blog post

The Ultimate Guide to Texting and SMS Marketing for DTC Brands

May 3, 2022
min read
Osa Gaius
Founder & CEO

Did you know?

  • U.S. cell phone adoption has nearly doubled over the past 17 years, according to a 2021 report from Pew Research; in fact, it is at almost 97% adoption as of 2022

  • SMS messages have an open rate of 98%, while its top competitor, email marketing messages, have only a 22% open rate

  • 75% of customers prefer to receive offers via text vs any other medium

All of these stats point to why B2C texting is back like never before. Regulations have changed to make texting customers both legal and cost-effective, previously-published B2C texting guides simply don’t encompass how powerful this marketing method can be when used correctly.

Defined as a form of marketing that utilizes texts to send promotions to customers, short message service (SMS) marketing was once restricted by strict anti-spam legislation across Canada, the U.S, and Europe. Now, thanks to a shift in these policies, businesses can freely text customers who have opted-in to SMS marketing.

To help you get started with text-to-text marketing, this definitive guide will unpack:

  • A brief history of texting

  • Why B2C texting is important and what SMS marketing is

  • How you can sell products through text

  • …And so much more

Let’s get started.

A Brief History of Texting

To understand why it’s so exciting that DTC brands can now fully leverage the benefits of texting, we need to look at what got us here.

As of 2014, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law came into effect; this was 10 years after the U.S first initiated its own anti-spam laws, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

SMS Texting laws

Regardless of where you or your customers are based, it is crucial to have both clear opt-in and opt-out options to stay within regulations and avoid hefty financial penalties.

Businesses must also only text within the hours of 8AM and 9PM in order to remain compliant. Ignoring these regulations could cost you $1,500 USD per violation. Here at Parrot, we’re compliant and lay out clear rules for our users to remain so – and avoid hefty fines.

Why Texting As a Brand is Important

As a DTC business, your prospective customers don’t want to receive emails. This is backed by how email has a staggeringly low open rate of 21.33%.

On the other hand, however, 90% of all mobile users open and read text messages within the first 30 minutes of receipt.

Texting Infographic

Text messages can be used more flexibly than email and can provide a greater sense of personalization. (If used properly).

What is SMS Marketing?

When creators and brand owners think of texting, they often think of it simply as a way to send promotions and discounts via text messages to customers. The standard definition of texting is old-school SMS marketing to send promos and discounts via text.

However, your relationship with your customers over text can be much more than just sending discount codes: it can encompass collecting payment, customer service, VIP experiences, real-time delivery notifications, and getting reviews.

Despite its flexibility, four main perceived concerns hold businesses back from adopting SMS:

  • That texting takes too much time to set up

  • That texting is too much hassle for existing customers to opt in for

  • That texting or SMS payments don’t drive enough revenue to be worth investing in

  • That texting is only used for discount codes
SMS perceived concerns

These perceptions are not correct. No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re direct-to-consumer (DTC), then it’s crucial that you’re texting your audience.

Why is Texting Different Than SMS Marketing?

SMS Marketing is one of the many ways you can text your customer.

When you think of traditional SMS marketing, you likely think of constant discount codes, one-line promos, and automated updates.

Parrot elevates this. In fact, Parrot doesn’t let you send discount codes constantly! Why? Because we know that texting can offer so much more.

Different Types of Text to Build Rapport

Your consumers are already tuning out traditional SMS marketing blasts. Instead of following the flock, try out the following different types of text to build rapport with your customer base and ensure that your text notifications are a welcome distraction for them:

Types of Texts graphic

When done sparingly to keep them novel, brands can also treat discount codes as one of these types of texts.

How Can I Text my Customers?

Most businesses choose to send text messages to customers via A2P, thanks to it being cost-effective. A2P stands for “Application to Person” texting and removes the manual labor of texting by permitting businesses to send bulk text messages.

However, specific phone numbers are needed to send out mass messages like these – and the ones that weren’t specifically designed for mass messages have notoriously high expenses attached to them.

That’s why the majority of businesses choose from the following three options to use A2P:

  • Toll-free long codes: toll-free phone numbers that can send thousands of messages per day, all at an affordable price. Its detriment is that toll-free numbers often will not match your area code and, as such, may incorrectly be flagged as spam
  • Local long codes: long local codes are standard phone numbers designed for person-to-person texting (P2P texting); that means that, rather than the A2P capabilities of toll-free long codes, local long codes can only handle up to one message per second, with their maximum being a few hundred per day
  • Short codes: while expensive to purchase, short codes are five-to-six digit numbers that permit businesses to send millions of messages every day reliably. An approval process is required before you can use them to ensure that you are following anti-spam guidelines

The Different Types of Texts

There are some effective ways of sending texts, and some bad ways that devalue brands and annoy people. Not all methods of sending messages are created equal.

Here at Parrot, some of our favorites are promotional text messages like teasers, countdowns, product launch announcements, or general product information; mobile payments that work correctly and are easy to use; and conversational text messages like thank-you texts or customer feedback requests.

Favourite text messages graphic

All of these examples differ from bulk messaging. So what is bulk messaging and what are the key differences?

Bulk Messaging vs Personalized Messaging

Bulk messaging (otherwise known as “broadcast SMS” or “one-to-many SMS”) are messages that are mass sent to the entirety of your customer base at any given time. (These are not great for business when done too often).

As more and more brands start to build lists and text audiences it’s going to be more and more important to build meaningful relationships through text that cut through the noise of constant discount codes.

Personalized texting is the better approach.

On top of being better for compliance and having more of a positive impact on customer relations, personalized text messaging is preferable. A couple stats:

Personalized texting stats

The phrase “quality over quantity” comes to mind when talking about bulk messaging versus texting your audience. After all, what do you think has a higher conversion rate: mass-texting your entire subscriber list the same bland one-liner discount code, or texting a customer you know has been searching for a sun hat under $50 a direct product recommendation? If you guessed the second one, you’d be right!

The Different Types of Texts Brands Can Utilize

The primary benefit of texting your audience is, as outlined above, the way texting lets DTC businesses have personalized two-way conversations with both current and prospective buyers.

You can achieve this by alternating the following types of text messages to your audience:

Types of texts to send your audience

Let’s dive deeper into how you can text your audience (and some fantastic examples of text-to-text marketing done right.)

6 Reasons Why DTC Brands Should Be Texting Their Audience

DTC brands, SMS marketing is one of the most powerful tools you can have in your marketing arsenal.

Let’s take a deep-dive into why.

  1. Simplicity

With Parrot, SMS is kept simple. We:

  • Help you grow and manage your contact lists

  • Make messaging easy through our straightforward segmentation, one-on-one texting, and target campaign options to guarantee a fully customizable experience for your buyers

  • Integrate with your favorite reporting and e-commerce apps for a seamless transition

…All without having to rely on third-party apps.

  1. Convenience

Text marketing is perfect for customers who are on-the-go, who rarely check email, or who are from a generation that prefers text communication over any other kind.

For many consumers, the convenience of texting a simple “Yes” or “No” in response to a customized promotion is unbeatable.

  1. Personalization

Integrating a customer’s name, recent purchase history, or location are all impactful ways of personalizing even simple SMS marketing messages.

This can be further deepened by periodically asking for feedback or having customers fill out short questionnaires about your brand or its products to ensure that your buyers feel valued and listened to.

  1. Competitiveness

Think your industry doesn’t use text-to-text marketing?

Think again!

The following industries and business types all commonly use SMS marketing, although all can (and should): retail, restaurants, hospitality, fitness, non-profits, travel, e-commerce, and large organizations with over 100% employees.

Case studies from businesses within these industries all point to how using Parrot for ultra-personalized, straightforward messages to consumers overtake the traditional mass discount code approach that other mobile e-commerce platforms may take.

  1. Measurability

Texting is both easy to track and easy to improve upon over time.

If your key metrics are measured at the end of every month, you can sort through which types of messages your audience responds the best to, which kinds of CTAs drive the most conversions, and even what the best time of day is to send messages.

  1. Revenue

Not adopting texting means leaving money on the table.

Especially when most DTC businesses are utilizing customer texts to some extent, it’s recommended to start integrating SMS marketing ASAP to both retain old customers and entice new ones to become long-time loyalists.

Ways to Text Your Audience (And How to Get It Right)

Establishing your DTC business as high quality is even more important than having fast sales. Luckily, when done right, text messages do both.

Keys to being successful graphic

For direct examples of just how effective different types of text messages can be, read on.

SMS Discounts and Delivery Notifications

SMS discounts, when overdone, are cheap at best and annoying for your customers at worst. They frequently devalue brands and hurt their long-term revenue.

However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be done right: they can actually create a sense of urgency, make products feel exclusive, and be a novel shopping experience.

Subscription-based beauty and grooming box Birchbox hits the nail on the head by offering both $5 off your first subscription box and 15% off your first individual purchase via email and text. From there, discount codes are reserved for their Limited Edition Boxes in order to retain the value of the rest of their products.

VIP Product Drops and Exclusives

Who didn’t hear about Lil Nas X’s collaboration with Nike?

…Well, did you hear that they sold out in under one minute?

If so, you heard right: with their controversial concept of containing with “human blood,” how famous both Lil Nas X and Nike are, and the fact that there were only 666 shoes in stock, this product drop proved to be wildly successful despite the shoes’ high price tag of $1018 USD per pair.

Lil Nas graphic

Collecting Payments

Be like our clients, Pink Horse Power, and use the power of direct messaging to make $1300 USD in under four hours.

Having launched their direct messaging campaign on Cyber Monday, Pink Horse delivered 3047 text messages through Parrot and received 199 responses from potential customers.

The 14 product orders that these responses yielded, who all purchased via text, generated that staggering $1300! What a success.

Pink horse power infographic

Exclusive Content via Text

Have you tried combining your B2C texting with a full-fledged SMS marketing campaign?

Cardi B did and, to this day, uses it as her main form of both promotion and sales.

Texting has landed her:

  • 2.6+ engagements

  • 120k contacts

  • And a 24% clickthrough rate

Over text, Cardi B and her marketing team gain valuable insights into her fans’ demographics, and use those insights to deliver ultra-personalized promotions to loyal fans. She also uses this medium to provide fans with general updates, music releases, and upcoming shows.

Cardi B infographic

What You Need to Get Started With Texting or SMS Marketing

Now that you know the value of sending texts to your audience, let’s outline what you need to get started.

Get a Phone Number

To begin sending TCPA-compliant texts to customers, you first need to sign up for a phone number.

As mentioned earlier in this blog, we recommend short code numbers due to their higher per-day text capacity and high reliability rate. You can get one through Parrot unique to your business in less than a few minutes.

Define Your Target Audience

Before you launch your first text campaign, identify the problem your product is solving and who it’s solving it for.

This process also includes understanding your buyer’s journey, which is the research process a potential buyer goes through up until the time they purchase from your brand. By putting yourself in their mindset, you can tailor your buyer’s journey to be as frictionless as possible.

  1. How did they come across your business?

  2. What questions might they have about your product?

  3. What would entice them to purchase?

  4. How do they want to learn about your product?

  5. How can you remove friction and make it easy?

From there, build a list of both existing and potential customers who would be interested in opting in for related text messaging.

Know Your Key Terms and Phrases

Before moving ahead with SMS marketing or texts, you need to familiarize yourself with key terms and phrases.

The ones you need to know are:

Key terms infographic

Set Up Your Opt-In

Speaking of opt-ins, it’s non-negotiable to set yours up before hitting “send” on your first message to a customer.

To set one up, the steps below need to followed:

  • Get a free, toll-free phone number through Parrot and list it on both your website and your business’s social media platforms for maximum visibility

  • Run a contest or giveaway on social media to drum up initial interest

  • Create your opt-in and funnel entrants from your contest or giveaway to it, which will quickly and easily build your first SMS marketing contact list

Measure Engagement Metrics

To fully understand how effective (or ineffective) your SMS marketing is, you must consistently measure your engagement metrics. Measure them at least monthly.

These metrics are:

  • Your delivery rate: Delivery rate is the number of messages that reaches an individual subscriber’s phone, divided by the total number of texts sent to date. If your delivery rate is low, it is likely due to carrier errors, spam filters, or low SMS gateway network quality

  • Your unsubscribe rate: Unsubscribe rate is the percentage of customers who have opted out of your marketing messages. If your unsubscribe rate is high, it would be worth reevaluating when you send messages, how many messages you send, and what type of text-to-text marketing seems to not be resonating with your audience

  • Your return on investment (ROI): Return on investment measures your total sales vs your total investment. If your sales are significantly higher than your ROI, congratulations! Your initial investment was worthwhile. If your total sales are lower than your investments, your strategy is in need of an overhaul

To accurately track these metrics, create a monthly measurement plan, set financial goals, create averages, and look for patterns in your data.

Integrate Your Team Into Texting

Blend bots, automation, and human involvement so that your audience receives both the best in text timeliness and customer service.

By having team members available to answer customer questions and concerns in real-time, customers feel like they’re building a relationship with your brand. This can both cut down on being reported as spam and can bolster key performance metrics.

Know the Dos and Don’ts of Texting Your Audience

Last but certainly not least is the do’s and don’ts of texting your audience.


  • Collect feedback from your subscribers to improve your content and products over time

  • Measure the number of text responses to gauge how well your audience is connecting to your brand

  • Add GIFs, images, and videos to at least a portion of your texts to add more variety and personality


  • Use shared short code to send text blasts to thousands of people at a time (at risk of alienating your audience)

  • Buy phone number lists

  • Focus your texts solely on sending coupons or discount codes

With 82% of consumers primarily engaging with marketing content on their smartphones, the power of engagement can’t be overlooked. Make sure you’re leveraging it from the get-go.

content engagement infographic

The Benefits of Automating Your Text Campaigns

By automating your text campaigns, you can tap into the ideal times to send texts to your audience in order to increase open rates and schedule future time-sensitive messages in advance.

Automated texts infographic

Work smarter, not harder, with automated texts.

Text Your Audience With Parrot

Parrot is a mobile commerce platform that gives DTC businesses like yours the opportunity to quickly and easily sell products directly to customers and collect one-click payments, all through text. Collecting payments with one click (or typing yes) is unique to Parrot and removes friction so merchants can keep consumers happy.

Our users get the chance to build long-term relationships with their buyers through a variety of different texts, two-way conversations, and an easy payment collection process.

Each of our numbers are toll-free and 100% free to sign up for.

How DTC Brands Can Get Started With Texting Today

To make the most out of your SMS marketing, DTC brands like yours can utilize this guide to reference what text messaging customers entails, what you need to begin, and what tips and regulations you need to keep in mind in order for it to be successful.

If you are ready to accelerate the growth of your lists, make sending messages easy, simplify your analytics, and integrate with your favorite tools like Stripe or Shopify, try Parrot.

Osa Gaius
Founder & CEO

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