Why Should You Include SMS Opt-Out Options?
With open rates as high as 98%, SMS marketing is one of the most popular and engaging forms of marketing. As a result of this open rate, customers are also more likely to redeem SMS offers. In fact, texted coupons are redeemed 10 times more than traditional coupons.
However, SMS marketing is highly regulated, so it’s important to follow the rules when it comes to both asking for customers’ permission to contact them, and enabling them to quickly and easily opt out of receiving messages.
Here’s what you should know about SMS opt-out and opt-in requirements.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is the leading regulation that governs SMS marketing. Under the TCPA, businesses are forbidden from contacting consumers via SMS without their written consent.
That means, even if a customer has filled out their mobile phone number when filling out a form on your app or website, you don’t have permission to send them an SMS message. However, if customers explicitly check a box or send confirmation in response to a message that says your brand has permission to send them SMS messages, they’re considered to be opted in. A few ways you can do this include asking customers to:
- Text a code or keyword from their phones
- Fill out a web or paper form that explicitly asks for permission to SMS
- Opt in via a web popup with details of the program
Both the TCPA and another set of regulations from the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) have specific requirements for how you should enable your customers to opt out.
The TCPA requires you to send opt-out instructions upon sign-up and every month following sign-up. All customers should be able to opt out instantly by simply replying to the message.
CTIA supports those requirements, but has even more specific regulations that all U.S. businesses must follow when running SMS marketing campaigns. Under their regulations, customers must be able to opt out of any messaging campaign by using any of the following keywords: STOP, END, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE, and QUIT.
Why Include SMS Opt-Out Options?
Businesses are obviously hoping to continually grow their SMS marketing lists, and every time you mention your SMS opt-out options, you’re likely to lose some subscribers. That said, it’s critically important to make customers aware of their options for opting out of your SMS marketing database.
For one, failure to comply with TCPA regulations can carry steep fines of as much as $1,500 per unsolicited message. Failure to comply with regulations can put your brand in serious legal trouble and a deep financial hole.
Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance
To make sure you’re on the right side of the law when it comes to SMS opt-outs, follow these best practices:
- Use keyword short codes for customer consent. If you list out the details of your SMS program, either in an email, in-app notification, mailer, in-store signage, or elsewhere, you can ask customers to send a text message including a single word (a keyword short code) which will serve to provide consent to messaging under the terms described.
- Set up a welcome message template that includes all the information they need to understand your policies.
- Consider a double-opt in policy to be absolutely sure customers want to hear from you after they’ve signed up for your SMS program. This could simply be a text message asking them to confirm their subscription by writing “yes” or “no.”
- Honor opt-outs immediately. If a customer opts out of SMS messaging, it shouldn’t take you days to take them out of your database. You need to use a system that immediately processes unsubscribe requests so that they don’t receive any unwanted messages from you.
Creating a Positive Customer Experience
It’s important to provide a best-in-class customer experience to all of your customers—including the ones who don’t want to hear from you anymore.
If you don’t make it easy for them to unsubscribe, besides the legal ramifications, you’re also providing a poor customer experience that’s likely to frustrate them. Customers are far more likely to share negative feedback about your brand if they’ve had a difficult time unsubscribing from SMS messages. Their brand sentiment may go from neutral to negative in an instant if they’re stuck digging around for SMS opt-out options.
When a customer unsubscribes from SMS marketing, it may mean they are no longer interested in your brand, but it may also mean that they just prefer a different marketing channel, such as email marketing or in-app messaging. By giving them the option to decide how and when they want to hear from you, you can empower them as consumers to tailor their customer experiences to their unique needs.
Allow for Channel Choice with SMS Opt-Out
Customers have a range of ways to interact with your brand, so it’s important to develop a comprehensive cross-channel marketing strategy that helps you engage with them across all of the channels they want to use. Likewise, it’s important that, when a customer doesn’t want to receive messages through a certain channel anymore (such as SMS, or email), that you honor their request promptly. By following both regulations and best practices when it comes to SMS opt-in and opt-out permissions, you can ensure that your customers have a great experience with your brand across all of your marketing channels.