From promotional campaigns and customer support messages to appointment reminders, order confirmations and one-time passwords (OTPs) – in this modern age, businesses need to contact customers for a wide range of purposes.
It's only possible to conduct these sorts of business communications through special tools. For example, SMS marketing often must be sent en masse to hundreds or thousands of people simultaneously (without recipients being able to see each other's personal information). And OTPs and order confirmations are automatically triggered upon the customer taking an action, such as attempting to log in or making payment for an order. Thus requiring dedicated software.
Short Message Service (SMS) is often used for business messaging, including marketing, as the channel performs exceptionally well for open and response rates, plus it's quick and convenient for customers and cost-effective for businesses. It's excellent for time-sensitive communications where it's vital that your message gets seen right away, e.g. time-limited flash sales or an urgent update.
To use SMS for business messaging, you'll need an SMS provider. There are several around today, each offering pros and cons. Read on for a review of Twilio (the market leader) to decide whether it's the right platform for your needs.
What is Twilio?
Twilio is an omnichannel communication solutions provider for businesses. Along with an SMS API, Twilio also offers MMS messaging, voice calls, video and email capabilities (which can all be integrated into your applications through enterprise-grade APIs). Additionally, Twilio offers committed-usage discounts and a self-service model for most customers.
The company describes itself as an innovative customer engagement platform with a focus on personalisation. It has several large-scale organisations among its clientele.
Who's Twilio for, mainly?
Twilio is geared up for very large enterprises with custom messaging requirements or small to medium-sized businesses that are happy with self-service and don't require much support.
SMS-based customer engagement with Twilio: the good and the bad
So, without further ado, let's dive into Twilio and evaluate its features, ease of implementation, support options, pricing details and service quality.
Twilio supports cloud and SaaS (web-based) platforms and also offers an on-premise solution for Windows and Linux operating systems. It's an all-in-one omnichannel solution covering the main communication channels. Twilio has several products in its offering, including Twilio Flex, an all-in-one cloud-based call centre platform.
Twilio has a complex user interface, which can be overwhelming for some clients. But if you can get to grips with it, you can enjoy these features:
Personalised text messaging – you can address recipients by name and use other data insights within your campaign content.
A highly scalable solution – Twilio works for all business sizes, from startups to huge enterprises. The platform can scale as your business grows.
Extensive technical data reports – however, marketing data is lacking according to some users. This is important to note if you intend to use Twilio for marketing, as adequate reporting is essential.
Many integrations – Twilio can connect with thousands of popular apps.
Automated messaging – although this can be difficult to implement in terms of setting up communication flows.
Twilio has excellent customisation options and covers many services. But there's a very steep learning curve in getting the platform to work as you want it to. Several customers have faced issues with implementation because it's too technical to manage themselves. You'll probably need to employ a tech specialist, expert developer or programmer to help you understand and implement Twilio's business messaging tools.
Another point to note is that errors in infrastructure are tricky to detect. So you can run into problems and not know where to start with rectifying them. The documentation (guidance on using Twilio) is geared up for techies – for many business owners, it's too difficult to decipher and understand.
If you're not in the tech or development industry, you may waste lots of time trying (and failing) to successfully implement Twilio into your communication system. It's best to hire a professional straight off the bat if this sounds like you.
On the plus side, Twilio's APIs are available in multiple programming languages, which should make developers very happy.
Twilio provides training on its platform in-person, live online and through webinars, videos and developer documentation. They offer multi-channel support through email, a helpdesk, phone calls (24/7 with a live rep), FAQs, the Twilio forum, a knowledge base and live chat. Note that chat and phone support are only available to businesses that have subscribed to certain plans.
On the surface, Twilio's support seems comprehensive. However, it's not helpful enough for users struggling with setup or other technical issues. It's also tricky to bypass automated support channels and speak to an actual human. And response times are pretty slow. It takes around 48 hours to hear back, and quite often, you'll be left waiting for longer while your issue gets resolved.
If you want a dedicated account manager (which Messente includes for all clients, no matter the size of their business), your plan will likely cost in the region of €5,000 per month.
Twilio offers a free trial for businesses looking to try out their platform. Fees for using their products vary based on the country, but text message campaign costs start from $0.0075 per text.
This seems reasonable, however, Twilio might not be the most cost-effective option for businesses needing to send large volumes of messages. The cost per message is higher than many other competitors, which is offputting for small business owners who need to keep a close handle on marketing budgets.
Quality of service
Twilio offers relatively reliable delivery. There have been reports of delays at times, even for transactional messages like 2FA PIN codes and OTPs (which are business-critical and therefore should be prioritised higher).
Twilio has been known to have a few outages - one recent issue was when it failed to deliver text messages to customers using the major U.S. carrier network, T-Mobile, which, as you can imagine, wasn't great for the customer experience. Twilio has also recently let go of 26% of its workforce, which has impacted the overall service quality.
A better alternative for sending SMS messages
If SMS is the channel where you want to focus your communication strategies, consider looking into Twilio alternatives. Messente is one of them! We are business message specialists focusing on SMS and internet-based messaging channels like WhatsApp and Viber. Messente has been trusted to deliver business messaging across the most demanding industries for over ten years.
Use Messente to benefit from:
A simple, easy setup process – our solution is user-friendly and much easier to implement than Twilio, even when integrating our API into your business systems. We aim to make your life easier, not harder!
Personalised support – dedicated one-to-one support is standard for every customer (not an extra), and it's forever free. We help with the initial setup and also throughout the entire customer journey, responding fast to your queries with helpful answers and expert advice that'll help your business grow.
An agile platform – you can launch business messaging quickly in multiple markets with our Verigator solution for OTPs.
Straightforward, flexible pricing – Messente is affordable for all sizes of businesses. Our pricing doesn't fluctuate, and you'll only pay for the texts you send. There are no fixed contracts or forced subscriptions; you can pay as you go. We also offer competitive custom pricing for higher-volume customers, with pricing starting at just €0.002 per SMS. It goes without saying that we always honour agreed terms with our clients.
98% delivery rates – thanks to partnerships with hundreds of mobile networks and hubs, we offer stable delivery routes and excellent reliability.
Useful reports – see campaign performance at a glance with open/read rates and SMS delivery statuses. Our delivery reports help you easily identify the root cause of any message delivery failure.
Built-to-scale – like Twilio, Messente works for small businesses as well as large enterprises.
Peace of mind – we are fully GDPR compliant, so you can trust us to deliver your text messages without breaking data protection laws. Messente uses the highest security standards to enable advanced fraud detection and protect your business from malicious attacks.
Are there any downsides to using Messente? Well, it's not very simple to change your custom sender ID once it's set up. There are two reasons for this: 1) operator regulations stipulate that it can't be changed, and 2) so no one can use your ID for scams or hacks.
Don't jump into Twilio without looking at other service providers
Twilio is the market leader in omnichannel messaging. It has lots of pros but also several cons too. It's tricky to get to grips with unless your business operates in the tech/development space, marketing reports are lacking, support is slow, and the service quality hasn’t been ideal in recent times. And it's pretty expensive, especially if you need to send a large volume of messages.
Messente is an excellent alternative for customer communication and marketing messages if you want to concentrate your efforts on the SMS channel. Our API is simple to integrate (and you can get going with your first campaign in minutes when using our online dashboard). Our pricing is transparent, affordable and doesn't change – you'll always know the cost of your campaign before you hit send.
Ready to start sending SMS marketing messages and other business communications through texts? Sign up for Messente today to see how the platform works – no credit card required.