Email and SMS — A Marketing Match Made in Heaven


“Your order is ready!” 

“Stop into the gym today and get the next month free.” 

“Check out our new spring menu here.” 

SMS texts like these are a great addition to a marketing campaign. Quick, action-oriented and relevant, every marketer should consider adding SMS to their strategy.

But, for a marketer with limited resources, adding a new channel like SMS can feel like a daunting task with new data to collect, new lists to create, and new campaigns to design. All of this upfront work can be mitigated, however, only when marketers think of SMS not as a completely unique channel but as a complement to their email marketing strategy.

There are many reasons why email and SMS go together, like peanut butter and jelly. They are both entirely permission-based, customer data and list growth can be shared between the two channels, and they can work together to increase engagement with the right campaign approach. With SMS, marketers can drive higher engagement and higher loyalty, equating to higher conversions overall. 

See More: 6 Customer Experience Strategies for SMS and WhatsApp

Expand Permissioned-based Marketing To Include Mobile

Email is the quintessential permission-based marketing channel. Starting with the CAN-SPAM act in 2003, marketers have had to ask people for the ability to send them emails. This has made email marketing particularly valuable. Email is highly trusted and gives marketers a chance to have one-on-one communication with an engaged audience. In fact, a recent study from CM Group shows that when communicating with brands and companies, people prefer email over every other channel. 

While older generations also like to interact using voice calls, text is quickly rising as another preferred communication channel and is the third most popular method of communication overall. Under the Telephone Consumer Protection ActOpens a new window , companies must get “express written consent” from individuals before they can send them automated text messages. Once this consent is earned, either through an email campaign, in-person request at the place of business, or on a website, marketers can simply append this new permission field to their email account and think of SMS as an additional option to email.

Every marketer wants to grow their email list and keep it up to date. The same should be said for SMS texts. Marketers will save a lot of time and energy if they bring these activities together into a single effort. For example, for every online transaction with a check box to ask if it’s ok to send promotional emails, marketers should also add a checkbox to ask if SMS text is ok. What’s more, everything a marketer learns about someone via zero-party data collection (i.e., asking for information directly) can be applied to both channels. For example, if someone replies to a survey over SMS about their favorite place to travel, that information (and insights) should also be used for future email campaigns. 

What’s more, understanding “first-party data” preferences (i.e., data that can be collected by observation), such as which business location someone tends to visit, can be shared across the two channels. Knowing this allows an SMS campaign to be accurately segmented and targeted the same way an email campaign is.

SMS and Email Can Support Each Other

To make both email and SMS more valuable, marketers should think of executing marketing campaigns across both channels as a single strategy. With the popularity of smartphones, email and text are both easily accessible from the very same device, but that hardly makes them the same in practice. Text is a quick, easily accessible format, whereas email requires more time and attention. 

People prefer a cohesive experienceOpens a new window across channels from the brands they engage with. They look at their phone constantly throughout the day and may become annoyed if they receive the same promotion via text as in their inbox. Or worse, they will feel confused or even ignored if an SMS campaign goes out that doesn’t take into consideration recent information they shared via email, such as signing up for an upcoming event. 

One easy way that marketers can have SMS and email work together is to ask people for their preferences early and often. For example, send a loyalty points update via SMS text along with a note that says, “Let us know your preferences. Please text “A” if you like getting loyalty updates via text or “B” if you prefer email.”  Use suppression to ensure that people don’t get the same information across both channels.

It’s also important to think about how they can be used differently to maximize the two different formats to create differentiated campaigns. SMS is great for timely messages and creating a sense of urgency. For example, a reminder that an online event starts in an hour works well in this format. It’s also great for easy offer redemption using a QR code and location-based promotions if someone is near a particular location. Lean into these use cases and save the email for things requiring a bit more text or interaction, such as a newsletter.

See More: Why SMS Payments Are Crucial for Your Customer Experience Strategy

SMS offers marketers a new opportunity to engage with their audience in a way that is more spontaneous and efficient than email. While many marketers are new to the channel, most consumers are already very comfortable with text messages. This means that their expectations for a good experience are high. Luckily marketers are people, too. For every SMS campaign, marketers new to SMS should ask themselves, “how would I react to this message in the context of everything that I do with my organization?” By creating SMS campaigns that truly add unique value above and beyond an email campaign, marketers are sure to improve their overall customer experience and see higher engagement, loyalty and conversion rates as a result.

Have you used SMS and email marketing in a complementary way? What benefits have you seen? Let us know on FacebookOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , and LinkedInOpens a new window .