How to Collect Phone Numbers for SMS Marketing

How to Collect Phone Numbers for SMS Marketing
Ivan Kreimer Ivan Kreimer Nov 25, 2022 —  8 min read

Have you considered using SMS marketing to increase your store sales? The good news is that it’s a powerful yet untapped channel for ecommerce stores.

The only issue? You have to collect phone numbers from scratch, much like if you were to build your email list all over again.

If you are wondering how you can actually collect phone numbers for your SMS marketing campaigns, you have come to the right place.

In the next 10 minutes, you’ll see the five steps to start building your SMS marketing list. Let’s get started.

Step #1: Define your goal and campaign type

Before you begin creating an SMS list-building campaign, you need to define exactly what type of list you want to build and what you want to use it for.

SMS marketing shares many similarities to email marketing, including the goals you can fulfill with them. Whatever goal you can accomplish with one channel, you can accomplish with the other. That includes:

  • Increasing sales volume
  • Increasing the average order value
  • Increasing purchase frequency
  • Fostering customer loyalty
  • Improving the shopping experience
  • Providing post-purchase notifications
  • Researching your customers
  • Providing customer support

With a clear goal in mind, you can define the right type of SMS campaign that’s best intended to support it. The most common types of SMS campaigns are:

  • Seasonal campaign promotions
  • Discounts and coupons promotions
  • New lines or products launches
  • Transactional campaigns, such as shipping updates
  • Post-purchase campaigns, such as an upsell
  • Customer feedback surveys

Depending on the type of campaigns you’re planning to run, you can decide how exactly you should collect phone numbers. For instance, if you intend to use texts solely for post-purchase campaigns, it makes sense to ask customers for a phone number during or after checkout.

If you intend to promote discounts and new products via SMS marketing, you should invite people to join your list even before they become customers.

The latter approach is becoming more common, and it’s often paired with email list building. For example, Mejuri, an everyday jewelry brand, offers a discount to their first-time visitors in exchange for signing up for their email list and phone list:

Mejuri builds email and phone lists simultaneously by offering a first-purchase discount

Once their visitors enter their email address, they are asked to enter their phone number to receive the discount:

Signup form featuring a phone number capture field

Finally, they’re asked to check their phones to claim the discount.

Signup confirmation message on Mejuri’s phone number opt-in popup

If you are still deciding what goal to start with, just pick one that best fits your email marketing goals.

For example, if you launch discounts weekly, you could use an SMS campaign to reach even more people.

Alternatively, you can use SMS campaigns to improve a low-performing email campaign. So if your loyalty campaigns rarely bring any sales, you can test sending the discounts through a text message instead.

Example of a discount promotion sent via SMS marketing campaign

Step #2: Define your offer

Now that you know what you will use your SMS campaign for, it’s time you work on your offer.

Every SMS campaign requires an offer that will entice your visitors to hand over their phone numbers.

The principle of reciprocity moves this process, so the more appealing your offer is, the better.

If this sounds an awful lot like email campaigns, that’s because it is the same idea. But unlike email, collecting phone numbers from people can be challenging. Why? Because it’s less common.

How many text messages have you got from brands that want to share a new campaign or discount? Most likely, a few. If any.

The good news is that it can be easy to stand out. But it can also feel weird and invasive for some people.

To overcome some of the inertia, a common approach brands use to collect phone numbers is to position the offer as “exclusive perks.” This works like a VIP-like experience, where your list gets unique coupons and shopping opportunities – in addition to the first-purchase discount.

This is how Elegant Baby, a luxury baby brand does it on their website:

Elegant baby collects phone number for SMS marketing by offering a discount and access to exclusive perks

What makes perks so powerful is that they entice the visitor not just with something interesting today, but in the future as well (because they’ll continue to receive discounts).

Other simpler ideas you can use besides exclusive perks are:

  • Contests and giveaways (more on these later)
  • Free samples
  • Free shipping discounts
  • Right of the first look at the new products

Step #3: Define an opt-in method

When it comes to promoting your offer to start collecting phone numbers, you have two opt-in methods:

  1. Opt-in forms
  2. “Text-to-enter” promotions

Pop-up opt-in forms

Opt-in forms are a popular method for email list building you already know. They can be static or dynamic. The latter include floating bars, slide-ins, and popups.

Little Giraffe collects phone numbers for SMS marketing using a pop-up opt-in form

The benefit of using opt-in forms is that they tend to work as well as they do for building an email list. All you have to do is create a popup or a slide-in using a tool like Getsitecontrol, write the copy, and set up the targeting.

Here is what your opt-in form may look like (and here is a guide to adding it to your website):

Using opt-in forms exclusively for collecting phone numbers can affect your email list-building efforts. Remember, your SMS campaigns should complement your email campaigns, not replace them. Therefore, you should prioritize gathering email addresses over phone numbers.

Option 1. Make entering the phone number optional

You can make entering phone numbers mandatory or optional, as The Sill does:

The Sill collects phone numbers for SMS marketing via an optional phone number opt-in form

In the latter case, you will continue building your email list while slowly growing your phone list. The problem is that it can also end up giving you a small phone list.

Option 2. Make entering a phone number mandatory to receive a discount

If you make entering phone numbers mandatory, the subscriber will only claim the discount after adding their email and phone information. It’s a more aggressive approach, but it’s also more effective at growing your phone list.

Snipes, an online retail brand, uses this approach on their website:

Snipes makes entering a phone number mandatory to receive a discount

On the second page, Snipes asks you to enter a phone number. However, if you don’t, the brand will email you a reminder to join their SMS list and make use of the discount:

Snipes sends a reminder to join an SMS list to their email subscribers

Text-to-enter promotions

The other opt-in method is to run a “text-to-enter” promotion. In this case, visitors must text a specific message (a “keyword”) to a phone number (also known as a “short code”) to sign up. Although it may seem like work, this process makes opting in faster and easier for subscribers.

To use this method, you first have to create a shortcode. A shortcode is a five or six-digit number that people need to message to sign up:

Example of a short code used for building an SMS marketing list

You can set up a short code using any SMS marketing service like Tatango and TextAnywhere.

Once you have your short code, you need to create a keyword. Keywords allow you to create different lists for your campaigns, much like you do with email marketing.

For example, you could create a keyword for first-time buyers (e.g., “NEW”), one for a seasonal campaign (e.g., “CHRISTMASTIME”), and one for your exclusive perks (e.g., “VIP”).

Your keywords should be short, memorable, and relevant to the campaign, just as you have seen in the previous examples.

Example of using a short code to join an SMS marketing list

Caption: Although the company from the example above didn’t use a short code as recommended, their “VIP” keyword matches their campaign perfectly.

In some cases, as in the example below, you could use a single-letter keyword, such as “Y”.

Step #4: Promote your opt-in method

Whether you want to use opt-in forms, “text-to-enter” campaigns, or both, you must promote your offer. There are four ways you can do so:


The easiest option is to promote your offer on your site. That could be using a static opt-in form like a banner or a dynamic widget like a popup or a floating bar.

Example of a floating bar promoting SMS marketing list building

Dynamic widgets are ideal as you can use them to target specific visitors based on their demographics or behavior. For example, you could show your exclusive offer to visitors who have already visited the site multiple times, added a product to cart, or made a purchase.

Posh Puppy Boutique uses an opt-in form to collect phone numbers for SMS marketing

Thanks to the higher trust they’ll have, your popups will be more effective than static, in-site opt-in forms.

Email marketing

You can also promote your offer in your emails. All you have to do is add a small section where you promote your short code and keyword.

Since your subscribers already know your brand, your SMS campaign’s effectiveness will likely be higher than you’d expect.

Here is how the Posh Puppy Boutique invites new email subscribers to opt-in for text promos as well:

Posh Puppy Boutique collects phone numbers for SMS marketing via welcome emails

Social media

Social media is a great channel to promote a “Text-to-enter” campaign. If your followers are engaged and interested in your offer, you can collect many phone numbers for SMS marketing campaigns.

SMS marketing list promotion via social media

Run a contest

Contests are ideal for SMS campaigns as they make the opt-in process more interesting for people. The crucial point is to offer a valuable prize, like a free product or a gift card.

Using giveaways to collect phone numbers for SMS marketing

Step #5: Keep your campaign compliant with your local laws

Nowadays, SMS campaigns are highly regulated in most countries. Therefore, you must comply with your country’s regulations before collecting phone numbers.

Each country has its own regulations, more than we can cover in this article. Four of the most significant jurisdictions with their respective laws are:

  • The US’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and CAN-SPAM Act
  • Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
  • The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • The United Kingdom’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the Data Protection Act

Similar laws exist in Australia, India, and the Asia-Pacific region. When in doubt, consult a legal counsel to ensure your SMS marketing strategies comply with your local laws.

Whatever the country you live in, most laws regulate the same aspects of your SMS marketing communications, such as:

  • Your capacity to message customers who actively provided their mobile numbers
  • Your subscribers’ explicit consent to your messages and privacy policy

These laws also force you to:

  • Explain the content and frequency of communication you plan to use
  • Explain the reason why you want to collect their phone numbers
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe from your list

To avoid most issues, you must display your terms and conditions and privacy policy so that people can easily view them, such as below your CTA

Example of terms and conditions explicitly features on the opt-in form

Also, send a confirmation message to each new subscriber reinstating what type of content you’ll be sending them and how they can opt out of your list. Princess Polly, a clothing brand from Yotpo’s case study, does exactly that by reminding subscribers how to stop receiving promo texts from the company:

Princess Polly sms marketing campaign examples

Takeaways about collecting phone numbers for your SMS campaigns

Collecting phone numbers for your SMS campaigns will be an unusual challenge for most marketers. However, the fact few companies take SMS marketing seriously is also an amazing opportunity for those willing to take risks.

Start by thinking about phone numbers as email addresses. The same principle of reciprocity applies for both data points — i.e., give something away that’s both free and useful, and you will make everything easier.

You can start collecting phone numbers simply by using your existing list-building campaigns. Otherwise, create brand-new opt-in forms to capture phone numbers exclusively.

Then, take it further by creating a “Text-to-enter” promotion. Choose one of the services mentioned above to create a shortcode and keyword you can advertise on your site, email list, and social media.

Finally, don’t forget about your country’s compliance laws. It may seem overkill, but the penalties are far too great to ignore.

Once you take all of this into consideration, you should be on your way to creating a list of engaged buyers you can use to boost your store’s profits.

Ivan Kreimer is a freelance content writer for hire who creates educational content for SaaS businesses like Leadfeeder and Campaign Monitor. In his pastime, he likes to help people become freelance writers. Besides writing for smart people who read sites like Getsitecontrol, Ivan has also written in sites like Entrepreneur, MarketingProfs, TheNextWeb, and many other influential websites.

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