For Business

Why SMS + email is a winning engagement strategy

Reach shoppers across mobile and beyond with an omnichannel engagement strategy.


For ecommerce businesses, it’s never been more important to reach consumers where they are, which these days means embracing an omnichannel engagement strategy that spans the screens and platforms that matter most.

Whether you have a limited budget or the sky’s the limit, developing an omnichannel approach can really pay off. And an omnichannel engagement strategy that pairs email and SMS communications can be one of the most cost-effective means of engaging consumers directly. Particularly for merchants that don’t have the resources to be everywhere for everyone all at once, email and SMS represent a winning combination that should be treated as exactly that: a unified, dual-channel strategy that works better together, rather than as two separate channels.

Email and SMS deliver powerful results

The numbers are impressive: Email marketing has an average return on investment (ROI) of about $45 for every $1 spent, nearly double the ROI of marketing go-tos like SEO and keyword ads. For the majority of small businesses, time-tested email marketing is among the most effective driver of customer acquisition and retention.

More popular than ever before, SMS marketing offers similarly impressive results: According to Yotpo, text messages have a stunning 98% open rate, and 90% of them are read within three minutes. Yotpo’s research also shows that more than half of consumers say that they want to receive text messages from their favorite brands, and many even subscribe to receive texts from businesses.

One of the keys to getting the most impact out of your email and SMS channels is to merge your approach to both into a single, cohesive strategy, advises Maggie Dunn, Manager of SMS & Email Product Marketing at Yotpo, a Buy with Prime Partner. Consumer expectations are high and preferences differ, so adopting an integrated solution allows you to make sure you’re reaching consumers how, where, and when they want to be engaged.

“As a brand, you’re communicating with consumers on a wide range of channels, from email and SMS to mobile apps and social media,” Maggie says. “A common pitfall among brands is that they’re reaching out to consumers based only on the channel that they might be subscribed to, which can lead to over-communication or feel like spam, especially if you’re delivering subscribers irrelevant messages because you end up batching and blasting. We believe in reaching consumers based on how they’re engaging with your messages, not necessarily just which channel they’re subscribed to.”

Omnichannel engagement for the win

With a coordinated email and SMS strategy—an omnichannel strategy—you can leverage the data that you have about your customers, their behaviors, which channels they’re most active on, and how they’re interacting with your messages to determine where they prefer to be reached.

Rather than batch and blast, Maggie recommends delivering relevant, personalized messaging that can lead to a better customer experience, drive retention, and improve the overall campaign performance.

“Just because your customer signed up for your SMS and email communications doesn’t mean you should message them simultaneously on each channel, because that’s just going to result in a poor experience,” she says. “If someone subscribes to SMS and email, but they never open your emails and instead engage with your texts, we recommend that you prioritize communicating through SMS for that customer.”

Try this: If you have a major sale coming up, text your VIP customers about early access, Maggie advises. Then email all of your subscribers a few days later when the sale launches, including any of those VIPs who received the SMS but haven’t made a purchase yet.

Make opting-in worth it

Although combining email and SMS can deliver powerful results—and is the recommended approach—consumers still view these two channels differently. So it’s important to keep that in mind when someone signs up to receive your messages on both channels.

“SMS is definitely more of an intimate, personal channel—just think about yourself as a user, how you text with your friends and family,” Maggie explains. “Consumers are selective when they choose which channels that they want to hear from brands on, so it’s important that brands are ultimately giving value exchanges. Consumers want to know what they’re going to get in return for opting in.”

Try this: Yotpo recommends telling subscribers upfront exactly what information you’ll be sending them. “Tell them what they can expect for signing up for either channel,” Maggie says. “This can include the types of communications they can expect to receive, whether they’ll get a discount, exclusive sales offers, or information like loyalty status updates, for example.”

Choose an integrated platform

If you’re investing your resources into an omnichannel marketing strategy, it makes sense to have one integrated software tool to manage both channels.

“When SMS and email live together on the same platform, which you find on Yotpo, it can make things that much easier for a brand to get up and running. And all your data is in one place,” Maggie says. “When it comes to understanding who your customers are, understanding their behaviors and interactions, and triggering the right automations throughout the customer journey, a solution that hosts these two channels together is a number-one priority.”

Any good platform has easily adjustable templates for common message types, like product launches, abandoned cart flows, order confirmations, and other transactional communications to make the process of automation simpler.

“A great platform also has tools that allow you to leverage analytics to understand attribution on each channel and the performance of SMS and email communications,” Maggie adds. “You can then optimize your strategy based on that data you’re getting.”

Try this: Yotpo’s AI Copy Assistant for SMS allows you to plug in criteria like “I have an upcoming sale that’s running for 24 hours and I want my tone to be friendly,” Maggie points out. It then crafts a message on your behalf.

Set up automation between channels

Once you choose your marketing platform, you can start to set up connected SMS and email automations that work with conditional parameters, like engagement data, customer segmentation, and timing, that help you send the right message on the right channel.

For instance, Maggie explains, “A shopper adds something to their cart and then abandons checkout. You want to act on the moment and get a message in front of them as soon as possible, so an SMS might be triggered that asks them to come back and recover their cart for 10% off.”

You can add many other components to appropriately reach shoppers based on analytics and segmentation. So for example, set up an automated follow-up email for shoppers with an abandoned cart after a two-hour delay, but only if the shopper didn’t click or take action on the SMS message.

If that individual is in your loyalty program, rather than send an automated discount offer, you might set up a text or email automation that reminds them that they have accrued enough points to redeem some toward that purchase, along with a link.

You can also use SMS and email automations to hone your post-purchase experience and boost customer retention. More than half (51%) of the respondents in a recent Yotpo survey said they would sign up for SMS just to receive transactional text messages.

Try this: For timely messages like transactional updates and delivery updates, you might consider SMS first to cut through the noise and make sure that your customers actually see the message. Then, depending on their engagement, follow up with an email.

“For things like nurture campaigns, you can refine your segmentation based on factors like purchase history, location, engagement with previous emails and text messages, whether they interacted with product launches, exclusive offers, or status updates on a loyalty program,” Maggie notes. “And then use all that data to reach them in the exact capacity that works best, or A/B test your messaging.”

Reduce cart abandonment

Checkout abandonment remains one of the most daunting challenges for ecommerce businesses around the world, accounting for more than 70% of lost sales. Yet, according to Yotpo, more than 33% of abandoned carts can be recovered with a simple text. In fact, Yotpo is an industry leader in helping merchants create effective abandoned checkout flows.

“Abandoned checkouts are one of the top revenue-driving flows that you can offer in an email or text,” Maggie points out. And fortunately, the new Yotpo for Buy with Prime app can help you reengage interested shoppers to recover sales using Yotpo’s automated abandoned checkout emails and texts.

The Yotpo for Buy with Prime app is an integration from Alloy that allows brands to automatically sync Buy with Prime order and customer information with Yotpo and use it in various SMS and email campaigns to scale personalized outreach and boost conversions. With segmentation, you can condition and customize automated flows and campaigns based on this data, ensuring that your messaging resonates with each high-intent Buy with Prime customer on a personal level.

Adds Maggie, “The Buy with Prime Yotpo integration is a game changer because now brands can reach even more audiences than ever before.”

As a low-cost marketing philosophy, it doesn’t get much simpler: By coordinating your email and SMS strategy, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. And the secret sauce is a connected automation solution that allows you to leverage your customer data effectively and engage your shoppers on the channels that they prefer most.

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John Kultgen