[GUIDE] Level Up Your BFCM E-Commerce Marketing Strategy With SMS

A holiday light, percentage off tag, and wrapped gifts.
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SMS Marketing
Published on
Jul 11, 2023
Written by
Elodie Huston
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Dig into our top tips to make SMS a featured player in your Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing.

Want to get inspired by how other brands have achieved holiday success with SMS and email? Explore our 2023 BFCM Planner to unlock SMS message templates, a webinar to help you set your BFCM strategy, and more.

You’ve set important goals for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and you need channels that work smarter (not harder) to help you achieve them during your busiest time of year. That’s where SMS comes in. 

Not only is it great for acquiring new customers and driving incremental revenue, but it’s also a game-changer for improving loyalty and retention. Plus, when you pair SMS with your other important marketing touchpoints—including email, social, and loyalty programs—you’ll amplify your message across channels, getting the most out of your marketing initiatives.

We’ve put together our best Black Friday and Cyber Monday e-commerce tips and strategies so you feel ready to tackle the winter holiday season head on with personalized SMS experiences that work on their own and alongside your other channels.

Grow your subscriber list

The more subscribers you have, the greater your opportunity to engage them and drive conversions. Here are our top tips for building your subscriber list before you start executing your Black Friday campaign strategy.

Turn high-intent browsers into subscribers

A great time to grab shoppers’ attention is while they’re already browsing. Strategically-placed sign-up units on your mobile and desktop websites is one of the most powerful ways to convert high-intent browsers into text messaging subscribers.

Virus SMS and email sign-up unit

Create an exciting sign-up incentive

We’ve found the most effective sign-up units offer customers a discount for opting in. During peak sales periods (like Cyber Week), consider swapping your usual sign-up incentives for special offers—think free shipping or a specific amount off—to encourage sign-ups.

Use sign-up units to build hype around collections or collaboration launches 

Discounts aren’t the only way to incentivize sign-ups, though. If you’re about to release a big collection, tease it in your sign-up units and invite people to opt into text messages to be the first to shop. Then, when you’re ready to launch your product, offer text messaging subscribers an exclusive chance to shop the products before anyone else.

Get them before they go

You can convert visitors who are about to leave your website by using a final exit intent incentive. Add a display rule to your sign-up unit to show a final reminder to subscribe right before they exit the page. Consider sharing a special offer or discount to incentivize shoppers to sign up.

Grow your email and SMS lists together

Since you'll be using email and SMS marketing throughout the winter holiday season, consider how you can grow both subscriber lists at the same time to expand your reach.

Astrid & Miyu SMS + email sign-up flow

You can grow your email and SMS lists at the same time with our 2-in-1 sign-up units, which prompt shoppers to share their email address and phone number with you in one easy flow. You can also include a preference collection form within the sign-up flow to gather valuable data from new subscribers, such as their birthday, the types of products they’re most interested in, and more.

Use one list to grow the other

You can tap into your already-engaged email subscribers and encourage them to subscribe to your text messages, too: 

  • Promote your SMS marketing program in your email newsletters and e-blasts by including a link to a dedicated landing page where they can quickly sign up. 
  • Reward these subscribers with special offers, like discounts, exclusive access to shop new products, and behind-the-scenes content.

Tap into your social channels

Of course, email isn’t the only digital channel you can use to grow your SMS subscriber list.

schoolhouse instagram story example

You’ve put a lot of work into growing your social following, and you can watch that hard work pay off by using Instagram Stories and TikTok to convert followers into SMS subscribers.

Incentivize sign-ups

Let your followers know they’ll get first access to new products and limited-time offers if they subscribe to your text message program. You can link directly to an SMS sign-up landing page within the story, and add a link to your bio so followers can sign up after your stories expire.  Then, once they’re subscribers, you can avoid algorithms and directly engage shoppers who have opted in to texts.

Use paid social promos to plug your SMS program

To gain new subscribers and maximize ROI, use paid media to promote your SMS program. This tactic helps you gain new subscribers who you can continue to engage with directly leading up to Black Friday (and after), rather than just reaching them once with a paid ad.

Drive immediate revenue

If there’s one channel that consistently inspires shoppers to act right away, it’s SMS. 63% of shoppers engage with a brand’s SMS program at least twice a week. And 65% of consumers say they’re most likely to shop right after receiving a text about a great sale from a brand. 

SMS Pro Tip: From writing copy and creating segments, building your full SMS campaign strategy can take hours that you can’t afford to waste during your busiest time of year. Using Attentive AI™, you can quickly generate top-performing SMS copy, optimized segments and send times, and even full campaign cadences.

Create a sense of urgency

The key to driving urgency with SMS comes down to timing and exclusivity. If you can reach consumers when they’re ready to shop (like when they’re watching TV at night) or give them first access to a sale or product, you’ll drive more conversions.

Olaplex SMS early access announcement

Communicate time-sensitive offers and updates

Since subscribers will probably see text messages right away, it’s the perfect channel to promote 24-hour flash sales. 

SMS Pro Tip: You can also drive last-minute purchases using segmentation. Send subscribers who haven’t shopped the sale yet a “final hours” reminder to increase urgency.

Promote exclusive items and collaborations

SMS is an ideal channel to let subscribers know about exclusive seasonal items and limited-time collaborations. Messaging them directly builds excitement and drives immediate web traffic. 

SMS Pro Tip: Get subscribers excited for upcoming exclusives with a “teaser” text message ahead of the drop. Include a clue about the collaboration, or send a GIF or image giving shoppers a sneak peek.

Send back-in-stock alerts

Products sell out faster than usual during the winter holiday season. Let shoppers know when items they’re interested in are back in stock.

SMS Pro Tip: When an item is about to sell out, send a heads up to subscribers who have browsed the item, encouraging them to shop before it’s gone.

SMS subscribers are extremely engaged—it's now the number one marketing channel that we default to if we want to get in front of customers quickly and drive sales in a short window of time. 

- Phillip Cruickshank, Director of Marketing – Brand Experience and Communications, CB2

Keep subscribers coming back

The holidays give you an opportunity to incentivize SMS subscribers to visit your website every day (ultimately increasing customer lifetime value). Consider rolling out a “12 Days of Deals” campaign.

Paper Source 25 Days of Deals SMS campaign

Here’s how it works: Send a text message to subscribers each day of the campaign, highlighting the latest offer. You can also text subscribers before the campaign inviting them to reply with a specific keyword (e.g. DEALS) if they’d like to receive a text each day (vs. texting all your subscribers every day). This way, you can make sure you’re only sending your most engaged subscribers your daily deals.

SMS Pro Tip: Boost engagement with a themed “scratch-off” GIF revealing each day’s deal.

Create VIP perks and experiences

Whether you want to treat your whole text program as a VIP channel, or just a segment of subscribers, is up to you and the goals you’re trying to reach. For example, snack company Utz uses their SMS channel as an exclusive club, the Centennial Club, reserved for snack loyalists. 

Other brands, like Mented Cosmetics, create a segment of VIPs within their text channel. For Mented, the VIP segment is defined as subscribers who’ve spent $70+. The brand frequently sends them early access to sales, bonus offers, and product launches.

If you’re looking for shoppers to grant VIP status to, there’s no better place to look than among your engaged SMS subscribers.

Giving them the VIP treatment can include exclusive first access to sales and collections, free shipping, a gift with purchase, double rewards points, and more.

ba&sh Black Friday sale early access welcome message

SMS Pro Tip: 24 hours before a sale begins, give SMS subscribers an exclusive link to shop early. Include a secret promo code they can use at checkout.

Create an interactive experience

Engage SMS subscribers (and drive repeat visits) with a holiday scavenger hunt using Attentive's Two-Way Journeys™

Here’s how to pull it off: 

  • Text subscribers and invite them to find the "magic word" on your website and reply back to you with the correct keyword. 
  • Then, send a triggered text message response with another clue and a link to your website. 
  • Once they've found all the keywords, send them a celebratory text with their prize (an exclusive dynamic coupon code).

Personalize your subscribers’ experiences

With the right segmentation strategy, you can send messages to your subscribers that feel like they’re just for them.

Segment by engagement

You can increase your text channel’s ROI by targeting your most engaged subscribers and past purchasers. How you define “engaged” depends on how often you send texts. But a good rule of thumb is to build your segment based on the criteria “has clicked at least one text” within the last two to four weeks. Then, you can offer this segment more frequent offers, personalized recommendations, and more to drive conversions.

You can also create a segment of lapsed subscribers to target with winback campaigns. Consider sharing personalized recommendations for new items based on their browsing history, or a special offer to encourage them to convert

SMS Pro Tip: Send personalized recommendations that increase your customer’s lifetime value (LTV) by cross-selling recommended products or sending replenishment reminders.

Segment by location

Use geo-targeting to send subscribers hyper-personalized product recommendations based on where they live. For example, you can tailor clothing or skincare recommendations based on climate or invite subscribers located near your stores to exclusive events and redeem in-store offers.

Target based on subscriber preferences 

Use the zero- and first-party data you’ve collected from subscribers to send specific messages based on their product preferences or behaviors like browsing and purchase history.

Send personalized product announcements and recommendations

You can send preference-based texts letting subscribers know when new products launch that are similar to their favorite past purchases. 

And now, using Attentive AI, you can automatically send personalized product recommendations to the right subscriber, at the right time. Our Automated Campaigns tool is trained on anonymized insights across our 8,000+ customers and layers on your own data to create personalized campaigns. Automated Campaigns generates every facet of the campaign, from copy and imagery to segments and send time, saving you hours of manual work. 

SMS Pro Tip: If your products are high-consideration (think: luggage, furniture, or tech accessories), add subscribers to educational drip campaigns that highlight special features, quality, and production methods. Doing so will help you communicate your products’ value, which is especially important as shoppers look for Cyber Week and Boxing Day deals.

The ability to leverage Shopify subscriber data directly in Attentive allows us to send texts to our highly targeted message segments—making our text channel even more personalized and engaging. 

- Griffin Thall, CEO & Co-Founder, Pura Vida Bracelets

Guide subscribers down the funnel 

During the busy winter holiday season, it can be hard to keep consumers on your site (we’ve all bounced around in search of the best deals when we’re shopping for the holidays). Bring them back in with well-timed and targeted text messages, such as browse and cart abandonment reminders. 

SMS Pro Tip: Set up a win-back journey to automatically send subscribers who haven’t clicked on a message within a given period a special offer to encourage them to make a purchase and move back into your segment of engaged subscribers. 

You can also target subscribers who have engaged with your messages but haven’t made a purchase yet. Include a special incentive or recommendation to encourage them to make their first order. 

I don’t think text messaging is just another channel. I think it’s going to become the most important channel when it comes to communicating with our customers and offering them content that matters. We are bullish on SMS—not just as a leading source of engagement for our customers, but as the future of interaction.

- Ryan Alovis, CEO of LensDirect

Ask subscribers about their preferences

Shoppers aren’t just browsing for themselves over Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The best way to learn what (and who) they’re shopping for is to ask.

Anthropologie Black Friday conversational SMS example

You can learn more about your subscribers through two-way conversational campaigns. Asking about what they’re looking for, their size and fit preferences, or who they’re shopping for lets you create a fuller customer profile and deliver more personalized experiences. And, if they’re shopping for someone else, capturing that information will help you build more accurate segments in the new year.  

For example, if your products are fit- or shade-focused, send a quiz to help subscribers find their perfect match. Or, discover which winter holidays your subscribers are observing and send them offers and reminders relevant to their selected dates. 

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).

SMS and email: better together

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: email and SMS are an iconic duo. Play to the strengths of each channel to create a holistic, thoughtful Black Friday and Cyber Monday experience that drives conversions.

Weave your SMS and email communications together

You can drive more conversions by creating a channel-specific send strategy that aligns with your overall business goals. Think about the unique benefits of each channel, and create your cadence and messaging from there. For example, if a subscriber browsed an item but didn’t add it to their cart, start with an SMS reminder inviting them to take a second look. If they haven’t purchased after a given amount of time, follow up with an educational email that highlights product features, use cases, and user-generated content and images.

Merit Beauty Black Friday abandoned cart reminder

This strategy works for abandoned cart reminders, too. Send a text message 30 minutes after a shopper abandons their cart. If they still haven’t purchased after four hours, send them an email reminder including a product image. 

SMS Pro Tip: Consider adding an incentive like free shipping to your email reminder to encourage subscribers to convert.

Promote new products

SMS and email make a great team when announcing seasonal products. SMS marketing is perfect for creating urgency and driving immediate traffic, while email is better suited to longer-form storytelling and inspirational content.

Send subscribers a text message announcing your new items. Don’t forget to include a GIF or image teasing the products—56% of consumers say they’re more likely to engage with MMS than SMS. Follow up with an email telling the story behind the collection. Include eye-catching imagery to further entice shoppers.

Keep subscribers engaged post-purchase

The conversation doesn’t need to end after the customer clicks “buy.” You can use SMS to ask customers to leave a review, tag your brand if they post their purchase on social media, or refer their friends. 

If they haven’t made a second purchase within a month, follow up with an email with product recommendations. If they still haven’t made a purchase a month later, follow up with a “win-back” perk via SMS, like free shipping or a percentage off discount.

SMS Pro Tip: Once a subscriber checks out, invite them to sign up for transactional text message updates so they can track their item.

Fine-tune your SMS program throughout the season

Nail your first impression

Make sure your first impression is memorable and impactful. A/B test your sign-up units to find out which incentives, imagery, and language resonate most with subscribers. Consider switching up your sign-up unit to promote your offers on specific days, like Black Friday and Boxing Day.

Charlotte Tilbury Black Friday sale sign-up unit

Optimization doesn’t mean one-size-fits-all

Some subscribers will want to be the first to know about new products and offers, while others might prefer access to bonus content. Regardless, we find that offering a deal (like free shipping) will make them more likely to sign up, especially during busy sales periods.

Test your welcome flow, too

A/B testing shouldn’t start and stop with your sign-up unit. You can also test the messaging and cadence of your welcome flow to find one that increases your conversion rate. 

SMS Pro Tip: Test a follow-up message with an offer reminder versus one with educational content to see which one drives a stronger click-through rate.

Find your audience’s texting style 

Keeping an eye on metrics will tell you a lot about your audience’s preferences. Analyze your SMS click-through, conversion, and opt-out rates to decide how often you should send subscribers messages. You can also use the data to see which types of messages drive the best results (e.g., short vs. long copy, or MMS vs. SMS). 

Over time, you’ll have enough data to customize messages to appeal to specific audience segments (like super-engaged SMS subscribers) rather than sending the same content to everyone.

You can even A/B test emojis

52% of consumers say emojis make a brand's messages more engaging and relatable. But it can be tricky to nail the right tone in text messages. Don’t be afraid to A/B test emoji usage, copy variations, imagery types, or other content strategies to find the tone and message lengths that perform best. 

This process should never be one-and-done, though. Run multiple A/B tests to gather enough data to deliver a statistically significant result. These tests will help guide your future segmentation and personalization strategies, even after the holiday season is over.

Keep an eye on the story your data is telling 

Transactional data can tell you a lot about engagement. You can use it to create segments based on purchase history, and then share limited-time discounts or positive reviews of best-selling products with subscribers who haven’t purchased recently.

SMS Pro Tip: Increase customer lifetime value by cross-selling or upselling via SMS with personalized recommendations.

You can also segment subscribers based on how they’ve engaged with messages in the past (for example, if they’ve clicked on at least one text in the last two weeks). Maximize revenue by targeting subscribers who actively open and click your texts. Send win-back campaigns to unengaged subscribers that include offers and content to bring them back to your website.

All roads lead to engagement

We know the winter holidays are an important time for your brand, filled with opportunities to stand out, engage with consumers, and drive revenue. No matter which of these strategies you decide to try, SMS marketing will be key to reaching shoppers this Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and turning them into loyal customers well into the new year.

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