SMS Advertising Explained

What is SMS Advertising?

SMS advertising involves using text messaging (also known as SMS or Short Message Service) for marketing and customer communications. SMS ads are simply text messages sent by brands to peoples’ mobile devices, typically via a vendor like Airship. Customers must opt-in before receiving SMS advertising.

Around the globe, companies of many types and sizes leverage the ubiquity of mobile phones and the immediacy and efficiency of text messages to communicate with and market to their audiences. For consumers, SMS offers a quick and convenient way to communicate and receive information on their mobile devices  For brands, SMS offers an effective way to reach their mobile customers at scale with transactional details, news, offers, loyalty program information and more. 

SMS messages are generally 160 characters or less. Longer SMS messages are split into separate, subsequent messages. In addition to SMS, companies can also use MMS (Multimedia Message Service) as part of their campaigns in order to send messages that include media such as GIFs or photos.

Advantages of SMS Advertising

  1. SMS is everywhere: Billions of people use text messaging as part of their daily lives and SMS is growing rapidly as a marketing channel. It’s highly effective. Just about everyone owns a mobile device. And virtually every mobile phone out there supports SMS.
  1. SMS messages do not require an app: Your customers don’t need to download or set up a mobile app to receive SMS advertising; SMS is native to all mobile devices. And given the ubiquity of texting, there’s no learning curve for customers to receive or engage with SMS messages.
  1. SMS has incredible open, read and response rates: SMS has unparalleled open, read and response rates, making it one of the most engaging channels available to marketers today. Key marketing statistics for SMS include:
  • 98% open rate
  • 90% read rate
  • 45% response rate
  1. SMS is real-time: SMS ads can be sent and received almost instantly, giving brands a quick and effective way to reach customers and providing customers with a convenient way of receiving information in real time.
  1. SMS is personal: People use text messages to communicate with friends, family and other acquaintances, which makes SMS a highly personal channel. As a result, it’s incredibly important to think through the types of messages you send and avoid turning customers off with irrelevant or overly frequent communication. 

Types of SMS Advertising Messages

SMS advertising typically falls into one of two categories: promotional or transactional.

  • Promotional Messages: When brands use SMS to increase sales and drive engagement, those are promotional messages. Common use cases include introducing and promoting products and services, letting customers know about sales and special offers, and promoting events.
  • Transactional Messages: SMS transactional messages give customers quick and convenient access to important information such as order confirmations, shipping details, or order updates. SMS is also commonly used for account authentication.

SMS Advertising Best Practices

Ensure Compliance: SMS is a highly regulated channel in many markets, such as the U.S. and European Union, but with the right partners and solutions brands can be very effective in using this channel within the regulatory requirements. The U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), and the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications (the ePrivacy Directive) all include strict requirements for sending SMS marketing messages. Airship’s SMS solution makes compliance easy for brands and marketers. 

Get the Opt-In: Before sending SMS advertisements, customers must opt-in to receive those messages. This protects consumer privacy and helps prevent spam. Airship can help simplify the process of opt-in and opt-out records and reporting for companies looking to use SMS.

Keep it short: While the maximum allowed message length varies on iOS and Android devices, as a general rule we recommend trying to get the most important, actionable part of your message across in the first 40 characters

Time it Right: The immediacy of SMS makes timing even more important than with other marketing channels. While people check email anywhere from a few times a day to rarely, most people check their text messages right away, making it essential to consider factors like customer time zones, holidays, and local practices when scheduling SMS messages. 

Test it: As with other marketing channels, SMS messages need to be measured, tested and optimized for continual improvement to ensure they are delivering the desired results now and in the future. We can help! 

Go Omnichannel: SMS can play a valuable role in a great cross-channel engagement strategy. SMS+email is probably the most common channel combination. Other examples include pairing SMS with push messages or SMS and Mobile Wallet. For more examples, see our SMS Playbook.

SMS Use Cases

As outlined above, SMS is an ideal channel for strengthening personal relationships with customers and making their lives easier with relevant and timely information. Common SMS use cases include:

  • Onboarding: Delivering transactional emails with CTAs to opt in to SMS for promotional messages. Allows for frictionless logins with account authentication via SMS.
  • Welcome series: Welcoming new SMS opt-ins with promotions and sales.
  • Crosschannel: Using SMS to drive the acquisition of new customers to a mobile app with a click to download a link.
  • Win back: Using in-app messaging and email to deliver special promotions to customers via SMS opt-in.
  • Contactless payment & coupons: Delivering Mobile wallet coupons via SMS for easy downloading.
  • Loyalty: Continuing engagement by delivering mobile wallet loyalty cards via SMS.
  • Cross-sell & upsell: Driving SMS opt-ins via email receipts and upgrades or purchases of similar products.
  • Repurchase: Updating customers via SMS of sales and promotions of their favorite products to drive repurchases.

SMS Resources

To learn more about SMS, check out these Airship resources