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8 ways your competitors are using SMS to engage customers

It’s widely known that SMS open rates are a sky-high 98% within 6 minutes of being sent. But there’s a difference between having a message read and truly engaging customers.

Nearly everyone has a mobile phone and unlike app notifications, SMS won’t get turned off. But more than being omni-present, SMS is how customers want to interact. Digital marketing magazine reports that 75% of customers want to receive offers via SMS. That’s offers, not even just notifications.

But how do you take your SMS communications to the next level? Brands that use SMS to greatest effect go beyond simple ‘SMS blasts’ to achieve remarkable results. 

Here are 8 ways SMS is being used by Australian companies to great effect.  Some are marketing focused, others more operational, but all are exceptional at engaging customers.


Marketing SMS

1. Combining Inbound SMS with out-of-home advertising

Prompting customers to text in an ‘SMS keyword’ is a proven performer in ‘out-of-home’ marketing. Using outdoor advertising or shopfront POS, prospective customers are prompted to text a number with designated keyword. Using 2-way SMS, these potential customers receive an automated reply SMS which can contain links to mobile websites, discount codes or passwords for entry to events.

What works especially well here is the immediacy; it’s a great way for customers to act immediately on an outdoor campaign and convert leads during the brief window of interest.


2. SMS chatbots

Chatbot’s are fast becoming mainstream in online chat, but did you know the same machine learning can be used to power SMS chatbots? This allows for deeper engagement through more open-ended 2-way interactions.

Where traditional 2-way SMS campaigns rely on users entering a designated reply keyword, AI-powered chatbots work with phrases, keywords and intent…and learn all the time.

A prime example is a real estate agent prompting passers by to text questions regarding the local property market.  Now these could range from “what are the average days on the market in Elwood?” to “what is the average price of a 2 bedroom flat in Elwood?” These can be automatically answered by an SMS chatbot as part of a lead generation campaign.

While SMS chatbots are just starting to make inroads, they have an unfair advantage in engaging customers in a more ‘human’ way.


3. Insurance extensions and renewals

SMS is the perfect channel for customer retention activities in insurance.  Often apathy is the key reason for churn in the category, so having high open rates and the ability to designate send time (i.e. right before policy expiry) are key.

The savviest insurance companies create a brilliant customer experience by offering to renew with current payment details via 2-way SMS.


4. Food orders at sporting events

Several sporting stadiums in the US offer food and drink delivery right to your seat.  Just text in your order and seat number, then sort out payment when it gets there!

This example treads the line between operational and marketing use case.  While it essentially facilitates an order, the extra convenience undoubtedly increases the appeal and boost sales.


Operational SMS

1.NPS surveys

With 98% of SMS read within 6 minutes, SMS is unparalleled for cut-through and immediacy. Its only logical then that SMS surveys deliver more robust results, with the experience still fresh in the respondents’ mind. The phenomenal response rates also help getting the most out of small sample sizes.

Regarding SMS surveys, global research specialists Ipsos reports 95% of respondents claim they would respond. Compare this to the industry standard ~15% response rate delivered by email. Chalk and cheese.

Another advantage of using SMS for NPS surveys is it allows you to resolve a customer experience disaster right there and then. The survey should ask if the customer wants to speak to someone if they have rated their experience poorly which can then trigger a call.


2. Dispatch notifications

This one depends on your industry and product.  As a rule, if you know your customer is going to be pumped to receive their package, send SMS updates! Think clothing, toys, hobbies, presents…

As a side note, if the delivery is outside the original timeframe you MUST provide the means to easily change delivery address. This could be via weblink to mobile-optimised web pages or 2-way SMS.


3. Finance/Loan approvals

SMS can turn the ‘necessary evil’ of finance appraisal into an engaging customer experience. We’ve seen significant NPS uplift from an automotive financing client that started providing engaging SMS approval messages.  After all, this usually means the customer has got the tick on a new set of wheels which is undoubtedly an exciting time!

Just be sure to provide an email too; customers still need a ‘paper trail’ of these important documents that is easily searchable in their inbox.


4. IoT notifications

The age of the connected device is here. And SMS, it is the preferred channel for all urgent notifications sent from internet connected devices.

Current SMS use cases in IoT applications include texts from home motion sensors, and low battery warnings on smoke detectors. They key is to use SMS only for critical messaging; IoT has the potential to create a lot of noise so be selective and employ SMS only for infrequent need-to-know alerts.


Personalised, interactive and integrated

If your business is still sending plain old one-way SMS notifications then you’re missing out on a huge customer engagement opportunity.  Use these examples to brainstorm ways to boost sales and customer service via SMS.

The best SMS campaigns are personalised, interactive, and often part of a multi-channel customer journey. Think through the journey end-to-end and use SMS to reduce customer effort at every chance.  Then you’ll be well on your way to creating remarkable customer experiences.


To set up your first engaging SMS campaign, signup to Upwire and get $10 credit to get started.

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