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Comparing the Use of SMS and Email for Business Purposes

use of sms and email for business purposes

The use of SMS and email for business purposes has a long history. Texting and emailing both rose to popularity around the turn of the millennium, when improvements in networking and cellphone technology brought both digital mediums to a broad consumer base.

For a while, email was the primary, potentially exclusive, way that companies reached customers. Text messaging was regarded as something that happened between friends, rather than a valuable element of commerce. SMS for business use was seen as a little eccentric, perhaps mildly unprofessional.

In recent years, this perspective on SMS has changed. Why?

  1. 1

    It's what consumers want.

    64% of consumers believe that businesses should use SMS messages to interact with customers more often than they currently do.

  2. 2
    It produces better results.
    When comparing the use of SMS and email for business purposes, the data clearly shows that SMS beats out email for engagement, responsiveness and conversion metrics in many contexts.

A hybrid solution of both email and SMS communication is advisable, and choosing which messaging method to use should be evaluated based on what type of content is being pushed out. Email can still be preferable when communicating longer, formal communications, but SMS for business communication proves to be a superior way to engage directly with a customer, especially when a back-and-forth conversation is expected.

SMS Versus Email: Modern Consumers Prefer Texting

Millennials (those born between 1981-1996) and Gen-Zers (those born between 1997-2015) are the future of consumers. According to research from the Center of Generational Kinetics, these consumer groups heavily prefer texting via SMS and chat as their main mode of communication.This isn’t surprising considering that,  the attention span of an average reader is now down to 8 seconds, according to research by Microsoft. Can you read an email, header and subject line, in eight seconds? Don’t worry, we can’t either.. Now consider how long it takes to read a text — 8 seconds is more than enough time.

Why do attention spans expire so quickly?

A recent study points to the overabundance of information as a key reason for this narrowing of collective global attention. In short, people are now juggling many information streams throughout their day, and texts are less of a burden due to their short and direct format. This dynamic will only grow sharper as the stakes of the attention economy rise and people have to get even savvier about how they deploy their focus.

Why Text Messages Have 10x Engagement Rates

The consumer preference for texting over email is apparent in the data results from studies reporting on digital response behavior. SMS boasts far better open and response rates than email.

Comparing the use of SMS and email for business purposes, Gartner reports that SMS has a 98% open rate, while emails only average about 20%. Click-through rates (CTR) are a lot better, too. On average, text messages have a CTR of 36%, while email only averages an abysmal 2-3%.

Most consumers receive a fairly manageable amount of messages via SMS versus email. They need to sift through far more noise in their email inbox compared to their SMS inbox. Emails tend to accumulate in the inbox, whereas people keep their messaging feeds lean, and don’t like to leave messages unread. This makes consumers more likely to respond to an SMS message than an email message.

Moreover, with today’s 8-second attention spans, text messages are considered seamless and lightweight compared to an email. When a consumer receives an email, they have to click on the notification, which then opens a whole other app that has to load. Then they have to read a subject line, and scan through a header, a subject line, and body of the email. By contrast, text messages are bite-sized, self-contained, and lightweight, helping lead to their superior open and response rates.

SMS Delivers Quicker Gratification

Both email and SMS are capable of instant delivery. In terms of instant gratification, however, SMS delivers a far better experience than email. SMS is rapidly engaging and satisfying, making it easier for people to easily respond to the message. On average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text, but 90 minutes to respond to an email.

Some types of messages need more detail and depth to be effectively communicated to consumers. Email is a better method for distributing these types of messages, however, most of the time companies don’t need a recurring, lengthy email for simple updates. This is when a simple, straightforward text or chat message is a better communication choice.

With SMS for business communication, companies give users the precise information they need (and nothing more) as fast as possible. In a digital ecosystem in which consumers feel information rich and time poor, consumers appreciate this mode. No wading through long emails like it’s 1999 just to get to the crux of an issue. Only lean, rapid info.

Text Messages Don’t Get Filtered as Spam

Email is still one of the most secure forms of online communication. But that’s chiefly because the progressively noisy and cluttered inboxes of emails – and new regulations – have led to the creation of segmented inboxes, spam filters, permissions, consent, privacy, and junk folders.

Every business and individual has had the frustrating experience of legitimate emails getting flagged as spam. Modern email filters are aggressive  and users are cavalier with marking things as spam rather than unsubscribing. Even if a reachout email isn’t flagged as spam, it can easily wind up in a promotions or advertising folder that the recipient will never open.

This is another reason why SMS for business use is so appealing. Unlike many emails, text messages reliably reach people anywhere they bring their mobile devices.

It’s also very easy to stay compliant with the regulations set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Businesses only need to gain consent to communicate via text, focusing on customers and prospects who are already engaged with the business (i.e. consumers and prospects that have bought something, attended an event, filled out web form, etc.).

Enterprises that follow the best practices of text messaging stay compliant without worrying about interception by filters, and with over 14 billion mobile devices worldwide, businesses can instantly reach just about anyone with a simple text, without any logistical worries.

In Summary: The Use of SMS and Email for Business Purposes

In the SMS versus email enterprise debate, SMS comes out on top for most message types. Comparing the use of SMS and email for business purposes, the unique capabilities of SMS provide a swift, lightweight two-way conversation experience that makes it a uniquely powerful delivery system for business communications.

Consumers are clearly open to this form of interaction, and the businesses that pay attention to these preferences stay competitive in today’s digital landscape.

In this era, conversational commerce is key to unlocking business opportunities. If you’re looking to have two-way, one-on-one business conversations with consumers, SMS is the clear strategic messaging choice over email. If you want to have those conversations at scale, consider an SMS messaging platform to streamline and measure your efforts, then watch your results grow with your communication strategy!

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About the Author Brandon O'Halloran

Brandon was most recently the CEO at ReplyBuy. He is a strong sales and operations professional with a demonstrated history of exceptional performance leading customer-facing teams in B2B technology companies. Prior to ReplyBuy, he was in a senior enterprise sales role for Infogroup, a big data, analytics and marketing services provider.

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