Dig into our top tips to make SMS a featured player in your holiday marketing.
Get a head start on holiday planning by browsing BFCM examples, message templates, and more in our Holiday Marketing Reboot.
You’ve set important goals for the holidays, 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, 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 holiday e-commerce tips and strategies so you feel ready to tackle the 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 holiday campaign.
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.
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 dollar 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 holiday season, consider how to collect opt-ins for both channels at the same time to expand your reach.
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.
It’s been extremely useful to collect email and SMS opt-ins simultaneously. Since partnering with Attentive to grow our subscriber base four months ago, we’ve decreased our email churn rate by more than 150%. Our Attentive-powered SMS program—especially our ‘2-in-1’ sign-up unit—has contributed to this decrease in churn and has helped us achieve real list growth.
- Maya Menon O’Connor, Director of Marketing, Swap.com
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.
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.
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 throughout the holiday season, 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. In fact, text message marketing is most effective when it’s timely.
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 the day before the drop. Include a clue about the collaboration (or send an image to give shoppers a sneak peek).
Send back-in-stock alerts
Products sell out faster than usual during the holidays. 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.
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, 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, gift with purchase, double rewards points, and more.
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 should you define ‘engaged?’ It depends on how often you send texts, but a good rule of thumb is creating your segment based on the criteria ‘has clicked at least one text’ within the last two to four weeks. Offering this segment more frequent exclusive offers and content pays off.
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.
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.
SMS Pro Tip: If your brand’s products are high-consideration (think: luggage, furniture, or tech accessories), add subscribers to educational drip campaigns that highlight product features.
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 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: Send a “win-back” offer to subscribers who haven’t clicked on a message within a given period to encourage them to make a purchase and move back into your segment of engaged subscribers.
You can also text 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
Don’t know what your subscribers like? Just ask. Learning more about them through a conversational campaign—asking about what they’re looking for, or even who they’re shopping for—lets you create a fuller customer profile and deliver more personalized experiences.
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 holiday experience that drives conversions.
Stagger your SMS and email communications
You can drive more conversions by creating a channel-specific send strategy that still 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 time period, follow up with an educational email that highlights product features, use cases, and community-sourced images.
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, along with a GIF teasing the products. 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 or tag your brand if they post their purchase on social media.
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 Cyber Monday.
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., 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
It can be tricky to nail your tone in text messages, so testing is your best tool. Don’t be afraid to A/B test copy variations, emoji usage, 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.
The great thing about Attentive is that we can be flexible with A/B testing our segmentation and messages—and pivot depending on what we see has the most impact.
- Chip Malt, CEO & Co-Founder, Made In Cookware
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 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 holiday season, and turning them into loyal customers well into the new year.
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.