Email & SMS Marketing Strategies for Shopify Subscription Brands

Everything your Shopify subscription brand needs to know about Email & SMS marketing strategies in order to increase brand exposure & boost customer retention.

Table of Contents

    We’ve all gotten that highly-impactful text or email from a company that instantly pulls us in and persuades us to engage. But what makes certain forms of communication significantly more enticing than others? 

    When it comes to Shopify subscription brands, communication carries a lot of weight. Because of the nature of subscriptions, long-term relationships matter — and the way you market to your subscribers is central to this dynamic. eCommerce businesses that strategically utilize text and email to engage their audience see some impressive results, and there’s no harm in peeking over their shoulders to get some stellar marketing campaign ideas to implement. To help you strengthen your efforts, we’re outlining email and SMS marketing strategies that will boost your customer engagement, increase your LTV, and scale your subscription business

    Email Marketing Vs SMS Marketing: Which Is Better?

    Email and SMS marketing often get bucketed together. But it’s important to recognize that these are two separate channels and you'll want different strategies for each (though the strategies can and should complement one another). 

    In 2022, eCommerce businesses increased their YOY usage of email marketing by 42% and increased their SMS marketing by 62%. These forms of marketing are clearly attractive for a variety of reasons — and many brands are left wondering which is better for growing their business. 

    While they each offer different opportunities, perhaps it’s more helpful to think of email versus SMS like you’d think of choosing between fruits and vegetables. There are many different reasons to reach for either, and they have their own unique perks — but ultimately, they’re arguably at their best when paired together in a well-dressed spinach and strawberry salad. 

    That being said, it’s important to understand the benefits and drawbacks that come with each, especially since there’s no one-size-fits-all method that will work for every single business. Understanding these pros and cons can help you create the most impactful strategy specifically tailored to your Shopify brand. 

    Email Marketing Versus SMS Marketing

    Email Marketing Pros and Cons 

    • Emails are highly customizable. While there are best practices that you can implement to help optimize your emails, there are far fewer restrictions when it comes to emailing. There’s flexibility with the length, style, format, and even the purpose of the email. You can also effectively integrate media into your messaging to level up your customer engagement.
    • Emails typically have lower unsubscribe rates. Take this with a grain of salt (we’ll explain). With email marketing, a great email unsubscribe rate is under .2% — meaning this is an attainable metric for businesses. In general, consumers are less likely to go through the work of opening an email and clicking an unsubscribe link. We expect to get a lot of emails each day and don’t feel pressured to engage with every single one, meaning our tolerance for sticking around for future emails is far higher than it is with SMS messaging. 
    • You can send far more emails per month without losing subscribers — which gives you room to play around and collect lots of measurable data. Companies that send 16 - 30 emails actually see a 2X greater Click-Through Rate (CTR) than those that send two or fewer. While we don’t necessarily recommend that you send an email every day, there’s something to be said about the benefits of having the freedom to send a decent number of emails. For one, you get a lot more measurable data about what consumers like and are engaging with — which you can then use to inform future strategies. You can also test new styles of headlines, videos, different layouts, and more. 
    • ❌Everybody emails. Between companies and individuals, we send and receive about 346.3 billion emails every single day. In general, over 80% of businesses opt to use email marketing to acquire and retain their customers. With so many DTC brands leaning on email marketing, it can be tough to cut through the noise and get your consumers’ eyes on your messaging. 
    • ❌Emails have lower open rates in general. Relatedly, emails typically have a lower open rate than their SMS counterparts. The average email has an open rate of about 18%. 
    • ❌Emails have lower Click-Through Rates (CTR) in general. The average CTR for email marketing is around 2.6%. 

    SMS Marketing Pros and Cons

    • There’s far less competition with SMS messaging. SMS is still an up-and-coming area when compared with emailing. Only around 38% of business owners use SMS marketing to boost their sales and offer promotions. These stats probably aren’t surprising; think about the number of emails from brands that you get per day versus the number of texts. 
    • SMS messaging gets seen. With far fewer competitors utilizing SMS marketing and the inherent visibility built into the nature of texting, your texts are almost guaranteed to be seen. It depends on the source, but SMS messages have a whopping 95 - 98% open rate
    • SMS messaging gets more clicks. On average, SMS has a CTR between 20 and 35%
    • ❌SMS messaging has a character limit and far less flexibility. You’re limited to 160 characters with SMS. You won’t be able to utilize images in the same way that you can with email or provide a variety of interactive links, and in general, you want your texts to be highly intentional and there’s less room for creative storytelling. (This is not to suggest that you can’t think outside of the box with SMS — more on that later.) 
    • ❌SMS messaging typically has a far higher unsubscribe rate (but that’s not necessarily a bad thing). A great unsubscribe rate for SMS is under 20%. That’s because unsubscribes are to be expected, especially within the first 30 days of opting in. Since people are far more likely to look at and engage with their texts, they are way more likely to be annoyed by messages that don’t feel highly relevant to their needs. Think of SMS as the higher risk, higher reward route, as you’re likely to quickly alienate anyone who probably wasn’t going to convert in the first place  — whereas emailing tends to be a safer (albeit less high-intent) method when it comes to retention. 
    • ❌There are more compliance guidelines and restrictions with SMS marketing. Texting is way more personal than email and can easily be viewed as an invasion of privacy if mishandled — as such, there are a lot more compliance guidelines and overall restrictions related to SMS marketing.

    Giving Your Communications a Competitive Edge

    Now that we’ve outlined the pros and cons of both email marketing and SMS marketing, let’s talk about the best ways to leverage them separately and together to build your subscription business. 

    Keep a Consistent Brand Voice 

    This is a general note for anything your brand writes: keep a consistent brand voice. Think of your brand as a person. You should have a personality, clear opinions, and a certain style of speaking. Research shows that consistent presentations of brands have helped to increase revenue by 33 percent

    It’s a good idea to be mindful of your tone both in email and text communications — as consumers like to be able to recognize brands and get a clear sense of their style, especially subscription brands that they plan to interact with indefinitely.

    Lean Into Engagement

    As a subscription business, engaging your consumers is a top priority. One great way to engage your audience is to remind them they have full control over their subscriptions and empower them to exercise that control. This is an area where your email and SMS strategy can work really well together.

    For example, you can send out an email campaign to outline all of the ways your subscribers can engage with their subscriptions. Make sure they know if you have a loyalty program, referral rewards, or new products that they (as subscribers) have exclusive access to. Be sure to prominently feature a link to their customer account portal.  

    Then, in tandem with this messaging, send your subscribers a text reminder when their next shipment is on its way — and allow them to skip by simply replying in the thread as a way to hammer home the flexibility of your subscription offering and make engagement as seamless as possible.

    Leveraging integrations such as Smartrr + Postscript’s allows you to have this kind of direct SMS communication with customers when their next subscription order is coming. Plus, while you have your consumers’ attention, you can further engage them by bringing them back into their customer account portal experience with a direct link to update payment, redeem loyalty points, swap an item, and more. 

    While your email strategy serves as a way to increase awareness and educate, your text strategy illustrates a real-time implementation of the perks previously outlined in the email — all in an effort to elevate your subscriber’s experience and boost their engagement. 

    Be Strategic About Who You Target

    Knowing who to message (as well as when and how) are all core parts of an effective strategy. And the best part is you can once again play to the strengths of both email and SMS marketing to access their full collaborative potential. 

    Some of the prime consumers to target are first-purchase customers as well as repeat buyers who have yet to subscribe. In both instances, we recommend a quick and friendly text follow-up thanking them for their purchase. Include a tracking link or any shipping information as well as a reminder of the perks they’d get if they subscribed. You can even toss in an additional discount to further incentivize a sign-up. 

    Then, if they do subscribe, that’s a prime opportunity to trigger a welcome series email — which you can easily do with an email marketing platform like Klaviyo. Unlike the brief and urgent nature of a text, an automated email flow is your chance to take your time and really introduce your brand to your new subscriber. Let them know what to expect from your subscription offering as well as any programs or perks they might not be aware of yet. Be sure to make it personal and inviting. First impressions matter, especially for the start of what will hopefully be a long-term relationship. 

                     You may also like: How eCommerce Brands Can Make the Most of Zero & First-Party Data

    Variety Is Your Friend

    In order to reap the full benefits of email and SMS marketing, it’s important to diversify the messaging that you’re sending out. If you couldn’t already tell from our prior tips, we’re a big believer that SMS isn’t just for promos.

     While you’re a bit more limited when it comes to text, there are still a variety of SMS strategies to try out — like: 

    • Helping subscribers track their orders (and manage their subscriptions via text)
    • Alerting your subscribers about new products 
    • Sending personalized birthday messages with perks 

    As for emails, there are more creative routes to take. Here are just some email marketing strategy examples that you could implement: 

    • A check-in email to see how subscribers are enjoying their experience and encourage them to leave a review 
    • A fun survey or quiz to collect important zero-party data
    • An engaging newsletter with important brand updates
    • An educational email to provide relevant insight (and maybe link to a blog post)

    Effective Email/SMS Strategies in Action

    One of the best ways to understand how powerful effective marketing can be is to see it out in the wild.

    We’ve seen a range of Shopify brands elevating their communications in noteworthy and creative ways

    Here are just a few of our favorites. 

    Examples of Strong Email Marketing

    Avaline’s Subscription-Forward Email

    For a more classic, straightforward, to-the-point email example, we look to Avaline, an organically-farmed wine brand. The team does an excellent job clearly promoting the benefits of their subscription offering.

    Avaline wine subscription email marketing

    Let’s take a look at what’s working well:

    • Strong, voice-driven copy. Avaline leads with a clear brand voice that immediately engages readers and helps establish a connection built on understanding. 
    • Clear promotion of their subscription program. From discounted shopping to additional subscriber perks, Avaline makes a point to outline the benefits of subscribing. 
    • Eye-catching image. The picture not only features the core product but also adds a nice pop of color that stands out against the rest of the design. 
    • Not an overwhelming amount of copy. We’re all familiar with TL;DR for a reason. Short, easily-digestible copy goes a long way for marketing emails — especially when it’s organized in a logical way.
    • Button with a clear CTA. There’s no question for the recipient as to what the next step is supposed to be. The button’s darker design helps it stand out against the lighter background — and its crisp CTA makes the next action easy and attractive. Plus, the copy acts as a map that guides you to the button. 

    All of these strategies help Avaline drive toward this email’s main goal: acquiring more subscribers. Clean, clear, simple.

    Examples of Strong SMS Messaging

    When we talk about a strong SMS presence, that doesn’t have to mean you are always the one to make contact with your subscribers. Since texting typically centers on shorter, faster communication, some brands are opting to lean on it as a method of inviting consumers to start the dialogue.

    We’re seeing some of our clients leverage texting in an exciting way, which winds up being key to building long-lasting relationships with their subscribers while building community. And they’re doing it in a way that invites subscribers to initiate the conversation. 

    The Knowledgeable Gardening Experts: Pot Gang’s “Potline” 

    Pot Gang is a UK-based gardening subscription brand. Unlike drinking wine, gardening can (and often does) have a learning curve to it — and Pot Gang has a built-in feature that directly addresses any growing pains. Enter the Potline. 

    Subscribers can reach out via the Potline (AKA WhatsApp) to receive gardening support any day of the week. That means if anyone is struggling to keep their new herb plant alive, they have a direct and trustworthy resource to get helpful advice.

    Pot Gang potline SMS marketing

    This component works wonders to transform consumers into a true community. By building trust one seed at a time, Pot Gang works to establish authentic relationships with their audience — so much so that whenever anyone has a question about gardening in general, they’ll likely think of Pot Gang as a resource. This is an incredibly unique way for a brand to establish itself as an authority in any given vertical. 

                                       You may also like: 5 Ways to Promote Your Subscription Program

    All in all, both SMS and email marketing can work wonders for your eCommerce business — especially when they’re used together. Looking to other successful brands as well as implementing general best practices are a great place to start in order to deepen your customer engagement and give your brand a boost overall.