customers shop more often, spend more money, and stick around longer than one-time purchasers.
Use your brand voice to build loyalty
Being loyal to a brand means so much more to consumers than just signing up for a VIP program. Loyalty often feels like a sense of closeness: consumers feel they know the brand and can engage with relevant, helpful, and personalized experiences that make them want to continue shopping with the brand over and over.
A great way to tap into this feeling is by using your brand voice. Brands with strong voices are brands that stand out. Loyal customers are likely familiar with the voice you use across your website, social media, and in-store presence.
Bringing that voice into your SMS marketing to engage with consumers in a conversational way is a huge cornerstone to building and maintaining loyalty, especially during busy shopping seasons like the holidays. You can show subscribers exactly who you are using your point of view, in a way that feels direct, helpful, and relevant.
Let your brand personality shine
Because SMS is such a direct channel (and one that we use to talk to our friends and family), using a more conversational tone can make your messages feel more personal, help subscribers learn more about your brand, and build brand loyalty over time.
You can inject personality into your text messages in a few ways:
- Infuse triggered browse and cart abandonment reminders with your brand voice, making your brand feel like a helpful shopping companion.
- Directly address shoppers (using “you”) or use a playful phrase to make quick reminders feel personalized and relevant.
Our subscribers feel like Skatie is texting them personally. I’m able to use the same voice I use across social media and other channels to make our audience feel like it’s me talking directly to them. When they reply, it feels like a more personal, 1:1 conversation.
- Skatie Noyes, Owner & Designer, Skatie
Share your brand story, education, and other helpful content
Sending educational content to your SMS subscribers can help them feel more connected to your brand and more informed about what they should purchase first. Educational text messages can highlight:
- The people behind your brand, from execs to designers to customer care reps
- Your philanthropic mission, like what you’re doing and why it’s important to the company
- Tutorials and best practices, like how to use your products, style an outfit, create the perfect make-up look, etc.
Send recommendations via SMS
Texting recommendations to your subscribers is a great way to support product discovery. Use the data you’ve collected on each subscriber to make sure you’re providing relevant recommendations.
You can tailor your messages based on their engagement with your channel, products they’ve browsed or purchased, and other interactions they’ve had with your brand.
Or, use Two-Way Journeys to ask them what they’re shopping for or what they’re trying to achieve—and use their responses to personalize future text messages you send to them.
Whether they want to achieve a specific goal, have a positive impact on the environment, embrace their personal style, or make their home more stylish, you can use SMS as an opportunity to share helpful and relevant products.
Build loyalty with triggered flows
Loyalty starts as early as day one. Building triggered flows that feel warm, welcoming, and personalized to let subscribers know that you’re in it for the long haul, and they should be too.
Create a warm welcome with SMS
Your welcome message is the opening line of the conversation. This is a chance to get personal. Address your subscriber by name (you can collect this by adding a Preference Collection step as part of your sign-up unit), and welcome them to your text messaging program.
Your welcome flow is also the perfect chance to tell subscribers what they can expect from their SMS relationship with you, from getting offers and exclusive access to shop, to behind-the-scenes looks, and invites to events.
SMS Pro Tip: 24 hours after a subscriber joins your SMS program, send a triggered message with educational content. You can share information like how your products are crafted, your brand’s values and mission, or how their purchases will make an impact. Include a link back to your brand’s “About” page so they can learn more.
Make a conversational connection
Add a conversational element to your welcome series to set expectations that your text program is built for back-and-forth interactions. Send a message inviting subscribers to reply back with a keyword corresponding to what they’re most interested in—whether that’s sales, branded content, or product releases. You can use those preferences to create segments based on their responses that you can use to personalize future text messages.
SMS Pro Tip: If a subscriber hasn’t made a purchase three days after they’ve joined your SMS program, send a message inviting them to take a quiz to get personalized recommendations. Demonstrate that you’re here to help, whether it’s with finding their perfect fit or the skincare routine that’s right for them. Plus, you can set this up as a triggered journey, so it'll automatically send to the subscriber if they’ve met the criteria.
Keep the conversation going after they click “buy”
The conversation doesn’t end when a shopper makes a purchase. In fact, subscribers are most engaged after they’ve made a purchase. This is a perfect time to forge a stronger connection through SMS.
Build a post-purchase series
After the customer purchases, you can send a triggered flow that thanks them for their purchase, links back to educational content about the product, or features inspirational images to help them style the items. If your brand is mission-driven and focused on sustainability or social causes, use this flow to show how their purchase will make an impact.
Ask for a review
Once a subscriber has had time to enjoy their purchase, reach out to ask them to leave a review or tag your account on social media. If they’ve purchased a new product, you may want to incentivize them to leave a review so others can learn more about the item.
Send a special follow-up offer
For subscribers who haven’t made a second purchase within a given period, send them a special offer (like 20% off) to encourage them to buy again. You can position the offer as a “VIP” perk they earned by making their first purchase to surprise and delight.
Increase lifetime value with SMS
It can be difficult to keep subscribers’ attention during the busyness of the holiday season. One tool you can use to capture (and keep) it is personalization.
According to data from Adobe Commerce, 67% of respondents reported wanting personalized offers based on their individual spending habits, whether shopping in-store or online.
For those who did receive personalized recommendations, 72% said they bought more goods than they originally planned. Content that’s targeted, personalized, and that allows you to send more relevant offers and information is content that will keep shoppers engaged.
Personalize experiences with conversational quizzes
SMS gives you a direct way to help subscribers find their new favorite items. Send a conversational quiz with a series of “If...then” questions (like “Your ideal Friday night is… (A) Going dancing (B) Trying a new restaurant, (C) Visiting an art gallery or seeing a show”). Then, share your recommendations by setting up triggered responses based on which option the subscriber chooses.
Learn more about your subscribers
Ask your subscribers which winter holidays they’re observing, then send them offers and reminders relevant to their selected holidays.
SMS Pro Tip: You can also use that information to segment them out of irrelevant holidays (and even give them an option to opt out of holidays completely and receive wintery deals instead).
Target messages based on behavioral data
Fine-tune your SMS subscriber lists to make the highest impact on ROI. Build segments that align with your customer funnel that subscribers can graduate into. For example, new subscribers who signed up on your brand’s website (but haven't made a purchase) can be added to a nurture segment that receives offers to encourage them to make their first purchase.
Target based on engagement history
You can further tailor your messages by creating a “go-to” segment of subscribers who have clicked on a text within the last two weeks but haven’t made a purchase. Getting hyper-specific increases the likelihood that they’ll convert, which increases your ROI.
SMS Pro Tip: Re-engage lapsed subscribers with an offer (like free shipping) to encourage them to convert.
Send recommendations based on past purchases
As they say, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Send personalized recommendations based on past purchases and browsing behavior to increase relevancy and pique interest.
SMS Pro Tip: If your brand sells high-consideration products, recommend complementary accessories to items your customer has purchased, along with tips on how to style their purchase. If you’re a skincare or beauty brand, you can position the recommendation as a “completion” of a routine or look.
On average, our text subscribers make at least two purchases after signing up. That’s incredible—this is a group of people who are really engaging with Swap.com and are getting a lot of value from the channel.
- Maya Menon O’Connor, Director of Marketing, Swap.com
Create educational moments
You can create triggered educational “courses” for customers to help them to learn more about how to use your products (for example, a nail polish brand might send a series of texts on how to get the perfect manicure).
At the end of the course, reward subscribers’ attention with a bundle deal to purchase the items they learned about.
Treat your VIP customers like… well, VIPs
SMS is one of the most effective ways to engage with your VIP customers. They go above and beyond to stay loyal to your brand, and you can recognize that with personalized perks, exclusive offers, and under-wraps event invites.
Grow your referral program
SMS subscribers are often your most-engaged customers—and your biggest fans. Use SMS to ask them to refer a friend to shop or join your rewards program. Then reward them like a VIP: thank them with a dollar-off discount (or bonus loyalty points) for every referral they convert. You can even work this into your triggered post-purchase flow.
Further incentivize purchases by offering double loyalty points during a certain time period, and promote it via SMS. Send a complementary text to subscribers who haven’t joined your loyalty program yet, and present an offer for joining
Share surprise perks
Use text message marketing to deliver gamified experiences that make subscribers feel appreciated and engaged.
- “Spin-to-Win” style games are a great excuse to offer small yet exclusive perks, like a sample size of a new product, free shipping, or a free gift with purchase
- Sweepstake-style games are slightly higher stakes, but offering subscribers the exclusive chance to opt-in can make them feel extra special
SMS Pro Tip: Offer your most loyal subscribers one surprise “perk” per month. Set up a triggered flow to deliver offers like a bundle deal, free gifts with purchase, or a percentage off once a month. Subscribers will be eager to discover each monthly offer.
Offer exclusive event access
There’s nothing like a one-to-one invite to make subscribers feel like insiders. Invite subscribers to in-person and virtual events your brand is hosting by sending them a personalized message and engage with them in real time leading up to the event.
Turn event invites into an experience by sending exclusive offers and content before and after the event. If your brand is online-only, you can give subscribers special access to video tutorials and other educational content.
Show your loyalty with a Friends & Family sale
Give your most engaged subscribers—those who’ve made a certain number of purchases or spent a given amount of money—exclusive access to a “Friends and Family” sale. Let them know their access is VIP-only, and include a secret code to redeem at checkout.
Marketing content with a cause
While lots of communication takes place over the holiday season, cause-related marketing doesn’t need to take a backseat. In fact, you can use SMS marketing to highlight all the great work your brand is doing to give back—and show shoppers how they’re helping contribute to that work.
Discover shared values with subscribers
71% of consumers say they prefer to shop from companies that share their own values. If your brand is mission-driven—or even if you’re dedicated to cause marketing—share editorial content with subscribers that highlights the causes your brand supports.
Communicate how your brand is making a difference—whether it’s creating sustainable products, supporting organizations, or championing diversity internally—and how that work affects individuals, too.
Highlight sustainability in browse or cart abandonment messages
If your brand is dedicated to sustainability, communicate that through your triggered messages. Browse or cart abandonment messages can reassure shoppers about the environmental impact of their purchase. For example, you can highlight how your product materials are sourced and crafted, or share more about how purchases make an impact (like if you’re planting a tree in honor of every purchase).
Educate subscribers about your cause
Environmentally-conscious shoppers are often focused on finding sustainable shipping options. Sending an educational text message highlighting how your products are packaged and shipped can show that you prioritize sustainability.
SMS Pro Tip: Use educational text messages to mention what you’re doing to reduce your brand’s broader carbon footprint. Social impact-minded subscribers will appreciate it.
Subscribers want to hear about your community and how you thrive within it—include messages in your program that highlight your culture and what you stand for.
- Griffin Thall, CEO & Co-Founder of Pura Vida Bracelets
Prioritize inclusivity all year
Sending MMS (text messages that include media like images and GIFs) is an opportunity to show a diverse range of models your subscribers can see themselves in. Whether you’re showcasing cosmetics or clothing, use GIFs that feature models of different racial and religious backgrounds, gender identities, body types, ages, and abilities.
Help subscribers get involved
For many, the holidays are a time to give back. Let subscribers know about upcoming volunteer opportunities in their communities, or share virtual ways they can give back, like charities or community funds.
SMS Pro Tip: Encourage your subscribers to text you about how they got involved, and offer a surprise perk as a “thank you.”
Invite subscribers to help out
Are you joining an event that benefits a cause your brand believes in? Let subscribers know why the cause is important to your brand, and invite them to take part. You can thank attendees with a follow-up message that offers a surprise percentage-off their next purchase, or let them know a specific portion of their purchase will be donated to the cause.
Text messaging is a highly personal channel. It’s a natural fit for sharing more on sustainability with our subscribers and getting our mobile audience more invested in living their most sustainable life. Whether we’re educating subscribers about how our products are crafted or how they can create small, eco-friendly habits that have a big impact, SMS is one of the channels we rely on to help our customers get even more involved.
- Jennifer Chiang, Head of Email and Retention Marketing at Cariuma
Show how your brand is making an impact
For products and collections you create in partnership with cause-driven organizations, educate subscribers with an SMS campaign. Explain the meaning behind the collection, and how the proceeds will be put to use. You can also highlight the partner organization’s work to give subscribers a clear picture of how their purchases will make an impact.
Share a link to your impact report
Publish a report on the influence of your philanthropic initiatives, and share it with the people who support your mission. Putting your audience’s purchases into a philanthropic context helps your brand connect with subscribers over your shared passions, helping to build loyalty in an authentic way.
Engaged subscribers are loyal subscribers
Whether you’re sharing exclusive offers, reaching out with educational and cause-related content, or using SMS to get to know your subscribers better, there are endless ways to increase loyalty with the right text message marketing strategies.
The effort you put into nurturing your customers and driving loyalty leading up to the holidays will pay off year-round. So it's not just about getting people to buy and driving revenue during the holiday shopping season—it's about keeping those people around after the big spending period is over.
Looking for more holiday season education and inspiration? Explore our Holiday Marketing Reboot for SMS tips and examples, interviews with leading marketers, an SMS template discovery quiz, and more.