6 Steps to Supercharged SMS: How Product Recommendation Quizzes Help Brands and Customers Connect
List Growth, Retention / Loyalty, Ideas / Inspiration

6 Steps to Supercharged SMS: How Product Recommendation Quizzes Help Brands and Customers Connect


June 13, 2021

Reading Time: 13 minutes

One thing about SMS marketing that makes marketers salivate: the direct communication with customers.

The open rates and engagement are dreamy: per John Kim “We're seeing closer to 90% open rates on SMS and 20% CTR. Those clicks aren't just visits either. We're seeing great conversion rates and, on a per message basis, SMS is outperforming email for us.”

In fact, SMS can outpace email engagement by 6-8x, in part due to the personalized nature of SMS --which is currently in the early stages of adoption by brands and generally used for friends.

Thus, SMS marketing is a channel with tremendous upside based on the nature of communication and opportunity for two-way messaging with brands. Stronger customer relationships and personalized experience (and the resulting boost in conversion rate and lifetime value) are the pot of gold on the other side of a strong SMS campaign.

But there is one caveat: your messaging needs to be on point. Each SMS message must be relevant, timely, and compelling.

As we’ll see in this post, a product recommendation quiz can help add insightful details to your CRM so that you better understand your customer base, and can recommend products accordingly. It's the equivalent of a personal shopper to greet every person who visits your online store, and it has deep implications in driving the key metrics of your marketing strategy: conversion rate, lead capture, and customer experience.

The eCommerce Customer Experience Gap 

Today’s shoppers want a personalized experience.

Personalization is a delicate balance -- get it right, and you will be rewarded with reduced acquisition costs by as much as 50%, revenue increases of 5–15%, and increased marketing spend efficiency by 10–30% 44% of consumers are likely to become repeat buyers after a personalized shopping experience.

But get it wrong (or don’t personalize at all) and you will leave your customers frustrated-- 71% of consumers express frustration when their shopping experience is impersonal.

According to Accenture, 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant.

Shoppers want to be treated as an individual, and 83% of consumers are willing to share the necessary information to help marketers deliver these personalized experiences.

But consumers still feel that ecommerce brand experiences are falling short of their expectations to have a personalized experience.

And this is exactly where the opportunity to stand out with SMS and quizzes is: leverage the intimate nature of SMS as a channel, create cohorts based on actual data from consumers, and create compelling messages and offers based on insights gathered in a quiz.

How An eCommerce Quiz Can Bridge The Customer Experience Gap

One way to capture this critical data about customers is by asking them directly with a quiz.

A quiz proactively and directly captures customers’ preferences, interests, goals and challenges.

In the same way that an in-person dialogue with a sales associate would help identify the ideal product, a product recommendation quiz is an example of interactive content that guides customers through a series of questions and ends with a personalized recommendation based on responses.

A quiz helps merchants gather Zero-Party Data, which customers share proactively and willingly. It can reveal personal preferences, purchase intent, and any context that a customer shares.

Zero-Party data captured in a quiz can help you plot out the roadmap of the problem that you are trying to solve:

  1. Who is the customer?

  2. What problems are they experiencing?

  3. What alternatives have they tried?

  4. What are constraints?

  5. What does success look like?

Contrast this with First-Party data, which is transactional data: products purchased, frequency and value of purchases, or even demographics like age, location and gender. All of these are backwards-looking, and require some assumptions in order to create marketing campaigns.

For example, suppose you are running SMS campaigns and tasked to build out a new product launch campaign. If you did not have Zero-Party data, you would be forced to triangulate between purchase history--which products were purchased, how long ago, and the value of the order. The messaging would be heavily focused on the product and its benefits and features, instead of the end customer. And that’s because you may not know a whole lot about that customer’s unique circumstances.

But now imagine that you have a detailed profile of the customer -- their skin type, their ideal skin care routine, their skincare goals and concerns. This is exactly what wellness brand Hers has, as a result of their quiz:

This is marketing, at its core: identifying unmet needs and goals, and providing the solution to get customers to that goal.

In this post, we will examine how brands learn about their customers through quizzes, and how it can be applied to creating a more relevant customer journey through SMS.


If SMS marketing is the vehicle that helps brands stand out with thoughtfully crafted personalization, then an ecommerce quiz is the roadmap to guide the SMS messages so that they hit with maximum impact.

The Value of Segmentation 

Personalization is a holy grail of direct to consumer marketers. And the rationale makes perfect sense, as the customer experience, revenues, and lifetime values are all enhanced when personalization is executed well.

Personalization is particularly important for SMS marketing as well, given the nature of the channel and how we value access directly to our phones.

The success of personalization is ultimately premised on the ability to segment.

With a platform like Postscript, this segmentation can be based on parameters like purchase history, engagement with marketing materials, or data provided from a quiz.

Without a thoughtful approach to segmentation, you run the risk of increased unsubscribes, which limits future revenue potential and burns the money from acquiring the lead (not to mention the cost of sending the message).

Instead, leverage an interactive quiz to get a better understanding of the customer and increase relevance with the SMS messages that you send -- both in the segmentation and messaging itself.

To create a coherent messaging journey, it is therefore fundamental to understand the entire customer journey.

To have an idea of how to answer questions like:

  • Who is on the other end of the SMS message?

  • What problems are they experiencing?

  • How do they define success, and what does their ideal end state look like?

Once the goal posts are clearly established, SMS can be an effective channel to send relevant messages and move customers towards their desired end goal.

Let’s get into some concrete examples from fast-growing ecommerce brands…...

Step 1: Understand The Customer’s Current State 

Understanding the customer is critical in the conversion process. Asking fundamental questions about the customer’s current state is the first step to solving their problems.

In order to personalize your shopping experience and recommend the right solution, it’s necessary to gather the basics of where the customer is starting from. Haircare brand NaturAll has a quiz to identify the right formula for a customer’s specific hair type. Hair type, dryness, and damage are just a few questions used to get an understanding of the customer’s current state:

In a similar fashion, teeth whitening brand Snow has a quiz to identify which teeth whitening method:

Action Item: Identify cohorts within your customer base.

Naturall could have a segment of customers with “Coily and dry hair”, or Snow could add tags to customers noting “Mildly stained teeth”. This adds context to the customer, and can be one data point to incorporate into messaging or segmentation.

Asking these questions demonstrates an interest in others, and can be the foundation of empathy by acknowledging who customers are in SMS or email messages.

Step 2: Understand The Customer’s Mindset 

In an in-person retail interaction, it can be easier to pick up on cues and dialogue to understand customer intent.

Are they in the early stage of the process, gathering information about the problem at a high level? Or are they closely weighing competitive alternatives and near a purchase decision?

A quiz can be helpful for customers to self-select where in the customer journey they are, especially as you are directly asking consumers.

Supplement brand Umzu has a few questions to uncover the customer’s mindset:

Combining these two questions -- of beliefs and dedication -- can be a great indicator of what needs to be addressed in order to convert this shopper into a customer. If someone is skeptical and not dedicated to addressing the problem immediately, perhaps an automation educating on the problem at a high level would be most relevant. On the other hand, if the shopper is a believer in the product and dedicated, then they are presumably at the bottom of the funnel, and can benefit most from a personalized recommendation.

Action Item: Communicate on the level of the customer

Your customers have some reservations that are a roadblock to the conversion process. It could be price, skepticism in the solution, questions about how the product will fit into their routine, or any number of issues. You can tease these out in a quiz, and send messages and content to address those reservations.

You likely have material that addresses the nature of the problem at a high level, the benefits that are possible with your product, details about the product itself. The nature of your content  should depend on where in the funnel your customers are, which you can identify with a few quick quiz questions.

Step 3: Determine Willingness To Pay

A trademark of a good salesperson is that they understand the ideal price range that a customer is shopping for. If you’ve ever asked for a recommendation at a wine shop, the sales associate probably asked the price range that you’re looking for. Establishing an alignment on price is a key component to getting the right product in front of that customer.

As an example, Snow asks customers how much they are willing to invest to solve their problem:

Now look at Snow's pricing. Not coincidentally, the price ranges of $150-$300 are the same range of their best selling products:

The quiz is programmed to guide shoppers who want a solution less than $150 to the options that fit that criteria, and those who have a higher willingness to pay will receive the options in that price range.

The quiz recommendation algorithm is programmed to guide shoppers who want a solution less than $150 to the options that fit that criteria, and those who have a higher willingness to pay will receive the options in that price range.

Functionally, this is conditional logic that guides shoppers to the best product based on responses to questions about price, interests, and goals. This customization is easy to create on the backend of building a quiz, yet can appear to offer the customer the same personalized experience of Amazon's recommendations.

Action Item: Understand Customers’ Willingness-to-Pay:

Gathering the information about how much a customer is willing to pay can guide you to recommending the most appropriate product.

For example, if a customer is only willing to pay $150-$300, then you can recommend products that are in that range (and create the best opportunity to maximize Average Order Value). But also follow-up SMS and email campaigns can focus on those products in the price range. This allows for greater specificity in segmentation and greater relevance in offers that you send.

Step 4: Understand The Customer’s Goal

According to Clayton Christensen’s Jobs To Be Done Theory, people “hire” products to do certain jobs. Understanding what the customer’s “job” is can make marketing far more effective.

As you’ve probably noted already, the best way to understand these things is to ask customers directly: “What goal are you trying to solve?”

The same exact product can have multiple applications, depending on the user.

For example, hydration brand Hydrant asks what the customers is looking to solve in buying their product:

And similarly, Umzu asks why symptoms the customer wants to address in buying the supplements:

And Naturall asks what the customer’s hair goal is:

Action Item: Understand your customer’s desired end goal:

As Sam Hulick of UserOnboard notes, “People don't buy products; they buy better versions of themselves. When you're trying to win customers, are you listing the attributes of the flower or describing how awesome it is to throw fireballs?”

You want to understand exactly what their goals are, so that you can know exactly what their version of a Super Mario looks like! Provide the means to throw fireballs and you will see a boost in your conversion rate.

source: UserOnboard

It’s not the product itself that is exciting to the customer, but instead who they become when they purchase your product.

Step 5: Lead Capture

Building an email list (and SMS list) that you own is an evergreen asset.

So it makes sense that after you have taken customers through an interactive quiz experience, and are about to offer the value of a personalized recommendation based on their feedback, that you would capture a phone number or email.

List growth is a key benefit of the ecommerce quiz. And beyond just adding a new contact to your CRM, you are adding in all of those colorful customer details that you gathered in the quiz, which you can use in creating segments for email, retargeting campaigns, or even abandoned cart emails to add more context to your messages.

And in the exchange of value, you can offer a personalized recommendation in exchange for the phone number, as Naturall does here:

Or take Original Grain’s approach and incentivize an opt in with a discount:

Action Item: Capture the lead

It would be a wasted effort if you were to capture all of these insights about a customer, only to not use it in your follow-up campaigns. Remember, consumers will happily provide personal information and contact information if it means that they will have a better experience with your brand.

Note that these opt-ins include the compliance statement that the phone number can be used for SMS marketing. You can read more on the details of compliance here.

Step 6: The Product Recommendation

The recommendation is the last step, and the culmination of the value exchange--the personal shopper that delivers a personalized experience for every customer.

The recommendation takes the quiz responses and provides the most relevant product recommendation. The recommended products should of course have the basics that you’d find on any product description page, including product image, price, and add to cart button. This is what you get with Original Grain’s Watch Finder Quiz:

Backpack brand Brevite incorporates urgency (“Sold out 7x”) and social proof (2000+ 5 Star Reviews) with their recommendation.

And Snow takes a different approach, visualizing the smiling faces and sparkling teeth of customers as a visual testimonial. But more interestingly, Snow incorporates the quiz response (ie that I have sensitive teeth), and employs fear (the pain of a dentist), benefit (that Snow is budget-friendly) and credibility (that celebrities use it and it works for 90% of users in one use):

Hydrant also offers a savvy personalized product recommendation--addressing me by name, and reiterating the preferences and use cases that I self-identified:

Action Item: Personalize the product recommendation based on quiz results

The product recommendation is the pot of gold at the end of the quiz experience. The results page is where value is exchanged--customers have shared valuable information about themselves, and the recommendation is where they capture their end of the bargain. You recommend a product that suits their needs, ideally with an explanation of why it is good for them.

Dale Carnegie wrote on influence in general, which is very applicable conversion optimization for ecommerce brands:  “The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.”

With just a few easy questions, quiz takers share their desires, and the recommendation is opportunity to demonstrate how they can reach their goals.

Product Recommendation Quizzes: A powerful addition to your SMS marketing strategy  

A quiz is a powerful complement to SMS marketing -- in building your list, learning about your customers, and enabling a truly personalized experience.

As a result, you can be certain to create more tightly segmented audiences, and maintain higher engagement. This is a great entry point for initiating two-way SMS messaging.

So what is the best way to start implementing a quiz strategy in your marketing and SMS strategy?

A few questions that you may want to ask:

  • What information would be helpful to know about your customers? This will inform what questions you ask in the quiz, and also how you build out your SMS and Email automations after a customer completes a quiz.

  • What are the biggest obstacles to getting a customer to convert? Understanding the problems your customers experience will help you improve your positioning. For example, a multivitamin like Umzu has multiple benefits. But the messaging can be far more compelling if you are able to highlight those that are most immediately pressing to the individual reading the message.

  • What does success look like for your customers? Remember that your goal in marketing your product is to understand who your customer is, what they want to become, and then insert your product as the bridge to help them realize their goal. So as you saw in the examples above, you can elicit this information from customers with one quick question, but the benefits can extend throughout the customer lifetime, and across the channels of SMS, email, ads, and the onsite experience itself.

  • How will you measure success? Depending on the goal that you set out, it can be engagement with SMS messages, conversion rate of those who take the quiz, or the list growth of your SMS campaigns. But establishing goals upfront will help you define what is of primary importance, and how you will get there.

Take these steps to build a relationship with your customers, and you will immediately have the information you need to create personalized marketing strategy, at scale. Let’s go!