Integrating mobile marketing with email: Text messaging (SMS)

Short message service (SMS) involves sending 160 character messages to and from a mobile.  With an 80% adoption rate among mobile users, its the most popular form of mobile advertising. 

As with email marketing, text messaging is permission based. The first goal is to get consumers to opt in. Retailers like Bath & Body Works, M&S and Lane Bryant are tapping their email subscribers.

Dedicated SMS emails {view Bath & Body Works email}

Almost everyone has a text enabled phone and can respond immediately. 

“On average a recipient of a (ISO) text message will view it within 14 mins, time increases to over six hours for email” - Mark Newman of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in the Text is Next webinar.

Deadicated SMS email

If viewing these emails on a mobile, consumers can immediately opt in to mobile alerts.  To get an idea how many of your email subscribers are mobile, try these three ideas.

Deadicated SMS email

While Bath & Body works highlight exclusive offers, Armani offer a $10 incentive. SMS Coupons are redeemed 10-22% of the time compared to less than 1% for email.

Bath & Body Works attempt to educate consumers, albeit in the small print,”By entering the information above … you are agreeing to receive text messages from Bath and Body Works.” They also set expectations around frequency and tell you how to unsubscribe or get help.

In contrast the AX email does not make opt-in explicit, state unsubscribe or frequency details.

Secondary CTA {view Lane Bryant email}

Retailers like bebe and Lane Bryant regularly feature text messaging as a secondary item.

texting on bottom bar in email

Lane Bryant places their mobile sign up information directly in the email - Text LBTXT to 50799.

texting on bottom bar in email

By directing you to a landing page to sign up, bebe could be losing mobile subscribers. Particulary consumers reading email on a mobile device.

texting on bottom bar in email

Bath & Body Works clearly offer both options, you can text to sign up or go online.

Social bar {view M&S email}

Just this week Bath & Body works joined M&S, PacSun, Overstock and American Eagle Outfitters by adding a permanent link to mobile alerts in their email footer.

UK retailer M&S, the only retailer to use word, ‘Free’.

M&S social bar with mobile

Bath & Body Works just added Facebook and mobile alerts. 

Bath & Body works social email bar

AE add the benefit, ‘Receive exclusive AE discounts’.

AE social email bar 

PacSun group SWYN, FTAF and mobile alerts together.

PacSun social email bar 

Overstock brand their mobile program, ’O-Text’ .

Overstock social bar with mobile


The footer is not a mobile-friendly location and mobile links should be in HTML text. Many retailers like Borders, Adidas and Bloomingdales have placed SWYN above the fold. Similarly I expect mobile alerts to take more prominence, as mobile marketing becomes widespread.

Just recently M&S added an above the fold mobile link, in addition to the footer.

M&S above the fold mobile link

All you need to sign up to mobile alerts is a short code and message e.g. Text LBTXT to 50799. Try placing that information in HTML text in the pre-header or subject line.


Just as we refer to SMS as text messaging, texting or short messaging, retailers are similarly divided over what language to use. ’Mobile Alerts’ is most popular but I’ve seen ’Free Text Alerts’, ‘Be Txted’, ‘MSG ME’, ‘Instant message’, ‘TXT Alerts’ and ‘O-text’. For clarity I would stick with mobile or text alerts.

Using SMS to capture email subscribers?

Pier 1 using SMS to grow email list

On the flip side, Pier 1 Imports is currently running an SMS sweepstakes to capture email addresses.  To enter, consumers text a keyword and their email address to win a Papasan chair. They are sent a confirmation asking them to opt-in to receive emails. Even if the consumer has agreed to receive email messages, you still need consent to text them.

“The goal for the SMS initiative is integration with the email campaign, basically creating a trickle campaign on the back-end,” - Jeff Haddox, direct marketing analyst at Pier 1 Imports, Ft. Worth, TX

One benefit of SMS is you can place your mobile CTA’s in offline channels, in this case store signage. 

“The response rate would’ve been much lower without the direct call-to-action that SMS provides” - Jeff Haddox 

So mobile marketers are tapping email subscribers, SMS can drive email list acquisition and it all ends up in the one database. 

SMS is a natural fit with email and I expect to see more integration over time.

Further Reading:

Part 1 - Integrating mobile marketing with email: Getting Started

Exact Targets,  Text is Next webinar covers the basics such as short codes and double opt-in

Mobile Marketer’s Classic Guide to Mobile Advertising 2009-10 (56 articles)

Mobile is strictly opt-in, view the Mobile Marketing Association’s advertising guidelines

Find out more about Pier 1 Imports text-to-win SMS campaign 

Final post in the series looks at the promotion of iPhone apps in email marketing - look for that next week


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