As the world of mobile messaging evolves with all the certainty of quicksand, SMS marketing continues to emerge as a reliable tool for engaging customers directly and personally. Unlike other channels, SMS boasts exceptionally high open rates, often exceeding 90%, making it a highly effective way to capture attention. When integrated with other mobile channels, such as email and in-app messages, SMS can create a more rewarding experience for users and marketers alike.

Subscribers who opt-in for SMS updates are more likely to stay informed about promotions, updates, and personalized offers, ultimately leading to increased loyalty and sustained app usage. These five SMS strategies are designed to help you drive immediate engagement while fostering long-term app retention.

1. Simplify the Subscription Process

A user-friendly SMS sign-up process is crucial for maximizing subscriber acquisition and offering a smooth user experience. The key here is to make your SMS sign-up steps as minimal and straightforward as possible, avoiding any unnecessary barriers that might deter potential subscribers.

Lengthy sign-up forms requiring a full name, email, and other demographics will most likely overwhelm or irritate users, deterring them from subscribing. Keep things simple — only ask for essential information, typically just a phone number, followed by a brief opt-in confirmation.

Additionally, transparency about what subscribers can expect to receive and how often will build trust and make users more likely to join. If users are unsure about what they are signing up for, such as the type of messages they will receive or the frequency of messages, they may hesitate to opt in. Clearly outline the benefits of subscribing and what they can expect in terms of content and frequency.

It’s the difference between:

Join our SMS list for updates. Text "JOIN" to 12345.


Stay updated with our latest news, exclusive offers, and special discounts! Text "JOIN" to 12345 to receive 2-3 messages per week. By subscribing, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy. Reply STOP to unsubscribe anytime.

One is vague, offers no context, and frankly reads like an automated request to send spam (at least that’s what many readers will assume). The other offers opt-in value, specifies frequency, and leaves little up to assumption.

Keep the following tips in mind when creating your SMS opt-in process:

  • Use Pre-Filled Forms: If possible, use pre-filled forms with information you already have (e.g., from previous interactions).
  • Single-Click Subscription: Implement a one-click opt-in process where feasible, especially on mobile devices.
  • Mobile Optimization: Ensure sign-up forms and CTAs are mobile-friendly and easily accessible on any device.
  • Visible and Prominent CTAs: Place sign-up CTAs in high-traffic areas like your homepage, product pages, and checkout pages.
  • Instant Confirmation: Provide immediate feedback that the sign-up was successful, such as a confirmation message or email.
  • Simple Keywords: Use simple and easy-to-remember keywords for SMS opt-in (e.g., “JOIN” or “SIGNUP”).
  • Incentives: Offer a small incentive, such as a discount code or exclusive content, to encourage sign-ups.
  • Use QR Codes: Utilize QR codes in physical locations, such as stores or events, to make the opt-in process quick and seamless.

2. Leverage Website and App Interactions for Sign-Ups

The key to sustained mobile engagement with any channel, not just SMS, is to provide numerous opportunities for engagement throughout the user journey in places that make the most sense.

On websites, strategically placed SMS sign-up forms on high-traffic pages, such as the homepage, product pages, and during the checkout process, can effectively capture visitors' attention when they are most engaged.

Similarly, mobile apps offer unique advantages through in-app notifications, banners, and pop-ups that prompt users to subscribe to SMS updates. Multiple touchpoints not only make the subscription process convenient and accessible but also allow for personalized messaging based on user behavior, thereby enhancing the likelihood of conversion and fostering a more integrated and cohesive customer experience.

Consider the following strategies for both web and mobile SMS sign-up integration:

Web — Exit-Intent Pop-Ups

Implement exit-intent pop-ups that trigger when a user is about to leave your website. These pop-ups can offer a last-minute incentive, such as a discount or free shipping, in exchange for subscribing to SMS updates. This captures the attention of users who might otherwise leave without engaging further.

Web — Sticky Sign-Up Bars

For even greater visibility, consider using sticky sign-up bars that remain fixed at the top or bottom of the webpage as users scroll. These bars should have a clear call-to-action, such as "Get Exclusive Offers via SMS – Subscribe Now!" This ensures that the opt-in option is always prominent and accessible without interrupting the user’s browsing experience.

In-App — Notification Banners

Use in-app notification banners that appear at the top or bottom of the screen, prompting users to subscribe to SMS updates. These banners should be unobtrusive but noticeable, and they can be timed to appear during key moments, such as after a purchase or when a user achieves a milestone within the app. Capatlize on moments of success to sustain the positive reinforcement loop for your users — let them know every time they receive a reward, there’s more where that came from

In-App — Onboarding Process Integration

Integrate an SMS sign-up prompt into your app’s onboarding process. When new users first download and open your app, include an in-app carousel that highlights the benefits of subscribing to SMS updates. This is a perfect place to offer an incentive, such as a welcome discount, and provide an easy opt-in button within the onboarding flow!

3. Craft Compelling and Personalized SMS Alerts

The right SMS content (concise, relevant, and personalized) can significantly enhance the user experience by delivering value through timely updates, exclusive offers, and custom recommendations. Remember, SMS messaging is a direct line to your users, a space typically reserved for personal conversations.

When people subscribe to your alerts, they are putting an immense amount of trust in your brand, a trust that teeters on a knife’s edge until you prove your value.

Bloated or unclear SMS content can lead to confusion, frustration, and instant opt-out rates. Messages that are too long, irrelevant, or poorly structured have been known to overwhelm recipients, making them less likely to read or act upon future messages.

Review these SMS Do’s and Don’ts when the time comes to craft your next SMS campaign:

  • Do Personalize Messages — Use subscribers’ names and tailor messages based on their preferences or past behavior.
  • Do Keep it Concise — Stick to the point and ensure your message is short, clear, and easy to understand (aim for between 100 to 160 characters).
  • Do Include a Clear CTA — Provide a specific and compelling call-to-action, such as "Unlock Rewards," "Get Your Discount," or "Save Your Spot!"
  • Do Offer Value — Ensure each message provides real value, such as exclusive offers, discounts, or important updates.
  • Do Time Messages Appropriately — Send messages at times when they are most likely to be read and acted upon, avoiding late nights or early mornings.
  • Do Make Unsubscribing Easy — Always include simple instructions for opting out, like "Reply STOP to unsubscribe."
  • Do Test and Optimize — Continuously A/B test different messages, send times, and formats to find what works best for your audience.

  • Don't Overwhelm Subscribers — Avoid sending too many messages, which can lead to annoyance and higher opt-out rates. Aim for one to two messages per week, which keeps your brand top-of-mind without bombarding subscribers.
  • DON’T USE ALL CAPS — It’s a bit much, right? Avoid using all caps as it can come across as shouting and may irritate recipients.
  • Don't Send Irrelevant Content — Ensure the content of your messages is relevant to the recipient's interests and preferences.
  • Don't Forget Compliance — Always comply with regulations such as GDPR or TCPA, including obtaining explicit consent before sending messages.
  • Don't Use Long URLs — Use shortened URLs to keep messages neat and reduce character count.
  • Don't Ignore Feedback — Pay attention to feedback and opt-out reasons to improve future campaigns.
  • Don't Neglect Segmentation — Avoid sending the same message to your entire list; segment your audience to ensure more targeted and relevant messaging.

4. Offer Incentives and Exclusive Content

This one is easy. Make your users feel special and they’ll treat your app accordingly. Aside from boosting conversion rates and revenue, providing incentives for subscribers through SMS messages can significantly enhance engagement and long-term loyalty. The goal here is to create a sense of both value and appreciation, encouraging subscribers to remain active and responsive.

A “product restock alert” is a great example of how well SMS leverages immediacy and incentivized offers. The message may look something like:

🎉 Good news, [First Name]! Your favorite [Product Name] is back in stock! Shop now before it sells out again. Click here to buy: [Shortened URL] 🛒 Use code RESTOCK10 for 10% off! [Brand Name]

Make sure to include rich media such as an image of the product or even a short GIF to bring the message to life. Your alert should also have a shortened URL that leads directly to the product or destination page for easy access. It’s worth noting here, that “product restock alert” SMS messages are good for more than just eComm products. These kinds of SMS campaigns are also a great fit for:

  • Event apps: To alert users when additional tickets for a sold-out event are released.
  • Fitness or wellness apps: To inform users when spots for a popular class or session become available again.
  • Education apps: To notify students when enrollment for a high-demand course reopens.
  • Travel apps: To alert travelers when rooms or travel packages for popular destinations are back in stock or available again.
  • Mobile games: To notify players when exclusive or high-demand in-game items are restocked or available for purchase.

Regardless of your app category, use an enthusiastic tone to convey the excitement of the product's return and create a sense of urgency for the user to act quickly.

Lastly, always segment your audience for maximum engagement. Consider targeting this message only to users who have previously shown interest in or purchased similar products, ensuring the message is relevant and enticing. You could also target subscribers who have added a specific product or service to their wishlist — these users have already demonstrated high intent to purchase in the past, and more often than not all they need is a nudge to close the deal.

5. Utilize Email Marketing to Promote SMS

The synergy between SMS and email is often overlooked because marketers tend to view them as separate channels rather than complementary ones. The relationship between these two channels is incredibly valuable because combining the immediacy and high open rates of SMS with the detailed and rich content capabilities of email creates a truly symbiotic communication strategy.

Let’s take a look at a couple ways in which SMS and email work together towards boosting user engagement.

Lifecycle Drip Campaigns

  • Email: Use an email drip campaign to onboard new users or nurture leads, sending a series of informative and engaging emails over a period of time. Include tips, tutorials, and product benefits.
  • SMS: Complement the email campaign with SMS messages at key milestones. For example, after a welcome email, send an SMS with a quick tip or a special discount code: "Welcome! Use code WELCOME10 for 10% off your first purchase. Check your email for more tips."

Event and Webinar Promotions

  • Email: Send detailed invitations and follow-up emails for upcoming events, webinars, or live sessions. These emails should include all relevant information such as the agenda, speakers, registration links, and what attendees can expect to learn or gain.
  • SMS: Use SMS to send timely reminders as the event date approaches. For instance, send an SMS reminder 24 hours before and another one an hour before the event starts. Example: "Reminder: Our webinar on 'Effective SMS Marketing Strategies' starts tomorrow at 3 PM. Don’t miss it! Check your email for details."

Rather than thinking of your different mobile marketing channels as isolated paths to engagement, it’s helpful to treat them as a single tree with certain branches better suited to certain campaigns or audiences. This holistic approach ensures consistent messaging, leverages the strengths of each channel, and builds lasting retention by meeting customers where they are with the right message at the right time.

Every Message, Every Channel, One Dashboard

OneSignal offers bulk SMS capabilities, easy-to-use automation, and MMS support to bring your text-based marketing in line with the rest of your campaigns. We encourage you to reach out to our sales team if you want to learn more about how OneSignal’s SMS support fits into your current marketing strategy.

If you prefer to jump right into OneSignal, our free account is the way to go!

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