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How to Use Text Messages to Retain Users

What if I told you there was one message you could send right now that your users were almost guaranteed to read? What if I also told you this message could help you retain users?

You’d say spill it already.

Fine. The good news is, it isn’t anything mystical, expensive, or elaborate. All it is, is a text message.

No seriously, text messages.

These 160 character messages are retention powerhouses. I mean, what other message can you send to your users that has a 98% open rate and a 19% CTR.

It’s time to start using text messages to retain your users.

But how?

Many SaaS companies are scared to use text messages, with good reason. We’ve all received our share of annoying, random text messages from companies we’ve never heard of. So most of us tend to shy away from texting our users, and there’s no reason to.

A recent survey showed more than 50% of texters don’t mind receiving text messages from businesses at least 1-5 times a week. If your user opted in and your text messages are helpful and timely, your text messages will be welcome.

When we say “opted in”, we mean they were legitimately opted in. Not “tricked in”. Meaning your users physically checked off that they wanted to receive text messages.

And again the key is timely and relevant text messages.

The only way to ensure your messages are always relevant and timely, besides manually sending a personal text message to each user, is to send event-based text messages.

Ummmm…event-based text messages. What’s that?

Event-based text messages are personalized text messages sent to your users based on what they do in your app.

For example, let’s say someone signs up as a new user. If they’ve opted-in to receive text messages from you, you can send a text message a few minutes after they sign up to welcome them.

Ok, that’s one example, I need more.

Great, here’s four other ways you can use text messages to retain your users.

Send a Text Message When Users Visit Your FAQ page

One of the big reasons people stop using an app is because they don’t understand it. And one of the first places they’ll look for help is your FAQ page.

The problem is, if they don’t find the answer, you risk losing them forever. The truth is 96% of dissatisfied customers will never voice a complaint. And 91% will never do business with you again.

If you don’t follow up quickly to help these users, your user retention can suffer.

To prevent this, send a text message to users that view your FAQ page.

Wait, couldn’t I just do this by email?

You could. Because let’s be honest, email is amazing. But since text messages are read within 5 seconds of receipt, you have time to catch this user before they start looking at your competitor.

A text message as simple as this could help:

text your users

Hey {{Customer Name}}, Do you need help with {{data questionViewed}}? Here’s a link to a video to help – http://shortli.nk, but feel free to text me with any questions you have.

This is super simple and effective. It’s personalized, timely, and targeted. Not only did you reach out and help before they asked, but you knew exactly what to help with, and you did it all automatically.

Send a Text Message When Users Try to Downgrade

It pays to pay attention to your “at-risk users”. One of the ways you can reach out before they stop using your app is by texting when they visit your downgrade page.

There are plenty of reasons a user may want to downgrade. And unfortunately, guessing won’t give you the answer. So you need to talk to them to find out what’s wrong or help them choose a suitable plan.

When a user visits your downgrade page, automatically send a personal text message a few minutes later like this:

loyalty text

Hey {{Customer Name}}, Thanks for being a loyal AppName user. I’m happy it’s been useful to you this long. I see you haven’t tried the {{data unusedFeature}} which is only available on your current plan. Need help?

This text is simple, helpful, and not pushy. You’ve thanked them and reminded them how long your app has been useful to them.

You’re almost guaranteed to get some sort of feedback. Now, you can use this feedback to help you keep them and others from downgrading.

Send a Text Message to Thank Every User

There’s nothing like a thank you. Everyone loves them, especially your customers.

So why not send a thank you text message to stop users from leaving.

It could be something short and sweet like this:

say thanks to users text

Hey {{Customer Name}}, I see you’ve been with us for {{data memberLength}} months. I’m just reaching out to say thanks. We really appreciate it. Don’t mean to be a bother, just wanted to say thanks.

Your customers don’t often get this kind of “concierge customer service” from others. What do you think will happen when they get your text message?

Send a Text Message to Inactive Users

Inactive users are people you’ve somehow convinced to sign up, but you can’t get to use your app anymore.

This is bad for business.

If they’re inactive during their trial, they probably won’t convert. If they’re paying you, they’ll probably leave soon.

So you have to do something to keep them using your app. A well-timed text message may just be the fix.

To make sure inactive users become active again, try sending a text message like this:

inactive user text

Where’ve you been {{Customer Name}}? You haven’t been back in a while, so you didn’t get a chance to our new save feature. You can check it out here Just text me if you need help.

You can schedule this text to go out a few days after a user’s been inactive. This ensures they are truly “inactive”, but still active enough to remember who you are.

Even if you don’t get a reply, they know you’re still around and can come back to use the app.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can use text messages to retain your users. And you can keep the conversation between you and your users going automatically, without much work.

As long as your users have asked to receive your text messages and your text messages are super targeted, helpful, and personalized, you should see a real difference in your user retention. And always, test and measure its effectiveness like you would any marketing activity.

About the Author: Ashli Norton is the Co-Founder at Autosend, a tool that helps SaaS and mobile app companies send trigger-based email, SMS, and push notifications to their users, automatically. Be sure to say hi to her on Twitter. You can also follow her on Google+.

  1. Good ideas. I think I can use the tip about “thank yous” right away.
    I text clients when they phone me. I send “can’t talk now, what’s up?”. I have had very good success with this. It even works for potential clients calling me for the first time.


    • Texting just seems so personal and the marketers that use it the right way to build connections with their customers can see huge gains.

      Glad you liked the article Rob!

  2. Bjørn Otto Vasbotten Sep 26, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Excellent insights. SMS is still the best way to communicate with customers from IT systems.

    • I believe SMS is HUGELY underutilized because people have received so many spam text messages they think they’re bothering their customers.

      I think using SMS in IT is perfect because those customers are knowledgeable and use SMS regularly.

      Good point Bjørn!

  3. What software would you use to setup an SMS service like this? I’ve come across using texting for businesses before but never understood how it was done automatically/without an employee glued to their phone 24/7. Thanks

    • I realise this reply might be too late for you Brian, but it might help others coming to this post with the same query – you can use business SMS platforms like Textlocal to help you with this. Most (but not all) providers will offer a cloud based platform that you can , plug in to your CRM software through an API, allowing you to personalise and automate your messages. Again, most but not all providers will let you use the software for free, and you’ll just pay for the credits for the text messages, but this may vary between platforms.
      I hope this was helpful!

  4. Thans for this incredible post. I am looking forward to boost visitors on my website and posts like this one is really helpful for newbies like me. Thanks for giving a great idea. I will try this one.

  5. Georges Fallah Sep 29, 2014 at 9:37 am

    Interesting article. The most critical thing is not to ignore your users and always keep an eye on them. It is important to pay attention to their inquiries and watch their behaviors to act accordingly. Maintaining ongoing communication and provide them with clear answers that best fulfill their needs are keys for being effective to them. Text messages are really fast and effective.

  6. It is a very helpful post for people to understand the importance of text messages even today. Messenger apps such as WhatsApp and Hike, have swept away the use text messages.
    While these apps have changed the preferences of masses, text messages are still used for business promotion and brand awareness as explained here in this post.
    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Timely and Contextual text messages can indeed be very powerful. Completely agreed! At Sonar, we’ve had companies tell us that they achieved 66% response rates (vs ~5% over email) and others tell us that they increased sales by 98% through timely texts. Note that allowing customers to text YOU removes a lot of the spam fears and many customers prefer to reach out over SMS vs email or phone.


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