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How to use SMS for email segmentation

by Ryan Phelan

Aug 24th 2016


Count yourself fortunate if you have your customers’ mobile numbers.

It’s one of the most closely held pieces of data among consumers and a solid indicator of brand affinity and trust.

Maybe you got those numbers at registration or during transactions? If you did, virtual high five! You’ve certainly done well. Too many marketers squander this invaluable opportunity to establish a deeper connection to their customers by asking only for an email address at this peak engagement point.

Adestra’s own 2016 Consumer Adoption and Usage Study found that consumers willingly give up some personal information to get the content they want, especially gender, email address, name and birthday. They’re a little more hesitant to give up that mobile number, but they’re still more willing to share that than their personal addresses or income.

Being able to get more information on your customers at acquisition, also allows you to address them individually but at scale as part of a big data plan.

Should you ask for mobile numbers?

Mobile numbers give you more information about your customers and are another channel for contact. This is important if you’re unable to reach them via email. If you don’t ask your customers for their mobile number now, consider asking this as part of your registration process or during a transaction.

But ponder these three caveats before you add another form field:

  • Make it optional. Customers will probably ask themselves, “Do I want to hear from these people on my phone?” The email inbox is a personal, private space, but the mobile phone space is sacrosanct in comparison.
  • Assess how it fits with other information. You know you can’t overwhelm new customers with too many prying questions. It takes a lot of trust, and filling in a bunch of form fields can be tricky on mobile phones.
  • Have a mobile strategy before you start sending texts. Don’t expect to churn out messages the way you crank out email campaigns. Nobody wants a mobile phone that beeps, buzzes or pings every five minutes. Decide which messages suit the always-on immediacy of a text, and which need email and its richer information environment.

Identify consumer intent with SMS

Customers who give you their mobile numbers are showing you a deeper level of trust in your brand and company, and are potential brand advocates or more brand-loyal than others.

As mobile users, our propensity is for alerts and messages from contacts, especially friends and family. When customers give you their mobile numbers, they’re telling you they’ve added you to their small circles of people whose messages are important.

Take a page from the playbook of your pals in B2B marketing and score those customers higher because they gave you an additional and valuable contact point. It can also signal an intent to purchase.

Reach out to customers via SMS

Suppose the product is out of stock. Or, a hotel has no vacancies, or your event is sold out. Ask for the mobile number and explain that you’ll use it to let the customer know when the product is available, when the hotel has a room, or when the event has openings.

Yes you could send an email, but the message has a special urgency. Offering to send a text shows your customer how important their business is to you.

Some other suggestions for sending a text message:

  • Flash sales on major shopping days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Low inventory on products customers have been browsing.
  • Abandoned cart reminders (as part of a strategy that combines email and text).

Share SMS data for smarter marketing 

Some data points that you have on your email customers might not exist for your SMS marketer colleagues. They might have just the name and mobile number, while you have gender, age, phone, preferences and address.

Reach out to your SMS group and say, “I have additional data for you to fill out your customer profiles.” Having all that data makes the SMS marketer smarter.

Also, sharing intelligence within the company keeps your customers happy, too. When they give you data, they see it as giving it to your company, not just to one marketing channel within it. Share your rich email data along with engagement and other information, with other internal teams so that all of your marketing programs are smarter and more relevant. While “breaking down the silos” is such a cliché, it really works.

SMS isn’t just another medium. It’s a gateway to intent. Look at the mobile number as helping to complete your company’s understanding of who their customers really are. Your consumers will thank you for it.

Use SMS for propensity modeling

In basic or advanced segmentation, the presence of the mobile number can indicate digital propensity or savviness. People who choose to receive communications via mobile are probably on their phones a lot more.

This marker of increased digital use can be helpful in developing models of people who are upwardly mobile. It can also assist in being able to tie life scenarios into the consumer channel of preference.