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What is SMS and How It's Used in Everyday Life

  BONUS MATERIAL: The Psychology of SMS Marketing

On average 18 billion SMS messages are sent every day, making SMS the most used text messaging service in the world.

All the best businesses have used SMS too, ranging from SMS marketing campaigns to customer service.

Most people are likely to receive a text and understand how it works on the end-user side of things. But have you thought about the magic behind what makes a message travel through thin air to get to your phone?

Let's delve into the SMS world and discover more about what makes it so popular for business and other reasons.

First, let's look at the universal stats:

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97% of American adults send a text every week

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95% of texts are read within 3 minutes of being sent

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The average response time for a text is 90 seconds


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96% of smartphone owners text



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15, 220,700 texts are sent every minute worldwide


SMS in daily life

SMS plays a large role in the day to day life. From the 9-5 business person to the avid gamer, messaging friends, associates and customers is an extremely relevant communication method in 2021. SMS related jargon can be confusing. Knowing the difference between “failed to deliver” and “undelivered” can be unclear. We have covered this topic and recommend that you take a look if you want to clarify the differences between SMS status messages.

Using SMS is not limited to texting loved ones and connecting across the globe. Its use is vast and varied, take a look at how we use SMS in the modern age:

Person to person messaging

We all saw this one coming - the sender of the SMS inputs the mobile number of the recipient, writes a message and clicks "send". The recipient will then receive a notification and reply using the same steps. It's a great way to keep in touch with anyone across the globe and the best part, it's instant.

Provision of information

Many content providers send out daily texts regarding news or today's weather. These services are usually paid subscriptions using reverse billing. Payments will come out of your card or monthly phone plan.

Downloading

Pictures, wallpapers and ringtones can all be sent and downloaded via SMS. This can be performed between two friends or a business sending wallpapers to a customer using a subscription service.

What is SMS?

An SMS message is also called a text message.

SMS or Short Message Service is the standard messaging service used on most mobile phones. It uses standardised communication protocols to send text messages between phones - it’s low cost and ideal for businesses to use for sending short messages to clients.

Sending an electronic message is becoming less limited every day - videos and gifs are already possible and it looks like SMS is going nowhere.

SMS is not the only messaging service out there.

iPhone has its own service called iMessage and Android has RCS.

App messaging services are also called OTTs (Over the Top), here are some you will recognise:

  • Facebook Messenger - ideal for personal use

  • Whatsapp - ideal for personal and business use

The most common alternative to SMS is MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) which is compatible with more devices. We have a helpful resource on the differences between SMS and MMS.

People prefer texts to calls

Would you rather receive a text or a call? The answer among many is the former. Texting is less time consuming and requires less effort. Texting is convenient and allows the user to reply at a time that suits them. Besides, you have time to think about how you are going to answer rather than being put on the spot.

Millennials love texting. A recent study gave millennials the choice to either only call or only text. A whopping 75% chose to lose the ability to make calls. 19% of them don’t even listen to voicemails.

With 77 million millennials in the US alone, it's a strong bet to assume the future is text-based. There is good news for businesses too - 75% of the young people surveyed found text reminders, promotions and surveys helpful.

What's the difference between SMS and OTT apps?

OTTs use the same premise as SMS and use similar basic functionalities. Each one is unique and features depend on the company that you use. E.g Instagram allows users to send an Instagram reel straight to a friend via DMs. Facebook has yet to offer this ability but has a well-rounded DMing interface.

OTTs offer more features but require an internet connection.

OTTS can be paired with images and GIFs making them ideal for advertisements. SMS can send these things too but sometimes at a financial cost to the user.

OTTs are a great way to send ads directly to your audience but it is an open channel and your customers will also see ads from other companies and we all know how quickly adverts can become overwhelming. Keep this in mind.

If you wish to contact a customer via an OTT, they must have the app installed on their device e.g Facebook. Unlike SMS where the phone comes with a built-in SMS messaging inbox.

SMS is considered a more direct and personal way of contacting people.

How does SMS work?

SMS uses cellular network connection rather than WiFi so it mitigates a barrier to entry for those with poor WiFi or none at all. It's accessible to almost everyone that knows how to use a mobile keyboard - including your Grandmother.

This is what the journey of an SMS looks like:

Infographic explaining the journey of an SMS message


1. Once you click send, the SMS travels to the nearest cell tower.

2. The cell tower sends it to an SMS centre or SMSC

3. The SMSC forwards the message to a cell tower near the recipient's phone

4. That tower then sends it to the recipient's device


What is the SMSC?

The Short Message Service Center is where all SMSs are stored to forward and deliver to a recipient.

If you send a text to a friend but they have no signal, the message will be stored in the SMSC until a signal is found. It's possible on most mobiles to specify an expiry period for the SMS to be deleted from the SMSC. Once deleted, the message will expire and the recipient won't receive it, even when they find a signal.  

Tell me more about the phone signal 

All mobiles access the same infrastructure so strong cell service is all that is required. The cell service can be clearly seen by the bars at the top of your screen. The fewer bars, the worse the connection and when no bars are visible a text will not be sent.

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The connection is strong and your SMS will be delivered immediately.

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This shows our mobile can't find a signal and any SMS messages will “fail to send”. This can be caused by environmental restrictions such as being in an area surrounded by trees or under concrete.

If you have an old phone, signal service can be even more unreliable. A simple fix - try consulting a mobile phone specialist and ask for an upgrade of your cellular service connection.

The infrastructure that carries SMS texts is old and designed to transmit calls as well as messages. That's why some services will limit the number of texts you can send a day, this prevents the service from getting overwhelmed. Without restrictions on the number of texts sent daily, an SMS Center can get backed up and cause delays.

If done right, SMS can be a great way for businesses to communicate with customers.

SMS integration

Here at Messente, SMS is what we do best, and we strive to further improve the ease of integration and enhance the automation process of sending out messages for business needs. So, what is SMS integration in broader terms?

Basically, it automates the process of sending a text so instead of manually typing a text to a customer, your computer does it.

To do it best, use an API (Application Programming Interface). This interface allows other businesses to send messages for you and free you from the chains of the basic SMS software limitations.

SMS API is great for bulk texting your customer base and perfect for offers and customer service announcements. You aren't limited to automated texts either, you can send unique messages manually too via our online Dashboard.

If you are wondering where you can find a way to integrate SMS into your business, we strive to provide the best SMS API on the market. 

Advantages vs disadvantages of SMS

Pros:

  • Popularity - Over 560 billion texts are sent a month worldwide.

  • Efficiency - SMS is the best tool to contact thousands of people at once, immediately.

  • Customisation - Any text can be customised to target one person or a group of people.

  • Open rates - SMS has a 99% open rate.

  • Automation - SMS can be automated using an SMS API.

Cons:

  • Limited Space - An SMS message is limited to 160 characters and images may reduce this.

  • Suspicion - Customers can be hesitant to trust a text out of nowhere and react negatively to being bombarded with multiple texts. However, there are now solutions, such as Verified SMS, that tackle these problems.

  • Data Protection - SMS marketing must comply with Data Protection Laws and GDPR.

  • Company Reputation - Heavy-handed ads and unprofessional messages can lead to your business's reputation being damaged.

Let's explore the uses of SMS for businesses.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS Marketing refers to using text messages to promote a business's products or services and build a loyal customer base. It's similar to email marketing but is significantly more effective, it's referred to as mass texting.

Businesses use it to:

  • Engage their audience - sharing updates and news

  • Boost sales - send promotions and offers

  • Build relations - provide customer service

  • Collect leads - allow potential customers to sign up for a service

  • Generate popularity - text to win or share with a friend deals

SMS marketing can be the driving force in developing customer relations and getting your brand out there, here are some surprising SMS marketing stats:

  • SMS messages have a 98% open rate.

  • 75% of people are happy if they receive offers via SMS.

  • 65% of marketers conclude that SMS marketing is a very effective marketing strategy for their business.

SMS is the most popular marketing method for customers

It suits B2B and B2C audiences. If you want to move your business into a new sector, you already have an avenue to contact your existing customers.

Instead of having to check their “inbox”, customers can be made instantly aware of a new message via a notification on their mobile device.

Customers prefer receiving texts from businesses over any other form of communication and 70% say that SMS marketing is a good way to get in touch with a business.

It's safe to say customers like it. SMS is less intrusive, more engaging and more relevant - especially to the younger generation.

Sending SMS with Messente

Customers love it so why not give it a try and see how your business blooms. At Messente we offer SMS API so your company can deliver business-critical pin codes, notifications and marketing messages straight into your customer’s hands, like this:

SMS examples


We use adaptive routing during busy periods to get your message to the customer’s phone on time. We build to scale, ensuring that the entire scope of your campaign is reached.

Free support is offered to our customers around the clock.

SMS has a bright future

It's been almost 30 years since the first SMS was sent and it's still growing strong. Technology is becoming more and more integrated into daily life, especially mobile phones. Here are some ways that SMS will likely develop:


1. More people will use 2-way SMS

This type of SMS allows customers to reply to a message from a business. Usually, businesses use SMS to send a one-time text to a customer via a “no-reply” contact but this will change in the future as companies develop the ways in which they communicate to their audience.

The future of using 2-way SMS includes allowing customers to answer surveys, agree to bookings or confirm receipts. We could see the ability to pay for services through text become more utilised, e.g paying for parking.


2. RCS will make SMS more powerful

Rich Communication Services will free our messages from limitations. The 160 character limit and image file size capacity is likely to increase along with many other “quality-of-life” upgrades to make SMS messaging better. This may take time due to the burden it will place on cell phone providers but it will make casual and business messaging far more usable.


3. Privacy protection will get better

The current state of SMS security is sound but there are grey areas. Advanced firewall protection will guard against scamming and phishing attacks from cybercriminals. It's always good to be wary of potential scams, firewall or not.

You can bet that SMS is going nowhere in the next decade. At this rate, SMS will become more widely used by businesses to market their product and the younger generations show no sign of slowing down on their SMS usage.

Still confused about SMS? - Explore our FAQs:

What is the difference between a text message and an SMS message?

There is no difference between the two. SMS is an abbreviation for Short Message Service which is another way of saying text.


Does it cost money to send an SMS?

Yes, it will cost you to send a text. Usually, your monthly phone plan will have you covered or “pay as you go” but using an OTT won't cost you, you will need WiFi or 3G/4G to send a message via OTT.

Sending a business-related SMS message will also have a cost attached to it. You can check our pricing here.


Should I use SMS or MMS?

Use SMS when you want to send a short and snappy informational message. It's great for keeping in touch with friends and sending small updates to existing customers.

Use MMS when you want to impress. You can add flashy graphics and company logos so it's a great way to promote your business to new customers. However, MMS might have higher costs and accessibility issues.

Taavi Rebane
2021-08-30 00:00:00 UTC
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