A Review of Mailchimp’s SMS Marketing Solution
BY DAN PENDERGAST
SMS Marketing is one of the fastest growing avenues to contact your prospects and existing customers. From a survey done across more than 1,300 consumers, business owners and digital marketers, SMS marketing has resulted in 98% open rates compared to emails which land around a 25.77% average open rate. It is statistics like these that make even a skeptic raise an eyebrow and take notice.
When evaluating SMS marketing providers, the competition is ramping up in this area. Mailchimp has recently released SMS marketing tools. Many of our clients have asked about it, so we compared Mailchimp’s SMS marketing features with the two industry leaders RedChirp and Vinteractive to see if there was anything worth going bananas over.
Let’s Get Down to Monkey Business
Let’s start with the basic features. A texting platform allows you to send messages out to a group of customers, like an email. Besides pricing, all three services have very comparable features that allow you to incorporate texting into your marketing. Features that you may see:
- Mass texting – think broadcast, one to many.
- 2-way texting – think telephone or email; they can respond to you.
- SMS – text that include only text and links.
- MMS – are multimedia messages or texts that can be longer and can contain images, emojis, gifs, and videos.
- Scheduling – which allows you to set up campaigns and then let them run without being present.
- Automated campaign flows – text triggered by a response (or lack of response). For example, a link to directions after making a reservation.
- Program tracking and reporting – metrics on opens, clicks, sales, timing, etc.
- Data collection and forms – ability to collect data like signups.
- Segmentation and personalization – the ability to pull different groups based on behavior like purchasing or open or responses.
- Transactional capabilities – ability to securely provide links for sales or other transactions like credit card updates for club members.
Each platform gives you an interface where you can see what texts are set to go out, to which numbers you’re sending to, and gives you control over what your SMS or MMS messages are going to say. But, both Vinteractive and RedChirp have a strong advantage over Mailchimp in the last two items on our feature list because they are tied to your eCommerce platform (e.g. Commerce7 or WineDirect). With access to customer information like sales and club membership, the personalization and segmentation features are much better equipped. Also, transactional capabilities are only available on Mailchimp when you’ve opted to go with a Mailchimp store.
Isn’t This Gorilla Marketing?
Texting isn’t as “out there” as one might think. The first commercial text was in 2003 and major retailers have been using this channel since 2005. Texting should not be used to replace any existing channel, but you should consider it to augment your existing marketing and provide your customers another way to contact you. There are several reasons a text channel could be appropriate to add to your mix:
- Some consumers prefer it: 75% of consumers are comfortable getting SMS messages from brands, as long as they opt-in. (Digital Marketing Magazine)
- It cuts through clutter: The average office workers receive 121 emails per day, but only 67 texts a day. (Marketing Profs)
- It is timely: 95% of text messages are opened within three minutes of receipt. (Forbes)
- It increases response rates: just see the stats at the beginning of this article!
- It is highly personalized: texts feel more personalized than emails which can help you increase loyalty among your consumers.
- It is efficient: 64% of consumers think companies who text value their time, are progressive, and would recommend them to others. (Slicktext)
- Deliverability is better: Email deliverability hovers around 83-89% whereas average text deliverability is around 98%. (sender.net)
- Better security: Text messages are generally more secure than email because they are encrypted end-to-end. This means that the message is only accessible by the sender and recipient, making it a more secure method of communication for sensitive information.
Campaigns Your Customers Will Go Ape Over
Having trouble thinking where texting can fit into your marketing? The best way to start is think of texting as a service to your best customers, or your prime mates <sorry, we couldn’t resist>.
Here are our top five campaign ideas:
- Send welcome text to new club members. It doesn’t have to be long, but a simple “thank you” will let them know that they are acknowledged and appreciated.
- Send a thank you to visitors. Once they’ve left the tasting room, let them know you appreciated the visit and want them to come back with a quick “we look forward to seeing you again”.
- Shipment alerts. Let the club know to get in any special requests, and alert buyers to be prepared to sign for their packages. Texting is already widely used by large retailers like Amazon, and your customers will appreciate the reminders.
- Credit card updates. One of the neatest features of Vinteractive and RedChirp is that you can send a link for them to update their credit card securely. Wineries that use this functionality report great results, and their customers appreciate how easy it is.
- Sales campaigns. Want to provide a ridiculously simple way for your customers to buy wine? How about just texting them a link? For customers whose credit cards you have on file, it can be this easy. And busy customers appreciate your consideration for their time.
What Are The Costs?
Both Mailchimp and Vinteractive sell tiers of SMS messages with various amounts of credits. A single credit usually equals one short SMS text message. As soon as that text is too long (about 160 characters) then the system will say it equals two text messages and it cost you two credits. MMS messages typically cost three credits.
Mailchimp doesn’t allow these credits to rollover to the next month so you will need to plan accordingly and make sure you use those credits up within that month. Vinteractive on the other hand, does allow credits to rollover to the next month if you don’t use them all.
RedChirp goes a different direction by simply charging money for a base level of texts and a set dollar amount for extra text messages to send in a month.
Starting with the base model pricing, Mailchimp subscribers are probably already on a paid plan, so the SMS tool is an add-on that starts at $20 per month with any existing paid plan. This $20 would provide you 1,000 credits, the higher you pay each month, the better the deal for the credits. For example, $45 gets you 5,000 credits for a given month. These text messages are for marketing purposes only and will not provide you transactional texts such as order placed, shipping updates, or tracking numbers shown.
Vinteractive’s pricing model is $29/mo for the base texting tier that comes with 500 credits. However, to get the added benefit of transactional text messaging, that will be an additional $69/mo. Instead of $29/mo you could pay a higher price for a better deal on credits just like Mailchimp. For example, the $49/mo package gives you 1,000 credits. Vinteractive also has a Mailchimp integration that lets you share contacts between the two platforms. Mailchimp’s costs for texts are cheaper, but they don’t provide e-commerce related text messages like Vinteractive does.
RedChirp doesn’t use a credit system, however their prices are similar to Vinteractive. With RedChirp, you sign up with a higher starting price at $99/mo. This gives you 500 SMS and 50 MMS messages with the option to spend about $3 for every extra 100 SMS messages beyond that. That would be roughly $30 for an extra 1,000 SMS messages.
The Bottom Line…the Monkey Doesn’t Make It
Mailchimp is the cheapest option, and the user interface is within your existing Mailchimp platform so it’s convenient. But you miss out on eCommerce related text messages. Also, their SMS services are also only currently available to the U.S. and you can’t carry over credits. Boo.
But the biggest reason to perhaps stay away from the Chimp is that they state it violates their “S.H.A.F.T. guidelines. “S.H.A.F.T.” stands for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms and Tobacco. It’s hard to believe that they lump a lovely Napa Cabernet in with pornography and assault weapons, but they do.
I wanted to be sure, so we asked Mailchimp:
And this brings us to our main point. Generic texting platforms, like generic eCommerce platforms, don’t go to the added effort to maneuver the approvals and laws necessary for our industry. We are lucky to have two vendors in Vinteractive and RedChirp that specialize in this and can safely and legally guide us through programs that won’t end us up behind monkey bars.
Vinteractive and RedChirp are better options for wineries. They have similar starting base prices, and a wide variety features that span both marketing and transactional emails with all winery-standard eCommerce platforms, email marketing tools and fulfillment options. It is our opinion that the strength of texting is in the transactional and personalized nature so to use Mailchimp and miss out on these features would be a mistake. And the lack of compliance initiative makes it a non-starter.
Considering texting is a smart decision. SMS marketing is mainstream and becoming more expected by consumers as time goes on. With Amazon and other major players using text, if you don’t add this channel soon, you will find yourself a couple steps behind on the evolutionary chain.