Savvy Brands Double Down on Back-to-School SMS Marketing

Todd LaBeau is vp of digital for Lindsay, Stone & Briggs (LSB), an advertising and public relations firm. Find him on Twitter @toddlabeau.

It’s back-to-school time again. So what’s new this year in the world of digital marketing for retailers? For some, it’s about launching new digital campaigns to capture mobile-savvy consumers. Others, like Kohl’s, are building on last year’s successes and taking them to new heights. For almost all of them, though, this year is about SMS texting.

According to research by SinglePoint, 90 percent of all text messages are read within 3 minutes of being received on the mobile phone. That’s amazing, although not entirely surprising when you think about it. Everyone texts. Well, almost everyone. Some people don’t. But that’s another story and usually ends with “get off my lawn.” The point is that people who do text tend to read texts too. They are most often short and to the point, so that helps.

It’s clear that most brands have shifted their digital strategies to listen and engage with customers. But the brands that looked at when and how customers are consuming information are jump-starting their own success in a crowded and competitive space with SMS texting. The ones that are getting it right will see a huge difference in engagement and ROI. Here are a few examples:

Kohl’s is using SMS texts to inform consumers that if they spend $30, they can win various prizes including discounts at other retailers like Staples.


Abercrombie is using SMS messaging to give people who go into their stores a chance to win clothing and discounts.


Nordstrom is using its in-app SMS texting capabilities to enhance the sharing of a customer’s latest finds.


Macy’s launched an SMS-based campaign designed to encourage consumers to text the keyword DORM for a chance to win a $500 gift card.


The key takeaway is that brands are embracing and combining technology with digital advertising to connect with consumers in new and relevant ways. Mobile is a given. Engagement is now table stakes. Successfully connecting the dots on user behaviors, timing and preferred touch-points, whether by email, snail mail or SMS texting, is where market leaders are emerging.

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