As Consumers Trade Down, Brands Text Early to Boost Holiday Sales

woman texting in store

It’s hard to ignore the omnipresence of our mobile phones. We turn to them countless times throughout the day, making them an indispensable part of our daily routine.

While the advantages of staying “connected” are evident, there are also undeniable disadvantages, with one of the most significant being the constant bombardment of communications.

In a time when information flows incessantly, frequently inundating individuals with a continuous influx of notifications and messages, this information overload is particularly conspicuous on platforms like social media and email. On these platforms, individuals find themselves swamped with promotional content, updates and personal messages.

For brands and retailers, this crowded digital landscape poses a significant challenge. The ability to stand out and capture the attention of their target audience is becoming increasingly difficult. While personalization is still achievable on these platforms, the need for immediate action can be hindered by the sheer volume of content vying for the consumer’s attention and the lack of time consumers spend on specific channels.

Amid this digital cacophony, brands and retailers are turning to a simpler and more direct form of communication: texting.

This move aligns with recent findings from the Pew Research Center, which reported that 97% of adult Americans possess cell phones equipped to receive text messages.

In an interview with PYMNTS, Sara Varni, chief marketing officer at Attentive, discussed the reasons behind businesses’ growing reliance on text messaging as a means to connect with customers, especially during the holiday season.

“You’re in a very personal space for the consumer, and you can deliver a highly personalized, one-to-one message. The engagement is so high, and you have so much signal from that channel to really fine-tune what you say,” said Varni.

The Value in Texting for Brands and Retailers 

With text messaging, brands can craft messages that resonate with individual customers, and they can do it in real time. This enables brands to promptly communicate important updates, promotions or information to their customers. Conversely, customers can conveniently contact brands via text when they require assistance.

Moreover, text messaging serves as a tool for presenting exclusive offers and rewards to devoted customers. Retailers can establish loyalty programs that encourage repeat purchases and engagement through promotions sent via text — and promote mobile commerce.

Texting campaigns have the ability to produce data that can be analyzed to extract insights into customer behavior and preferences. Brands can then use that data to refine their marketing strategies, identify specific customer segments, and improve their messaging for better outcomes.

What Brands and Retailers Are Doing This Holiday Season 

Every year it seems brands and retailers are starting earlier and earlier to get holiday sales going.

“I think we’ve seen a good chunk of our customer base start as early as September,” said Varni.

In terms of what they’re communicating this year, Varni highlighted three trends. First, there’s a focus on conveying value to consumers. The move comes as the most recent study by PYMNTS Intelligence and LendingClub found that 36% of consumers experiencing seasonal stress are resorting to using their credit cards. Moreover, 40% of consumers rely on their savings, while a smaller portion choose to delay certain expenditures or reduce spending on necessities.

Read more: Trade-Offs and Trade-Downs May Be Keys to Getting the Holiday Shopping Done

As a result, brands have embraced value-based messaging, emphasizing characteristics like durability and usefulness.

Second, Varni touched on the significance of mid-funnel conversion strategies. Due to budget constraints, many marketers have deprioritized brand awareness campaigns. Instead, there has been a concerted focus on maximizing engagement with current customers, and brands have looked to SMS (short messaging service) to do that with messages like back-in-stock notifications and reminders for abandoned carts.

Third, Varni pointed to the interest in using generative artificial intelligence (AI) to craft content that connects with consumers.

How APL and Guess Have Leveraged SMS 

Using SMS, running shoe and sneaker company APL exceeded its original return on investment (ROI) goal. Overall, the brand’s SMS program has a 78x ROI, and its messages reportedly continue to drive engagement with an average 32% conversion rate (CVR).

To accomplish this, APL responded personally every time a subscriber texted with a question or comment to ensure that customers were never left without a response.

APL also looked to refine its text messaging copy, branching its browse and cart abandonment approach according to a subscriber’s level of intent to make a purchase. For instance, subscribers who added products to their online cart two or more times received an abandoned cart reminder, with an exclusive offer to assist them in completing their purchase.

“It’s the highest form of personalization and has created an ongoing dialogue with our customers. They become loyal brand advocates because they feel heard by APL,” said APL Managing Partner NJ Falk.

Then there’s Guess, which set out to gamify the SMS experience with the goal of increasing engagement by crafting a playful and interactive experience for subscribers. The effort reportedly generated $12.49 million in attributed revenue.

“We had a couple of text messages that generated $10k+,” Guess Senior UX Manager and Senior Front-End Developer Sasha Mattison said. “For us, it was reminiscent of the old email days, when you could send an email and see consistently high returns.”