When are text messages welcome from retailers?

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Oct 27, 2017
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Retail TouchPoints staff

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail TouchPoints website.

While shoppers typically prefer to receive messages from retailers via e-mail (especially for record-keeping), they’re warming up to text messages and push notifications.

Thirty-six percent of shoppers prefer to receive order updates via text message while 34 percent like to receive texts about customer service issues, according to a survey from Narvar. Only 15 percent said they prefer text for promotions and product recommendations.

Shoppers prefer text messages to be sent when the importance of the situation warrants the intrusion:

  • Seventy-three percent of shoppers consider messages containing order tracking information to be “very important”;
  • Forty-six percent say customer service messages are “very important”; and
  • Eighty-four percent say more communication is critical if the purchase is an expensive one.

Among generations, 43 percent of Millennials (aged 21 to 29) prefer to receive order updates as text messages versus 39 percent of those aged 30 to 44; 32 percent of shoppers aged 45-59; and 28 percent of shoppers 60 or older. The survey showed consumers want to know about package delays or postponed delivery dates quickly.

Overall, 38 percent of shoppers said they want to receive information from retailers via multiple channels.

The survey found 79 percent of shoppers have used text, messenger apps or voice devices, and 74 percent indicated they have used live chat when shopping. Of those who have used these new technologies, 38 percent could not identify if they were using artificial intelligence and only 10 percent knew the communication was not from a human.

Of the 12 percent that own a voice device, 29 percent have used it to shop while 41 percent plan to shop with it in the future. Still, 55 percent of Millennials prefer to talk to a person to resolve a problem, not so far off from the 72 percent of those 60 or older that do.

With the many new communication tools, Narvar wrote that retailers need to “navigate nuanced communications” to best serve customer needs. Amit Sharma, CEO of Narvar, wrote in a statement, “The technology innovation complicates what we already know — that customer communications are never one-size-fit-all.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How can retailers determine what types of messages will be welcomed by customers via text messages and push notifications? Which communications tools do you see becoming more critical in the future for keeping customers happy?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Context as well as content will be critical to the success of text messaging as a tool to drive engagement."
"Best way to communicate with your best customers? Pick up the phone and personally call them. Hard to scale, but very effective."
"Surprise and delight needs to be at the core of any new technology communications with consumers."

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19 Comments on "When are text messages welcome from retailers?"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

I’m not seeing anything in here that suggests push notifications are a good idea. We haven’t seen a lot of research lately that says shoppers want to be intruded upon — beacon technology being the most prominent example of that. How does a retailer determine what a shopper wants? Asks them.

Max Goldberg
Guest

It may be a radical idea, but why don’t retailers ask consumers if they would like to be contacted by text and, if so, what kind of messages they would like to receive and how frequently they would like to receive them?

Seth Nagle
BrainTrust

That would require a pretty sophisticated CRM system right there.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Not really. CVS does it now and many financial services companies offer you options of text, email, etc. So it isn’t all that challenging.

Phil Chang
BrainTrust
Phil Chang
Retail Influencer, Speaker and Consultant
1 year 8 months ago

Retailers need to utilize beacon technology. If I were in the area of a store and there were a sale or feature that I’d find value in, I’d want to know. That would make that retailer someone that I’d trust and want to be around so that I could get more deals.

Surprise and delight needs to be at the core of any new technology communications with consumers. Consumers are on to us! You can’t send more broad sales-y emails; customization and anticipation of what a consumer needs is what will win.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

It should be first noted that Narvar is in the “alerting” business, so they have a very large dog in this fight. As to how to determine how to contact customers — I’m with Max. Ask them! There’s no magic in setting up an “opt in” alerting program. CVS uses this kind of texting tool to notify you when your medications are ready, need authorization, etc. Get tired of the messaging, you opt out. As to which tool wins, I’d say it may be texts, but only if they are used judiciously. Otherwise consumers will see them as more digital spam and will stop paying attention to them. Also I think that — sooner than we believe — we will see more and more consumers switching over to some kind of AI-driven buying agent program which will screen, prioritize or ignore messages from retailers and other branders.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

What is appropriate depends on the individual customer, which is why allowing shoppers to set preferences is so important.

I am quite happy to receive text messages from retailers for updates on things like delivery or customer service matters. I don’t object to receiving text messages with offers and deals, but I usually ignore them or delete them without reading.

I have received the occasional WhatsApp message from retailers which I object to as I use WhatsApp for interaction with family and friends so commercial messages feel intrusive.

Others may have entirely different views, of course…

Sarah Nochimowski
Guest

I completely agree with you Neil. Text messages are fine, they have become “email”-like. The big no-no so far is Whatsapp/Messenger, which are still very personal. Even though, I’ve seen some customer services on messengers and it was great. But only when the client is initiating the discussion.

Mark Price
BrainTrust
Mark Price
Managing Partner, Smart Data Solutions, ThreeBridge
1 year 8 months ago

Clearly the main question is about the importance of the communication. Consumers who are in the segment that accepts and even encourages text messages do not want text to just become another email, where you receive so many communications it is hard to identify the important ones.

Text messages need to contain time-sensitive information, perhaps based on location data, as well as transactional information. Context as well as content will be critical to the success of text messaging as a tool to drive engagement.

Manish Chowdhary
Guest

The answer is a simple one — ask at checkout. All of the travel sites ask, “would you like text notifications about flight status?” and similar questions.

There’s a good reason why delivery notifications are high on the list of situations in which text alerts are desired. Many customers want to be home when the package arrives. This is one reason that date-certain shipping is becoming commonplace.

Text messaging and text messaging plus chatbots will continue to increase in importance … for messages that consumers deem important.

Ken Morris
BrainTrust

The best way for retailers to know what type of messages will be welcomed by their customers is to ask them. Everyone has their own preferences and it is best to respect the wishes of individual customers.

As a general rule, consumers are most interested in getting order status and delivery updates on products they have purchased — especially if it is a high-ticket item or one that requires a person to be home when the product is delivered.

While a lot of people don’t want to be bothered with texts of promotions or special offers, some loyal customers may value these texts. As more and more retailers move to a real-time retail paradigm, contextual offers like discounts on umbrellas when it is raining in NYC will be welcomed with open arms. The key is to customize your communications plan to individual preferences.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should!

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Text messages are more intrusive than email. As a result, typical information about order receipt and an expected delivery schedule, and the expected on-time delivery, work well over email. When there is a deviation from the expected order or delivery schedule, then text messages seem appropriate.

Mark Nicholson
Guest

The choice should be up to the consumer about types of messages they wish to receive. Retailers should follow opt in as a guideline. Future communication tools that could be of value include location based alerts, such as being notified of a sale within a certain proximity to a store.

Todd Trombley
Guest

Text messages are perceived as very personal by most people. So using text in any form of mass communication or in a generalized way with customers is not a good idea. Resistance to beacon-driven communication is a manifestation of this low-value perception on the part of consumers. Allowing sellers to text with clients about things the client will find relevant is a good application for text-based communication with customers. So this takes us back to the issue of trusting and empowering your sellers.

Having a CRM system that pushes actionable and useful information to sellers is critical. Showing sellers how to use the information in the CRM tool to enhance their relationship with a client is also important. Tools like the one talked about earlier this week in the Neiman Marcus article will become more and more important as we move forward.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

I remember when a small independent grocer in Chicago started using text messages more than ten years ago. They started with a simple early afternoon text only to those shoppers who opted in, that shared a dinner entree promotion each weekday. I think it’s critical for retailers to proactively ask for intelligent feedback on their text campaigns to see how the majority feels about the value, realizing that specific retailers may have different audiences than those in surveys.

Melani Deyto
Guest

If a retailer has something of value to offer (limited time offers, weekly specials, etc.), customers can easily opt-in to receive these these messages by text (so long as the retailer promotes that this option is available!). If response rates are low or their subscriber lists are not growing, then retailers need to figure out why. Testing, sending out surveys, talking with customers directly — all good ways to determine types of messages welcomed by customers via text.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Sending relevant and (what appears to be) personalized messages works via text. The moment it becomes a sales pitch or an advertisement, the retailer risks a disconnection when the customer opts out — or worse, the customer is irritated to the point of not wanting to do business with the retailer. So keep it real and personal — and with the right frequency — and text works.

Any message that is overt marketing is at risk of the customer opting out. It can be text, email or even snail mail. (Snail mail’s version of a delete button is unopened mail in a trash can.)

Best way to communicate with your best customers? Pick up the phone and personally call them. Hard to scale, but very effective.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

In addition to content and context, frequency is critical to avoid going from informative to intrusive. Once customers accept receiving any kind of notification for order status or customer service issues, it’s not an invitation to start receiving a regular and constant flow of promotional notifications. I can think of a few examples I won’t name of retail apps that are no longer on my iPhone because they would deliver too many messages at odd times (i.e. not when I was in or near the store) that were purely promotional.

Yoav Vilner
Guest
1 year 8 months ago

Different clients have different priorities in term of communication with retailers. Retailers should be informed of their customers’ preferences before sending an email or text message. There are many ways retailers can find out whether their client wants to receive texts messages about promotions or delivery information. It’s always important to respect customers’ boundaries because, otherwise, retailers risk losing their clients forever.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Context as well as content will be critical to the success of text messaging as a tool to drive engagement."
"Best way to communicate with your best customers? Pick up the phone and personally call them. Hard to scale, but very effective."
"Surprise and delight needs to be at the core of any new technology communications with consumers."

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