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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 SMS messaging?

A2P stands for ‘application to person’. In a text messaging sense, this refers to an application, like a software solution, sending an SMS to a person’s mobile phone.

How A2P is used

A2P is commonly used by businesses and enterprises to communicate with customers. A2P can be used for sending a range of texts, including:

  • One-time passcodes (OTPs) to facilitate secure account login.

  • Appointment confirmations and reminders.

  • Service updates.

  • Banking alerts.

  • Order progress updates.

  • Feedback requests.

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

A2P allows businesses to send text messages in bulk and on a global scale. Depending upon the application used for A2P, many messages can be automated; triggered to send after a specific action or event. For example, an order confirmation SMS can be automatically sent out by the 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 guidelines which sets out how businesses should send text communications to consumers while protecting them from unwanted messages.

How A2P messaging works

To use A2P messaging, you need first to choose an SMS platform (the application). You’ll log into your account, 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.

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, where they’re then forwarded onto your subscribers as a text message.

Differences between A2P and P2P messaging

A2P and P2P text messages are treated differently in CTIA’s Messaging Principles and Best Practices guidelines. This is because P2P refers to ‘person to person’ text messaging and 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. Looking at this alternatively, if a text message doesn’t originate from a mobile phone with a SIM card, then it’s classed as A2P.

Another difference between A2P and P2P is down to message architecture. P2P 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 a mobile carrier and then finally, to the end-user.

Types of A2P messaging

A2P messaging 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 you’re sending messages from. 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 attract spammers.

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

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 Messaging Principles and Best Practices, 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 where a customer enquires 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, appointment reminders, 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

Lastly, these are one-way text messages that promote or advertise a product, service, brand or business. Because promotional texts can be seen as intrusive or spammy, express written consent is required. A good way to capture consent is through an opt-in checkbox situated next to where the consumer submits their contact details. For example, when creating an online account or filling in a contact form. A key need-to-know here is that you must obtain this explicit consent before you send that first promotional text.

A2P messaging benefits

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

Finally, as a communications channel, SMS works exceptionally well to put your business directly in front of your target audience. 96% of smartphone owners use SMS.  With fantastic text open rates (nearly 100% according to Salesforce), A2P could potentially revolutionise the way you do business.

Liisu Paidla
2020-12-14 00:00:00 UTC
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