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Though often overlooked as a customer engagement channel, SMS marketing campaigns generate seriously impressive open rates. To move from high open rates to high engagement takes a strategic approach. Here's how.

Though often overlooked as a customer engagement channel, SMS marketing campaigns generate seriously impressive open rates. Consider the benchmarks for two other popular mobile marketing channels—email marketing and push notifications—which generate average open rates of around 22% and between 4-7%, respectively. Text campaigns, on the other hand, generate a nearly 100% open rate.

Open rates are a key indicator of a healthy customer database and can signal activity and customer awareness, but this metric alone doesn't necessarily translate to the kind of deeper relationships and brand loyalty that sustain businesses. That's the type of next level engagement that requires effort on the part of brands to nurture and cultivate.

In other words, with SMS marketing it's not so much a question of whether customers will open your campaigns. If you send an SMS message, more likely than not, it will get opened. But will it lead to something more? Will customers read the full message and take action? Complete a purchase, book an appointment, download an app, share feedback about their customer experience, check out the latest article or episode, or pledge to volunteer?

To move from high open rates to high engagement takes a strategic approach. Fortunately, your rewards for putting the work in will be easy to track, in the form of bottom of the funnel conversions, such as subscription sign-ups, donations, article views, and more. Here are the four steps brands can take to deliver SMS marketing campaigns that not only get opened but deliver a meaningful impact.

Step 1: Go Beyond List Building—Start Collecting Key Customer Insights

As we've written about, getting started with SMS marketing basics requires customer acquisition (aka building a list of subscribers who have opted into receiving text messages from your brand). But more than simply collecting a list of names and phone numbers—your company should be thinking about how you can elevate the experience you’re providing with your SMS campaigns. That means getting a better understanding of your audience's interests, preferences, and behaviors. Only then will you be able to send text messages that really speak to each individual.

And the best way to gather that information? Simply ask for it.

One way to collect customer insights and drive engagement? Launch a simple text-to-vote campaign, as shown here.

Popularized by media and streaming brands, text-to-vote polls like the one pictured above can be applied to a variety of verticals. The goal is to make the act of sharing customer interests or preferences feel empowering. Try a pilot vote campaign where you pit different products or services against each other and then use individual recipients’ results to tailor the types of SMS messages you send recipients going forward. For instance, if your food delivery brand asks people if they're wine lovers vs beer loyalists, you can subsequently message the recipient about meals that pair well with the beverage of their choice.

Step 2: Send Targeted Campaigns Based on the Customer Insights You Collect

Now that you've gathered a wealth of customer insights and user preferences in the previous step, you can use a customer journey management solution, like Braze Canvas, to deliver a segmented SMS campaign.

Once you get to know your customers, you can really get the conversation started—and keep it going.

Brands that take customer preferences into consideration are able to provide their SMS subscribers with more relevant, meaningful text messages that encourage them to engage more frequently and more deeply.

Step 3: Identify Key Customer Segments, Such as Engaged, Loyal, and Lapsing Users

No matter how strong your SMS marketing game is, some users are bound to be more engaged with your brand than others. You'll be able to uncover who's into the messages you've sent (and who isn't as impressed) by looking at SMS engagement data as it’s collected.

Looking beyond open rates and digging into SMS marketing metrics like click-through rates and conversions will offer a picture of which customers are your brand super-fans and shed light on other key segments.

This intel is easily actionable. You can (and should) use this information to drive more frequent or more intense engagement by offering targeted, relevant SMS campaigns and personalized offers based on each customer's loyalty stage. For super-fans in particular, you can strengthen relationships further via SMS with these highly personalized campaigns (such as by recognizing their birthday or celebrating a key milestone), a powerful way to drive stronger results when it comes to your brand’s business goals.

Step 4: Extend the Engagement to Other Channels with SMS Cross-Channel Marketing

Brands that engage customers over a single channel, such as SMS marketing, see their customer engagement rates take off by an impressive 180%. Companies that move beyond single-channel outreach and embrace a cross-channel approach, on the other hand, see a nearly 350% jump in engagement increase, with engagement rates reaching up to 800%.

Final Thoughts

If you're ready to make the leap to other key channels, our guide Brilliant Experiences, Channel by Channel has the latest on optimizing outreach for maximum engagement across the main channels where your customers are likely to be active, including email, mobile, web, OTT, and more.

Mary Kearl

Mary Kearl is a writer and digital strategist, who has led email, social media, and content marketing for several brands. She has helped launch six mobile apps and one niche social network and is always up for a good Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime binge recommendation or travel tip