Email vs. SMS: How to Choose the Right Channel (2023)

May 10, 2023
Written by
SendGrid Team
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Email vs. SMS: How to Choose the Right Channel (2023)

Email vs text? Which is the right channel for your business? And can you use both?

For businesses, email has been a tried-and-true method to reach audiences and send mass messages. However, as the use of mobile phones increases, SMS messaging is quickly becoming a great new way to connect with customers.

SMS stands for short messaging service, also known as a text message. Businesses today use SMS to communicate with their customers directly on their mobile devices about new promotions, exclusive discounts, appointment reminders, and time-sensitive updates.

According to Twilio, 9 out of 10 text messages are opened within the first three minutes of being received, making it a great opportunity for brands to capture attention.

While email and SMS are both effective ways to communicate with your customers, there are certain messages that are best suited for each channel. Email is a great medium for sending longer, richer messages that include images and attachments, and can be saved for a later date. 

SMS, on the other hand, is the perfect communication channel for concise, timely information or discounts. Email and SMS are complementary channels, and if you use them correctly, you can create a seamless customer communication experience.

Take our quiz below to test your knowledge on when to use email and when to use SMS. Then, continue reading for more insight on SMS and email best practices, and how both channels can help you make a lasting impression in the eyes of your customers.

[sg_quiz quiz_id="42179"]

Email vs text: what’s the best approach?

There is no magic bullet when it comes to integrating your digital and marketing campaigns, but many communication strategies can be even more effective when SMS is used in addition to email. 

For example, you can send your customer an appointment confirmation receipt via email, and follow up with an SMS message reminder on the day of the appointment. Likewise, you can send a brief mass text message to encourage your customers to subscribe to your email list for exclusive offers and promotions. 

Creative approaches like these provide your business with more opportunities to begin or continue rewarding conversations with your customers.

When deciding between sending an email vs text message, it is important to ask yourself these questions:
  • How time-sensitive is the communication?
  • Does the message require two-way communication?
  • Will the message contain rich media?
  • Will your customers have to access this message at a later date?
The main criteria to take into account when incorporating SMS to your existing email program are archival and urgency. If your message requires urgent action or is time-sensitive, SMS is the more effective communication channel. If your message needs to be saved by your customers for a later date, email might be the best way to go. 

It’s also important to consider using both channels for important information but remember not to message too frequently on either channel.

Chart describing similarities and differences of email and SMS

SMS best practices

Here are some of the best practices to consider when incorporating SMS into your existing email program:
  • Get permission: Like email, it is important that you get permission to send messages to your customers through SMS. You can request that your customers opt-in to receive your text messages through an online form or by texting or responding to the message with a keyword or phrase. For example: “Text MOBILE to 75757 to subscribe to our texting list and get 20% off your next purchase!”
  • Use a shortcode: Shortcodes are 5 or 6 digit phone numbers specifically made for mass mobile communications. Every time your company sends a marketing message, it goes through the same shortcode, making it an important component of your brand identity. Use a shortcode with a catchy repetition of numbers that is easy to remember (such as 55055) in order to maximize your SMS efforts. 
  • Ensure deliverability: Comply with state or local regulations and wireless carriers’ messaging policies to ensure SMS deliverability. By choosing a reliable API, you can send and receive SMS with custom shortcodes, engage in two-way conversation, and use images and attachments that are automatically optimized for mobile.
  • Keep it simple: Use keywords and clear calls-to-action to send concise, relevant text messages to your customers.
  • Don’t over send! Keep in mind your sending frequency, and don’t over send on either channel. Be strategic with not only how, but when you communicate with your customers.
Check out our webcast to learn more about the benefits of using SMS with your existing email program and hear from our experts on SMS best practices. 

Striking the perfect balance

By incorporating SMS into your existing marketing strategy, you can reach customers at every stage of their engagement lifecycle with your brand on the channels that they prefer. By optimizing your marketing efforts to meet customer preferences, you demonstrate your dedication to providing top-notch service and empowering your customers. 

Leveraging SMS with email is a great way to build brand awareness and award customer loyalty. So, what are you waiting for? Start sending!

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