Text to Pay: How It Works and How to Use It in 2024

November 30, 2023 | By Sam Pelton
Someone holding a phone and dollar signs indicating a purchase occurred

The more than you can accommodate mobile visitors and shoppers, the better off your business will be.

Consider these numbers…

32.2% of US internet users bought something online each week via a mobile phone, according to a report by Statista. Shopify predicts that by 2024, 42.9% of ecommerce purchases will occur on mobile devices.

In other words, a lot of transactions occur on mobile devices.

And that’s where “text to pay” can come into play, helping you reach those mobile consumers and make things as easy as possible for them to purchase your product or service.

In this article, we will discuss what text to pay is, how it works, the benefits of using text to pay, and how to use text to pay successfully.

First thing’s first…

What Is “Text to Pay”?

“Text to pay” refers to payment methods that allow consumers to pay for goods or services via text messages.

When it comes to SMS, the primary way that this would work would be for your business to include payment links in a text message. The link could lead to an invoice or a payment form, for example.

Thus SMS becomes the means by which your customer can pay what they owe you.

How “Text to Pay” Works

“Text to pay” works by simply sending a payment link to a customer's mobile phone via SMS. They’ll receive this text via shortcode texting or some other text-enabled phone number.

The customer then clicks on the link, which takes them to a page or invoice where they can enter their payment information. Once the customer has entered their payment information, the payment is processed.

Here is a step-by-step explanation of how text to pay works using a payment link:

  1. You create a payment link for your customer. Most payment processors or invoice creation software (such as Stripe) will have an option to create a payment link that gives people direct access to paying.
  2. You send the payment link to your customer via SMS. The SMS can include a brief description of the product or service that the customer is paying for, as well as the amount due. One way to send out these text messages is via an SMS platform like Mobile Text Alerts.
  3. The customer clicks on the payment link in the SMS message. This takes them to a secure payment page where they can enter their payment information.
  4. The customer enters their payment information and completes the purchase. The payment is processed through the payment processing system that you used to set up the payment link.
  5. You receive a notification that the payment has been processed. The customer may also receive a notification that their payment has been received.

Why Use “Text to Pay”?

Why Use “Text to Pay”?” and the subheadings below with dollar sign icons

There are a few reasons that you may want to consider using "text to pay"...

Quicker Payments

Late payments (or non-payments) can be frustrating and in some cases can be quite problematic. One survey in the UK found that 39% of respondents either had reduced overhead or thought they might have to reduce overhead due to unpaid invoices.

Since texting is a means of communication that people are very likely to actually notice, a “text to pay” option can help you get payments more quickly. People will see your notice and more quickly follow through.

Better Customer Experience

Giving your customers more convenient options (such as “text to pay”) helps make their experience as smooth as possible.

Obviously, the better experience you can give your customers, the better opinion they will have of your business.

Better Sales

You may see better sales because you’re giving people a convenient way for them to pay.

Offering a “text-to-pay” option helps you remove friction from the purchase process.

How to Set Up “Text to Pay”

To set up “text to pay,” you’ll need a payment processing service and an SMS service. Then you can follow the steps below.

Note that with development work and/or integrations, you may be able to automate many or all of these steps.

Step 1: Create an Invoice

Within your payment processor, create the invoice or bill that you’ll be sending to your customer. You can usually set up an invoice easily enough using invoice creation software, and you may be able to set up an automated billing process.

Your payment processor may automatically generate a payment link for you when you create the invoice. Locate where that payment link is and copy it.

In your SMS platform, set up a text message including your payment link. Your message content could say something along the lines of…

Thanks for your order! Here’s your link to pay: [link]

In the Mobile Text Alerts platform, you can input this content into an intuitive “Send a Message” page. From there you’ll be able to select the recipient for the message.

In order to save time, you can create a message template that you can customize by filling in the link for each recipient. You may also be able to set up automatic text messages to be triggered by programming automations via API, or by setting up automations through the integration site Zapier.

Step 4: Schedule Your Message

Schedule your message for the exact time that you’d like to send it. You’ll want to select a time that will be the best for your customers.

Don’t forget about different time zones when considering the best time to send your text messages.

(Optional) Step 5: Create Follow-Ups

To increase the chances of getting paid on time, you can schedule or automate follow-up reminders to help your customers remember to pay.

Here are some examples of what follow-up messages could say:

[Business Name] Notice: Just a reminder about your past due invoice. View and pay here: [link]

[Business Name] Notice: Your invoice is 14 days overdue. Please pay as soon as possible. View and pay here: [link]

Challenges to Keep in Mind

While “text to pay” is by and large a good thing, there are a few challenges you’ll want to keep in mind…

Potential Delivery Issues

With text messages, there’s a chance that mobile carriers may flag messages as spam and prevent them from being delivered, particularly if you’re texting links.

To help mitigate this, you’ll want to make sure not to use public URL shortening services (for example, bit.ly).

It’s best to include the full link when possible, but if that’s not feasible, it’s best to use a branded URL shortener that includes your website’s domain as a part of the link.

Since there is a chance of potential delivery issues, and since some people may prefer to pay via other methods, it’s best not to use SMS as the only means that you send your invoices and accept payment.

Customer Suspicion

Because of the prevalence of text scams, some people may be suspicious of receiving texts related to paying a bill and may be hesitant to submit their payment information.

You can help mitigate this by notifying customers ahead of time that they will receive their invoice via text message. If they’re aware of this process in advance, they won’t be confused when they receive the text message asking for payment.

Collecting Customers’ Phone Numbers

In order for “text to pay” to work, you obviously need to collect the customer’s phone number.

Depending on the nature of your business, requiring your customer’s phone number could potentially present some unnecessary friction.

If this “text to pay” option is the only reason you’re collecting customers’ phone numbers, we’d recommend not making it required. (However, there may be other reasons that you want to require a phone number from customers.)

Best Practices for “Text to Pay”

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Best Practices for “Text to Pay”” and the subheadings below with checkmark icons for each point - could have smartphone icons and dollar sign icons in background

Now that you’re more aware of the concept of “text to pay” and how to set it up, here are some best practices to help you get the most out of it for your business.

Follow All Mobile Carrier Guidelines

In order to get the best message delivery for your texts, and therefore the best results, make sure to follow all the mobile carrier guidelines:

  • Get Clear Opt-In Consent—Give your customers a clear way to agree to receive text messages from you and don’t text them unless they agree to it.
  • Give Clear Opt-Out Instructions—Make sure that people know how they can unsubscribe from receiving future text messages.
  • Submit Registration Forms—Fill out the registration forms provided for you within your SMS platform account; this helps pre-register your traffic with the mobile carriers so that they are less likely to think that your messages are spam.
  • Clearly Identify Your Business—Make sure that your recipients are clearly aware of who you are.
  • Avoid SHAFT—This is mostly pertinent if your product or service falls under the category of “potentially questionable”; make sure that your messages don’t contain content or links that refer to SHAFT topics: Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, or Tobacco/Cannabis. Some other topics to avoid include loans, gambling, “work from home” opportunities, “mystery shopping” opportunities, and illegal activities.

We mentioned this previously, but it bears repeating that it makes a difference what types of links you use.

What you absolutely don’t want to use are publicly shortened links, which would include links shortened by popular services such as bit.ly and tinyURL.

The best option is to simply use your full payment link, but this doesn’t always make sense in a text message. Some links are very long and aren’t conducive to sending in a text message. Plus, if you use the full link you may not be able to track clicks.

If you don’t want to use the full link, you can use branded URL shorteners—link shorteners that include your brand or domain somewhere in the link.

Send Follow-Ups, but Not Too Many

Follow-up text messages are good and helpful—sometimes people just need a nudge to remind them to make a payment.

But you don’t want to send too many follow-up texts, or else it will come across as annoying or even harassing.

We would recommend 2 follow-up messages in addition to the initial payment link.

Monitor Results

Through link tracking analytics (and potentially other monitoring tools), you should be able to get an idea for how many of your customers are actually using your “text to pay” option.

You can use those analytics to help you determine what tweaks and adjustments you may want to make to your “text to pay” process.

For example, if you see that a lot of recipients are clicking the link, that will help give you confidence that your approach is effective. On the other hand, if you’re not getting a lot of link clicks, you may want to evaluate the message content you’re including.

Try “Text to Pay” for Your Business

Interested in giving “text to pay” a try?

Get a free SMS platform trial account here to see how it works.

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