SMS stands for short message service and is often referred to as texting. It is the delivery of alphanumeric messages to mobile phones over wireless networks. The length of each message is limited to 160 characters. In a marketing context, SMS allows brands to effectively create inbound and outbound communications with a high level of customer engagement (MessageMedia,2013).

SMS Today

SMS is perhaps one form of communication that many people today are tethered to 24/7. At a time when inboxes are filled with hundreds of e-mail messages left unopened, MessageMedia(2013) contends that 97 per cent of all SMS marketing messages are opened upon delivery (and 83 per cent are opened within an hour).

Cameron (2013) reports that according to Gartner’s Forecast, in 2015, Smartphone and tablet sales are predicted to outsell PCs worldwide, becoming the preferred device to surf the Internet. Many emerging markets are already experiencing this, and as such there is evidently a need to re-think digital strategy.

Effective SMS management allows marketers to act on both inbound and outbound messages. With inbound SMS campaigns, consumers are asked to send a message to a short number (e.g. 10 33 33) to receive special offers and invitations to events. With more conventional outbound SMS campaigns, brands communicate with consumers using a personalised SMS which is consistent with messages delivered through other channels.

Studies suggest that more people use a mobile phone than any other medium (MessageMedia,2013)

Benefits of SMS campaigns

High Open Rate

Compared to email marketing, SMS has an astonishingly high open rate. Studies have shown that text messages will be read by approximately 95% of its recipients in less than 3 minutes after reception, while it takes an average of 2.5 days for emails to be opened.

Furthermore, SMS is still perceived as the preferred means of communication: the volume of short messages sent has reportedly increased by 400% over the last three years. (Bentz,2013)


SMS marketing allows for greater flexibility and time management than other traditional marketing mediums. Businesses can choose the volume of messages to send, to whom and the timing of such messages. This kind of flexibility enables marketing efforts to be tailored to suit both the business' and the customer's requirements, ultimately leaving the business free to spend time on other productive activities.

Provides Instant Communication

SMS marketing instantly reaches consumers. Most individuals tend to check their mobiles for messages as it appears, whilst very few allow messages to remain unchecked for a prolonged period of time.

Speedy Assimilation of Information

By their very nature, SMS are specific, concise and short which imply consumers tend to read the entire message, assimilating the content quickly.

Maximises Cost Effectiveness and Returns

Mobile SMS Marketing (2013) purports that a properly designed and executed SMS Marketing campaign can produce response rates of up to 20%! And, that text messaging is estimated to be 10 times more effective than newspaper advertisement and 5 times more effective than direct mail.

Limitless Market Potential

Since mobile phones and text messages are the preferred and most common method of communication, there is little evidence to suggest that businesses cannot essentially tap into this virtually limitless market potential.

Environmental Friendly

Businesses that use technological marketing mediums like SMS are able to demonstrate their commitment and concern for the environment. The use of this medium significantly reduces carbon emissions and use of paper, saving thousands of trees that may have otherwise being used in more traditional marketing mediums such as newspapers.

Best Practice

Exclusive Offers

It is essential to send out exclusive and special offers to those who subscribe to your marketing campaigns. Perhaps it’s best to avoid sending offers and information that consumers can find in your emails, print ads, or on your website. Consumers are extremely connected to their phones and text messages are reserved for their inner circle. So, if they choose to let you in, make it worthwhile for them.

Consumer Preference and Focus

Consider the types of messages the consumers may want to receive from your brand. What useful and targeted information can you provide? How can you make it easiest to obtain? According to ExactTarget's Channel Preference Study, 15% of consumers prefer to receive financial alerts via SMS and 25 per cent of consumers prefer to receive travel alerts via SMS. (Taylor,2013)

Consider Timing

Optimise the sending time by considering when consumers would most likely wish to hear from you. Research suggests that sending promotional text messages after 9pm or before 11am is important in relation to avoiding those who sleep early and those who are late risers. When a consumer opts in to receive text messages, request time zone information; and, accordingly, send your SMS in waves to ensure you are optimising the interaction. MessageMedia(2013) research has demonstrated that the optimal time for sending is in the mid to late afternoons on weekdays.

Establish a Call-to-action

A call-to-action is a prompt that explains what you want customers to do next. This could be to redeem a coupon, visit your store or bring friends to your SMS marketing campaign

Monitor opt-outs per send

To ascertain content value, calculate opt-out and delivered rates for each outbound campaign. Compile the percentages in a spreadsheet and learn from those what sort of content generates rates above and below your average.

Have your Trigger Ready

Before collecting SMS numbers it is important to ensure that you are able to send an immediate confirmation message to the subscriber's phone. If that trigger message follows weeks or even months later, it may not have the desired effect on consumers.

Consider the Total Mobile Experience

Try to avoid sending customer’s information that requires them to print or open an email to retrieve. If consumers are required to enter information, consider a more user friendly approach such as a social log-in, Facebook.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Avoid using SMS as a one-off feature

Instead of using SMS as a way for consumers to participate at only one given time, marketers can engage in an overall strategy to build their databases, allowing consumers opt-in. Given SMS has the potential to foster relationships; marketers can preserve that medium of communication and send out relevant and tailored messages that seek to keep consumers engaged.

Avoid too many daily SMS Messages

Once consumers opt-in, marketers should be mindful of the amount of messages they chose to send out. There is an ideal level of communication, which, if exceeded may lead to consumer dissatisfaction. Flynn (2012) suggests that whether on-going direct communication with customers is perceived positively depends on its volume, the mix of communication channels, and the alignment of those channels with customers' preferences and timing. It is important to understand the target audience and know what they will find valuable and when.

Avoid being generic

SMS messages should have a personal tone, touch and feeling to it. Just like an email, if the SMS is addressed to an individual personally he or she is more likely to read it than a message addressed to “customer.”

Legislative Considerations

The Spam Act regulates the sending of commercial electronic messages such as Short Message Services (SMS or text messages) and prohibits the sending of these messages except in certain limited circumstances. ACMA (2013) advises that when sending commercial electronic messages, it is important to keep in mind the following:

1. Consent: Only send commercial electronic messages with the addressee's consent - either express or inferred consent. Express consent is where a person has specifically requested messages from you. Whereas inferred consent is where there has been no direct request but it may be a reasonable expectation for the recipient to expect such messages.

2. Identify: Include clear and accurate information about the person or business that is responsible for sending the message.

3. Unsubscribe: Ensure that a functional unsubscribe facility is included in all your commercial electronic messages. Deal with unsubscribe requests promptly.

Reference List

ACMA (2013) “What is a commercial electronic message?” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Baglia (2013) “5 Reasons your SMS Marketing Campaign Failed” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Beck (2013) “SMS mobile marketing made a large difference on Black Friday” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Bentz (2013) “Mobile Marketing: Meeting Customer Needs Whenever and Wherever” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Cameron (2013) “Distracted consumers spend less time on social than email marketing: Report” Retrieved 9th December, 2013 From,

Crawley (2013) “6 Proven Ways to Use SMS/Text Messaging in Your Marketing” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Flynn, Andrea. Seiders, Kathleen. & Voss, G. (2012) “When Is Enough Enough? Balancing on the fine line in multichannel marketing communications.” Marketing Intelligence Review.4(2) p9-15.

Heller(2013) “Five Ways to Modernize your Marketing with 21st century Tools” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Kats (2011) “Five common SMS marketing mistakes” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Mobile SMS Marketing (2013) “Mobile phone marketing facts and benefits” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From

MessageMedia (2013) ‘How to guide’ SMS promotional marketing’ Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From,

Taylor (2013) “11 SMS Marketing Best-Practices for Better, Results-Driven Text Messaging Campaigns” Retrieved 10th December, 2013 From