If you're looking into business text messaging applications, you might have stumbled across the technical term A2P and be wondering what it means. This article explains what you need to know about A2P messaging, including why you should use it and how it differs from P2P SMS messaging.

What is A2P messaging: What does it mean?

A2P stands for 'application-to-person'. In the context of text messaging, A2P messaging refers to an application, such as a software solution, sending an SMS to a person's mobile phone.

A2P SMS messaging is commonly used by businesses and enterprises to communicate with customers. A2P texting can be used for sending various types of SMS messages, including:

  • Announcements about a new product or outlet launch and other promotional materials

  • One-time passcodes (OTPs) to facilitate secure account login via two-factor authentication

  • Appointment confirmations

  • Service updates

  • Order progress updates, such as shipping notifications or delivery delays

  • Banking updates, such as suspicious account activity or other emergency alerts

  • Feedback requests

  • Market research surveys

  • Event reminders

  • Marketing notifications, e.g., special offers or discount codes

A2P services allow businesses to send SMSes in bulk and on a global scale. Depending upon the A2P SMS provider used, many messages can be automated, triggered to send after a specific action or event has occurred. For example, an order confirmation SMS can be automatically sent out by your A2P application as soon as a customer places an order online.

A2P messaging should be used in accordance with CTIA's Messaging Principles and Best Practices, which set out how businesses should send text communications to consumers while protecting them from unwanted messages.

How does A2P messaging work?

To use A2P messaging, you need first to choose an SMS platform (the application). The first time you log into your account, you will have to upload a list of subscribers (or set up a landing page to capture new subscribers). Then you'll create the types of SMS messages you want to send. It's good to prepare some templates at this stage.

A2P Messaging

You'll then 'send' your messages directly from the SMS platform, either in bulk or separately, depending on your needs. For you, this process only involves the click of a button. In the background, the application transmits the A2P messages through a mobile network operator. They are forwarded to your subscribers, looking like perfectly normal, regular text messages, via the SMSC (short message service center).

A2P vs P2P messaging: Key differences

While we're on the topic of A2P SMS messaging, it's also important to mention P2P messaging.

P2P stands for person-to-person. It is sometimes also called peer-to-peer messaging. It could be considered a more technical term for the regular type of messaging method that we're all used to. So, a P2P message is just the SMS as we know it.

There are two key differences between A2P and P2P texting.

CTIA rules

Firstly, A2P and P2P text messages are treated differently in CTIA's Messaging Principles and Best Practices guidebook. This is because person-to-person text messaging isn't typically used by businesses. Essentially, this means that a person (as opposed to an application) sends a text message to another person, each using a mobile device. Whenever you have a back-and-forth conversation by text with friends, you're using P2P messaging. Comparatively, if a text message doesn't originate from a mobile phone with a SIM card, then it's classed as A2P traffic.

Message architecture

The second significant difference between A2P and P2P messaging is seen in the message architecture. Peer-to-peer SMS messages are transmitted through a person's mobile device, their wireless connection, and their mobile carrier. A2P messages, however, travel through aggregators and spam filters before being delivered to mobile carriers and then, finally, to the end-users.

Other lower-level differences

The kind of app you use to send texts

A P2P application could be any regular SMS app on your phone, such as Google Messages or Apple Messages. These P2P texting platforms usually come pre-installed on every phone.

For corporate messaging, though, you will have to look into special A2P messaging service providers. These providers usually offer dedicated web portals or mobile apps to enable A2P business texting.

How frequently you text

The number of texts you exchange with your friends or family depends entirely on how close you are with them and how often the need to text arises.

Thanks to recent developments with RCS, peer-to-peer text messaging is now able to accommodate group texts too. Before that, only one-on-one SMS conversations were possible. If you want to text many people at the same time, it can not only be quite expensive but also a hassle since you'd have to select all the recipients from your contact list each time you want to send out a mass text. A2P messaging, on the other hand, allows easy, affordable bulk texting, given that you partner with a good A2P service provider offering a proper contact management system in place.

The number that you text to and from

Peer-to-peer texting happens between two regular 10-digit local phone numbers. A2P messaging needs a professional phone number, though, which we will talk about in the next section.

Types of A2P messaging

A2P texting can be done using toll-free messaging, ten-digit long codes, or shortcodes, which usually consist of five or six digits. These options relate to the phone number from which you're sending messages. There are various reasons why you might want to use one over another, cost being one of them.

If you're going to send marketing texts, then shortcodes are best because they can be used to allow someone to opt in and give their consent. They're also more memorable than long codes, which makes them very effective. Remember the Haiti earthquake in 2010? $43 million was collected in relief donations – people were able to give $10 by texting the word 'HAITI' to the shortcode 90999.

Long codes are actual phone numbers and might be useful for a business targeting a local market. These are also relatively inexpensive to use, but they have some drawbacks – they're unregulated, for starters, so they tend to attract spammers.

Toll-free messaging also has pros and cons. It's fast and convenient but subject to carrier filtering, which can affect deliverability and thus limit your reach.

In terms of the actual content you send by text, there are three categories of business messaging you need to know about for subscriber consent requirements. You can read all about them in CTIA's guidelines, but here's a summary below.

1. Conversational messaging

This is a back-and-forth text conversation between a business and a consumer. A good example is when a customer inquires about a service or product. In this case, the conversation is initiated by the customer. Conversational messaging is based on implied consent. No further permission is required.

Conversational SMS example

2. Informational messaging

This is when a consumer submits their phone number to a business and requests to be contacted in the future. Usually, this relates to service messages, for instance, reminders, two-factor authentication codes, fraud alerts, or account updates, but 'welcome' texts fall into this category too.

Informational messages may be one-way or two-way. To send messages for a specific informational purpose, you need to obtain express consent from the consumer at the point where they hand over their phone number. Consent can be given verbally or via an online or paper form.

3. Promotional messaging

Promotional texts are often circulated via one-way text messaging to market or advertise a product, service, brand, or business. Because these marketing messages can be seen as intrusive or spammy, express written consent is required from the customer.

A good way to capture consent is through an opt-in checkbox situated next to where the consumer submits their contact details. You might have noticed them when creating an online account or filling in a contact form, for example. A key need-to-know here is that you must obtain this explicit consent before you send that first promotional text.

Benefits of A2P SMS messaging

A2P messaging offers several advantages. It enables you to send a high volume of messages to large groups of subscribers all at the same time. And as text messages are delivered pretty much instantly, you can send time-sensitive alerts with confidence.

With an A2P messaging platform, you don't need to use your own phone number. Instead, you can select a toll-free number, long code, or shortcode to use.

Finally, as a communication channel, SMS does an exceptional job of putting your business directly in front of your target audience. 96% of smartphone owners use SMS. And with fantastic text open rates (nearly 100%, according to Salesforce and Gartner), A2P SMS messaging could potentially revolutionize the way you do business.

To summarize, here are the key benefits of application-to-person messaging:

  • A2P SMS messaging can streamline appointments. Application-to-person messaging automates the process of sending out appointment reminders to customers while giving you the ability to customize and personalize each message. When it appears on a user's mobile device, the message will stand out. You can easily pair a business SMS software application with online reservation systems to provide a seamless experience for the mobile user.

  • A2P messaging is more effective than email. If you want to send marketing messages, you should leverage the potential of business SMS solutions. Email marketing is oversaturated - making it difficult to break through the noise in any meaningful way. Sending text-based mobile messages gives you a direct line of communication with your prospects and customers.

  • A2P messaging can quickly deliver messages to mobile phones. When you automate text messaging using a reliable A2P provider, you can quickly convey critical information to your audience. If you're trying to quickly notify your audience of time-sensitive information, email marketing campaigns are rarely effective.

  • And last but not least, application-to-person messaging doesn't have to break the bank. There are a number of affordable A2P enterprise mobile messaging solutions on the market for business owners and marketers to choose from.