Email Marketing vs SMS Marketing: Which is best for customer loyalty?

March 31, 2023 (Updated) | By Jake Meador & Sam Pelton
Email Marketing vs SMS Marketing: Which is best for customer loyalty?


The very word conjures up feelings of reliability, confidence, and even fierceness. History and literature are full of “fierce loyalty” narratives - knights and their monarchs, Ruth and Naomi, Harry Potter and his friends.

When it comes to your business, this kind of fierce devotion from your customers is the ideal.

You want what Peter Shankman calls “Zombie Loyalists” - customers who are rabid and ravenous advocates of your brand, and who return to you often and consistently.

This kind of loyalty doesn’t come easily. It often must be fostered and nurtured.

One way to nurture this type of loyalty is through quality loyalty marketing.

Here we’ll talk about some different marketing channels to encourage repeat business, and why SMS marketing is superior as a way to nurture loyal customers.

What Is Customer Loyalty Marketing?

Before we get into some specifics of how to better utilize loyalty marketing for the security of your business, let’s define our terms.

Typically, “loyalty marketing” refers to campaign programs that offer incentives to encourage customers to return.

When we talk about “customer loyalty marketing” here, we are not just referring to these types of loyalty programs.

We’re also referring to marketing efforts in general that target previous or current customers, foster relationships with them, and build a feeling of fierce loyalty to your band.

The goal is to get your customers more and more committed to your business, so that they can’t even imagine using another service.

These kinds of fiercely loyal customers become the backbone of your business and revenue. Their reliability gives you a calming sense of reliability and security in the midst of all the craziness that comes with running a business.

With that in mind, let’s talk about a few different ways to go about customer loyalty marketing, and the best channel to use.

Here’s the Best Marketing Channel for Customer Loyalty

Loyalty marketing is often best when it is targeted and personalized.

This means that SEO, search engine ads, and social media posts aren’t typically the best way to go.

That leaves 3 primary methods.

Direct Mail

While direct mail still has its time and its place, it is not the most efficient tool to help your loyalty marketing.

It’s both costly and difficult to track.

(And we all know that snail mail has been slowly on its way out as a primary method of communication for a long time now.)

So while you may still want to consider using direct mail as a tool, don’t go into it with too high of expectations.


Email is still a relevant way to communicate and market. Nearly all businesses use email because it’s inexpensive and can yield decent results.

But although email marketing is beneficial, it has a major disadvantage: poor open rates (hovering around 21% on average according to MailChimp).

Thus, with email you can only expect around 20% of your audience to even read your loyalty marketing messages.

When you really get down to it, those odds aren’t good!


As opposed to email, everyone reads their texts. (In fact, the open rate for text messages is as high as 98%.)

People love texting because it is simple and to-the-point. They can check their texts easily at their convenience, and their texting inboxes aren’t cluttered with nearly as much spam as email inboxes tend to be.

All that being said, SMS wins out over email and direct mail as the most effective marketing channel through which you can promote customer loyalty.

So let’s get into some specific benefits SMS provides over email in particular.

3 Ways SMS Wins Out Over Email for Loyalty Marketing

In addition to what we already mentioned about SMS being much more widely read than emails, here are a few other benefits.

More “In Your Face”

We can all agree that texting is more “in your face” than email.

Let’s face it - we have our noses in our phones all the time. So what better place to get in touch with your customers in order to develop relationships and encourage repeat business?

On that note, a word of caution - In the words of Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The “in your face” and personal manner of texting is to be used sparingly, not abused.

If you start to become an invader in your customer’s personal space rather than a welcome presence, your relationship with your customer will suffer.

So recognize and take advantage of the personalness of texting, and make sure to do so wisely and ethically.

More Convenient

We touched on this previously, but texting is by far one of the most convenient ways to get in touch with people.

Social media has limited reach. Phone calls are hit-or-miss - in this day and age more miss than hit.

And as we’ve mentioned, customers more often than not ignore emails (which is what we’re comparing specifically here).

SMS, on the other hand, is easy to read and easy to take action on quickly, and sooner rather than later.

The interruption to a person’s day upon receiving a text is only small. And if it’s not a good time, your customer can simply read the text whenever they are free. (And you can be confident that they will read it.)

Embrace the convenience of texting, and use it to foster relationships and repeat business from your customers.

More Conversational

Here’s a question - How often do you email your friends and family?

Now, think about how often you text your friends and family.

If you’re like the vast majority, your emails tend to be more about business and you rarely if ever send purely “conversational” emails to loved ones.

In contrast, your texts are vastly conversational.

The fact that texting is more conversational means that it can be a better avenue to drive relationships with your customers. And better relationships mean more loyal, reliable customers.

3 Ways to Get More Reliable Customers Through SMS Loyalty Marketing

So what are some specific ways that SMS can help bring about that sense of security that comes with having fiercely loyal customers?

Here are 3 examples.


One way to foster customer loyalty via SMS is with prompt proaction and reaction.

Much of the time when a person needs a product or service, what they are really needing is a product or service at a particular time.

For example, a restaurant’s customers likely don’t need help at 4am. But they will need it at 12pm. Providing the right product or service at the right time is the path to successful customer service (and to a successful business).

What’s valuable about SMS messaging is that it’s easy to make sure your customers get what they need when they need it. You can do this in a couple ways.

Proactively Anticipate Customers’ Needs

You can foster customer loyalty by proactively sending texts that anticipate your customer’s upcoming needs.

For instance…

If you’re able to anticipate when someone will need to come into a dentist’s office or a hair salon, you can schedule texts ahead of time to remind them to come in for that service.

This directly encourages customers to give you repeat business. It can work best when coupled with a benefit (such as a discount), or a convenient way for your customer to take advantage of your service.

Hi Tinasha! Looks like your Honda Accord is due for an oil change. We’d love to help you out with that - If you bring it in within the next 7 days, we’ll give you 20% off (just show this text when you come in!)

Hi Jackson, it’s been 4 weeks since we’ve seen you at the shop. Reply to this text if you’d like to set up an appointment!

Provide Timely Reactive Notifications

On the flipside, there are some services that can’t be anticipated proactively. In those cases, SMS still gives you an easy way to provide prompt reactive service as soon as you’re able.

For example, if a person has ordered something from your business and is waiting for it to arrive, you can use SMS to quickly let them know when the item has arrived in your store.

Sam, your new road bike has arrived at the store. You’re welcome to pick it up anytime!

By being quick to serve when a customer needs your help, you can show customers that you care about them and value their time.

And thus, this will yield more reliable customer loyalty.


In addition to promptness, another way to bring about fierce customer loyalty with SMS is through personalization.

Nobody wants to feel like they’re just a faceless customer. Yet in many businesses, that is often how customers are made to feel.

The experience is alienating. So one of the best ways to stand out and make people feel valued is to provide personalized care, which SMS can provide with its intimate and conversational nature.

At minimum this means that, as much as possible, your marketing messages should reflect some degree of knowledge about your customer as a person.

With SMS, it is easy to text a specific person or a small group of people with similar interests or needs so that you can send messages that are relevant to them in particular.

You can also include your customers’ individual names in the text (even if blasting out the text to multiple people), which adds another personal touch.

We hope you enjoyed your recent visit, Katie! We’ve added a $15 credit back to your card because of the long wait times you experienced due to shortage of staff. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to see you again soon!


Lastly, a third way SMS can help boost your company’s security and foster customer loyalty is through campaigns that demonstrate attentiveness.

Thanks to various marketing technologies, you can offer prompt, seemingly personalized content to an enormous number of people. But most people see through this.

If a brand has a pattern of interacting with people as if they are faceless drones, then it won’t matter that they can send a message that uses the customer’s first name in the greeting.

So the final goal for nurturing loyal customers via your SMS marketing strategy is that you would actually be attentive to them as an individual person.

Use texts to add that “special touch” of service to your customers. Give them an “out of the blue” discount, free gift, or credit to say “thank you” (and notify them about it via text). Message them individually about their participation in your loyalty program.

Austin, we want to thank you for being such a loyal customer! Here’s a $20 gift card just to say “thanks”! [link]

Another valuable way you could demonstrate attentiveness is to simply send them texts to let them know you appreciate them, to ask about how something in their life went, to congratulate them when they have good news, and so on.

SMS messaging is a tool. It will be what you make of it. One good thing you can do with it is communicate your interest and care for a person who has been a customer for your business.

Is there a business value to doing this? Yes.

But it is also simply a kind thing to do. It is a way to take something that can often feel very rote and impersonal--marketing messaging--and turn it into something that shows genuine care for another person.

And genuine care just so happens to often bring about positive results.

Use SMS to Bring Security to Your Business with Loyalty Marketing

We’ve been over what loyalty marketing is - in our definition, marketing to current or previous customers in an attempt to get repeat business.

We’ve emphasized why loyalty marketing is important, and we’ve talked about why SMS is better than email for going about it.

Lastly, we’ve discussed some benefits of SMS and ways SMS can help yield fiercely loyal, reliable customers.

Now the big question.

Are you using SMS loyalty marketing to the full extent, to bring greater revenue and security to your business?


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