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After a successful holiday trial, Alo Yoga plans to double down on SMS marketing

Alo Yoga is reducing its reliance on email and turning to text message marketing to up sales and bring in new customers.

In August, Alo began using audience data to target customers via SMS, or “short message service.” By working with the platform Attentive, it tailored text messages to specific groups — such as loyalty members or people who haven’t purchased from Alo in a year — to flag certain deals, new products or color drops.

Already, it’s reaping the benefits of this strategy. Within a few hours of sending out SMS messages for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Alo racked up nearly $360,000 in sales, according to the company. Thanks to SMS, Alo’s holiday business jumped 35% year-over-year, Cher Fuller, Alo’s senior director of digital marketing, told Modern Retail. SMS accounted for 4% of Alo’s revenue during the holidays. In 2022, Alo said it brought in more than $1 billion in sales, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Encouraged by these results, Alo is funneling more marketing dollars into SMS in the new year, Fuller said. “SMS, from a total program strategy, is going to start inching up closer to the forefront,” she said.

Alo rarely has sales outside of the holidays, so most of its current messaging strategy revolves around product announcements. Going forward, Alo wants to create more personalized website links in texts — a process it’s already begun doing. Alo also aims to use SMS to drive traffic into its stores, which are set to number 100 sometime later this year, and use SMS in the customer service process to address shoppers’ specific concerns via chat.

Alo is one example of the businesses that are testing out SMS as a means to reach customers. Many brands — from The Black Tux to Dr. Squatch to Mented Cosmetics — have begun using SMS to tease new items, answer customers’ questions and even foster communication with executives. Some brands, like Dr. Squatch, have dubbed their strategies as ‘text-first’ and are trying to facilitate more of the shopping experience through messages. One SMS platform, Postscript, has been building an SMS sales team to complement its marketing program. According to a 2023 Attentive survey, 52% of the marketers queried said they planned to increase their SMS investment that year.

In Alo’s case, SMS was one of Fuller’s main priorities when joining the brand back in May. The brand had primarily relied on push alerts via its app and emails for communication. “We were missing that quick and nimble tool to see immediate results from,” she said. “It allows us to be a little more fluid in reading and reacting to data, whereas the back-end mechanics of email… [are] a longer process.” When using SMS, Alo sees “huge spikes in traffic” after sending messages, Fuller said.

Over the past five months, Alo has slowly built its SMS program by segmenting customers into more distribution lists, collecting more phone numbers and making messages more personalized. For instance, Alo used to link to its homepage in some SMS messages but found that new customers were not always sure where to go next. In September, Alo created a “New to Alo” section of its website that it now directs new sign-ups to through SMS. The section includes information on popular products and fabrics. “They can start to build that base,” Fuller said.

Alo also has started using SMS to notify customers of new additions to its products like updated colors. The brand drops new colors every two to three weeks, Fuller said, which are popular with repeat customers. Loyalty customers are notified first about these new colors. On Tuesday, Alo sent an early-access text teasing its newest shade: Espresso.

Jeremy Goldman, senior director of the marketing, retail and tech briefings at Insider Intelligence, said the best SMS messages are to-the-point, pithy and align with overall brand message. “You have to grab people very, very quickly,” he told Modern Retail. “I liken it to the preview text in an email where you have very little space.” Compelling GIFs and unique artwork can boost eyeballs, too, he said.

When carried out effectively, SMS can provide a big boost to brands, Goldman said. But, many brands have told Goldman that they are not sure SMS fits into their budgets, especially with rising marketing costs.

“There are some brands that are a little wary of one more thing that they have to support,” Goldman said. “They feel it’s a bit harder to make the argument that you need to add this to your tech stack, despite the fact that they’ve done test-and-learns and had decent ROIs or even strong ROIs.”

Alo’s Fuller said she is confident in SMS, especially having used the tool in previous marketing roles. “There are so many features and functions that we are just skimming the surface on,” she said. “I have not seen any type of worrisome revenue numbers that make me think that it’s not a good investment.”