10 Ways to Evaluate Text Message Marketing Solutions for Retailers
Photo above by Jezael Melgoza.
As the popularity of text message marketing has increased, so have the number of providers offering text message marketing software. What features do you need? What provider should you choose?
With so many product options available, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. On the surface, these options may look alike, but when you take a closer look, you’ll find some key differences.
Here we look at 10 features that we believe are must-haves when evaluating text message marketing for your retail business. For more on the topic, here’s a new report that takes a deeper dive into how to evaluate SMS marketing solutions.
1) A vendor that can help you grow your SMS marketing list rapidly
The biggest barrier to growing your SMS marketing list is an inefficient sign-up process. Consumers today are impatient and if your sign-up process isn’t easy to understand and easy to use, they’ll simply give up. Many text message marketing vendors will tell you that they can help you quickly grow your list. You should ask them to show you how they’ll do this by asking to see examples of the sign-up process and trying it yourself to see how easy and customer-friendly it really is.
In addition, you may want to capture more than a phone number. Many retailers are now seeking to capture demographic information for higher-quality records that they can add to their CRM.
The ability to grow a list quickly directly impacts your bottom line. Make sure your vendor can deliver on a smooth, hassle-free user experience.
2) Tight integration with mobile coupon software
Coupon and personalization research shows 74% of consumers prefer higher-value, single-use coupons over lower-value offers that can be used multiple times. The ability for your customers to easily use their digital coupons at checkout directly from their mobile devices is critical for engaging a digital audience. Many consumers prefer to receive coupons via text message. Tying your mobile coupons to an SMS campaign can improve customer engagement, increase store traffic, and enhance basket size.
Finally, you want to make sure you select a solution with sophisticated security to ensure your coupons can only be redeemed once and can’t go viral and be shared with millions. The value of single-use coupons redeemable one time can’t be overlooked since they typically come with bigger discounts.
3) A partner in compliance
There are a lot of reasons for busy retail marketing leaders to use a promotion text message marketing solution. Arguably, one of the most important may be to provide peace-of-mind that your marketing campaigns will be in legal compliance. There are a wide range of laws and mobile carrier requirements that must be obeyed. You’ll want to make sure that you choose a provider that:
- Has in-house TCPA expertise
- Can proactively help you ensure TCPA and CTIA compliance
- Takes extra precautions when dealing with recycled numbers
- Can respond in a timely manner if a TCPA complaint is received
- Provides strong opt-in backup data in case of a TCPA complaint
Compliance is complex. Consider, for example, the requirements related to California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) regulations. Don’t let the word “California” fool you—even if you’re not located in California, if you have enough customers that reside there or are a big enough company, you’re responsible. In addition to compliance, you’ll want to make sure that your customers’ data is secure.
4) Strong data security standards
This is a deal breaker: your SMS provider must support PCI level 1 security which is also required for credit card processing. They should have a comprehensive and well-documented information security and privacy program. And, you’ll want to have your own security team conduct a security audit of the vendor you choose.
5) Ability to grow with your needs
If you’re successful, your business will grow. As it does, you’ll want your SMS marketing solution to scale to accommodate that growth. Some of the advanced capabilities that you’ll want to make sure any vendor has:
- Text messaging marketing capabilities that go beyond the basics—like the ability to support sweepstakes and voting, for example.
- The ability to send messages to other mobile channels (e.g., mobile wallet and push notifications).
- The ability to have a single consumer profile across all mobile channels to tie all of a consumer’s IDs to that consumer so you can deliver synchronized, consistent messages across mobile channels.
- Loyalty platform interfaces to give members access to your rewards program via SMS.
- Transactional alert capabilities to improve customer service.
In order to grow most efficiently and effectively, you’ll also need access to the right data at the right time.
6) Robust tracking and reporting
The digital marketing environment offers the opportunity to track at increasingly granular levels—but only if your promotional text message software solution is built to leverage that data. Ask vendors to show you their reporting dashboards and reports so you can get a good idea of the information you’ll be able to receive and analyze. Ask what data is available in real-time. Ideally, you’ll want a system that can provide the kind of real-time reporting to help you best leverage these insights.
7) Evidence of a proven track record
What evidence can the vendor provide you of results they’ve attained for other customers? Ask vendors to provide real metrics they’ve achieved. Ask for references so you can validate the information they provide you and get direct input on what these customers liked, or may not have liked, about the text message marketing software.
8) Ease of use
Ease of use is critical for marketers. You’ll want to choose a self-serve solution that has the capabilities you need combined with ease of use. Take the text message marketing solution for a test drive. And not just a vendor demo. Explore the interface by setting up a sample campaign to give you the best indication of how the text message marketing software really works.
9) Seamless integration with your marketing infrastructure
The data you gather through your SMS marketing campaigns loses value quickly if you’re not able to easily share that data with your other marketing systems. Look for a solution that gives you the ability to send personalized promotional text messages and offers, to perform granular segmentation of offers and to track performance to drive future campaign decisions.
10) Account management and support
Strong vendor support is critical to ensure that you’re not at risk for any downtime and your promotional messages get out the door as scheduled.
But support isn’t just about dealing with potential problems. A strong SMS marketing vendor will provide a service team that, not only helps you to avoid problems, but also provides you with ongoing recommendations and feedback to ensure that you are optimizing campaign potential and the customer’s experience with your brand.
You should look for a provider that offers both ongoing, proactive account management, as well as on-demand support should you have questions. If you’re a larger organization, you should expect a dedicated account manager, rather than find yourself in a support queue of potentially dozens of clients.
- Dedicated account manager focused on your marketing objectives.
- Responsive, live support to quickly get you the answers you need.
- Training and ongoing support to ensure you get the most from the platform.
- Recommendations based on proven techniques and best practices.
- Attention to detail regarding carrier and TCPA compliance.
Before You Meet with Potential Vendors
Once you’ve culled down your list of potential vendors it’s time to reach out to initiate discussions so you can explore capabilities as well as fit. Here are some things to consider as you prepare for these conversations:
- List the capabilities you will require and ask vendors to verify that they can provide them.
- Ask to see a demo to help understand how the software works—it’s most helpful if the demo follows the order of workflow.
- Ask for specifics related to the level of support you will need—how do you get support, how responsive will that support be, will you have a dedicated support person.
- Ask for references.
Text message marketing has become strategic to many large companies, particularly chain store retailers. It’s important to get it right.
Dan Slavin is CEO and co-founder of CodeBroker, a provider of mobile marketing solutions. He was CEO of Framework Technologies, VP of Open Market, and CEO of International Testing Services. He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.