Holiday Planning Starts Now: How to Make Sure Your SMS Program Is Ready

Holiday blog post
Posted in
SMS Marketing
Published on
Jul 25, 2022
Written by
Kayla Ellman
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It may still be summer, but we're here to help you start preparing your SMS marketing strategy for the upcoming holiday season. 

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.

Last year, consumers got a jump on holiday shopping before Black Friday—starting as early as October—in anticipation of shipping delays and inventory shortages. 

We can expect to see a similar trend this year, with consumers making holiday purchases even earlier to avoid price hikes, according to research from Salesforce. 42% more shoppers worldwide and 37% more in the US are planning to buy gifts earlier, so they can get something for everyone on their list without breaking the bank. 

For some consumers, that means taking advantage of big summer sales like Prime Day to get ahead on gift shopping (and they’ll have another opportunity to stock up at a discount in the fall). 

To prepare for a longer holiday shopping season and drive continuous revenue leading up to some of the biggest spending days of the year, brands should start planning their marketing strategies sooner rather than later. 

We created this guide you can use as a checklist to help make sure your SMS program is ready. 

Optimize your SMS program now for the biggest impact later

Even if your brand isn't drawing up holiday plans just yet, it's a good idea to start preparing your SMS program to generate the best results before, during, and after Cyber Week. Here are some steps you can take: 

Focus on growing your SMS list

One of the keys to running any successful marketing channel is having a large audience to tap into. That’s why it’s so important to get as many people as possible into your SMS program before the holiday season really begins. The more shoppers you can reach via text, the more purchases you can influence. 

To maximize your SMS list growth efforts, you have to promote your channel in a variety of places: 

  • On your mobile and desktop websites: You’re already driving most of your traffic here, and it’s also where your customers are actively shopping. Use that to your advantage to capture their attention and convert them into SMS subscribers.  
  • On your email and social channels: Encourage your email subscribers and social followers to sign-up for text messages from your brand to get SMS-exclusive content and discounts. 
  • On your checkout page: Capture subscribers at the point of sale by including an SMS sign-up option on your checkout page. It’s the perfect time to incentivize someone who’s making a purchase to join your SMS program for product updates or a discount on their next order.  
  • Offline and in your stores: Invite your customers to opt in to SMS from anywhere with Text-to-Join (TTJ) keywords. You can include TTJ information in your stores, on window displays, in dressing rooms, or at the checkout counter. You can also print it on your receipts, packaging, physical mailers, and more. 

Bonus tip: Incorporate preference collection into your list-growth strategy

Start learning about what your subscribers want from the moment they opt in to SMS by adding a Preference Collection form to your sign-up units. You can use the insights you gather, such as their content and shopping preferences, to send them more relevant text messages in the future (hint: during Cyber Week).

lensdirect sign-up unit for SMS and email

Want more tips and ideas for growing your SMS list before the holidays? Check out our definitive guide with best practices and examples. 

Turn on triggered journeys

One perk of using SMS as a marketing channel is the ability to use triggered text messages to engage your subscribers at critical points in the customer journey. Once you set them up, they keep driving incremental revenue for your brand in the background—meaning less manual work for you and your marketing team. 

Consider adding these high-impact journeys to your SMS program, if you haven’t already, before launching your holiday promotions.  

Welcome series for new subscribers

This is your chance to make a memorable first impression while providing value. Depending on your goals for SMS, you can use your welcome journey to: 

  • Deliver your sign-up incentive and follow-up with reminders
  • Introduce subscribers to your brand
  • Share what kind of content they can expect from your text messages
  • Invite them to join your loyalty or rewards program
  • Simply say hello

But you can also incorporate two-way texting messaging to strike up a conversation with new subscribers and ask them about their preferences. Doing this early on allows you to collect valuable zero-party data by saving subscriber replies as custom attributes, which you can then use to segment and personalize your SMS campaigns.

ReserveBar conversational text message
Browse and abandoned cart reminders

Setting up browse abandonment and cart abandonment journeys allows you to recover otherwise lost revenue from high-intent shoppers. Maybe they browsed a shirt on your website, but didn’t add it to their cart, or filled their cart with gifts for friends and family, but didn’t check out. Sending a well-timed text message reminding someone about the items they left behind—and suggesting they take another look—could be the push they need to place an order.

Revel Nail abandoned cart text message

These triggered reminders can make an even bigger impact during the holidays, when people comparison shop to find the best deal before making a purchase. 

Remember to include a direct link back to the product a subscriber was looking at or to their cart to simplify the buying process for them. 

Low inventory and back in stock alerts

It’s not uncommon for items to sell out fast when they’re in high-demand, like when everyone’s shopping for gifts or a brand’s having a big sale. The good news is, if you’ve integrated SMS with your e-commerce platform, you can use your product data to keep your subscribers in the loop. You can let them know when a product they’ve viewed that was previously out of stock is now back in stock, or when they interact with any products in your store that are low inventory.

No Cow back in stock alert text message

For anyone who’s been eyeing a product they really want to buy—either for themselves or for someone else—these messages create a sense of urgency to get it before it’s gone. 

Joined a segment journeys

Also known as Magical Journeys, these allow you to create personalized experiences for your customers based on actions they take or milestones they meet. They trigger when a subscriber enters into a specific segment (that you choose) for the first time. 

For example, someone who makes multiple purchases could join your VIP segment and earn a reward. Or you can add someone to a segment when they purchase a particular product and recommend complementary items. You can even use joined a segment journeys to re-engage lapsed customers who haven't purchased in a while. 

Before you get started, think about your different audience segments and how you can create magical moments for them that drive engagement, loyalty, and repeat purchases—especially during the holidays.

Add transactional text messages to the mix  

Online shoppers are all too familiar with the feeling of placing an order and immediately wanting a status update. They want to know when it ships, easily track the status in real-time, and get a notification when it’s out for delivery. 

Transactional text messages allow you to proactively keep your subscribers informed post-purchase by sending order updates directly to their phones (with a link to track the status). 

It’s a good idea to get transactional journeys set up now, so you can make things more convenient for your customers as they try to complete their holiday gift shopping in advance. They'll also be helpful later on, when people are up against shipping deadlines and eager to make sure their last-minute purchases arrive on time. 

A/B test your SMS campaigns to refine your strategy 

A/B testing helps you understand what resonates with your SMS audience and where you can make changes to improve your messaging and strategy. For example, some subscribers may respond better to playful messages with emojis and GIFs while others prefer messages that include only text and links. 

You can test a lot of different elements to find the right balance or structure: 

  • MMS vs. SMS
  • Emoji usage
  • Copy variations (e.g., shorter vs. longer messages)
  • CTA (e.g., “Shop now,” “Click here,” “Ends soon")
  • Tone of voice
  • Send times

We recommend running A/B tests now, before your big holiday marketing push, because it gives you enough time to optimize your text messaging strategy for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Set the expectation that subscribers can text you directly 

There are a couple of ways to incorporate two-way text messaging into your SMS strategy. You can use Two-Way Journeys™ to understand your subscribers' individual preferences and deliver personalized product recommendations. You can use Attentive Concierge™ for more 1:1 support and to answer questions that help people decide what to buy.

The key is to make sure your customers are aware that they can text you back—and that they can expect a direct response from your brand in return.

Calpak conversational text message

Try adding a conversational component to your welcome series, or including a call to action like “text back if you have any questions” in your campaign messages as a first step. If your customers know they can text you, they'll be more likely to reach out when they need help or want gift recommendations later on.

Creating your SMS strategy for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

When your brand is ready to kick off holiday planning and build out your marketing calendar, keep these tips and ideas in mind for using SMS to amplify your strategy. 

To help your subscribers fulfill their holiday shopping lists:  

Lean into seasonal moments to inspire early purchases

There are plenty of opportunities to text your subscribers with creative offers that encourage them to shop before Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consider creating campaigns around niche holidays that align with your brand and will make your customers excited to buy specific products. Check out our 2022 text messaging calendar for key dates and inspiration. 

Offer month-long holiday deals and discounts

Instead of waiting until the end of November to launch your Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, let people shop your holiday sale throughout the entire month. Some brands take this approach—called Slowvember—to promote mindful shopping habits and getting ahead of shipping deadlines while also keeping an eye on their inventory. 

Share curated gift guides around specific products and interests

Make holiday shopping easier for your subscribers by sharing gift guides that help them find something for everyone on their list. (They might even discover a product or two they want to add to their own wishlists while browsing your recommendations.) You can keep sharing these guides all season long to drive purchases from last-minute shoppers, too. 

text message example from Aurate

Bonus tip: Create segments based on products your subscribers have browsed or purchased and send them the most appropriate gift guide to increase the chance of conversion. 

Use conversational text messages to deliver personalized recommendations 

Another way to encourage product discovery around the holidays is by simply asking your subscribers how you can help them with their shopping. Create a conversational campaign that directs someone to specific items based on who or what they're shopping for and their budget. Include questions that are true to your brand and relevant to your target audience. 

two-way journeys text message from NYDJ

To maximize engagement (and revenue) on Black Friday and Cyber Monday: 

Customize your sign-up units to highlight your current promotions 

Replace your existing sign-up unit—and update it throughout the week—to build excitement around your sales. Leading up to Black Friday, incentivize shoppers to sign up for texts to be the first to know when your deals drop. During Black Friday and Cyber Monday, launch new sign-up units, especially if you're increasing the discount or offering a different promotion. 

If your deals aren’t changing, refreshing the design and copy can help capture shoppers’ attention and encourage more SMS opt-ins when there's high traffic coming to your site. 

customized SMS sign-up units for Black Friday and Cyber Monday from Farmacy Beauty
Remember to update your triggered messages, too 

Building on the previous tip, make sure your triggered messages also reflect your Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. Include language in your welcome message that confirms a new subscriber is on the early access list or joined just in time for your best deal of the year. 

Add timely holiday sale-related language to your browse and abandoned cart reminders as well to create a sense of urgency with your high-intent shoppers. 

holiday triggered message examples from Revel Nail and Farmacy Beauty
Give your text subscribers first access to shop your sales 

Your SMS subscribers are some of your most loyal shoppers, and chances are they signed up for text messages to get exclusive perks from your brand. Giving them early access to shop your Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales before anyone else is a win-win. You’ll make your subscribers feel like VIPs and drive revenue before your sale officially begins. 

Send reminders throughout the week to keep the momentum going

Some shoppers like to buy right away on Black Friday, while others prefer to wait for more deals to pop up during Cyber Week. Sending multiple messages about your sales is the best way to make sure your subscribers don't forget about what you have to offer. 

To get the most out of these reminders, use segmentation to target subscribers who haven't made a purchase yet—and exclude those who have. Doing this allows you to follow up with non-purchasers in a way that doesn't fatigue the rest of your audience. 

segmented text message example from Bliss

Remember to share your marketing calendar with your broader team and anyone else helping you plan and execute your strategy for Black Friday and Cyber Monday (like your point of contact at Attentive). 

Once you’ve finalized your promotions, the next step is to start designing the creative assets for your sign-up units and campaigns. From there, you can build everything in your SMS platform and schedule as much as possible in advance. 

SMS holiday planning best practices

Whether this is your first holiday season using SMS, or you're looking to build on your strategy from last year, follow these best practices to get the most out of the channel during Cyber Week this year:   

Optimize your SMS program (for the best results later):

  • Make growing your SMS list a priority. Incentivize opt-ins across your website, email, social channels, checkout page, and offline (like in your stores) to capture new subscribers everywhere you have an engaged audience. 
  • Add these high-impact triggered journeys to your SMS program: a welcome series to new subscribers, browse and abandoned cart reminders, low inventory and back in stock alerts, and joined a segment journeys. 
  • Set up transactional text messages to make order tracking more convenient for your subscribers. 
  • A/B test your SMS campaigns to see what performs best and improve your text messaging strategy before Black Friday/Cyber Monday. 
  • Experiment with sending two-way text messages or even onboard Attentive Concierge to start setting the expectation that your subscribers can have back-and-forth conversations with your brand. 

Use SMS to amplify your holiday marketing strategy: 

  • Create campaigns around seasonal moments to inspire your subscribers to start holiday shopping early. 
  • Help your subscribers fulfill their holiday shopping lists by sending them curated gift guides, or create a conversational campaign that provides them with personalized recommendations. 
  • Customize your SMS sign-up units and triggered text messages before—and throughout—Cyber Week to promote your current deals and offers. 
  • Give your text subscribers first access to shop your sales, and then keep the momentum going by sending reminders to anyone who hasn’t made a purchase yet. 

Finalize everything in advance: 

  • Once you’ve created your SMS campaign calendar, share it with everyone who needs to be informed (including your point of contact at Attentive).  
  • Confirm your promotions and offers for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 
  • Design all of your creative assets, including sign-up units, landing pages, and any images for your SMS campaigns.
  • Make sure all segments you want to target are created, including any third-party segments that require prior syncing and any manual segments you need to upload.
  • Schedule as much as you can (campaigns, sign-up units, triggered messages, etc) before Cyber Week kicks off, so your SMS program is ready to go when you are. 

Stay tuned for more marketing tips and strategies for using SMS to meet—and exceed—your goals this holiday season. In the meantime, browse Texts We Love for Black Friday/Cyber Monday text messaging ideas.

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