We first noticed text alerts, or mobile offers, while shopping in a Copenhagen department store a few years ago. The sign said that shoppers could find a special SMS offer on glassware using their mobile phone.  We didn’t even know at the time that “SMS” stands for short message service, and refers to text messages received on cell phones.

It has taken a while for SMS marketing to hit the US, but it seems to be coming into its own now.  It can be used in three ways:


store promotion

deals from a third party provider

Office Max recently sent me an e-mail stating that I could Text OFFICEMAX and then add a code number to receive special offers and mobile alerts. (There was also an option of signing up online.) They offered a gift card to the first 10,000 customers who join.  As with permission-based e-mail marketing, this type of promotion only works when you’ve already earned the customer’s trust.  In exchange for sharing their cell phone number with you, you must promise that they will receive desirable SMS offers and invitations. 

You can also encourage potential new customers to find out about your business through store promotions that link your print or radio advertising to an SMS short code. This call to action can spur a very immediate response, which is why stores like the Copenhagen department store even use it on their in-store signage.

The last option takes advantage of third-party providers that offer special deals via SMS.  Companies like our local Dane Exclusive Deals post daily offers similar to a Groupon via text message. The iPhone app MobiQupons sends out offers based on the geographic location of the user’s phone. These options can be ideal for getting new customers, assuming the companies have a large enough base of subscribers to be effective.

An SMS offer can only be redeemed by showing the “coupon” on a cell phone or smart phone while in the store.  Keep in mind that this means that if you want to track the effectiveness of the promotion, you will need to create your own paper trail.

According to an article in The New York Times, “SMS is still a relatively uncluttered and spam-free marketing channel. It’s also the one form of communication that many people are tethered to 24/7. Which helps explain why, at a time when in-boxes fill with hundreds of never-opened e-mail messages from direct marketers, 97 percent of all SMS marketing messages are opened (83 percent within one hour), according to the latest cell-carrier research.”  In terms of creating excitement and response to an advertising message, it’s hard to ignore those statistics! 

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder