Trends and Insights

We Surveyed 900 Brands Around the Globe and Analyzed 25 Billion Messages. Here’s What You Need to Know.

2023 SMS Marketing Benchmarks Report
Published on
Mar 30, 2023
Written by
Jen Brett
Jen is the Director of Customer & Market Insights at Attentive. Outside of work, her interests are reading a good thriller, cooking, and fitness

Explore all the actionable insights you need to build a high-performing SMS marketing program across all message types in our Global State of Conversational Commerce Report.  

For marketers around the world, 2023 is the year of getting back to basics. With a drive to maximize budget and an eye on results, marketing this year can be summarized in one word: performance.

At the same time, brand-to-consumer communication continues to evolve, becoming more and more conversational. There are a few factors driving this change: Mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous across the globe, and consumers want marketing and brand messaging to fit into their day-to-day lives. Consumers prefer to communicate via SMS, and it’s the channel through which marketers can deliver measurable performance (especially revenue). 

We surveyed over 900 brands across global markets and analyzed more than 25 billion messages sends, across 850,000+ unique messages to understand how marketers are using SMS today and what good (and great) performance looks like. Using this data, we’ve created benchmarks for campaigns, journeys, and conversational journeys across a variety of message types and 13 verticals. 

For all the data, you can access the full SMS Marketing Benchmarks in the 2023 Global State of Conversational Commerce Report. Let’s jump into the highlights. 

Conversations that perform

Marketers’ top goals for 2023 reflect a return to basic marketing functions that drive results: 74% are focusing on retaining existing customers by building loyalty, and 73% on acquiring new customers. Building their brand is a distant third, at 38%.

What are your top 3 marketing goals for 2023?

As both a retention and acquisition tool, SMS is a strong channel to help marketers achieve these goals. In fact, 79% of marketers using SMS are leveraging it as a retention channel. SMS offers brands direct, immediate access to the consumer’s primary inbox to keep them coming back. 

SMS is also a direct revenue-driving channel. 73% of marketers say SMS drives incremental revenue for their business. And almost one-third of marketers see SMS increasing their average order value, and growing overall customer lifetime value.   

With so many ways to grow SMS as a retention channel, now’s the time to understand what good—and great—SMS performance looks like and the actions you can take to get there.

Make a great first impression

Your welcome message journey is your subscribers’ introduction to your SMS program. This type of message can be used to deliver special offers, give a friendly hello, and establish a relationship with subscribers. 

Zales two-way text message campaign example

In our analysis, welcome messages consistently have some of the highest variation between median and top performers across verticals. But, this message type also consistently delivers some of the highest revenue per message. It’s worth investing in refining and optimizing your welcome message to maximize performance and subscriber retention (especially because it can have the highest median opt-out rate of all message types). 

Here are our tips for optimizing your welcome message: 

  • Showcase your brand’s value and use compelling content and imagery to engage and retain new subscribers. For example, GIFs are a friendly and visually-appealing way to introduce people to your brand. And if GIFs aren’t a fit for your brand, compelling product imagery is another effective way to remind subscribers of why they signed up. 
  • Add a contact card to personalize subscribers’ experiences and differentiate your program. Contact cards allow subscribers to save a brand as a contact (adding a brand name and logo), boosting engagement and lowering opt-out rates. Most importantly: because some devices/operating systems give subscribers the ability to filter out unknown senders, saving a brand with a contact card helps you avoid getting filtered. 
  • Provide a special offer upfront, and A/B test sending offer reminders. Test different wait times or branching by behavior or segment to find what resonates most with your audience. 
  • For higher-ticket items, like furniture or sports equipment, focus your welcome journey on building brand affinity and providing additional information to your customer.
  • For lower ticket items, like candles or grocery items, focus on reminding subscribers about their coupon and pointing them toward bestsellers.

Making it conversational

To go deeper, brands can launch a Two-Way Journeys™ welcome series. This creates an engaging experience from the start and primes subscribers for further conversational experiences. A two-way welcome series is a great opportunity for a brand to collect zero-party data up-front, such as information on subscribers’ interests, product preferences, and more. This information can be used to build segments for targeted campaigns that deliver a more personalized messaging experience and higher ROI. 

Send timely and helpful reminders

Triggered messages—like abandoned cart, checkout, and browse reminders—help brands re-engage high-intent shoppers to recoup otherwise lost revenue. For example, brands can use abandoned cart journeys to automatically engage subscribers who have added items to their cart but not completed their purchase. And with browse abandonment journeys, brands can text subscribers who have visited a product page but didn't add any items to their cart.

CB2 SMS Marketing message example

Based on our analysis, these types of triggered journeys are among brands’ highest performing and most adopted across verticals. Abandoned cart and checkout journeys consistently drive the highest click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate (CVR), and revenue per message (RPM). Plus, these journeys have lower opt-out rates, highlighting how useful shoppers find them. 

One thing to note: Browse abandonment reminders are consistently high-performers, but they tend to have higher opt-out rates than other triggered messages. You should explore how to send the most effective and timely messages to maximize ROI for your brand. Here are a few other tips:  

  • Test triggered message copy to determine the right mix of helpful reminders and incentives. Run A/B tests to learn which elements yield the highest revenue while driving a strong ROI (like different message frequencies, timing after browsing, including offers, SMS vs MMS, and personalization macros).
  • Create product-specific triggered messages and run A/B tests with strategies to drive conversions. Test adding personalization macros (e.g., first name or product name), discounts and offers, or free shipping. And add branch steps within the journey to target certain segments (e.g., VIPs or first-time purchasers).
  • Link to reviews and other forms of social proof to encourage shoppers to buy. 
  • Include high quality product imagery to showcase what the consumer is missing out on, like beautiful imagery of apparel or accessories. 
  • Ensure browse abandonment reminders are helpful to avoid opt-outs. For example, include links to educational content, like getting the most out of a piece of sports equipment. You can also test providing incentives on products like grocery items to bring browsers back and convert them into buyers.

Making it conversational

Conversational triggered messages are a great opportunity for you to find out why a customer abandoned a purchase. Whether using Two-Way Journeys or Attentive Concierge™, conversational messages have high response rates, conversion rates, and RPM. Subscribers are using two-way conversations to resolve their shopping problems (and click “buy”). 

And it doesn’t require a ton of manual work on your end. Brands can trigger answers to simple shipping or product questions, like sizing, color, or patterns. With Attentive Concierge™, more nuanced questions are escalated to a live support agent. No matter what type of conversation you’re having, use personalization macros whenever possible to make shoppers feel understood.

Create a sense of urgency

Some message types, like price drop journeys—which automatically message subscribers when a product they’ve expressed interest in has a price reduction—are effective at creating a sense of urgency. Low inventory journeys, meanwhile, will automatically message subscribers when a product they've expressed interest in is almost sold out. And back-in-stock messages let subscribers know when a product they’ve expressed an interest in is available again. These journeys are all highly customizable and targeted, so you can control who enters the journey and which products will trigger a message. 

No Cow SMS marketing message example

These journeys often have some of the highest click-through rates across message types (like in the children's apparel category, where parents are clearly looking for a good deal). CVR and RPM does tend to be lower for these journeys, but brands can adopt some tactics to maximize ROI

  • Send these message types only to users who’ve browsed the product or added it to their cart without completing a purchase.
  • Customize which products trigger these journeys—or segment based on product category, collection, and more—to maximize ROI.
  • Customize the number of units remaining to trigger a low inventory journey to avoid selling out before subscribers have a chance to click through. Choosing an inventory level that makes sense for your brand ensures a positive customer experience while still creating urgency for best-selling items.

Make sure your customers don’t miss out on a great deal

Campaign messages should be used to send timely offers, like flash sales and limited-time perks. We’ve found that while campaign message conversion rates are often lower than triggered messages across verticals, brands who focus on building an effective segmentation strategy make the most of campaign messages.

In fact, when combined with a timely promotion, segmenting campaign messages can deliver much greater ROI. We suggest starting with segments that include high-intent shoppers who view or add products to their carts but haven’t purchased yet, active and engaged subscribers who often click on message links, or geo-targeted messages (especially those that are weather dependent).  

Keep the conversation going

Post-purchase messages help brands keep the conversation going with subscribers after they click “buy.” Our analysis shows that while post-purchase messages may not drive the greatest revenue, they’re a very effective way to drive retention and maintain engagement with some of the highest CTRs. 

Dear Brightly SMS marketing message example

Invest time in coming up with engaging content to reduce unsubscribes and encourage shoppers to make repeat purchases.

  • Make subscribers feel part of your brand’s community by encouraging them to leave reviews, join your rewards program, or participate in a referral program. This is also an opportunity to build relationships with customers by sharing educational content like your brand’s origin story, or the your philosophy on sustainability
  • Educate shoppers about their purchase. For example: If someone’s purchased a new cosmetic, let them know about the top five ways to use the product or make it last longer.
  • Encourage repeat purchases through smart segmentation. Recommend related or supporting products based on their purchase history. Consider the buy-cycle of your product, and customize the timing of your post-purchase messaging so they can replenish before they run out. 
  • If you offer subscription savings, use a Post-Purchase automation to remind customers to sign up for subscriptions and nudge them toward becoming repeat customers.

Making it conversational

Finally, use two-way post-purchase journeys to add triggered replies to your post-purchase experience. You can use them to elevate your customer experience with brand-building and cross-selling content, and collect feedback. And, if you branch your journey based on product data, you can tailor your customer feedback survey or conversational questions based on unique product variants. 

Use these insights and benchmarks to guide your SMS strategy and shape where you invest time and resources. But remember—you know your brand better than anyone else. A/B testing message types, variants, offers, and language will help you find the messages that resonate most with your audience. 

Go deeper and learn more about specific vertical insights by exploring Attentive’s complete SMS Marketing Benchmarks Report. And check out the complete 2023 Global State of Conversational Commerce Report, including consumer insights and an interactive quiz to discover more great content.

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