3 Sep 2018

The marketing opportunity of the presumed dead SMS

Imagining modern daily life without smartphones and mobile devices is almost impossible. The good old SMS, though, seems rather less relevant in these days of smartphones. Now over 25 years old, the SMS is increasingly being relegated to history – or so it might seem. In reality, while the SMS may seem like a relic of the pre-smartphone past, it still has an important role to play, especially when it comes to marketing opportunities.

SMS popularity in Germany

The number of sent SMSs in Germany hit a record in 2012, reaching 59.8 billion. Since then, numbers have been declining. According to Statista, only 10.4 SMSs were sent in 2017. The trend seems clear: the SMS is going out of fashion. However, what just looking at the numbers fails to tell us is anything about the “application field” for those messages.

There’s no question that the SMS is dying out for private communication (sometimes referred to as person-to-person, or P2P) – most of us can confirm this from our own experience. But that’s only one side of the coin. In the commercial world, where businesses need to communicate with their customers (application-to-person, or A2P), the SMS is still an important, well-used and steadily growing medium.

number of SMS in Germany

Think about it: how many SMSs do you receive from businesses?

Online banking messages, donations, a powerful channel for call centers to reduce costs and win over their customers, retail notifications to name just a few examples. Let’s have a closer look at the reasons for this.

Five evident reasons for using SMS to communicate with customers:


1. Everyone can receive them

The SMS standard works on any phone, from an old brick with giant buttons or the indestructible Nokia 3310 to the newest smartphone. One doesn’t have to register nor install another app, unlike messenger services, where both sides (recipient and sender) must have the same service installed before they can communicate with each other.

Even some landline telephones can usually be used to receive, write and send text messages – although on older models SMSs are sent via a phone call, and read to the recipient as soon as they pick up.


2. They are practically always received

One doesn’t need a good connection for a message to get through. Just a brief moment of GSM reception suffices perfectly for an SMS to be sent or received. One can usually get this fleeting signal, even in places where the signal is generally poor, such as underground parking or lifts.

Traditional spam filters aren’t a problem for SMSs, either. Once sent, an SMS generally reaches its recipient. Delivery problems only really start to arise if a device hasn’t logged into a mobile network for a substantial period of time (between two and seven days, depending on the mobile provider).


3. They’re consistently read

The opening rate for SMS is between 97 and 99 percent. What’s more, around 95 percent of these messages are actually read within three minutes of receipt. There is no other channel that can claim this kind of result. By comparison: emails have an average opening rate of 25 percent.

Why is this? SMSs have a certain sense of urgency. As a result, they tend not to get lost in the flood of other messages – emails, messenger apps, etc. You can check this for yourself quite easily: how many unread SMSs do you have — and how many unread WhatsApp messages or emails?


4. They are individual and flexible

You design the content, you decide whether to send a single message or a chain, you decide about the sender identification. An SMS has more configuration options than you might think at first glance.

The sender identification options depend on the technology used to send the message. Sometimes, there is a fixed specification for the sender identification and it can’t just be chosen at will. However, if nothing is specified, you can choose how the sender is identified on practically all end devices. Businesses make use of this technology to display the company name instead of an unknown telephone number.


5. Versatile application scope

SMS can be used for different purposes and applications. In some sectors, it’s just not possible to manage without them.
Examples of applications that commonly make use of SMS include:

  • transmitting status information about orders and deliveries,
  • user verification, e.g. in 2-factor authentication,
  • online payments and transfers (mTAN),
  • sending invoices and payment reminders,
  • marketing and sales campaigns, e.g. announcing a sale,
  • information about payments, e.g. when a credit card is used,
  • appointment confirmations and reminders, and
  • sending mobile flight and rail tickets.

As the saying goes, the condemned live longer.

It may be true that in these days of messenger services and social media, the SMS is starting to seem rather old-fashioned for private communications. However, when businesses want to communicate with their customers, the powerful reach and user acceptance rate of SMS continues to make them a popular channel.

It’s likely to be a while before there is any alternative available with efficiency comparable to the humble SMS.


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Charlotte Newby

Charlotte Newby
Head of Corporate Communications
DIMOCO Corporate Headquarters

Tel: +43 1 33 66 888-2059
Email: hello@dimoco.eu

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