6 SMS Marketing Priorities for UK Brands

Thread London seminar discussion taking place on stage
Published on
Jun 26, 2024
Written by
Carla Thomas
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At the Thread London event, discussions highlighted SMS marketing’s crucial role in driving revenue and building loyalty. Industry leaders shared strategies for innovative engagement and nurturing long-term relationships, revealing six key themes central to evolving UK consumer interactions.

eMarketer predicted that in 2024, more than half of e-commerce sales in the UK will be conducted through mobile platforms, highlighting the importance of using mobile strategies to directly and personally connect with customers.

Reflecting this trend, Thread London 2024, the UK edition of our global customer event, featured discussions and expert panels with iconic brands such as Anthropologie, Charles Tyrwhitt, and The INKEY List–giving marketers a deep dive into how SMS marketing is reshaping how brands connect with consumers in the UK. 

The importance of SMS marketing in the UK

SMS is becoming more important in the UK's marketing landscape‌. Especially in today's world, where attention is scarce and inboxes are full, SMS marketing is a standout, direct, and profitable communication channel. 

90% of UK consumers are interested in SMS marketing from brands, but many brands have yet to tap into the channel. Whether you’re announcing a new product, answering customer questions, sending shipping updates, or announcing a sale, SMS can help you improve the customer experience.

In our conversations with event attendees, we heard a common theme–budgets are tight, and bandwidth is even tighter. According to our internal data:

By understanding and addressing these hurdles, brands can optimize their SMS marketing strategies and achieve their business goals.

Top 6 priorities for UK marketers

The event provided a platform for in-depth discussions on the pivotal role of mobile marketing, specifically through SMS, in driving revenue and building customer loyalty. In addition to advice and experiences shared by our panelists, we had a chance to connect with marketers to gain valuable insights into how they’re thinking about consumer engagement and fostering long-term relationships.

These are the six major themes that emerged from those conversations. 

Acquisition, experimentation, and testing

Attentive customers are testing and incorporating game and engagement elements such as spin-to-win, countdown timers, waitlists, and pre-engagement steps into their sign-up units. These more interactive pop-ups can motivate customers to sign up for your SMS program by making the sign-up experience fun and exclusive. 

Example gamification spin-to-win sign-up unit

At Thread London, Head of E-Commerce at Warrior Supplements, Adam Aubrey shared that adding social proofing to their sign-up units (e.g. ‘x amount of people have signed up in the last day’) has led to a 10% uplift in sign-ups. Other marketers are also testing how sign-up units perform on desktop vs. mobile, as customer behaviors vary depending on the device used to visit a website. 

Data-driven decision-making

Prioritizing data-driven decision-making is crucial for elevating customer satisfaction and loyalty. By leveraging data, marketers gain invaluable insights into customer behaviors, preferences, and engagement trends. This approach informs the customization of messages to ensure they align perfectly with the audience's needs and expectations.

Charles Tyrwhitt discovered their retail customers typically don’t shop online–they prioritize the in-store experience. Email Marketing Manager, Shelley Morecroft-King, uses this information to make sure communications reflect their preferences to enhance the customer experience, saying “We segment by individual store and send targeted messages such as store-specific offers.”

Data facilitates precise audience segmentation, significantly boosting open and conversion rates, and driving ROI.

We use our lower margin 'stickier' products to capture customers and have an automated flow that upsells higher margin products.

-  Adam Aubrey, Head of E-Commerce, Warrior Supplements

Segmentation and enhanced personalization

More than ever, there's a need to get creative with segmentation to personalize customer experiences, yet 56% of UK marketers still struggle to target their audiences effectively. By categorizing and segmenting the larger customer base into more defined groups based on criteria such as demographics, behaviors, or preferences, marketers can craft customized messages that resonate and drive engagement. 

This focused approach not only enhances message relevance and meets their specific needs but also boosts engagement and conversion rates, making sure that marketing resources are utilized effectively for maximum impact.

Georgie Little, Head of Retention and Loyalty at skincare brand The INKEY List, shared how they leverage creating skincare-related segments to enhance personalization saying “We have skincare quizzes on the website. It really helps us to identify skin concerns and the solutions people are looking for so we can then use that data to better personalize our SMS, our communication, and loyalty program.” This first- and zero-party data can be collected through the strategic use of sign-up units, Two-Way Journeys™ or e-commerce platform integration. 

Two examples of SMS segmentation tactics

For other industries–such as fashion retail–segments like product categories (e.g. dresses, trousers), subcategories (e.g. chinos), and concession brands, were other great examples shared by Anthropologie and Charles Tyrwhitt. 

A strong segmentation and targeting strategy also helps optimize resource allocation, making sure that marketing efforts are focused on the most promising segments. Some of our customers revealed they’ve started to build more advanced segments that include 2-3 rules, as opposed to just one, to create a hyper-personalized experience.

Coordinated SMS and email strategy

As brands utilize both channels, what does best practice coordination look like?

The INKEY List is a great example of orchestrating SMS and email, keeping both lists engaged but not being repetitive–which can impact opt-out rates and brand perception. Little shared, “We have a completely different strategy for email and SMS. With SMS we know they're more invested so we treat them as VIPs from the get-go with perks.” Using SMS as a VIP channel by creating special offers and integrating loyalty programs helps to foster an environment of feeling valued.

Two examples of VIP SMS marketing messages

Little and Alice Morgan, CRM Manager at lifestyle brand Anthropologie, both shared an appreciation for how reactive ‌a tool SMS is. Little prioritizes this channel for time-sensitive messages. For example, piggybacking off TV mentions by sending a message (e.g., ‘did you catch us on TV?) the same day.

This omnichannel approach will enable businesses to connect with customers through their preferred platforms, fostering a unified and consistent brand experience. Overall, brands agreed and advised to not assume the two audiences were the same. 

Nurture strategy over immediate conversions

Instead of only prioritizing sign-ups and immediate conversions, marketers are cultivating lasting relationships with customers through SMS. 

A great way to increase customer lifetime value is to incorporate a customer referral program into your SMS campaigns. Aubrey revealed customer referrals drive 4x more LTV than non-referred customers for Warrior Supplements.

Aliya Dautova, Head of CRM at Jaded London, shared that simply having SMS within their marketing mix was a retention driver–it's within the top two channels that help drive retention.  Their returning customer rate has increased from 35% to 45% since their SMS launch. 

From a LTV POV, we know that someone who subscribes to SMS goes on to become 2-3x more valuable than someone who hasn't opted in.

-  Georgie Little, Head of Retention and Loyalty, The INKEY List

Messages such as replenishment, stock, and next purchase notifications are also powerful tools for nurturing customers and keeping your brand top of mind.

Experimentation with AI

AI is revolutionizing marketing, and SMS marketing is no exception. It repeatedly came up as what marketers are most excited about regarding the future of SMS due to its abilities surrounding predictive intelligence, scalability, and improving efficiencies. 

I'm most excited about the role AI can play in the future of SMS marketing. It would be incredible to talk to customers one-on-one using all the data we know about them in a real conversational manner, incorporating products and optimized send times.

-  Sarah Pennycook, CRM Consultant

If enhanced personalization is a future strategy that's top of mind for you, AI can be used to create targeted and relevant messages at scale, boosting engagement and conversions while saving valuable resources and time.

While speakers and attendees agreed AI will be used as building blocks rather than a replacement, assistance with automating send times, optimizing copy, and segmenting came out as a top priority.

Where is SMS marketing headed in the UK? 

With forecasted growth in e-commerce and consumer appetite, SMS has become a key channel for marketers in the UK. AI is set to further revolutionize the channel and usher in an era of more personalized and relevant customer communications that drive performance and fortify customer relationships in more advanced ways. 

Ready to elevate your marketing game with Attentive SMS? Discover the possibilities by requesting a demo today.

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