Using SMS Post-COVID in the Food and Beverage Industry

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Overview

Brands in the food and beverage industry have a unique opportunity to increase customer engagement through SMS. COVID-19 has changed the way those in the food and beverage industry interact with their customers, and how customers expect to interact with businesses. Many customers are more willing to provide their phone number to, for example, a restaurant. Typically, these numbers have been used for transactional messages; however, with the right consent, you can use them to provide marketing content your customers will enjoy.

In this guide, you will learn how to gather consent for SMS marketing and best practices to increase engagement during this time.

Getting Consent for SMS Marketing

The first and most important step is to gather consent before you begin your SMS marketing efforts. When collecting phone numbers, you must have explicit language that says that by inputting their number, customers consent to receive marketing communications via text messages from your business. Getting permission to send transactional messages does not count as consent for SMS marketing.

You can use signup forms to gather consent for SMS from your customers. Edit your current signup form for new subscribers, including a phone number field and a message explaining that by filling out the form, they consent to receive SMS marketing messages from your brand.

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Then, create a new signup form and target existing subscribers. Ask them if they want to hear from you via text about your special events, upcoming deals, updates, etc.

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You may even want to announce that you are launching SMS messaging, particularly to your VIPs, most engaged subscribers, and in-person customers (if applicable). You can then direct them to a signup form using an anchor link.

When gathering subscribers, tell them what they’ll get if they sign up (e.g., 20% discount off their next order) as well as what type of information they will receive (e.g., exclusive offers or updates to their COVID policy). In addition, tell them how often you’ll contact them via SMS. For instance, will you send a text about your weekly specials or contact them once a month about events?

Use Cases for SMS Marketing

In the food and beverage industry, you can use SMS for a wide variety of purposes. The most common case for SMS is for transactional messages. These messages can be order updates to inform the customer when their meal is being prepared or ready for pickup, as well as the delivery status to tell them when the food or gift basket has been dropped off or shipped. Transactional messages can also be reservation confirmation messages/reminders or grocery store shoppers updates.

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However, transactional messages are just the beginning of what you can do with SMS. Other use cases include:

  • Specials
  • Sales/deals
  • Holidays
  • Updates
  • Events
  • Reviews and surveys

In the following sections, we break down each of these uses.

Specials

Think about your favorite restaurant. Wouldn’t you like to know when something new is added to the menu? Or when something you love is about to leave?

Depending on your business model, and how often you change your specials, send out texts on a weekly, monthly, or seasonal basis. You might even have year-round specials, such as Taco Tuesday or Buy One, Get One Burger night. If this is the case, test out how often you should text to find the best frequency for your customers.

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Updating your customers about new or exciting offers is a simple way to re-ignite their interest in you and your products. It also gives your customers the chance to purchase something they are highly interested in. Almost everyone has had that moment where they’ve gone out to eat, seen a nightly special, and wished they could have come a different day. By texting the specials beforehand, you can improve the customer experience.

For ecommerce food and beverage brands, text about your online specials. Examples include online-only products or limited-time items (such as pumpkin spice coffee in the Fall). This can help you build your online presence and community.

Sales/Deals

Sharing information about sales is another good use case for SMS. Text message marketing helps you alert your subscribers quickly, which is great for flash sales or last-minute deals. These sales can be for online or brick-and-mortar locations. In either case, have a special code attached for the sale that customers can use to take advantage of the offer (e.g., “use code NACHOPARTY to get free nachos with your order”). In a brick-and-mortar store, customers could show this code to their waiters, who would then either manually input or, in the case of it being sent as QR code, scan it.

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Holidays

Similar to sales and specials, if you run a holiday promotion, use SMS to spread the word. For instance, alert your customers when Valentine’s products are available, or the last day customers can buy a gift basket in time for Father’s Day.

Further, you can use SMS to ask if someone wants to make a reservation for a special holiday. In your message, direct customers to that page on your website or include a phone number they can call to do so.

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Updates

For the most part, SMS updates should supply vital information. For instance, a good time to update customers via SMS will be when relaying any change in hours due to a holiday or, in the case of COVID-19, detailing when your store or restaurant reopens. You can also give updates, for example, when indoor seating opens up and when menu items are re-added (for those currently offering limited menus).

Other SMS updates may include: if your store has won awards, finished renovations, or undergone changes to the business name or location (such as if a restaurant moved or added another location).

Events

If your business hosts events, such as karaoke night or local meetups, you can use SMS to inform customers about them. For example, if you host a themed trivia night every Tuesday, send out an SMS message once a month that lists out the themes so customers can attend the ones they are passionate about. If sending out notices about events on a regular basis, make sure to first collect information regarding who’s interested in these updates and only send to those subscribers.

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Reviews and Surveys

Want to know about a customer’s experience with their food, delivery, or service? Ask them via text to fill out a survey or leave a review. You can make this part of your SMS post-purchase/thank you flow. Text messages are seen more quickly than emails, so SMS offers you the chance to ask for a review while the experience is fresh in your customers’ minds.

Additional Resources

 

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