High SMS Opt-Out Rate? Here Are 6 Tips to Improve It

How to decrease SMS opt-outs
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SMS Marketing
Published on
Jun 29, 2023
Written by
David Cogan
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New isn’t always better. Here are our top tips for decreasing SMS opt-outs and maintaining a healthy subscriber list. 

Opting in to a brand’s SMS program is one of the strongest indicators of purchase intent. Our 2023 State of Conversational Commerce report found 82% of global consumers are likely to make a purchase if they’re signed up for a brand’s SMS program. 

But building an engaged SMS audience isn’t just about growing your subscriber list. Retaining the subscribers you already have is key to driving repeat purchases and increasing brand loyalty.

Knowing what influences subscribers to opt-out of your SMS program—and what strategies you can use to keep them engaged—will help you get the most of your SMS program. 

What is an SMS opt-out? 

An SMS opt-out is when a consumer chooses to unsubscribe from a brand’s text messaging program. SMS is a highly regulated channel, so brands need to make opting out of SMS programs as easy as possible for consumers. Subscribers can simply reply “STOP,” “UNSUBSCRIBE,” “CANCEL,” “END,” or “QUIT” to stop receiving text messages from brands. 

It’s completely normal for consumers to opt out of your SMS program. Subscribers join your SMS program for different reasons. Some may opt in to take advantage of a welcome offer and immediately unsubscribe, while others may have signed up to be the first to know about a specific product launch. Preventing subscribers from opting out once they redeem their coupon will come down to building an engaging welcome series and delivering personalized campaigns. 

Instead, you’ll want to keep an eye on unusually high opt-out rates for campaign messages or journeys. Combined with your click-through and conversion rates, your SMS opt-out rate is a strong indicator of how certain message and content types resonate with your audience. 

It’s also important to note that SMS opt-outs don’t mean subscribers are gone forever. They could choose to resubscribe when they’re ready to make another purchase or they want to stay connected to your brand after learning more. 

How do you calculate an SMS opt-out rate? 

You can track your SMS unsubscribe rate at the message level to understand how specific messages impact subscriber engagement. Simply divide the number of opt-outs by the total number of message recipients, and then multiply that number by 100. 

SMS opt-out rate equation

What is an average SMS opt-out rate? 

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to SMS opt-out benchmarks. Average SMS opt-out rates will vary by industry, list size, list maturity, and message types. We recommend benchmarking against yourself, so you can notice spikes in opt-outs or steadily increasing unsubscribe rates that indicate your messaging strategy isn’t resonating. 

Check out our 2023 SMS Marketing Benchmarks report to see how SMS opt-outs vary by message types for your vertical. 

What causes high SMS opt-out rates? 

There are a few reasons why subscribers may opt out of your SMS program: 

  • Not sending messages at their preferred frequency 
  • Sending messages that are irrelevant to subscribers
  • Not providing enough value to your subscribers

Luckily, there are a few simple strategies you can use to avoid these pitfalls and decrease your SMS opt-out rates. 

6 tips for decreasing SMS opt-outs 

Decreasing your SMS opt-out rate requires taking a holistic and granular look at subscriber engagement. You’ll want to take a high-level look at your calendar, track how often you’re engaging your audience, and what types of messages you’re sending them. But you’ll also want to analyze how your subscribers respond to different message formats, including tone, the types of GIFs and images you use, and incentives.

Here are our top tips for keeping your subscribers engaged. 

1. Turn on Smart Sending to avoid sending subscribers too many messages

Using Attentive’s Smart Sending feature, you can limit how many text messages a subscriber receives from you within a given period. We recommend setting the time frame to eight hours, so subscribers don’t receive more than one message per day. By turning on Smart Sending, you’ll be able to make sure your subscribers are having a seamless SMS experience (and you can rest easy knowing you’re not accidentally sending too many messages). 

2. Start on the right foot with an engaging welcome series 

A strong welcome series sets the tone for your SMS program. It’s your chance to introduce yourself to new subscribers, demonstrate the value of being opted into your SMS program, and set expectations for how often they’ll hear from you. 

Alpha Paw and Cariuma SMS examples

Your welcome series should strike a balance between promotional and brand-building content. We recommend sending a coupon reminder to subscribers who haven’t made a purchase after signing up to maximize conversions. You should also encourage subscribers to download your contact card. That extra level of personalization will help make your brand sticky, decreasing the chance they’ll opt out later on. 

3. Find the right messaging cadence for your audience

To strike a balance between maximizing revenue per send and maintaining a low opt-out rate, we recommend sending eight messages a month to all of your subscribers. This approach will help you scale up your SMS program without annoying your customers. 

You should also consider segmenting your list and tailoring your cadence to meet their needs. For instance, your VIPs are probably interested in hearing from you more often, while new subscribers who haven’t made their first purchase yet would probably prefer more time between messages as they get to know you. 

You can build segments for different messaging cadences based on subscriber engagement. We recommend looking at three key dimensions: 

  • Browsed vs. clicked on your site
  • Prospect vs. customer
  • Timeframe (e.g. recent purchaser versus purchased six months ago)

Building segments using these factors will not only help you find the right cadence, but tailor content to where a shopper is in the customer journey. 

Finally, sending messages to subscribers based on actions they’ve taken (or haven’t taken) will help you engage them on their own terms. For example: You can set up a winback journey to reengage shoppers who haven’t made a purchase within a given period—they’re a great way to drive sales and prevent subscriber opt-outs. 

Momofuku SMS example

SMS pro tip: Using two-way conversations, you can ask subscribers directly how often they’d like to hear from you, or what types of messages they’d like to receive. You can automatically build segments based on the keywords they respond with, so you can tailor experiences to their preferences in the future. 

4. Personalize your messages to your subscribers’ preferences

The more relevant a message is to a subscriber, the less likely they are to opt out. When you personalize your text messages, you’re showing subscribers you understand their needs and interests—helping build loyalty over time. 

You can personalize messages based on: 

  • The products they’ve browsed and purchased 
  • How often they engage with your text messages 
  • How often they’ve purchased (or how much they’ve spent with your brand)
  • Their location 
Ole Henriksen SMS example

For example: If you’re an apparel brand, you can send recommendations for cold weather wear to subscribers who live in cooler climates. Or, you could send subscribers near your stores invitations to events and redeem in-store‌ perks. 

5. Keep subscribers engaged with post-purchase journeys

Sending subscribers valuable content after they’ve made their purchase will help you decrease opt-outs. Post-purchase journeys help you automatically engage shoppers with relevant content, from inspirational imagery to tips on how to get the most out of their purchase. 

Dear Brightly and Swap.com SMS examples

You can also use this journey to drive deeper engagement, inviting subscribers to leave reviews, refer a friend, or join your loyalty program. And (after an appropriate amount of time, depending on your products) you can recommend items that complement their purchase. For example: You can send a cross-selling text message inviting them to purchase albums to play on their new record player. Or, you can send a replenishment reminder if a subscriber’s moisturizer is about to run out. 

6. Run A/B and split tests to learn what resonates with your audience 

A/B and split testing can give you insights into what your subscribers respond to best, as well as the needs of specific audiences. Plus, you can immediately implement your learnings to decrease opt-outs and increase subscriber engagement.   

A/B testing—which lets you compare two versions of a message—can help you discover what messaging, tone, and design elements drive the most engagement. You could test: 

  • Message length 
  • Line breaks 
  • Highlighting offers with emoji or capitalization 
  • GIFs vs. images 
  • Product imagery vs. lifestyle imagery 
  • Graphics with offers called out vs. no type 

Split testing—sending the same message to different audiences—helps you understand how each audience responds to different content, timing, and offers. For example: You could send a best sellers product recommendation to subscribers who have purchased within the last three months, versus subscribers who haven’t purchased in the last three months. 

Discover more strategies for driving more SMS conversions, check out our planning templates to set your strategy, or join our SMS 101 introductory course.

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