Use this as your data-driven guide for being an early adopter of SMS in the UK—including how to integrate it with your marketing stack, types of messages to send, and tips on what to be mindful of when texting subscribers.
Explore the 2023 Global State of Conversational Commerce for updated data & insights.
As more consumers went all in on e-commerce—and realized they craved a connected and seamless physical and digital experience—SMS marketing became ubiquitous in the US. Consumers began setting higher expectations for personalization from the brands they shopped with. Meanwhile, brands realized SMS provided them with one of the most direct, personalized marketing channels available.
We’re not talking about the generic, “batch-and-blast” or “one-size-fits-all” text messages that we saw several years ago when few brands were using the channel for marketing purposes. Marketers have developed sophisticated, data-informed SMS marketing strategies that allow for highly targeted campaigns and journeys, A/B testing, and back-and-forth conversations.
For US marketers, text messaging is a mainstay in their acquisition and retention toolkit. Brands who partner with Attentive are driving billions in online revenue via text message marketing.
In the United Kingdom, brands are now starting to embrace the channel, and with that comes nearly untapped potential.
According to our 2022 survey of 700 UK consumers, only 34% are currently opted in to SMS from brands—but 90% are interested. That’s roughly the same portion of consumers in the UK interested in receiving texts from brands that we see in the US. While some brands have invested in text message marketing to reach UK consumers, many have yet to offer it.
It's clear there's an appetite in the UK market for the sorts of personalized experiences US consumers have become accustomed to. This post will walk you through how to make SMS a part of your holistic marketing strategy, not to mention give pointers on what to focus on as you get your program up and running.
UK consumers are eager to connect with brands via SMS in a variety of ways
The top reason UK consumers cite for wanting to subscribe to SMS is for access to exclusive VIP perks and discounts (70%). 58% want transactional text messages (like shipping and delivery updates), and over half (55%) want to subscribe to hear about new product launches.
This presents a huge opportunity for you to communicate with your audience through SMS, if you aren’t already, and go beyond transactional messages to increase engagement across the lifecycle.
Of those who’ve already opted in to a text messaging program, 74% are subscribed to five or more brands. And they want to hear from them at least once per week, with 40% of UK consumers wanting to hear from brands multiple times per week.
As SMS adoption grows in the UK, it'll play a major role in diversifying marketing and revenue streams
As a marketer, you’re always looking for new ways to break through the noise to reach your shoppers and drive revenue. “Getting shoppers to engage with my brand” is likely toward the top of your list of challenges. As consumer preferences continue to shift toward mobile commerce, personalized text messaging has emerged as a powerful engagement channel for brands.
From the end of 2020 to the end of 2021, US consumers who opted into SMS marketing from brands increased 26.1%. If international markets follow a similar growth trend, up to 60% of consumers could be opted into SMS marketing programs by early 2023.
By offering SMS, you’ll be creating additional touchpoints beyond the core marketing channels you’re using today, such as email.
95% of UK consumers who are opted in to a brand’s SMS program also subscribe to emails from brands, citing they do so to get updates on products, promotions, and offers immediately.
By letting your customers choose where they want to engage with you—whether that’s email, SMS, or both—you’ll be able to strengthen your relationship with them while diversifying your marketing channel mix.
Keep in mind that adding SMS marketing to your tech stack doesn't mean you’re cannibalizing your other channels, or that you should stop using them. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. SMS marketing is a natural complement to your other channels, like email marketing, and can act as a more immediate engagement channel.
For example, if a shopper has abandoned their online shopping cart, and is opted in to both email and SMS, you can send them a text message 60 minutes after they leave your site to remind them to take another look at the items they left behind. If they don’t convert from that, send them an email 24 hours later as another reminder to complete their purchase.
SMS marketing also pairs well with your loyalty initiatives. 67% of UK consumers said that receiving loyalty or rewards points is their preferred incentive for signing up for texts from brands. This is an especially powerful way to encourage more SMS opt-ins if your brand doesn’t offer discounts.
Attentive can integrate with several of the most popular loyalty platforms, like LoyaltyLion. By connecting your loyalty and text messaging programs, you can add loyalty members to an SMS segment, allowing you to send them exclusive offers based on their loyalty status.
For example, if you’re launching a new collection and want to give your loyalty members first access to shop, send a text to your loyalty segment 24 hours before the rest of your audience gets to shop. You’ll show them that you care and value them as VIP shoppers, while driving immediate value through SMS.
Best practices for sending one-to-one SMS marketing messages
Mobile devices are inherently personal. It’s rare to not have our smartphone within arm’s reach at all times. Text messaging makes it easy for you to engage with potential and existing customers in a one-on-one way on a device they spend most of their time on.
But reaching them where they are with just any message won’t cut it—you have to send the right content at the right moment. You might be asking yourself: “What kind of text messages will resonate best with my customers? What could performance look like for my brand? Where do I even start?”
Each customer and their motivation for interacting with your brand is unique. Ask yourself: What goal is this specific customer trying to achieve at this moment? Using the data you’ve collected from them will help you understand their mindset and intentions.
If they’ve browsed a specific product, send them a reminder to take another look (if they haven’t purchased it yet). Or maybe they’ve bought a specific product for their skin type. If you release a new product that’s meant for that skin type, let them know.
If you can understand their motivations and mindset, you’ll be able to deliver the perfect content right when they need it.
Campaign messages tailored to their interests
Our survey revealed that 75% of UK consumers who subscribe to at least one brand’s text messaging program have made a purchase by clicking a link in the text message within the last month.
When asked what types of messages would make them most likely to complete a purchase, their top answers were content that’s personalized to them, tied to a loyalty program, a nudge that a sale or offer is ending soon, or a reminder that an item they were interested in is back in stock.
Single send, or one-time, campaigns are great for on-demand messaging when you have time-sensitive offers or announcements.
But remember that your subscribers are unique. If you’re not sure what messages will resonate with them, try A/B testing things like copy, offer, emoji vs. no emoji, and send time. Then, use those results to inform your future strategy. You can also try a different message cadence, or segment your campaigns based on engagement, loyalty status, and more.
Triggered messages based on their behaviors
Triggered messages, or Journeys, allow you to send highly relevant messages to subscribers at critical points in the customer journey, such as subscribing to texts from your brand, browsing an item on your website, and leaving items in their online shopping cart. These messages are triggered by a certain behavior from the subscriber, and are “always on,” meaning they’re constantly driving incremental revenue for your brand.
Since these messages send based on some sort of action from your subscriber, you’ll want to use urgency in your text copy to encourage high-intent website visitors to complete their purchase. Powerful, emotional words and short sentences can help you effectively communicate timely messages to your subscribers.
Phrases like, “don’t forget to use your welcome offer, complete your purchase before it’s too late, your shopping bag is waiting, checkout now before your favorite styles sell out” work well to catch subscribers’ attention.
Conversational, two-way messages that prompt a response
If you’re trying to create an even more engaging SMS experience, try sending two-way text messages that help you gather relevant information, preferences, and more. Reach out to ask what types of products they’re most interested in. In that message, provide keywords for them to reply with that correspond to their preference (e.g., Reply 1 for Tops, 2 for Dresses, and 3 for Shoes). Then, you can set up triggered responses based on the keyword they replied with to quickly send them a personalized recommendation.
You can use these responses to set up custom segments to use in future campaign messages. Drawing from the example above, if the subscriber responded with “2 for Dresses,” add them to a segment of subscribers who are looking for dresses. Then, when you’re launching a new dress collection or holding a sale, you’ll already know the subscribers in this segment will be interested in receiving this content.
SMS best practices to keep in mind across the UK consumer lifecycle
Here are a few key tips to keep in mind as you launch and scale your SMS marketing program in the UK:
- Put compliance at the forefront: Make sure your SMS marketing program follows the regulations the UK government has put in place, including the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR).
- Focus on growing your list of SMS subscribers: Growing an engaged SMS subscriber list is one of the most important steps in launching a successful program. Make it as easy as possible for them to sign up, create opt-in opportunities across your marketing channels, and determine an incentive strategy that works for your brand (it doesn’t always have to include a discount).
- Develop your messaging strategy: Lay the foundation for an effective SMS program by activating your triggered messages, including your welcome message, and browse and cart abandonment reminders. Then, you’ll be ready to start sending your first campaign messages.
- Continue to analyze and test your strategy: Just like any other marketing channel, you should always be analyzing your performance to understand what’s working (and what’s not). You should focus on key metrics like subscriber growth, message engagement and opt-out reporting, and revenue attribution. By keeping an eye on these metrics, you can start to learn what works for your audience, and refine your strategy over time.
We’ve seen how the digital transformation of the consumer experience in the US has driven wide adoption of SMS marketing in a short amount of time. And it’s clear from these findings that the UK consumer is primed for the same type of experience.
In a fast-changing market, the brands who will thrive will be the ones who take advantage of direct and personalized channels. More than ever, the engaging experiences customers crave are being delivered via text messaging.
Looking to reach UK consumers with text message marketing? Sign up for a free trial to see why 5,000+ brands partner with us to create personalized mobile experiences.
*All UK consumer data points included in this blog post are sourced from Attentive’s International Survey, conducted in April 2022, with responses from 701 UK consumers.