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The Text-Only Shopping Experience: How WineText (and Others) Use it Successfully

Posted by Sam Schrup | December 13, 2021

What’s a smart way to quickly reach a captive audience and sell more products?

The answer? Text messaging. There are multiple advantages to text as a medium for selling. You’re immediately reaching a device that people almost always have within reach and importantly, you’re reaching a “warm” audience. Everyone on your list had to sign up to be there!

This makes text marketing cost effective too. You can easily send out targeted messages to people you already know are interested in buying.

So, what about taking a text-only approach to selling? Could that work, or is it madness to suggest?

As it turns out, there are companies built on an “SMS-only” model and they’re enjoying considerable success this way. From WineText for wine lovers, to CoffeeText for (you guessed it) coffee lovers, these businesses have proven that a text-only approach can work.

Could it work for you?

Advantages of a text-only shopping experience

Why would a business choose to have a text-only shopping experience? There are some real advantages to doing business this way. Here are just a few:

The setup is simple

To set up text-only shopping, you need a mechanism for people to get onto your SMS list, a list to send texts to, and a product to offer. You also need a text marketing tool that allows you to have a “reply to buy” function, so that orders from customers are automatically processed when they respond to a text offer.

It’s simple! You don’t need a whole lot of website infrastructure (although most maintain at least a basic website as part of promoting their business). This means you’re not constantly updating a website with products - you don’t need to since all offers are made via text.

The experience is easy for customers

Customers like things that are easy. The fewer hurdles or hoops for them, the better. Reply to buy texting checks all the boxes. Once they’ve signed up, they don’t have to spend time entering payment details or their address for every order, they just respond to the text with how many products they want.

Text is a low-fuss way to launch

Some text-only businesses start out that way as a simple way to launch a new product and get it into the hands of consumers. They don’t have to build a whole lot of infrastructure and can even operate on a “made to order” basis with little inventory.

Starting with this simple marketing method can be a way to test out new products to see if they will stick. Dirty Lemon is a great example. The beverage company started as an SMS-only brand, but recently made a leap to mainstream, with their drinks now available at Walmart.

It’s easy to reach an engaged audience

One of the enduring rules of text marketing is that the people on your list must have deliberately signed up to be there. The process of signing up is easy, but so is unsubscribing. So, if you’ve got people who’ve been on your text list for a while, they’re choosing to be there because they want to receive your offers.

Text messages tend to be received and read very quickly, especially compared to other types of marketing. For example, emails can go unread forever when they disappear into crowded inboxes. Texting hasn’t reached a level yet where people have so many messages that they ignore a good chunk of them. It’s still a primary communication channel with friends, which is another big difference from email.

There’s an element of exclusivity

Most people enjoy receiving special treatment or exclusivity. Text-only shopping taps into that desire. It says to people, “this isn’t available to everyone – you have to be a text subscriber to get it.”

For retailers, this often makes sense as a business strategy. WineText is one example where people actively seek their text messages and have even complained if there’s been a day where they didn’t get an offer by text.

How brands are enjoying SMS-only shopping success

What is it that makes SMS-only brands successful? Let’s take a look at a few examples:

WineText

WineText is a Gary Vaynerchuk venture that appeals to wine lovers by offering deals on high-quality wines and making it super simple to order.

Subscribers sign up for free and include their shipping and payment details during their initial sign up. From there, they receive a daily text offering them a wine deal. If they don’t want the offer, they do nothing. If they want to order, they simply reply with the number of bottles they would like. Their order is automatically placed and shipped to them within a couple of days. It’s about as easy as you can get for ordering products!

How do you get a system like that? I wrote about setting up your own SMS checkout here. For WineText, the concept has been so successful that if they’ve ever missed a day of sending messages, people have complained that they didn’t get their text.

That’s one of their secrets right there – offer something so good that people actively look for it.

CoffeeText

Hello to any Canadian coffee lovers out there! CoffeeText brings subscribers deals on the best coffee roasters across Canada. This is another “reply to buy” mechanism where subscribers simply respond with the number they would like to order (or don’t respond at all).

Like WineText, CoffeeText is popular for bringing excellent deals on high quality products. They source up to 50% off the regular price of the coffee beans, an offer only available to text subscribers.

Fellow Drops

For US coffee lovers there is Fellow Drops. They curate hard-to-find coffee from micro-roasters and text out one offer per week, allowing subscribers a few days to reply with the number of bags they’d like.

Fellow Drops differentiates themselves by offering subscribers the chance to get their hands on interesting coffee brands that they may not otherwise have access to. It’s a text subscription for coffee connoisseurs who value access to rare roasts.

11th Hour

How about saving money while eliminating food waste? This is the mission of 11th Hour, a subscription service that sends offers for premium grocery brands. They source products directly from the manufacturer that are too close to their "best by" date to sell to retailers. These products aren't going to expire in the next few days though many are still months away from their "best by" date and perfectly safe (and yummy) to eat.

Here’s how it works: Subscribers sign up and select the product categories they are most interested in. They’re then set to receive discounted offers by text - typically two per week. If they reply that they’d like the deal, it is automatically ordered and shipped out to them.

Subscribers enjoy this service because not only are they able to access great deals on products, but they’re contributing to the global mission of reducing food waste. It’s a win/win.

Lunker Text

For the fishing enthusiast, there’s Lunker Text. Their promise to subscribers is access to buy high quality fishing tackle and gear at low prices. Subscribers receive a daily deal via text and simply reply with the number they’d like. The simple convenience appeals to people who’d prefer an efficient shopping experience!

Dirty Lemon

I touched on Dirty Lemon earlier - they’re arguably one of the first brands to offer shopping via text message. While they have a traditional-looking ecommerce website, the only way to get hold of their beverage blends is via text subscription (unless you have a nearby retail option, but that’s a recent addition).

Dirty Lemon aims to give people a healthier version of a product they already enjoy - lemonade. In the early days of the brand, word got out that it was a bit like a “secret club,” where the product could only be obtained via the SMS shopping service. This helped to grow curiosity and enthusiasm for their products.

For Dirty Lemon, text-only shopping was also strategic in that it meant they had data on every customer. By analyzing their purchasing habits, this could help them to create popular new products.

Final thoughts

Could text-only shopping work as a strategy for your business? Consider some of the factors that make for text success among the brands we’ve highlighted:

  • Exclusivity - this includes access to rare products or steep discounts.
  • Simplicity - executing on the offer is very easy for customers.
  • Value - subscribers are getting something they truly value that they can’t access elsewhere.

If SMS-shopping with reply to buy functionality is something you’d like to try, take a look at TextRetailer. Schedule your product tour and find out how simple it is to set this up for your business.

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