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How DSW Shoes Uses SMS to Strengthen Customer Relationships

Much to be Desired

I'm opted-in to a number of different SMS text programs from companies that I patronize and follow. For the most part, I've been underwhelmed by relevance of the SMS text messages I've received from them to-date. Most of the promotional texts I receive remind me of the age-old batch-and-blast mentality: they largely regurgitate the promotions that they are currently running on the website and that they are communicating in email, and few of them make me feel like they really know who I am by segmenting or personalizing the message in any way, leaving me to question the value of staying subscribed to their SMS text programs.

With SMS text being a double opt-in, permission-based communication channel with such high engagement (estimated 95-97% read rate within 4-5 minutes of sending), relationship marketers owe it to these very engaged subscribers to do a better job of delivering more relevant communications via text message.


A Sliver of Silver

There are several relationship marketers who understand this challenge of heightened relevance within the SMS channel and deliver on it. They orchestrate a unified message among all of their key communication channels. SMS may not be the appropriate channel for all situations, but one of those situations where it works best is for time-sensitive alerts, programs like delivery confirmations, service reminders, and when done well can augment the scope of a well-timed promotional message. I recently received a very relevant, time-sensitive, personalized and integrated SMS text message from DSW, Designer Shoe Warehouse (which was the impetus for this post).

I signed up for DSW emails a while ago. At the same time, I also joined their loyalty program and also signed up to receive SMS texts. This SMS text I received from DSW all began with a birthday email that I received on the first day of my birth month. Looking back now, it got buried in the seeming tidal wave that is my inbox, and I completely missed it. I also missed the reminder email that they sent 25 days later reminding me that I still had not used my birthday promotional offer. But I did not miss the SMS text message which also reminded me that I had not used the offer -- this was the one that absolutely did get my attention and got me shopping.


DSW - SMS Text 03.jpgDSW - Birthday Email 01.jpgDSW - Birthday Email 02.jpg  

How DSW Is Doing it and Doing it Well

1. It starts with permissionDSW - Preferences Center 00.jpg

DSW does a fantastic job of allowing me to easily sign-up for SMS text messaging from them and manage my preferences and profile data in a centralized preferences management center. Their mobile phone capture field is placed at the top of their alerts profile page. They also give options for different types of communications I can receive from them as well as the channel I'd like to receive them in: email, SMS Text or both. They also do a great job of allowing easy global opt-out. On other tabs, DSW also captures some profile data like birthday, gender, and closest physical store.

2. Make it feel personalized

There's not a lot you can say in 140 characters that a text message allows, but DSW makes it personalized by letting me know that they know my birthday and by providing a unique, customer-specific or one-time use code in the email. This code is the same code in the 2 emails and the SMS text message which means that their communications are all sharing and using the same underlying data.

3. Make it multi-channelDSW - In stores or online offer code.jpg

I'm talking about the transactional channel now, not communication channel. I'm talking about letting the customer transact with you where they want to transact with you, online, in-store, in-app, wherever. Don't restrict your codes to in-store only or online only. DSW does allow you to use these codes in-store and online, which is great because I have a tendency to shop in both channels. Nothing frustrates me more than when I hear a store associate tell me that an offer only applies to online orders. With the short space of characters available, they don't tell you in the SMS text, but do reinforce this multi-channel message in the email creative.

4. Automate it - Orchestrate it

DSW has setup their email and SMS to trigger based on some simple date logic based on birth month. They send the first email on the first day of the month. What they are doing well is sending up the secondary email to non-converters and the SMS text to non-openers. Users who converted might get nothing, or they might get an email congratulating them on their birthday purchase...only DSW and the converters will ever know. What I'm assuming is that they looked at the fact that I didn't open the first email, and, when I didn't open the second email (but knowing that I was opted in to SMS), they decided to use that channel as their last touch-point in that lifecycle campaign. Very smart.

 DSW - Birthday Program Communications Flow.jpg

The Challenge Remains

The challenge remains for most cross-channel relationship marketers to integrate their SMS text programs in with their other customer communications or to prove the incremental value of being subscribed to their SMS programs.

DSW is taking their relationship marketing to the next level by integrating SMS into their existing lifecycle campaigns.

Who else in your opinion is doing a good job of integrating SMS into their customer communications? Please comment below and tell me who you would nominate for a "Best Inclusion of SMS Text" award.


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