Understanding SMS Marketing in Retail: A Q&A with Marsello

SMS marketing has been making waves in the retail world for some time now, and for good reason: it works. 

For starters, the open rates for text messages are incredibly high, with 82% of people say they open every message they receive. And when it comes to brand communications, more than half of consumers (54%) say that they’d like to receive promotions via text — yet only 11% of businesses do it. 

If you’re looking to try new marketing channels in 2021, SMS could present incredible opportunities, but only if you do it right. 

To that end, we caught up with Brent Spicer, the Co-Founder and Co-CEO at Marsello, a marketing automation platform that combines data driven automation, email, SMS, and loyalty programs to deliver smart, targeted marketing that gets results.

Below, Brent shares the top best practices retailers should implement when engaging with SMS marketing. 

Have a look at what he has to say. 

1. What makes an effective SMS marketing campaign in retail?

I do have few go-to recommendations that will go a long way in helping to create winning campaigns every time; I’ll keep these short:

  • Keep it below 160 characters – any longer and your message will be cut short. 
  • Leave emojis out to improve deliverability – not only do emojis deliver differently depending on the customer’s operating system, but they also use more of the 160 character count than you’d expect. Reduce the chances of your customers misunderstanding you or not receiving your full message by avoiding emojis. 
  • With regard to format, include your store name – you’re legally required to do this, but it also helps your customers recognise who is messaging them. Then, use a short sentence or two to get your message across, and finally, go the extra mile and include a link that directs customers to action to help them convert. 
  • The voice and tone of your message should be respectful, understandable, and most importantly, recognizable! It should reflect the marketing from the rest of your business, helping to reduce opt-outs as customers recognize your SMS marketing as coming from your store.

With these in mind, there are a few SMS marketing essentials that will help ensure deliverability and TCPA & TCIA compliance. For the most part, a good SMS provider will ensure that any legal restrictions are automatically implemented so that you don’t have to worry. Just ensure your provider follows these baseline rules for successful SMS marketing and you’ll be set to start creating:

  • Include your store name in every SMS message so your customers know who is messaging them.
  • Give your customers the option to opt-out of receiving your marketing within every SMS message (Marsello automatically adds “Reply ‘STOP’ to opt-out” to the end of each message). 
  • You’re bound by sending time restrictions – your customers’ waking hours. Some SMS providers, like Marsello, will automatically schedule any out-of-waking-hours messages for the next appropriate time period, however, ensure this is the case before you select your provider. 
  • Restrictions on marketing dangerous or illegal goods may mean that some retailers will not be able to make the most of SMS marketing. 

2. When and how often should retailers send text messages?

Some studies suggest retailers should send their SMS campaigns at specific times – for example, between 12:00 and 15:00 any day of the week seems to be a popular answer.  9:00-12:00 is another suggested sending window we’ve seen. This covers almost the entire working day as a potential marketing window and, while they may work for some retailers, others will find that they need to be a little more specific with dates of the week, times and frequency. 

We’ve seen real trends that these optimal sending times vary from industry to industry, for example, our data shows that fashion retail stores will benefit from scheduling SMS campaigns in the morning, between 9:00am and 1:00pm, however speciality vape retailers tend to see better results from afternoon campaigns (between around 1:00 and 4:00pm). And if your business is hospitality-based, this relies heavily on your opening hours.

The best advice that we generally offer retailers is to test their campaign sending times! 

Set a sending schedule for any outgoing campaigns and trial different sending times and days, then track your results. Do your click rates, purchase rates, revenue and unsubscribes suggest a decline in customer activity? Keep trying different times until you find the ones that work best for your business. 

It’s not all guesswork either! As previously touched on, the TCPA has placed restrictions on what times SMS marketing campaigns can be sent, so ensure your campaigns are sent within waking hours. From here, if you find your busiest times are generally lunchtime on weekdays, perhaps try scheduling campaigns for one or two hours before this to remind your customers to shop. 

Whatever your audience, don’t inundate them with SMS messages. Change your campaigns up with email marketing, promotions and loyalty offers, thereby giving your customers even more reasons to shop with you time and time again. 

3. Can you give examples of amazing SMS marketing campaigns that you’ve seen?

There’s a lot of big retailers who are embracing SMS marketing and seeing really outstanding results. Even Amazon is using SMS campaigns creatively and effectively. A few years ago, they kicked off the Treasure Truck, a mobile store specifically designed to help customers feel cared for and catered to. Shoppers receive access to exclusive deals and promotions by simply subscribing to Amazon’s SMS service which sends daily updates on what the deal of the day is. If a customer wants to shop that promoted item, it’ll then be shipped to the customer directly.

We’ve seen a few really great campaigns coming from retailers who are using Marsello by using every resource available to them to make the most out of a tough year. 

UK retailer, Royal Flush Vape, like most retailers at some stage during 2020, has seen the effects of COVID-19 on retail first-hand. Store closures as a precautionary measure have become a familiar pattern and it’s essential that business owners find creative new ways to ensure they’re staying at the forefront of customers’ minds. 

When Royal Flush Vape recently re-opened after another nation-wide lockdown, they made sure to send a message to the customers who’d opted into receiving SMS marketing. They included their store name, an eye-catching first line, and a clear message. Finally, they also provided a link to a new blog post which details their updated in-store open time, COVID-19 safety precautions and recommendations, and information on delivery options and payment methods.

Notice that they’ve even avoided using emojis, opting for a simple old-school symbol-based smiley face.

There’s no denying that the outstanding success rates of SMS marketing makes it the perfect tool for retailers looking to improve their marketing and grow their business. The Fisherman’s Market, a seafood supplier based in Nelson, British Columbia, is using SMS to do just that! This localised speciality store saw a 10% conversion rate from their recent campaign encouraging customers to sign up to their mailing list and make use of a 10% off discount!  

The puns in this campaign are not only funny, they’re a clever marketing tactic. The humorous approach is a great way to stand out and improve customer relationships while encouraging them to follow through with any CTAs. The Fisherman’s Market is making the most out of a year which has required them to be largely contactless – something that SMS marketing is perfect for. With a 25% click rate from that one campaign and, it’s no question that The Fisherman’s Market is bound to see continued success and growth with SMS. 

4. What factors should retailers consider when choosing an SMS marketing platform?

There are a few essentials that retailers should consider when choosing which SMS marketing platform will work best for them. We wrote a blog about the need-to-know SMS marketing information when we first launched our SMS feature, however, the essentials are as followed:

  • POS & eCommerce integration: An SMS provider that is integrated with your online and retail store allows you to:
    – manage customers’ marketing opt-ins automatically, keeping you SMS marketing compliant.
    – use customer data to segment and target audiences with relevant messages.
    –  trigger your SMS automation based on purchase behaviour, meaning you can connect with customers at just the right time for the best results.
    – provide accurate conversion reporting with closed loop attribution. 

Vend Tip


Using Vend? Seamlessly connect your account with Marsello, and easily implement personalized SMS campaigns based on your sales and customer data. When Vend + Marsello are tightly integrated, you don’t have to worry about double-entry and admin errors. Data flows smoothly between the two apps, so you can run marketing campaigns without a hitch.

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There’s a lot to be said for having all of your data in one easily accessible location, regardless of the store location (online or in-store) it comes from. With an omnichannel provider, processes will run a lot more smoothly as you’ll have all your customer shopping data to work with, segmentation will be easier, you’ll have closed-loop attribution (more on this below) and the ability to create perfectly timed SMS campaigns!

  • Reporting: Any SMS provider worth its salt should give users basic metrics to help them understand the success of their campaigns. Click rates, open rates, deliveries and unsubscribes are some of the basics but retailers should really be looking for providers that provide closed-loop attribution (the resulting sales directly attributed to your SMS) which can only be achieved through accurate tracking through an integration with your POS & eCommerce. Without these metrics, it will be very hard for retailers to make the most of their SMS marketing and continually improve their campaigns.
  • Cost: Finding the right SMS provider will be very specific to each store owner’s needs, as well as their location! SMS marketing will cost more in some countries than in others so retailers need to ensure they’re budgeting SMS credits based on the location of their customers; each time you send an SMS Campaign, it will use a certain number of credits which are based on the location of each individual customer. Retailers should consider if an SMS provider gives them enough credits to market to their customer base compared to how often they intend to use SMS marketing, the size of their customer database (that accepts SMS marketing), and the location of those customers.
  • Provider integrity: Much like email marketing, if a retailer uses a ‘dodgy’ SMS provider, it could affect their SMS campaigns’ deliverability. Business owners should ensure that their SMS provider is trusted and not likely to land them in hot water with TCPA, TCIA or any other legislative hot water all while delivering at the right time, to the right customers. 
  • Restrictions: As previously mentioned, there are some restrictions on what can be marketed using SMS and this includes goods earmarked as dangerous, illegal and potentially harmful. Depending on what your products are, this could affect your ability to market some stock. 
  • Segmentation (bonus): Customer segmentation is quickly becoming the defining factor of a high-quality campaign marketing tool! While some might argue that it’s not essential, the ability to target specific customer groups allows the retailer to create highly effective, carefully curated campaigns that are specifically tailored to capture the attention of certain customers. We’d also argue that smart, targeted marketing with in-built customer segmentation is the way of the future; it’s simple – data-driven marketing allows you to drill down on exactly what works with your customers.

More about Marsello

Marsello is your all-in-one marketing platform, combining data-driven automation, email, SMS, and loyalty programs to deliver smart, targeted marketing that gets retailers powerful results. In fact, on average, Marsello retailers see 45x ROI.

Using Marsello, retailers can send both SMS campaigns and create SMS automation workflows triggered by their customers’ shopping behaviour. Marsello ticks all the boxes mentioned above for SMS compliance, best practice, and cost of sending SMS. And importantly, we’ve integrated Marsello with Vend and leading eCommerce platforms, so as well as powering your segmentation and automation triggers using customer data, you also get accurate reporting on conversion to sales from your campaigns, so you know exactly what works and the return on your SMS marketing. 

Vend Tip


Grow your business with the complete retention marketing toolbox. Marsello combines data driven automation, email, SMS, and loyalty programs to deliver smart, targeted marketing, designed to increase customer retention and sales. Marsello retailers see an average of 45X ROI.

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About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.