Your Customers Want to Text you

A guest article by the OwnerListens team. OwnerListens is a messaging platform for businesses and customers to communicate directly. OwnerListens enables real-time customer communications using SMS and other mainstream messaging apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat.

In the not too distant future, it will be common practice to text the local hair salon, WhatsApp the neighborhood coffee shop and Messenger an ecommerce site. Some people are calling it Conversational Commerce, and many business owners are already doing it.

Everyone is Texting

As text and instant messaging become increasingly common, customers are coming to expect to be able to message you directly from their mobile phone or browser. With more services popping up all the time (Facebook’s Messenger and Yelp’s Message the Business are just some of the recent players in the space), it’s safe to say this will soon become the norm. Already, most of the world’s population has access to a cell phone with texting capabilities and over 4 billion people actively use instant messaging apps.

Nordstrom, Dominos, and NewEgg are among the many brands who have added texting to their customer communications strategy

Everyone is Shopping Online, and on Mobile

The number of online shoppers in general is trending upwards and the number of online shoppers using mobile devices to do so is soaring. Recent Cyber Monday data from Adobe shows that in 2015, “Mobile accounted for 49 percent of shopping visits... resulting in 28 percent of online sales.” If you think 49% sounds impressive, check out sales figures from Thanksgiving Day: Adobe tells us that incredibly “for the first time, mobile exceeded desktop shopping visits at 57 percent.” Additionally, 43% out of the referenced 57%, or more than 75% of all mobile shopping visits, were on smartphones.

Let us write that again: more than ¾ of all mobile online sale visits came from smartphones!

No One Uses Apps Anymore

Users are sick of downloading apps. The average mobile user spends roughly 85% of his/her time using five or less apps and they’re always the usual suspects: Facebook, Amazon, etc.  When was the last time you downloaded a brand’s app? So please, please, don’t invest in converting your online shop to a mobile app.

Shoppers Are More Impatient than Ever

One final piece to the puzzle - a study from 2015 found that average adult attention spans have dropped in a decade and a half from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to 8 seconds. That’s less than a goldfish! This means they have even less patience to pay attention to your website. Indeed recent research shows a whopping 40% of people abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load.

What Does This Mean for Independent Online Store Operators?

Being prepared for mobile shoppers is an imperative, not an option. If your site is hosted on Shopify, a mobile friendly platform, you already know that. But, you also need a mobile based customer engagement platform for your increasing number of mobile shoppers.

From a sales perspective, being able to reach out easily on mobile is even more important than it is on desktop. On desktop, shoppers might take the time to look up questions in the FAQ but on mobile, no one is browsing around. Either they get an answer now, or they leave. On mobile, there are also many more distractions that pull the shopper away - a Facebook notification, an email from work, a call from mom. If they browse away, they’re gone. Likely for good.

So what are your options?

  1. Live chat - On a mobile browser, live chat is not a convenient experience, to say the least, mostly due to the inability to multitask while waiting for a response. Usually, once you browse away you cannot return and continue the conversation.

  2. Email - It’s better than nothing, but email is very limited. For one thing, customers often get stuck at the subject line stage which is why you should always pre-populate the subject line if you’re offering an email. Then, they customers often aren’t sure how to phrase their question accurately so they end up saving the email as a draft where it remains in digital oblivion. Of course, if you do get an email from a customer, your reply will sit there until they get to it in their overloaded inbox, assuming it doesn’t go to the spam or promotions folder no one ever looks at.

  3. Contact form - If you’ve ever tried to fill out a contact form on mobile, you know this is a bad idea. No one has the time or the patience.

  4. Phone number - The advantage of phone numbers on mobile is that if shoppers click them, they will actually be easily transferred to the phone app and be able to call you right away. The disadvantage of course is that, well, who still makes calls? Most consumers these days, especially mobile savvy millennials, never want to call a business. And, if it’s late at night (when people do a lot of shopping), they won’t call at all. There are also those who can’t call because they happen to be at work or in a loud or quiet place (library or train quiet car). Do you really want to miss out on them? Lastly, a phone call is expensive for you to handle. It demands your or your employee’s attention right now, no matter what else you might be doing and what time it may be.

Enter TEXTING. Shoppers are extremely likely to send you a short text based message if they have a question or comment. It’s easy, convenient, and fast - just click the number, type what you want to say (no subject line, no complete sentences required), and send it off. The shopper can go back to their meeting or Instagram or whatever other distraction. When you reply, a notification will show up and 98% of people will actually open it (vs. 20%-25% who open emails), 90% will open it in 3-5 minutes or less. The odds of your sale actually happening just went up significantly.

On your side, as a business owner, texts are much easier to handle. They can be routed to multiple people so you never miss a sale, they can come from a virtual number so your personal number remains private, they are always documented so there are no misunderstandings (unlike phone calls), and you can reply to them on the go via SMS, email, or using web based tools, without having to excuse yourself from whatever you’re doing. The convenience of texting is yours as well as you customer’s.

A hidden advantage of texting is that if you do respond quickly to customers, you can become their friend. Shoppers are floored by awesome service via texts and in our experience, they tell their friends and they post about it online. When you text with customers, you create a fantastic opportunity for loyalty and word of mouth marketing. Just as important, we’ve seen business owners encourage customers to save their number to their contacts. If you can get into someone’s contacts and they see your business’ name as they scroll looking for grandma’s number, your business is more likely to be top of mind next time they’re shopping. It’s especially powerful for businesses with products that need to be replenished regularly (e.g. vitamins, tea, batteries, etc.).

What you need to get started texting with your customers

  1. You’ll need a number. You can get a 1-800 text line or a regular number in your area code.
  2. Position the number in a prominent place on your website. Customers shouldn’t have to look for it.
  3. Make sure the number is clickable such that it opens the texting app when customers click it.
  4. If you have multiple employees who will be replying, set up the backend so that they receive messages in your desired configuration. For example, maybe you want them all to receive all messages, or maybe you want to divide messages between them.
  5. Set up auto responses where appropriate. You or your staff may not be available 24/7. Customers understand that as long as you set the right expectations. Set up an auto response at night and make sure it takes into account the time zone you’re in and that of your customers.
  6. Since every customer conversation is also an opportunity for additional engagement, consider setting up follow on messages like thank you, ratings requests, and review prompts. Be careful not to spam. One message following a successful conversation is thoughtful, three is obtrusive.

If you are familiar with SMS APIs like Twillio or Nexmo, you can set this up yourself. If not, there are services like ours, who will take care of setup and manage the backend for you.

Every day, we help businesses save sales through texting and the tangible benefit is obvious and clear. Even after helping over 10,000 businesses text with their customers, we’re still amazed at what a powerful customer experience it is and how the intangible benefit of customer delight translates into enthusiastic endorsements and repeat sales.

As a consumer, I can’t wait for all businesses to offer texting. As a shopify store owner myself, I can’t understand businesses who don’t.

As part of our collaboration with the Shopify Entrepreneur groups, we’re offering members a 25% discount on the Message Mate app for one year. That’s just $7.50/month after your 14 day free trial! use the offer code SEGROUP when you sign up. But hurry, the discount is only good through 15th of June, 2016!

Eli Lipstein is Head of Product at OwnerListens, the developer of Message Mate for Shopify. OwnerListens is a messaging platform for businesses and customers to communicate directly. OwnerListens enables real-time customer communications using SMS and other mainstream messaging apps such as Messenger, WhatsApp, and WeChat. The OwnerListens routing engine analyzes and routes messages to the right person, system, or department for quick and efficient responsiveness. OwnerListens currently serves over 10,500 businesses worldwide.

1 comment

  • I switched from live chat to texting and it’s been much easier for me. Customers expect a fast response but it can be a few minutes/hours and they’re not disappointed. With live chat, it always has to be immediate. As a small shop owner, it took too much of my time and I needed to be online for it. I’m not sure about adding messaging apps like Messenger because it feels like that might get spammy very quickly. Has anyone tried messaging apps and can comment from experience?


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