Text messaging is an emerging commerce channel impacting buyers, merchants and platforms.
When entrepreneur and marketer Gary Vaynerchuk launched Wine Library’s Wine Text service in 2019, he effectively created a new e-commerce vehicle.
Visitors to the Wine Text website can register, adding payment information and a shipping address in advance. Then, like a text version of a daily deals site, Wine Text sends daily wine deals via SMS. The recipient buyer could purchase by simply sending the number of bottles.
“The thesis of this incredible service, this revolutionary service…was how to spend two minutes to register – the address you ship the wine to and the credit card you use – so that when you receive text daily, it takes two seconds,” Vaynerchuk said in a video posted to Wine Text’s homepage.
A few experts (including me) have asked, “Why isn’t that already a thing?”
In a way, it was already a thing. Wine Text and the various platforms it has inspired are part of a shopping trend.
“I believe the natural progression towards more streamlined shopping experiences and meeting consumers where they are (social media, chat, SMS, video) is driving the rise of SMS as a preferred mode of conversational commerce for consumers. consumers and businesses,” Blu Atwood, CEO of text commerce company Textual, said in an email.
Retailers want to remove the friction of e-commerce and make shopping easier for shoppers. Placing orders online on an Alexa device is an example of this trend. So were Amazon’s now closed Dash Buttons.
Text commerce is the most recent iteration and one that could gain traction.
Text messaging won’t be a platform for all sellers, but it can be for many.
“I don’t think we’ll be texting mattresses anytime soon,” said Sam Schrup, the founder of TextRetailer, another texting shopping platform.
“On the contrary, it is well suited to a certain category of products. Wine is one. Coffee is another. We see a lot of it in cosmetics. The common theme between all of these is something easy to ship, consumable…and there’s enough variety,” Schrup said.
Merchants can focus on curating products, offering easy restocking, and promoting offers.
In each case, the medium offers retailers a new channel and a new opportunity to connect with consumers.
Admittedly, SMS shopping is nothing new. Amazon, for example, launched a mobile service called TextBuyIt in 2008.
“With today’s launch of TextBuyIt, any Amazon.com customer can now use any mobile device to shop and buy on Amazon.com, anytime, anywhere,” said said Howard Gefen, then director of Amazon Mobile Payments, in a press release.
“With TextBuyIt, if you’re coming out of a concert and want to buy a CD by the artist you just saw, or if you’re having dinner and a friend tells you about a good book you should read, all you have to do is pull out your mobile device, text Amazon, reply to reply, confirm your order, and your item will be on its way.It’s incredibly simple and convenient.
Amazon was ahead of its time. Since then, consumers have become more comfortable with e-commerce and text messaging. Platforms and merchants may want to try again.
Textual and TextRetailer are examples of messaging-based business services ready for retailers. Other services are coming.
Walmart, for example, is experimenting with text for shopping. The shopper texts a product name, Walmart makes a suggestion, and the shopper confirms. Do. Order.
Don’t be surprised if other enterprise retailers or even e-commerce platforms soon offer similar services. Amazon could do it again. Shopify, Adobe Magento, BigCommerce, and Miva could all try it.
The current generation of text commerce services will likely face a few challenges to succeed.
- Competition. The industry could become too fragmented.
- E-commerce platforms. Shopify and other platforms may cancel text-to-shop services through restrictions on the platform’s app or API.
- Carriers. Cellphone carriers have already started limiting SMS commerce, even banning certain product categories. If consumers see commercial text messages as spam, these carriers could shut it down.
Therefore, new SMS-to-buy services may follow the path of Dash and Amazon’s TextBuyIt. Or they could become a powerful new channel.