Your SMS subscribers want to have back-and-forth conversations. But how do you scale that experience?
More consumers than ever interact with their favorite brands via text messaging. 81.2% are currently opted-in to at least one brand’s text message marketing program. When comparing this to our 2020 survey findings, where only 55.9% said they’re subscribed, it’s clear that today’s shoppers have big appetites for this channel. They’re more than willing to share their phone numbers with brands in exchange for an elevated experience.
But for many consumers, getting what they need when they need it isn’t always enough. They’re looking for true personalization, ease, and convenience whenever—and wherever—they’re interacting with a brand. And as part of that, they want real responses from real people.
By adding two-way text messaging strategies—or conversational commerce—to their SMS channel, brands can exceed customer expectations and scale customer relationships.
What is two-way text messaging?
Two-way text messaging lets SMS subscribers have back-and-forth text conversations with your brand (and not the kind you might associate with a chatbot). This type of text message marketing breaks from the “no reply” world of more traditional marketing channels, so you can speak with your subscribers, not just at them.
This type of text message can also help you better understand and connect with your customers on a 1:1 level. It removes friction from shopping, and creates the curated experience customers are craving.
Zales recommends personalized gift ideas to new subscribers using Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys™. This conversational strategy helps Zales drive online revenue by imitating their in-store product discovery experience. They can also add these preferences as “custom attributes” on a subscriber’s profile, helping deliver relevant messaging throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
For more 1:1 support, brands like ModCloth use Attentive Concierge™ in their two-way messaging strategy. When a subscriber browses their website without purchasing, the brand reaches out through conversational messaging to help guide their shopping experience. In this back-and-forth conversation, the brand shared a direct link to their size guides and instructions for finding the perfect fit. The quick text exchange helped the subscriber quickly overcome their specific concern, and left a positive impression of the brand.
How two-way text messaging can help you scale your SMS marketing strategy
Having a two-way texting strategy isn’t just a “nice to have.”
In our latest consumer survey report, over 90% of consumers said they expect a response within one day when communicating with a brand—and nearly 75% expect it to be a direct response from a human. Two-way text messaging checks both of these boxes.
But it’s not just about speedy responses. It’s about delivering the sort of experiences consumers have come to expect from the brands they love.
Supplementing online shopping experiences
Over 30% of consumers say they’re most likely to contact a brand in one of two instances: when deciding which product to buy or if they had a question about size, material, or fit.
Sound familiar to asking a store associate? With Attentive Concierge, your brand can reach out in minutes to provide the support the subscriber is looking for. They get an experience with your brand that’s personalized to their specific needs, and you get more sales (and satisfied customers).
Handling shopper issues or inquiries
Our recent survey found that 50% of shoppers are most likely to contact a brand when something goes wrong. Considering half of consumers say they’ll switch to a competitor after one bad experience, brands need to handle these situations quickly and delicately to mitigate any potential hard feelings—and make sure they come back to shop with the brand next time.
With two-way text messaging, you can either reply to a customer’s text directly, or have it forwarded to your customer support team to take care of. You’ll close these support cases and tickets even faster by using an immediate channel. And they’ll get a resolution without having to switch between browser tabs and communication channels—a win-win.
Collecting valuable zero-party data
Having two-way conversations with your customers opens the door to collecting valuable zero-party data. For example, a subscriber might be having trouble finding a type of sneaker in their size. By asking them what their size is and what they’re looking for, you can provide helpful recommendations while building an accurate customer profile. Then, you can use this data later to build sophisticated customer segments to deliver relevant messaging throughout the entire customer journey.
Two-way texting strategies and examples
Delivering a personalized experience for each subscriber is easier than you may think. Here are a few of the strategies we recommend to drive deeper engagement, create more personalized experiences, and share relevant and thoughtful content through two-way text messaging.
1:1 support with Attentive Concierge™
Smooth, interactive experiences with real people (instead of chatbots) are becoming the rule rather than the exception. Attentive Concierge delivers lightning-fast, human-to-human interactions between brands and the consumers who love them. You can think of it as an extra customer support team that’s trained to provide best-in-class support reflecting your brand values, tone, and messaging.
You know that feeling of walking into a shop, and right away, a store associate is happy to answer all of your questions or point you in the right direction. With Attentive Concierge, shoppers can get that same level of assistance through SMS, creating an elevated digital experience with the perks of in-store shopping.
Conversational Two-Way Journeys
Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys help you gain a deeper understanding of your subscribers’ personal preferences (read: zero-party data), using keywords to trigger responses based on subscriber replies. While this conversational strategy isn't a human-powered interaction, it works as a quick and simple strategy to start incorporating two-way text messaging into your SMS program.
There are a few key opportunities for these two-way flows throughout the customer journey—like onboarding quizzes, preference collection, educational content, cross-selling initiatives, and gamified experiences.
Try adding Two-Way Journeys into your welcome flow to start creating personalized experiences as soon as subscribers sign up for texts. By prompting new subscribers to share their favorite types of products, expectations, or experience levels, your future campaigns can be targeted to the most relevant audience.
And, since each response offers valuable zero-party data, this information can help improve segmentation and other data-driven strategies. Shoppers are investing trust in your brand when they share these preferences and information—you can show you value that by delivering personalized experiences in return.
Two-way text messaging best practices
If you’re just starting to dip your toes into conversational commerce, here are some ways to build two-way texting into your SMS marketing strategy today:
- Establish a day one expectation that your channel is conversational. The easiest way to engage your customers in two-way conversations is to start at the highest touchpoint—your welcome series (or any other "opt-in" flow). Instead of just delivering a coupon/offer, add a simple statement to your message, like, "text us if you have any questions."
- Gamify your product recommendations. Let the shopper know they can take a "perfect product finder" quiz and get an expert-approved recommendation when they sign up for SMS. Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys allows you to automate this product discovery process, while remaining conversational.
- Use past customer responses to build personalized experiences. Mobile phone numbers are a great identity marker since we usually only have one and probably keep it forever. You can document this valuable customer data in your CRM or within the subscriber’s profile to easily reference their previous questions/feedback in the future. It’s all in the details, and this personalized strategy shows you’re listening to what they want.
- Position your customer service as "VIP support." If you’re powering customer support via an integration like Gorgias, or if you use Attentive Concierge, make your subscribers feel special by reminding them they can get “VIP support” via SMS whenever they need it.
- Start a conversation in your post-purchase flow for enhanced customer experiences. One of my favorite types of post-purchase strategies uses this critical touchpoint to ask customers about the product they just purchased. Just be sure they have time to experience the product before you reach out. Not only can this timely information present cross-selling opportunities, but you can also use it to cater to each subscriber’s wants for future purchases.
Personalized two-way interactions through SMS aren’t just a matter of quick revenue wins. These conversations add diversified value to your text messaging program, and drive long-term retention for your brand.
For more insights on what consumers want from brands, read our report, The State of Conversational Commerce in 2022.