How Brick-And-Mortar Retailers Can Attract Consumers With ‘Text-To-Shop’

Seeking permission from consumers before sending an SMS marketing message is critical, says PSFK’s Simone Spilka.

PSFK'S Simone Spilka
PSFK’S Simone Spilka

In the Power of Chat Debrief from PSFK Labs, the brand researcher shows how SMS, messaging, and chat are once again prevalent — and, as Editor Simone Spilka argues, even integral — to enhancing the in-store experience.

In addition, PSFK’s data also seems to dispel the notion that consumers consider such tactics “too invasive.” But as Spilka explains, making sure that shoppers want to hear from a certain brand or retailer is crucial to successfully connecting with their consumers.

GeoMarketing: What’s your sense of how popular or necessary SMS-based marketing/text message-based advertising is?

Simone Spilka: In The Power of Chat, PSFK Labs illustrates 15 best-in-class examples of brands leveraging SMS and messaging platforms to connect with consumers. These case studies range from major retailers who have integrated text-to-shop features in their customer service offerings, to hotels that allow their guests to text requests to service staff.

Brick-and-mortar retailers are using text as the best way to connect with customers to notify them of a sale, manage orders or make a purchase. It goes beyond marketing in the traditional sense and actually becomes a direct line to the customer that can be used to deliver personalized service, or even the ability to buy products.

Through chat, today’s shoppers can book an international flight or pick out a new piece of furniture with a sales associate with a command as simple as “send.”

In a mobile-first world, consumers respond to this type of in-the-moment expertise and personalization. SMS-based communication makes it easy for customers to acquire products or services, especially as more brands embed purchasing within the messaging platform.

PSFK where are youAre consumers more or less averse to text message marketing?

Consumers today are less averse to text message marketing as a direct result of how people are digesting content and communicating with their peers, colleagues and organizations.

Just by looking down the street or in a store, we know that consumers are constantly tethered to their devices, and they’re using text-messaging platforms as the fastest and most efficient tool for communication. A Pew Research Center study found that it takes people 90 minutes to respond to an email, and just 90 seconds to respond to a text.

So when it comes to communicating with their brands, consumers desire that immediate and intuitive communication that text-based conversations enable. But there needs to be a level of thoughtfulness behind how brands are using these platforms – customers will be open if there’s direct value proposition or utility element attached.

A direct line of communication between the consumer and the service means that brands can enhance customer relationships by delivering more personalized recommendations. A consumer might build up a user profile as soon as their second time using a service, which allows the service representative to tailor conversation on a case-by-case basis and improve overall customer satisfaction.

Does asking consumers to “opt-in” to receive texts from a marketer make a difference in terms of how successful an SMS campaign is?

Making these services opt-in is critical. The customer needs to feel that they’re buying into an experience. Just because someone has opted in doesn’t mean that there doesn’t have to be context, relevance or personalization behind these types of interactions. Without it, people will just as quickly opt-out, which can leave a negative taste for the brand for being over-marketed at times that doesn’t provide value.

E-commerce and one-click shopping is a natural area that the report explores. But can texting in-store also be useful to driving physical sales?

Any time you give customers a direct line of communication to a knowledgeable member of staff, then, chances are they will use it. Great customer service, whether face-to-face or over mobile, is never going to inhibit a sale with the likelihood of driving buyer confidence at the moment they’re considering a purchase, which is always a plus.

And even with the rise of e-commerce, studies have found that 90 percent of all retail sales still take place in-store. Shoppers are visiting brick-and-mortar for a number of reasons, such as trying on a product before they buy or seeking out knowledge from trained staff who can provide expertise.

That means retailers should look to ways to provide that type of value to customers at every touchpoint — from before they walk into the store to after they make a purchase.

Nordstrom has implemented TextStyle, a personalized shopping experience that takes over mobile, notes PSFK.
Nordstrom has implemented TextStyle, a personalized shopping experience that takes over mobile, notes PSFK.

By extension, SMS has become an integral part of the retail toolkit.

A 24/7 locker room in Amsterdam, Bubble & Stitch, lets their customers manage orders and receive ready for pick-up notifications when their cleaning has been completed through text while Nordstrom has implemented TextStyle, a personalized shopping experience that takes over mobile.

Using TextStyle, a shopper will text with a sales associate and tell them general information about an item they’re interested in and receive a reply with a curated selection of products.

The customer simply texts back “buy” with a unique code to complete the transaction. The implications of such services allow customers to shop ahead to save their preferences, or discover more about products in context to make their purchases relevant to the time they’re in-store.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.