Casper on SMS marketing: An exercise in upholding brand standards

Brand Teardowns

This post was initially a Twitter Thread. You can read its original form here.

So, a brand I love and admire really let me down on a channel you REALLY don’t want to let a customer down on: SMS.

Let’s get right into it.

Check out what went down between Casper and I on SMS (I know, Android green bubbles, just… ✋ OKAY)

I think the shortcomings of this conversation are preeeetty clear, but lemme highlight a few things:

1. I texted a question, only to get multiple automated responses that felt really jumbled (not very personalized or *delightful*)

2. When I *did* specify what I was looking for help on, I assumed I was being routed to the right team for the job….  

Since I selected a topic and all….

And yet “I’m not a sales representative but…”

Authentic, sure.

But...shouldn't the team receiving product inquiry texts be able to answer said product inquiries?

3. When I explained my issue- I don’t know which Casper pillow is right for me!- the response was “uhhhh Ok- how can I help you figure this out?”

I added the sassy “uhh” but that’s how this message *felt* to me.

Silly customer, what do you want? Help? Pfft. That’s not my job.

Honestly, this one message really caught me off guard: I thought me messaging them would help me figure this out. So I actually didn’t know how to answer this question?

Am I a burden? Am I annoying? Should I have researched more before texting? Oh gah, am I a stupid consumer?!

This is never a place you want to put a potential customer (especially one with high buying intent)

4. “If you want, I can transfer you to a sales agent.”

Look, it’s 2019 and this is an online mattress brand. I came here specifically because I didn’t want to deal with a sleezy sales agent at a mattress store.

So no, please don’t connect me with a sales agent (maybe find a new name for your sales team?)

I don’t need to be convinced to buy, I need *help*.

5. My delayed response put me right back into the same automation loop.

I had a meeting and couldn’t respond immediately. Ya know… life.

What if I had a follow-up question? What if I had said, you know what yeah I’d love to talk to a sales agent?

And again, these messages seem jumbled and out of order. There’s no connection or trust building, and it feels uncomfortable.

6. This was the perfect opportunity to get to know a customer, get first-hand data on how customers are making decisions, and to even upsell me.

I was ready to buy any of the three pillows. Which ever one their team of sleep experts said would help me the most.

I got the least expensive one. And I’m still not 110% confident with that choice.

7. Now lastly, and IMO the most vital mistake here, is a loss of brand voice.

Casper’s entire brand is built around friendliness, approachability, connection, community, and authenticity.

From subway ads, to social engagement, paid ads, and even downloadable content, they focus on this EVERYWHERE:

Except, it seems, the most direct and immediate channel with their customers.

And I’m honestly still a little baffled.

When I showed this to Alex Beller from he summed it up perfectly:

“This is erasing the image of casper as a friendly brand. Making it look so corporate and stodgy”

Which begs the question: Can the image of a brand be disrupted in one single touchpoint?

My answer: Absolutely.

I did end up buying 2 pillows b/c my research had already been done. But I walked away feeling a little miffed by the process.

This is why I preach a holistic view of retention SO HARD.

This is why I constantly highlight minuscule moments in customer journeys.

This is why these tweet threads often get a lot of attention.

Because every single interaction matters. Any single moment can make or break a sale.

Any single moment can make or break a relationship. It can throw a little doubt onto brand affinity. It can bring up insecurities about loyalty.

-Brand affinity

Three things you absolutely need to drive retention, and Casper left me feeling a little uncertain on all three.

One text conversation was all it took to add in some hesitation.

When I need a new mattress (which is v soon) I may not go running straight for Casper like I planned to. Maybe I need to do more research….

Here’s the lesson:

SMS is going to be the next big thing in DTC (as it should be). It offers brands a direct line of open communication with customers in a way we’ve never really had before.

With huge opportunity comes huge risk. And huge responsibility.

All DTC brands should be thinking about an SMS strategy. But before you sprint off to the races, take a moment and really think about that strategy.

Do customers get the response they need?
Are Customer experience teams trained for this channel?
Is your brand ethos being brought to light?
Are automated messages actually helping?

I urge you to write a mission statement for all of your channels, but especially SMS.

What is the *true* goal of your program? And then, are you living up to that goal and brand standards on every single text that is sent?

SMS is tricky, you guys. You *really* don’t want to upset customers on this channel.

Consumers already wary about SMS marketing. Already worn out from email marketing. And in this channel especially, looking for anything that causes distrust.

Please, please, please think about this channel carefully. It is *not* the new email, it’s so much more complex.

P.s. Want to get all my future content on SMS marketing? It gets to my subscribers first. Join my DTC crew email newsletter here. (It’s fun, I promise).

Kristen LaFrance

Head of community at Churn Buster, host of the Playing for Keeps podcast, and (unofficial) mayor of DTC Twitter, Kristen is an expert on all things retention. When she’s not interviewing leaders in the eCommerce world, you can catch her hiking 14-ers with her three rescue dogs.

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