2021 State of DTC Text-Message
Marketing Research Report
Research and insights on consumer behavior for e-commerce and direct-to-consumer text-message marketing.
It’s easy to see the trends. Or at least, that’s what we thought.
Text message marketing is still a relatively new way of communicating with customers, which made this research all the more telling.
According to Pew Research, over 95% of Americans own a mobile phone—and we’re using them constantly. Messaging is a top channel for Gen-Z, Millennials, and Boomers alike, and we are all increasingly shopping online.
We all have our phones on us all the time, and anytime we get a text, we immediately check it. (Hush Karen, you know it’s true)
When you connect the dots, it certainly makes sense that DTC text marketing should have potential as a major marketing channel.
But then the questions of customer experience come in. Do customers really want brands in their text messages? Are people even signing up for text messages? Will people enjoy getting text from brands or just be straight up annoyed?
What we discovered is that there are a lot of assumptions about how consumers feel about DTC text marketing but a surprising lack of research on it.
We had the same questions, but we wanted to get some hard data from consumers about their DTC text marketing experiences.
So we conducted some research about how consumers are behaving. Here is what we learned—and we included some dope infographics to show our data off...you’re welcome.
Here’s what you can expect to learn about:
- How often are consumers signing up for brand text messages?
- Where on your site are consumers signing up?
- Is it new or returning customers who are signing up more?
- How much do consumers care about the content of their text messages?
- How often are online stores texting their audiences?
- What types of messages are consumers most interested in receiving?
Marketing Director, Conversmart
Trend Data & Analysis
How often are consumers signing up for brand text messages?
To begin with, the research revealed that text message marketing is far less of a DTC consumer concern than many brands have come to believe. It’s far more common than brands might think. Our in-house research shows that over 75% of consumers signed up for text messages from an online store just in the last year.
We took a deeper look into some of the age demographics as well to discern any trends there. What we found was interesting. There was high popularity of text across three different generations of shoppers.
Among the 18-29 group, the percentage of those signing up for SMS messages rose to 77% which wasn’t too shocking.
However the 30-44 group rose even further to 83%. It seems that this young/middle age segment may be at a stage in life where they are likely to have higher incomes, be shopping more online, but are still very at home in their text message inbox.
In the 45-60 bracket, we saw the numbers stick closely to the overall trend (76%) and finally, the over 60 group saw a decline in signups, but surprisingly still saw over fifty percent (54%) sign up in the past year.
Over 75% of consumers have signed up for text messages from an online store in the last year.
“Conversmart’s survey findings confirm that SMS has become a top communications channel for brands, due to increasing interest from consumers across all demographics to sign-up. Based on these results, it’s critical for DTC brands to prioritize effectively growing subscriber lists, sending message content that drives action, and using text messaging in unique ways across the entire customer lifecycle.”
CEO & Co-Founder, Attentive
Where are consumers signing up?
The next question we wanted to answer was where (on-site) these consumers were signing up. At what stage of the journey were consumers most inclined to provide their number to a brand?
The results were quite interesting. While many brands use a homepage popup to collect signups, a large 60% of consumers indicated that they signed up during checkout, while another 24% said they signed up via a static homepage form, and surprisingly, popups came in last with around 16%.
The demographic data for this question was less shocking so we won’t cover it here, but one thing we did do is compare this feedback against our internal client data.
Internally, we see the best results from mobile full page pop ups with email and sms and a discount, but this data may be skewed due to the fact that we are typically looking at both Shopify and Shopify Plus customers, but only Shopify Plus clients are able to include and track a checkout signup form.
The majority of DTC consumers are signing up during checkout, followed by static homepage signups, and then pop-up forms.
Pro Tip: As of this writing, Shopify’s standard checkout doesn’t allow for the customizations needed to add a checkout opt-in. This is only available for those with Shopify’s premium offering ShopifyPlus. However, based on this data, the benefits of switching may greatly exceed the additional costs.
“We’re at a time with the text channel that reminds me of email marketing in ecommerce 5 years ago. People are protective of their text inboxes, and as we see in the report, are perhaps less willing to willy nilly add their phone number into a popup, but they certainly are in the checkout flow. And it makes sense. It’s easier to understand the context under which it’ll be used. No doubt text will continue to grow as an owned channel, and become a staple in ecommerce marketing.”
Is it new or return customers that are signing up?
Both new and returning customers are signing up with slightly more first time consumers opting-in.
Next up, we wanted to determine whether these signups were more likely to come from return customers or new customers. We didn’t see as much of a contrast here as we expected. We expected that the return customers would be driving a larger portion of new signups, but the research showed that first time customers actually edged out returning customers. This serves as a good reminder that brands should always be keeping both segments of their audience in mind when crafting their signup locations and offers. It also highlights that SMS can be viewed as both a new customer acquisition channel as well as a retention and loyalty building channel.
“This report affirms what we’re learning at Postscript - that consumers are ready and willing to engage with their favorite brands via SMS. Clearly, many users are still marketing averse, but its early days. Brands taking the time to build their SMS lists now, while being cautious not no overwhelm their subscribers with promotions are the ones who will see dividends for years to come.”
How much do consumers care about the text message content?
The next question we sought to answer was how much consumers care about the content of the brand text messages they receive. We expected far stronger sentiments, but when asked to rank their impact on a scale of 1-100 (1 being didn’t care at all and 100 being cared greatly), we saw a majority of answers right in the middle.
The piece of the data that we did find insightful was that when we segmented the responses, the 18-29 group appeared more indifferent to the messages. This might indicate that this segment has become so comfortable with a higher volume of messages in their inboxes that they feel even less affected by the specific messages.
Think that consumers care strongly about the text messages they receive? Think again. The majority of consumers were neutral about them and younger consumers cared even less.
Takeaway: One takeaway from this is that if brand text messages tend to evoke fairly neutral emotions, they may be thinking about their text message inboxes similar to their email inboxes. In other words, if it’s good, they’ll engage with it, but if it’s not, they’ll just ignore it. On the other hand, this also highlights a key opportunity. If text message recipients generally don’t feel one way or the other about incoming messages from other brands, this can be a great opportunity for brands to innovate and really stand out using high-quality creative and copy.
Now this leads us to our final two questions that dig a little deeper into the text messages that brands are sending.
“We know that SMS is a growing channel that businesses use to connect with their customers - it’s a big part of the future. We’ve increased our investment in SMS to give merchants the best in class tools needed to build even stronger relationships with their customers. We’re excited to help our customers deliver amazing experiences across both email and text.”
How often are online stores texting their audiences?
After learning about the general feelings that consumers have about their incoming brand text messages, we thought that it would be interesting to learn more about the frequency that consumers are receiving them.
Across all segments, the majority of consumers (almost 80%) said they received 1-5 branded texts in a given month, with 38% reporting 1-2 and 39% reporting 3-5.
Does this have any correlation to the prior question? Are consumers more or less indifferent to incoming texts because they’re only getting a handful of them a month?
Clearly every brand will need to test this for themselves, but we definitely found it interesting that brands rarely exceed six messages per month.
This is likely a good opportunity that many brands are missing to get in front of your audience more frequently with relevant and engaging messaging.
What types of messages are consumers most interested in receiving?
The final question we wanted to ask consumers (and perhaps the most important one) was around the benefits they were hoping to get from their text messages.
This was revealing but also provided some insight into how brands can best engage with their consumers.
The top benefit that consumers reported was shipping confirmation followed closely by purchase confirmation. This isn’t too surprising as transactional emails also perform well with consumers.
One thing that was surprising was that a higher percentage of consumers would rather see offers for a store wide sale than more custom tailored offers.
Consumers are most interested in transactional messages, quickly followed by special offers.
“Your customer will not get annoyed when they receive a text from you. The average consumer is already predisposed to text messages from businesses. They are receiving texts for order delivery, two-factors authentication, presidential campaigns and so on. Your customers want you to reach them via text and it is no surprise the data in this report aligns with that.”
CEO & Founder, Conversmart
DTC Text Messaging is Here to Stay
So what can we take away from this research? At a minimum, it is clear that consumers are far more comfortable by text messages coming from brands than many previously thought. It’s also clear that brands need to be thinking about incorporating opt-in forms in multiple places on-site that allow for capturing of both new and returning visitors in the most relevant part of their customer journey.
Beyond these lessons, there are countless others that you can take and apply to your specific brand. The bottom line is that text messaging for DTC brands is here to stay, many of your consumers are already receiving them, and it represents a great opportunity for brands who learn to do it well.
Endnote: We will be repeating this research annually to track these trends over time. To be notified about that and other educational DTC content, sign-up on the Conversmart blog.
“As the data clearly suggests and our own millions of conversations have shown us - text marketing is not only here to stay - it’s poised to be the dominant customer interaction channel for digitally native brands who need to build instant feedback loops with their customers that generate increased lifetime value. The beauty of this old-but-new medium is the sky’s the limit in what can be achieved for brands that lead with authenticity and a “give without asking mentality” towards how they approach text message marketing in partnership with world-class agencies like Conversmart and power marketing automation tools like Voxie. Onward!”
CEO & Founder, Voxie
Research Summary (TL;DR):
Three quarters of consumers (75%) have signed up for SMS in an online store in the last year.
The majority of on-site sign ups occur during checkout (60%), followed by a static homepage signup (23%), and then pop up windows (17%).
The amount of folks signing up is almost even with a slight edge going to first-time customers. (54% first time vs 46% returning customers)
The older the respondent, the more the relevance of the message mattered to them. On a 1-100 scale, each group rated its importance slightly higher. (18-29: 39); (30-44: 49); (45-60: 50); (60+: 53)
The majority of consumers indicated that they receive 1-5 texts messages per month from online stores. (38%: 1-2); (39%:3-5); (10%:6-9); (13%: 10+)
Over half of consumers wanted product purchase and shipping confirmations while slightly less than half wanted to see store wide and personalized offers. Finally, 31% expressed that they liked receiving back in stock notifications.
With the help of SurveyMonkey Audience, we conducted an anonymous eight question survey of 232 men and women over the age of 18 regarding sentiments about online store SMS marketing experiences and preferences. Using the responses from our survey, we have highlighted the most common answers in this report.
Note: The only incentives SurveyMonkey Audience uses to collect respondents are brochures or charity donations.
Ready to implement text marketing for your DTC brand?
Download a copy of the research report and get a bonus Actionable Getting Started Guide PDF.
The Guide includes:
- DTC text message platform overview
- How to collect new subscribers
- Recommended message flows and example copy