SMS Marketing for e-Commerce: It’s Awesome When Done Right

SMS Marketing for e-Commerce: It’s Awesome When Done Right

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At a recent Klaviyo product launch event, the email marketing service announced that it was getting into the sms game. And it seems that suddenly, a ton of people that weren’t interested in SMS are now giddy with excitement.

We’ve been utilizing SMS marketing for quite a while, and have (unfortunately) tested out a ton of different providers, which taught us there’s a pretty big variance in providers.

Here’s a relatively quick list of things to consider when selecting an SMS provider such as Klaviyo or Attentive, or any of the many others on the market.

sms messaging

The Basics

First and foremost, it’s important for you to understand how your provider sends messages.

To be honest, this probably wouldn’t come to mind if you weren’t reading this post. Because, you know, you’d expect an SMS provider to be able to send messages with no problem.

The reality though is they aren’t all created equal. The technology that powers a platform can drastically impact send times. So, for example, if you schedule a message to send at 11 am, but it doesn’t actually start sending until noon and doesn’t finish sending to your contact list until 2 pm… that’s a bad thing.

And if you’re wondering, yes, that actually happened.

Most services offer trial periods of some sort, so make sure you do adequate testing to make sure messages will actually send as you’d expect them too.

Sending Numbers

Do they use a short code? Do they use a long code? Are dedicated short or long code numbers available?

Shared short codes will start to be seen less and less. Cell providers don’t love them and at a point in the near future they won’t allow new shared short codes to be used.

Dedicated short codes will be available, but they tend to cost around $1,000 per month. That’s a pretty fixed cost that you won’t be able to lower much, if at all.

The rise of toll free sms marketing numbers will start to pop up in 2020. These are numbers cell carriers like and they can also be used for voice conversations. Your access to this type of number will depend on the backend your sms provider is using.


Great. You have Jane Doe’s cell phone number. But if that’s the only thing you know about her, you can’t put her in segments and customize your marketing for her.

That’s why data syncing is important.

Some services have the ability to pull in ecommerce data and others do not. Some will track data based on actions that happen once a phone number is subscribed in their system, and while not perfect, this is a happy medium. Meaning, you can at least segment numbers by purchasers or non purchasers since signing up for SMS.

While I’ve not yet seen Klavio’s SMS marketing under the hood, my assumption is that they’ll do data syncing pretty well. Granted, I’m not totally clear how they’ll connect an anonymous cell phone number with a profile in their system. It very well may not be possible.

What Klaviyo’s SMS marketing will do better than most, is allowing triggers to prompt an SMS send. For example, John Doe Add’s to Cart but doesn’t purchase. You could create a flow that sends an email. If that email isn’t opened after X time, you could trigger an SMS send. That’s a massively powerful 1 2 punch that no other system can currently replicate.


The triggers I was just speaking about in Klaviyo are referred too as automation.

Some SMS marketing platforms have it. At a minimum, you’re going to want your service to be able to send checkout abandoned messages. These are messages that get triggered once someone makes it to your checkout page, but then doesn’t complete the process.

Checkout abandoned messages for almost all platforms that provide them should have timing triggers that allow for sending at specific time intervals.

SMS Capture

While we reviewed platforms, this section was one of the most important, if not most important, for me.

You can have the best sending platform in the world, but if you can’t properly capture SMS numbers from your customers, nothing else really matters.

Most platforms, at the time we reviewed them, didn’t have a way, other than checkout page hacks, to capture numbers. Others would try to do some workaround where you use something such as Justuno to capture a phone number. But it was a pretty messy process.

Attentive, which is who our current partner is, has, as of this writing, the best SMS capture process I’ve seen. There out of the box solution asks customers for their phone number and allows them to click submit. Doing so pulls up the customers text app on their phone and allows them to immediately send a confirmation message. It’s really smooth.

But we’ve taken it one step further with Attentive.

Customers are first asked for their email address. They click submit. And then there’s a second screen asking for their phone number. Which then goes through the flow outlined above.

Our testing has proven that there is virtually zero SMS sign up drop off with this flow, and the advantage being you’re still capturing email. It’s an absolute best practice.

So when determining your SMS marketing provider, make sure you explore their ability to capture numbers. It’s a crucial step in the process.

Revenue Attribution

So yay, you sent a message to 10,000 people. And then you have no idea if it resulted in sales or not.

That doesn’t feel so awesome.

Make sure your SMS marketing provider integrates with your ecommerce service, such as Shopify, so that they can accurately track revenue against your campaigns. It’s absolutely crucial that you know how your efforts are performing.

Final Thoughts

In addition to things mentioned above, you also want to consider pricing models. Most will have a monthly fee, and services vary in a pretty big way. You’re also going to be paying for each text you send, so you’ll want to know the price per send for SMS and MMS upfront.

A/B testing with any form of marketing is important, and that holds true with SMS marketing. So make sure your provider has the ability to do so. Capture forms. Send times. Send images. Different messages. There’s a lot to test.

SMS marketing has been a game changer for our clients in a pretty large way. There’s no single tool on the market that can flood a website with traffic like SMS. It’s literally the fastest access point to a customer.

Now, of course, it’s going to get crowded over time, so it, like email, will have many evolutions. But for the moment, SMS marketing is an amazing touchpoint that is proven to drive revenue.