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How retailers are using outbound SMS for sales and service

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  • Mobile-first retail consumers expect communications on their preferred channels
  • Customers have indicated a preference to both send and receive retailer SMS messages 
  • There are multiple use cases for high-volume SMS in retail

Today’s mobile-first consumers have higher expectations than their predecessors. They use new tools during their shopping experience, and they expect retailers to communicate with them through their preferred channels when it’s convenient for them.

To retain customers, retailers must adapt with new strategies and techniques. One powerful way to communicate with customers is through outbound SMS. In this post, we’ll explain how outbound SMS works and how to use it to connect with customers.

How can I communicate with my customers via text message?

As a retailer, you need to think seriously about adding SMS capabilities to your customer interactions for two main reasons:

  • Customers want to be able to get in touch with your business via text message.
  • Customers want to receive text messages from you about the status of their order, curbside pickup instructions, etc.

The second reason might be somewhat surprising – after all, customers can be very selective about which messages they’re interested in receiving. The top three SMS text message types customers say they like to receive are updates on their shipping tracking for products (75%), receiving order status and confirmations (65%), and scheduling reminders (46%).

Why text messaging for retail contact centers is more important than ever before

Retailers shouldn’t ignore the power of outbound SMS in their contact center. SMS messages have a higher read rate than emails – consumers open 98% of text messages. Moreover, 78% of consumers say that SMS is the best way to reach them. 

Keeping customers engaged via SMS messages at a time when many are choosing to forego physical trips to brick and mortar retailers is a smart move for retailers. Sending updates, reminders, and notifications when appropriate keeps your brand top of mind with consumers. For instance, sending a thank you message via SMS following a sale is an excellent way to nurture a continuing relationship with your customers.

You do not have to always send SMS messages on a customer-by-customer basis. Some messages may need to be broadcast to a larger swath of customers. The most effective way to do this is through a technique known as “high-volume SMS.”

What is high volume SMS?

High-volume SMS is a way for companies to send many text messages to many customers at once. It uses application-to-person (A2P) technology. 

A2P technology queues up thousands of messages to customers, then sends them out at a specified date and time. The benefit of using A2P technology is that you don’t need to purchase or program a new number – you can use your existing number. That saves you time and money.

How can I message all of my customers at once?

If you want to message all of your customers at once, you need a contact center platform that supports high-volume SMS.

RingCentral’s contact center software enables retailers to message thousands of customers at once. Moreover, messaging can be carried out through the app, so there’s no need to involve the IT department.

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What are use cases for outbound SMS in retail contact centers?

What are some of the ways retailers can use outbound SMS in their contact centers?

  • A welcome series of texts
  • Loyalty programs
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Reply to purchase
  • Promotions
  • Reminders and notifications

A welcome-to-our-company series of texts

When customers buy something for the first time, you can send them a series of automated welcome text messages.

These text messages introduce the customer to your company and let them know what they can expect – how often they’ll hear from you, and what kind of messages you send out.

Loyalty programs

Loyalty programs can be an easy source of revenue – you’re targeting customers who are already interested in shopping your brand. Yet, today’s customers want more. A 2018 study shows that 75% of consumers say they would engage more with loyalty programs that they could easily access from a smartphone.

With high-volume outbound SMS, you can reward customers for their loyalty while making it easier for them to access the program. Examples of text messages to loyalty program members could include:

  • News about early product releases
  • Exclusive deals
  • Recommendations for products based on previous shopping history

Abandoned cart recovery

There are times that customers don’t go through with a purchase, and there could be any number of reasons for that. Sometimes, something else comes up, and they just forget.

Abandoned cart recovery text messages remind customers that they have items in their cart waiting. The text message could spur them to make the purchase, ensuring revenue for you. Automated messages can yield a high return, considering they cost just pennies to send.

Reply to purchase

Another way to boost revenue is to text customers with items they might be interested in buying. They can respond to the SMS with “yes” or “buy” if they’re interested.

A positive response to such a text automatically purchases the item for the customer. In addition to boosting revenue, these types of SMS messages are an easy, inexpensive way to build brand loyalty – customers like being exposed to new products they find useful, and they don’t even need to expend the effort to search for them.


Promotions are probably one of the most popular ways to use high-volume outbound SMS. If you’re having a sale, this type of text message is an easy way to let many customers know about it at once, provided you use good judgment regarding the frequency and tone of such messages. It is important to avoid the customer perception that your business is “spamming” customers, so carefully consider when and how to use outbound SMS for promotions to ensure a good customer experience.

Reminders and notifications

Retailers can use outbound SMS for service calls as well.

High-volume SMS capabilities can send out notifications that a service appointment has been scheduled. Automated reminders alert customers that a service technician will be coming at a specified date and time. Additionally, a notification could be automatically sent out when a service technician is on the way.

RingCentral: enabling high-volume outbound SMS for retail contact centers

RingCentral’s high-volume outbound SMS capabilities enable retailers to reach customers quickly and easily. Find out more about high-volume SMS here or get a demo of RingCentral’s customer engagement solutions.


Originally published Apr 27, 2021, updated Jan 30, 2023

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