Learn how one brand quickly turned SMS into a profitable channel during their first year with Attentive through A/B testing, segmentation, and conversational commerce.
As a member of Attentive’s Client Strategy team, I’ve worked with many interesting brands on their SMS marketing programs, helping them implement unique strategies to make their text message marketing programs more sophisticated (and profitable).
While many brands see SMS as a critical channel to help them reach their business goals, it’s still a relatively new space for some. If you feel like your own strategy could use some improvement, you’re not alone. Our 2021 survey of marketers found that 26.4% believe they need to do more to maximize the channel. Just 22.5% felt very confident that they’re using SMS marketing to its greatest extent.
With 81.2% of consumers opted in to at least one brand’s SMS marketing program (according to our recent survey), now is definitely the time to think about how to dive in if you haven’t already.
So when I got the chance to sit down with one of our customers who I work with daily, Farmacy Beauty, I was excited to share insights on how they took their SMS marketing strategy to new heights during their first year with Attentive—plus some of the top tips I tell the brands I partner with.
Launching SMS marketing with Attentive
Farmacy Beauty launched their text messaging channel with Attentive in January 2021, with the initial goal of growing their list of subscribers, and reaching their most engaged audience where they wanted to communicate with the brand—SMS. “I’m very much obsessed with SMS and used Attentive at my previous company. I knew you were the best in the industry,” said Tiffany Marie Corpuz, Senior Director of E-Commerce at Farmacy Beauty.
To drive maximum engagement, Corpuz focused first on segmenting their text message sends.
Early segmentation strategies
Farmacy Beauty wanted to learn as much as they could about their audience. They started segmenting their sends to learn which subscribers were the most engaged. Once they had a segment of highly engaged subscribers—those who clicked through on at least one text message from the brand—Farmacy Beauty began sending them special offers, such as a free mystery bag with purchase.
The brand also uses Attentive’s geo-targeting to reach subscribers who’re located in a specific area. “I remember looking outside one day to see it was snowing. So we sent a snow day text to our subscribers located on the East Coast. We were able to activate that message so quickly,” said Corpuz.
During high shopping periods, the brand will text their full subscriber list to share a sale or offer. Those who haven’t purchased within four days receive a follow-up text reminding them that it’s their last chance to save.
For sales and other marketing initiatives you’re launching, you should have a plan for which subscribers you want to communicate with, the content you plan to share, and how frequently a given audience should receive messages during the initiative. Each audience should receive a text message that’s highly relevant to their preferences, demographics, and any other information you know about them.
A/B testing to understand what converts the best
To build on their SMS strategy, Corpuz and her team began running A/B tests. They experimented with GIFs vs. static images; editorial images vs. all-white images; and using emojis vs. no emojis.
“We wanted to understand what worked for our subscribers instead of optimizing as much as we could. We’ve even tested which ingredient we should feature,” added Corpuz. Through tests, Farmacy Beauty learned that texts with an emoji (vs. no emoji) or GIF (vs. static image) work best for their subscribers.
There’s no secret formula to follow when setting up your messages, so it’s important to test frequently and determine the best approach, especially since preferences may change as your list grows. Testing multiple elements (one at a time) within your text message works really well to learn what your audience wants, and identify areas of improvement in your strategy. Other variables you can A/B test include link placement, CTA, tone of voice, and send time.
Taking their SMS marketing strategy up a notch
While Farmacy Beauty saw early success with their text messaging channel, they found opportunities to make it even better.
Personalizing their welcome series
After a new subscriber joins Farmacy Beauty’s text messaging channel, they receive their first two messages: a greeting that includes their discount for signing up, and the brand’s contact card to save in their phone. “Sending a contact card is really important for our brand. We want our subscribers to know we’re the ones texting them instead of just seeing our short code,” added Corpuz.
If a new subscriber hasn’t made a purchase through SMS within two days after joining, Farmacy Beauty encourages the new subscriber to try their clean skincare value sets if they’re not sure what they’re looking for. Four days after that, if a subscriber still hasn’t made a purchase, the brand sends them a text about their return policy (free on all orders), and reminds them to use their coupon before it’s gone.
For subscribers who did make a purchase from the welcome message, Farmacy Beauty sends a helpful text to check out their Instagram for tips, tricks, and exclusive content. “I’m kind of obsessed with our welcome series,” added Corpuz. “Once a subscriber has signed up for our SMS program, we want them to convert as soon as possible. So we’ve done a lot of testing on our Welcome Journey to learn what works.”
Your welcome message(s) should introduce new subscribers to your brand, and set expectations for the value they’ll get. If you want to set the stage for more interactive and personalized content, lead with a two-way message in your welcome flow. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of your subscriber's personal preferences. Then, you can use this information to better inform your segmentation and overall SMS strategy.
More advanced segmentation
Farmacy Beauty didn’t want to text their whole list each time they sent a message, in an effort to personalize the channel. “We’ll analyze the behaviors of our subscribers—like if they need a refill, or if they’ve clicked on a text or made a purchase. Then we suppress them from our sends when necessary,” said Corpuz.
In January 2022, Farmacy Beauty introduced their new rewards program, The Hive. Members complete certain actions to earn points, then redeem them for products or dollar-off coupons.
“We found that our customers who are part of our rewards program are highly engaged with SMS, so we wanted to talk to them in a way that elevated our loyalty program” said Corpuz. “We’re able to add them to a segment, and communicate with them in a more effective way than sending the same message to everyone.”
High intent subscribers who haven’t made a purchase
Farmacy Beauty also segments their text message sends based on intent and purchasing behavior. They define “high intent, hasn’t purchased” as subscribers who’ve engaged with a text in the last 60 days—or subscribed within the last 90 days—and have added to their cart but not yet made a purchase.
“We’ll send them friendly reminders because we know they're interested. This text message helps us seal the deal with those subscribers,” added Corpuz.
Rather than sending texts to your full list every time, incorporate segmentation by engaging your “VIP” segment more frequently than subscribers who’ve never made a purchase. Building an engagement calendar for each of your segments ensures you’re regularly interacting with each audience.
Offline engagement and list growth
Last spring, Farmacy Beauty partnered with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream to host two in-person events, one in New York City and one in Los Angeles. “We came up with these events as a way to reach new and existing customers in-person, and create an opportunity for them to engage with us. It was a natural way to drive them to sign up for our text messages in real time, too,” said Corpuz.
Leading up to the event, Farmacy Beauty created two geo-targeted segments so they could text their existing subscribers located in the New York City and LA areas with an invite to the event. For those who weren’t SMS subscribers yet, the brand used the event to drive more sign-ups.
“At the event, we had a QR code on the signage that encouraged people to sign up for our text messages to get a free scoop of ice cream,” added Corpuz. When someone scanned the code, they were sent to a dedicated landing page to sign up for texts. “After they got their free scoop, they got to spin a wheel to win free products and samples or a discount code to use on our website.”
Over 50% of the people who scanned the QR code signed up for Farmacy Beauty’s text messages, helping them grow their list offline while engaging with their audience in person.
There are plenty of other ways to grow your SMS marketing list offline, without hosting an event or pop-up. Try adding a QR code to your package inserts that directs users to a dedicated landing page where they can sign up for texts. This will also help you identify the subscriber source they converted through to measure if your offline efforts are working.
When Farmacy Beauty was launching a new product, Clearly Clean cleansing balm, they wanted to socialize it differently than past releases. “We knew everyone loved our Green Clean cleansing balm, so we decided to launch a sister product,” said Corpuz. “We wanted to share the news with our customers in a more conversational way by asking them what they thought our next product was going to be.”
The brand sent subscribers a sneak peek of the product and asked them to reply with what they thought the new launch would be. Then, a few days later—once they had launched the product on their site—Farmacy Beauty sent a promotional text to all subscribers, encouraging them to “get it first.”
Farmacy Beauty also uses Attentive Concierge™ to proactively provide support to website browsers. “When a subscriber views a product on our website, they enter into a journey which triggers a conversational text message asking them if they have any questions or are looking for anything in particular,” said Corpuz.
Once a subscriber replies, their message is forwarded to Attentive Concierge, and the subscriber receives real-time responses to their questions via text.
I genuinely think meeting our customers where they want to communicate with us is the most important thing. The fact that we're able to answer a customer through this channel [SMS] that they prefer is just priceless.
- Tiffany Marie Corpuz, Senior Director of E-Commerce, Farmacy Beauty
If you’re looking to drive more engagement via SMS, try sending two-way text messages (also known as conversational commerce). We’re used to having back-and-forth conversations and sharing information over SMS. So it feels natural (and more convenient) for subscribers to answer brands’ questions about their preferences—and get answers to their own questions—via text messaging.
From zero to 60(x+ ROI)
During their first holiday season using SMS, Farmacy Beauty was focused on growing their list. They encouraged their email subscribers to opt into text messages prior to Black Friday/Cyber Monday via a dedicated landing page. “Our SMS subscribers are our highest engaged customers,” said Corpuz. “So we wanted more people from our email list to sign up for text messages, too.” They’d be the first to know about Farmacy Beauty’s Black Friday sales, and got a list of things to do while they wait—like signing up for the brand’s loyalty program, adding items to their cart, and following them on TikTok.
Meanwhile, on their website, Farmacy Beauty launched new sign-up units customized for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to encourage more SMS opt-ins.
Once their holiday deals began, Farmacy Beauty rewarded their loyalty segment with early access to shop 24 hours before anyone else.
The brand also added discount codes to their browse and cart abandonment reminders to convert subscribers who were interested in products, but hadn’t clicked “buy.”
We were really pleased with the success of our SMS channel performance for our first year. Over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, our SMS program drove 68x ROI, and we gained 2,700+ new SMS subscribers over that week. Throughout our first year, SMS has driven 13x ROI, and we've grown our list to over 31k subscribers.
- Tiffany Marie Corpuz, Senior Director of E-Commerce, Farmacy Beauty
Your holiday marketing doesn’t have to be limited to discounts. Send SMS subscribers VIP access to behind-the-scenes looks or exclusive content. Or, invite them to members-only events, from Instagram Lives to exclusive after-hours shopping events.
Best practices for creating your own successful SMS marketing campaigns
Whether you’re new to SMS, or simply looking for ways to improve your efforts, follow these best practices from over 5,000 brands who partner with us:
- Find someone who has mobile marketing savvy and a strong understanding of your brand’s voice to run your SMS program. That may be a dedicated person or team in-house, or you might work with a digital marketing agency to support your SMS strategy.
- Identify the main KPIs you’ll focus on to define success. This could be list growth, click-through or conversion rates, channel/message ROI, and more.
- If you’re driving email and SMS sign-ups at the same time, you’ll need to integrate your SMS program with your email service provider (ESP). Then you can start automatically passing back email opt-ins.
- Segment your SMS marketing campaigns to increase ROI by tailoring messages. You can tailor campaigns based on engagement and purchase history, VIP and loyalty status, geographic location, and more.
- Send a combination of campaign messages—or one-time single sends—to share time-sensitive offers and announcements, and triggered messages—like browse and cart abandonment reminders.
- Find the ideal text messaging cadence that makes subscribers feel happy to hear from you every time. Based on internal performance data, we recommend sending at least eight campaign messages per month to your full subscriber base to hit the sweet spot for both revenue per send and opt-out rate.
- Keep your SMS copy concise. We recommend keeping copy between 75-115 characters, or 3-4 lines long. Use timely language, like “ending soon,” “starting now,” and “almost over.”
- End your message with a strong and clear call to action, and tell your subscribers exactly what step to take next—whether it’s taking advantage of a sale or signing up for a loyalty program
Read more stories from brands like Thrive Market, Rebecca Minkoff, and Jenni Kayne, or learn how to maximize SMS marketing success during your first 30 days.