There’s nothing new about automated message flows in the eCommerce world. Brands use them extensively to communicate with large customer bases, predominantly via email and sometimes through chatbots and SMS. There’s also nothing inherently wrong with these tactics - automation is a powerful way for brands to effectively interact with consumers at scale. Without it, mass customer communication and service would be prohibitively labour intensive and costly.
The problem here lies not in the theory, but in the execution. The trouble with automated messages is that to those receiving them, they all too often come across as robotic, depersonalized drivel, clearly written to save a customer service rep some time. And when 72% of customers say they will only engage with personalized marketing messages, that’s a real issue.
To get the best out of SMS marketing, your automated message flows need to be concise, engaging, value-packed and reflective of your brand’s tone of voice. They should be personalized in a way that is specifically relevant to the individual, even if you are sending at scale. Flows must also be open to further one-to-one interactions with customers who respond with queries, as well as being compliant with region-specific data protection regulations.
Execute this effectively, and you’ll deliver a thoroughly authentic brand experience and transform your retention metrics long-term. Get it wrong, and you’ll turn off customers irrevocably, and become another anonymous member of the automated spam crowd. Here’s our guide to creating personalized automated message flows at scale for SMS marketing:
1) Order Confirmation (first order) 📦
The first SMS a customer is likely to receive from your brand is an initial order confirmation. This is where the critical job of retaining them begins. As well as confirming the purchase they’ve just made, this message needs to contain some context on what the customer can expect from your SMS service.
Bear in mind 65% of brands have no SMS strategy in place at all, so this could well be the first time the recipient has ever interacted with any business in this way, let alone yours. Set your stall out from the off - if you plan to send exclusive offers via SMS, now’s the time to communicate that. So too if you intend to use it to build community by sharing VIP content, as a customer service channel to field queries or as a reordering prompt in a month’s time. At the end of a clear, concise message a subscriber should understand the nature of the messages you plan to send, and how frequently to expect them.
2) Order confirmation (all subsequent orders) 📦📦
Let’s assume your customer has been so impressed with your product and service they reorder next month - nice one. A simple order confirmation is needed to confirm the purchase, but you won’t need to provide quite as much context as you would for a first order.
Second time customers have demonstrated a sustained interest in your brand, so this message is a great opportunity to build upon that existing relationship. Look to communicate one or two key brand values in an authentic tone of voice to encourage customer buy in. Perhaps you might introduce some interesting content, share an engaging gif or image, or simply throw in some kind words to brighten their day.
3) Order fulfilment 🚚
Much like a repeat purchase confirmation, an order fulfilment message has a simple transactional purpose. However, by not customizing it with your unique brand values and tone of voice, you are missing an opportunity to build a long-term relationship with your customer.
However you communicate as a brand, let it come through when delivering an apparently ‘boring’ fulfilment update. Whether you’re known for your quirky tone, humorous manner or socially conscious values, every touchpoint is an opportunity to make yourself more memorable.
4) Post-order check-in 👋
Far too many brands think their job is done once the delivery package hits the doormat. But if you forget about your customer post purchase, they will sure as hell forget about you. By following up after the fact, and giving buyers the opportunity to come back to you on a one-to-one basis, you’ll be offering them an experience most have never had from a brand.
If you’ve sold them a pack of drinks, ask them for feedback after a certain time-frame - or better still, actively offer them a compelling reason to re-engage with you. Perhaps you can advise on a cocktail mix your drink can be used in, chat about food recipe ideas to accompany your product, or share top tips on staying hydrated during a hot day. Whatever you do, make it clear that there’s a real person on the other end of the phone to answer customer queries.
5) Reorder prompt 🔊
Ultimately your aim with SMS marketing is to turn single purchases into repeat revenue. To achieve this, an intelligently timed, carefully constructed reorder prompt is critical. Again, too many brands think spammy messages are the way forward here, when they’re really only a one way ticket to a pissed off customer base.
If you’ve done a good job of nurturing your first time buyer in previous messages, there is an opportunity here to reframe sales promotion as revenue generating relationship building. Reordering prompts should be packed with the same brand identity, value and personalization you’ve used thus far in your messaging flow. Creating a sense of urgency around a time limit or specific offer is also a smart tactic to promote retention here.
Using automated message flows doesn’t mean your communication has to be inhumanly dreary. By packing your SMS marketing with creative, relevant and valuable content delivered in an authentic tone of voice, you can make automated messages feel personalized for the recipient. Align that to conversational one-to-one chat functionality and timely post-order check-ins and reorder prompts, and you’ll create a compellingly unique customer experience that fuels a powerful long-term retention strategy.
You can check out some great (and not so great) real world examples of how eCommerce brands have incorporated SMS into their marketing strategy here.
To find out more about what SMS can do for your brand, take a look at what we’ve been building: