7 Ways to Use Transactional SMS Messaging

Research reveals that it takes an average person 90-minutes to respond to an email but only 90-seconds to respond to a text message. Today’s consumers have come to expect personal and engaging messages. To meet these demands, marketers need to develop a mobile strategy that enhances marketing efforts with messages that reach consumers in the most direct way – on their personal devices.

In fact, 75% of consumers want companies to text them for anything from appointment or payment reminders, offers, information, etc. — yet currently only 30% of companies are fulfilling.

This is a massive untapped opportunity for marketers.

Traditional promotional SMS messages focus on marketing efforts - such as one-day sales, product launches, or weekly broadcast campaigns that serve an informative role.

Transactional SMS messages based on triggered events add value for consumers because they are personalized, relevant and timely. They are designed to increase loyalty, prevent lapsed buying behavior and re-engage consumers that represent the most value to your brand.

Some examples of how transactional SMS messages can be used include:

Account Activation/Verification (Identity Verification)

With the use of SMS, you can enable an account activation or verification feature to increase security for your customers. When a customer signs in or registers, they will be sent a unique code and will be required to verify their account by clicking an activation link or entering a verification code on their mobile device. By adding this extra step, only people that should be allowed access to accounts are given that access. Confirming identities through SMS is an inexpensive yet highly reliable and convenient way to increase security, as well as peace of mind.

Shipping/Delivery/Pickup Notifications

After an order is placed, real-time information about shipping, delivery and pickup can be shared with your customers via text messages. A simple delivery update, shipping confirmation or pickup notification will allow the customer to know where their shipment is, and can notify the customer of changes, status and delivery right on their mobile device. This creates a sense of trust and helps to build and maintain a good customer relationship.

Order Confirmations

Similar to shipping, delivery, and pickup notifications, order confirmation text messages also serve an important purpose. They verify that the order has been successfully placed, reducing post-purchase anxiety and reinforcing your brand’s reliability. Order confirmation messages are a good opportunity to not only reassure your customers about their purchase, but also provide ways for them to extend the relationship with your business whether it is through another sale or even signing up for your email updates.

Time-triggered Reminders

Missed appointments mean missed opportunities for sales. That’s why it’s so crucial to cut down on no-shows. With the use of time-triggered text messaging, you can make sure customers don’t forget when they’re meeting you by reminding them the day or even an hour before.

Moreover, you could automatically reach back to customers that purchased consumable products when it is time to replenish their merchandise. The benefit of a text is that it will remind them even if they’re on the go, so it’s right at their fingertips.

Real-time Alerts

Text messages are the best way to keep customers in the loop, especially if the message is urgent. Phone calls and emails are easily missed, and because only 22% of emails actually get opened, customers don’t always act on notifications in a timely manner. Text alerts deliver important information with immediacy, so customers can act on it right away. Alerting customers with a real-time text of a flight change, a table being ready, their credit card activity or their data usage, helps them feel valued and informed, ultimately improving their satisfaction and increasing the likelihood that they’ll call on your business again.

Opt-In Requests

After a customer signs up for an email or mobile list, they expect a confirmation of their request. One example of an opt in request message would be a welcome message that can simply thank subscribers for signing up or can deliver the discount or offer promised that was used as the opt-in incentive. Make the most of this opportunity by personally engaging each subscriber with content curated to their interests that keeps subscribers interacting with your brand. Another example of an opt in request text message is a birthday message. Sending a short and sweet birthday text accompanied by an exclusive offer, discount or freebie is more than enough to win over a lifetime customer.

Product Alerts

With a product alert text message, you can automatically notify shoppers when inventory levels change. This allows customers to sign up onsite to receive the alerts when the inventory is replenished and keeps an ongoing conversation alive with customers. Being able to leverage product alert text messages allows you to connect with first-time and returning customers on mobile devices.

Permissions and Opt-ins

When using SMS, it’s important to understand the regulations about communicating with customers through text messages. A customer that opts-in means they are giving you the right to be targeted by marketing communications via SMS. Transactional SMS requires opt-in, the same as broadcast SMS messages.

Benefits of Transactional SMS Messaging


Transactional SMS messages are time sensitive, meaning they are triggered to a consumer based on a specific time or event. Because of this, it is critical for marketers to utilize mobile channels that naturally allow for the fast, almost instantaneous delivery of messages to consumers. Unlike a personal email account where daily activity is limited by how much time consumers spend in their inboxes, consumers frequently access their mobile phone’s texting application. This presents a prime opportunity for companies to deliver time-sensitive messages that will most likely be opened and read by consumers.

Enhanced Engagement

Transactional SMS messaging keeps your brand top of mind with your customers, reducing your reliance on marketing messages to maintain a connection. For new customers, service-based messages can help establish initial mobile relationships without the need for marketing messaging. It also allows you to opt-in net new subscribers to your mobile database, which can be used for marketing purposes.


Transactional text messaging is 1:1. This close customer relationship allows an enormous marketing opportunity to increase loyalty and boost revenue. By keeping consumers engaged after a conversion, you can establish a direct connection between your brand and your customers, build customer loyalty and drive sales while creating a consistent and seamless experience.

Transactional SMS messaging offers marketers a quick, easy way to send important information to customers. This streamlines communications dramatically, and can lead to a much better customer experience. Although they are not marketing messages, customers value the availability of this information so much that it increases the likelihood that they’ll become loyal customers and continue to purchase. By incorporating the tips above into your strategy, you can increase your revenue and build a better brand in as little as 160 characters.

It's Time for Cross-Channel Campaigns

The holiday season is upon us. Many retailers have already started to ramp up their email deployment schedules, which is a key tactic to making your Q4 revenue goals. However, it's important to remember that just sending more emails alone isn't a strategy - you need to consider when and what to send - and which channel to deliver it to.

We looked at the email sending patterns and online traffic for over 1,000 retailers during the 2016 holiday season, and we put together an infographic that shows you the best time to send multiple messages on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

But first, it's important to understand how additional email sends impact revenue. We found that adding just four emails per month will greatly impact sales. With a low CPM and high return, our clients are seeing $59.26 for every dollar spent on average, an 18.5% increase over the $50.00 return they average on their regularly scheduled campaigns.

Holiday Deployment Schedules
On Thanksgiving 2016, email volume spiked at 10:00 am and then drastically dropped off until 4:00 pm. There was a small bump in evening email volume. However, when compared to site traffic, which remained strong from noon through 10:00 pm, you can see that shoppers would have benefitted from receiving an additional email after dinner when they're online.

Tip: Send at least two email messages on Thanksgiving - one in the morning and one in the evening. While many retail stores will remain closed on Thanksgiving this year, consumers will still shop online and eCommerce revenue is expected to increase over 2016.

The numbers for both email and site traffic looked similar to Thanksgiving on Black Friday, but with morning email volume spiking at 9:00 and steadily dropping throughout the day. But, again, site traffic peaks early afternoon and remains high throughout the afternoon and evening.

Tip: Send at least three email messages - one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening to ensure you are at the top of the inbox.

Cyber Monday 2016, as expected, had email volume spike at 8:00 am and 11:00 am, and again at 8:00 pm while site traffic steadily increased from 7:00 am, spiking around 9:00 - 10:00 pm.

Tip: Don't be afraid to send three or more messages on Cyber Monday. Consider offering different deals throughout the day to keep messaging fresh.

Email Volume
The NRF found that 27% of consumers begin shopping for the holidays at the beginning of December, and with Cyber Monday falling in November this year, it's important to keep your campaigns going strong that whole week.

Tip: Create a deployment schedule that will keep customers engaged throughout Cyber Week. Monitor your site traffic and send during the traffic spikes.

Other things to know

  • The NRF projects holiday sales to increase 3.6% - 4.0% this year
  • There are 32 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, one more than 2016. Christmas falls on a Monday, meaning there are five full weekends in the holiday season
  • We are expecting email volume to increase as well. Email volume during the 2016 holiday season increased 38.5% over 2015, and we're expecting another double digit increase this year
  • Customers want messages that are personalized to their needs and experiences. Product recommendations onsite and in emails help customers make purchasing decisions and will increase engagement and sales. In 2016, 54% of shoppers utilized the personalized product recommendations they received from retailers, and we expect that number to increase this year.

Email volume is expected to rise this holiday season, but that doesn’t mean that every shopper will receive the same message. We expect marketers to send more sophisticated campaigns, including segmented messages, product recommendations, predictive content and more. We also expect to see more integrated campaigns as marketers implement SMS, display and social marketing into their holiday strategies. Are you ready? Talk to your Listrak Account Manager or contact us for more details.

SMS State of the Industry Report

With roughly 97% of Americans age 18-44 owning a smart phone, mobile marketing is now viewed as a significant solution for businesses to reach their customers in the most direct way – on their personal devices. As brands continue to put major emphasis on creating great experiences across all touchpoints, marketers should take advantage of the time consumers spend on their mobile devices. According to comScore, the average American adult (18+) spends 2 hours, 51 minutes on their smartphone every day.

Because so many people are using mobile devices, businesses that take advantage of SMS are finding it an effective way to drive conversions. With 75% of customers preferring offers delivered via SMS and a 97% read-rate, SMS is becoming one of the most compelling marketing channels out there. By adding SMS to your cross-channel digital marketing strategy, you can establish a direct connection between your brand and your customers, build customer loyalty and drive sales while creating a consistent and seamless experience.

Our Research
In order to find insights on the industry’s best practices, we monitored over 500 brands for four months to understand how SMS is being used to engage customers and drive sales – including online and offline promotion, short codes and keywords, text to join campaigns and number of SMS messages received per month. For each brand that incorporated an SMS promotion, we took note of its onsite acquisition point, its placement in the email, what keyword the brands chose, and if the short code was unique. We also went through every email we received to see if brands promoted SMS in welcome messages or ongoing marketing messages. After we searched each site and email, we turned to field research to look for in-store data. Our goal was to see if stores offered SMS online and not in-store or vice versa. With that, we combined our research with some industry statistics to give you a look at the current state of the SMS industry, expert tips and best-practices to guide you on the path to a successful SMS campaign. 

Here are some of our findings - be sure to download our SMS State of the Industry Infographic for even more details.


We also monitored industry stats to provide a full picture of the state of the industry:

                                      Download our SMS State of the Industry Infographic

If you're considering adding SMS to your digital marketing mix, here are some tips to keep in mind:

Create Urgency
In addition to its broader reach and the fact that it is the preferred communication channel for consumers, one of the most attractive things about SMS marketing is its immediacy. This makes it ideal for messages of urgent nature such as a “one-day only” sale, a flash sale, or any limited-time offer because it is one of the fastest ways to get in touch with your customers.

With 97% of your messages opened within three minutes of receipt, your objective should be to reach your subscriber just before they make a buying decision. Think about when your customers are likely to make decisions and try your best to get your messaging to them right then. By adding a sense of urgency to your SMS messages and timing them correctly, you can yield better results while encouraging your subscribers to respond right away or act faster.

Think Cross-Channel Acquisition
SMS bridges the gap between your online and offline worlds. And, with Listrak's platform, you can speak to your customers through other channels, such as email or social audiences, based on their SMS acquisition source to provide a highly personalized message.

In-store signage promoting SMS campaigns

According to industry stats, 2/3 of consumers shop in more than one channel, and consumers who do so are typically a brand’s most valuable customer as they have a 30% higher lifetime value, on average. With that, adding a mobile marketing solution to your digital marketing mix will give you a direct connection to your customers and a competitive edge. Plus, it works really well with your email campaigns, offering that extra touch to enhance engagement with your eCommerce-only shoppers. One study shows that integrating SMS into a campaign can increase email open rates by 20%. Moreover, when in-store shoppers subscribe to SMS, our clients are seeing 92% of  those SMS subscribers also opt in to email. In turn, 6% of SMS and email subscribers convert.

Following the SMS path to purchase can be challenging, but we can help you report on SMS conversions and revenue attribution within Listrak's SMS analytics dashboard.

In-store signage promoting SMS campaigns / SMS text-to-join email list

Combining SMS marketing with your email campaigns results in a powerful strategy for your business. The relationships that are developed with current and future customers are the foundation of your success online, and combining email and SMS begins the conversations that lead users to your sales funnel. Email and SMS create a personal line of communication that supports the needs of your customers and allows you to acquire new subscribers in their preferred channel. And, the fact that new subscribers contribute to a 3-6% increase in overall email channel revenue proves that SMS is the perfect complement to you email marketing campaign.

Email messages promoting SMS campaigns

Establish Exclusivity
Everyone wants to feel like they are part of an exclusive club, and you can make that happen with your SMS marketing campaigns. According to Vibes, 26% of people subscribe to SMS to receive exclusive content. Just like email, you can let potential SMS subscribers know that when they opt-in, they will get special alerts, sales, and deals that can’t be found anywhere else. By sending information that isn’t included in your email campaigns or print ads, you are creating an exclusivity to your promotion. Through this, you can reward your loyal customers by starting an insider SMS program with “first to know” content about big sales and new arrivals that they can only get if they subscribe to your SMS campaign.

You can also promote your mobile marketing program through your on-site popup - but follow best practices. Don't just ask shoppers to enter their mobile number as they aren't opting-in to the mobile messaging. Instead, share your keyword and short code and let them initiate the conversation.


SMS practices are an efficient way to reach today’s consumers and the most relevant way to engage with them, build brand trust, and acquire new subscribers. If you’re not already engaging with customers through SMS campaigns, it’s time to go mobile. For more information about SMS statistics, check out our infographic, or visit our SMS resource center.

Megan Ouellet
Director, Product Marketing