oday’s modern marketing strategies follow an omni-channel approach to engaging with guests. As a marketing channel, SMS is proven to drive results, especially when brands target their most engaged guests on their mobile device with timely and personalized messages.
Why? On average, SMS open rates are as high as 98% and replies are received within 90 seconds.
This quick guide will explore the power of SMS marketing automation for restaurants, and the important guidelines and tips restaurant brands need to get started.
The Case for SMS Automations
Let’s start with a quick definition: SMS marketing stands for “Short Message Service” marketing, often referred to as text message marketing. Prized by marketers for the immediate, direct connection with guests, the ability to customize and personalize messages, and the timeliness of outreach via SMS automations—it’s no surprise that SMS marketing is driving ROI in all industries.
The restaurant industry in particular has an immediate need for timely, personalized guest engagement. In the past year, restaurants have seen a jump in off-prem sales across the industry (often from 5-7% of sales to 25-30%), and due to government regulations and changing guest patterns, a growing segment of first time restaurant guests are online orderers.
The industry continues to pivot to contactless guest experiences, where guests can order, pay, and pick up their food without ever directly interacting with staff. Restaurant brands are turning to technology to provide the same hospitality and personal touch to the new guest journey through contactless channels like SMS.
The case for SMS automations is clear, but a successful start depends on two crucial steps: Knowing the rules, and driving opt-ins.
Step 1: To set the stage for SMS success, first know the rules
Get the Full Scoop on Regulations
Collecting a guest phone number through marketing efforts over time doesn’t necessarily mean you have clearance to add those numbers into your SMS campaigns. The rules and regulations of SMS marketing are set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CTIA. It’s important to read, understand, and comply with published regulations.
Get Clear Consent/Opt-In from Guests
Guests must explicitly opt-in to receive SMS marketing messages—opt-in can happen either via mobile or web.
Transactional Messages are Off Limits to Solicit Opt-Ins
It’s not permitted to solicit opt-ins to SMS marketing messages via waitlist, reservation, or online ordering, etc. ‘transactional’ messages (e.g. ‘table ready’ notification).
(Where CAN you solicit opt-ins? Read on to step #2.)
New opt-ins must receive a confirmation text after sign-up, including purpose, reminder that message/data rates may apply, opt-out instructions, and how to access help instructions. (For restaurants running SMS automations through Wisely, this message flow is already set up to ensure compliance with regulations.)
Keep Guests Up-to-Date
Access to information about your SMS campaigns should be accessible via your website, in the restaurant, and on any pages where you collect opt-in guest data.
Step 2. To get the most out of SMS automations, grow your opt-in audience.
Whether SMS automations is the first outreach tool being put to use, or the latest in a comprehensive omni-channel marketing strategy, these three quick plays will drive opt-ins for any restaurant brand.
1. Opt-ins via web forms: Include SMS marketing language on all of your guest-facing forms e.g. waitlist/reservations, website sign-ups, guest WiFi, etc. (For restaurants running Wisely, this is automatically enabled)
2. Opt-ins via short code: Offer your guests something exclusive or an incentive to sign-up to receive SMS messages from your brand simply by texting a keyword to a short code
3. Promote via social, email & offline channels: Remind guests and followers of the benefits of being kept up-to-date via SMS across all of your marketing channels
SMS marketing has emerged as one of the best and most reliable ways for any brand to connect with their guests. Its use is on the rise, and with good reason: when done correctly, it works. In fact, the response rate of SMS marketing is 45% vs email response rates at 6% (Statista, 2020).
As this series continues, look for more powerful SMS marketing tips and strategies, including campaign ideas (and how guest behavior can trigger SMS messages automatically), and how automated email and SMS campaigns work together for more powerful marketing outreach.
Photo Credit: Austin Distel