By Sommer Burbank
In a world where approximately "92% of US adults own a cell phone, 91% of Americans have their mobile devices nearby 24/7, and 74% of cell phone & smartphone users have no unread text messages," SMS marketing is a fundamental tool for getting in touch with the consumers who matter most to your brand (Telvero).
For wineries, breweries, distilleries and online retailers, text message marketing is a cost-effective way to continuously engage with & provide value for your customers. From informing customers about limited-time offers to providing instant updates about stock, the value of SMS for beverage alcohol brands and businesses is undeniable.
In order to use SMS marketing appropriately and effectively in the alcohol space, it is important to understand the regulations and policies that outline an acceptable campaign. Keep reading for SMS compliance essentials, strategies and more.
SHAFT, or Sex-Hate-Alcohol-Firearms-Tobacco, refers to brands that are explicitly regulated in the Short Code Monitoring Regulations. These regulations are enforced by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) and the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association), who regulate what you can send and to whom via text messaging. You can check out the official CTIA Short Code Monitoring Program Handbook here.
In addition to federal governing bodies, mobile carriers are also liable for enforcing the FCC’s policies. As more SHAFT brands use texting to reach consumers, carriers want to know who is and who is not complying with regulations and are required to be responsible gatekeepers and distributors of SMS content.
In order to create the most exceptional experiences for you and your customers, it is imperative that you adhere to the following rules and regulations for all of your SMS campaigns.
Restrict Your Content & Subscription to the Appropriate Age Group
The first way is to restrict your content is to add an age-gate to your website. Before anyone enters your website, they must be required to confirm their age in order to eliminate access to anyone under 21.
Alcohol brands must verify age in two places:
- Across their entire website (using an age verification app)
- Directly within the text thread with a robust (full date) age gate via the double-opt-in process
This means that when a subscriber visits your site and signs up to receive texts from your brand, you must require them to reply with their date of birth before subscribing them to your text messages. If the customer is under the legal drinking age, they should be denied entrance into your site as well as any SMS campaign.
Outline Your Program Details at Opt-In
In your call-to-action to opt-in to your SMS program, you must include the following details:
- Your business name
- The types of messages recipients can expect
- Your messaging cadence
- Text message and data rate notices
- A link to your terms and conditions
- Opt-out instructions
Receive Prior Express Written Consent
SMS compliance laws place a special emphasis on consent. Under the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act), you must receive express written consent to text consumers any marketing messages.
You can obtain express written consent via online forms, but you must explicitly state that enrolling into your program means that subscribers agree to receive your text messages. Texting consumers without proper authorization can cost you up to $1,500 per incident.
As a double opt-in measure, the TCPA also requires you to text recipients a disclosure message to confirm their participation in your SMS program. This message should reiterate the details of your SMS program stated at opt-in.
Clearly Communicate Terms & Conditions
Before launching an SMS campaign, you must develop a page that outlines the full policy of your SMS messaging. Provide a link to this page in the initial disclosure text, and periodically remind your customers how to access the policy. You should also notify your subscribers via text whenever terms and conditions change.
Time Your Texts Appropriately
Texting your audience at the wrong time can also put you in violation of SMS marketing compliance laws. Under the TCPA, you cannot text or call subscribers before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM.
State Your Business Name in Every Message
To maintain full transparency with SMS subscribers, you must include your business name in every message.
Allow Your Audience to Easily Opt Out
The opt-out process is a fundamental piece of any SMS campaign. You must make it clear and easy for subscribers to opt out of your SMS program at any time, i.e., Text "STOP" to unsubscribe.
Avoid Banned Language
Due to SHAFT policies, any promotion of your SMS marketing program in addition to the content of your SMS messaging is highly regulated. While alcohol brands can still message their audience special offers, product updates and more, an age gate must be included so that only people of legal age can sign up to receive such content.
Don’t Message Opt-Outs
The DNC (Do-Not-Call Registry) also applies to SMS marketing, which means it is illegal to text anyone on this list as well subscribers who have opted out of receiving your SMS communications. Avoid contacting anyone who meets either criteria at all cost.
Tips to Ensure Compliance
- Create an age-gate default on your SMS marketing campaign: to do this, you can add an additional step to the opt-in process while ensuring that your backend SMS platform is configured to opt-in only those who are 21 years old or older
- Segment audiences based on location: seeing as different states have different compliance restrictions and standards for alcohol sale & delivery, verify that your SMS campaigns adhere to all-encompassing alcohol regulations, i.e. don't target subscribers in states where shipping alcohol is not permitted
Looking for more SMS best practices, interested in learning how to start your first SMS Marketing campaign, or ready to elevate your alcohol brand with DTC sales? Our experts at Speakeasy Co. can help! Contact us to learn more about our e-commerce & digital marketing offerings for beverage alcohol brands.