Using SMS and Email to Engage Your Customers in 2020

SMS + Email: The Customer Engagement Duo

Chapter 1

Using SMS and Email Together

For companies around the world, email is the go-to channel for customer communications. Whether it’s logins, notifications, promotions, password resets, or policy updates, email is a tried-and-true platform with more global accessibility than any other medium.

However, email is only one part of the customer engagement experience.

Regardless of who you’re trying to contact or where they are, you can now complete the customer engagement package with another robust API: SMS.


START SENDING

No matter what language you’re coding with, getting started with SMS is quick and easy. If you’re ready to start sending, our Sales team is here to help!

Alone, SMS is a powerful engagement tool that allows businesses to send concise, timely messages to their customers. Combined with email, the two create a seamless customer communication experience that’s reliable, scalable, and downright powerful.

We’re refreshing this guide each year to provide you with the most up-to-date information and best practices. The 2020 iteration to this year’s guide includes updates on:

We’ll walk you through how SMS can complement your email program, use cases, best practices, mistakes to avoid, how to get started, and more.

What’s an SMS?

SMS stands for Short Message Service and is a more technical term for what we know as a text message. The SMS API bridges the gap between the Internet and the carrier network in order to send and receive SMS messages.

Fact:

9 out of 10 global consumers want to text with businesses, but only 48% of businesses are equipped with SMS.

Global Mobile Messaging Report 2016

Up Next

The Need for SMS and Email

Chapter 2

Chapter 2

The Need for SMS and Email

When it comes to business communications, consumers have varying preferences. According to our 2019 Email Benchmark Study, people across generations and borders prefer email and SMS for their communications. That’s why SMS and email both deserve a place in your communication toolset.

Bar01_Comm_Medium_Essential

Using multiple communication channels provides customers with a seamless experience. With multiple mediums to choose from, customers can engage with your business on the channels they prefer.

Like email, SMS needs to be used at the right time and for the right message. Below are some of the most common use cases for leveraging SMS in addition to email.

Reminders

A reminder is a perfect example of how SMS can enhance your existing communication plan with your customers. If your customers have already received a booking confirmation, sending another email the day before or the day of their appointment, trip, or reservation may be overkill. Unfortunately, customers that don’t receive a reminder may not show up, leading to lost revenue. A concise SMS can be the perfect prompt for them to check their calendar and follow through.

Alerts

SMS can be an excellent way to immediately inform your customers and account holders if security-related actions have been performed in their account, if there’s a public safety announcement, or if there’s a relevant neighborhood update. You may have received similar SMS messages in the past after changing your email or password in an online account. Alerts like these are not only wanted by customers, they’re expected. The SMS API even allows you to program repeat updates, like weekly account balances if your customers want them.

Confirmations

For many customers, a confirmation message is an essential communication that they want to receive after placing an order online or making an account update. It lets customers know that your company has received their order or has accepted the changes they’ve made to their account. What happens if that customer no longer uses their email address? Or perhaps the confirmation isn’t delivered to the inbox correctly? With an SMS, you can add an extra layer of communication, and text the confirmation to your customers.

Notifications

Like a reminder, a notification is a perfect email enhancement. It may be inappropriate or unwelcome to send yet another email to your customers if a shipment has been sent, or if an order is available for pickup. An SMS in these situations can be the perfect way to communicate a real-time update to your customers. For most people, a mobile device is on-hand all the time, which makes an SMS notification even more valuable if you’re looking to communicate with customers immediately.

Marketing

SMS marketing—also known as “text marketing”—is a favorite because of highly receptive audiences, unmatched open rates, and timeliness (90% of all text messages are read within 3 seconds). When there’s a timely deal, an SMS can create a sense of urgency and inspire immediate action. It also gives you a seamless opportunity to turn your typical one-way outbound marketing into a two-way conversation.

Twilio’s SMS and SendGrid email APIs are perfect for when you need to let your users know what’s going on in multiple channels. In this video, we’ll send an appointment confirmation email using Twilio SendGrid. Then, on the day of the appointment, we’ll send an SMS reminder using Twilio Programmable SMS.
Fact:

The global average open rate of SMS is 94%.

Esendex Blog "What is the open rate for SMS in 2018?"

Up Next

Email vs. SMS: Deciding Which to Send

Chapter 3

Chapter 3

Email vs. SMS: Deciding Which to Send

The most effective SMS program is used to enhance your emails, not replace them. SMS and email are used for many different types of communication, but ultimately, your customers want both.

The best way to determine how to include SMS into your communication strategy is to ask yourself:

  • How quickly should the recipient receive the message?
  • How business-critical is the content of the message?

Depending on your answers to those questions, and how much imagery, branding, or design your messages require, you can quickly map how you should get your message to your recipients and by what channel:

In some cases, it may be necessary to send both an email and an SMS. In a security breach situation, you want to inform any affected customers immediately—sending messages across both channels is advised. In other cases, sending over both channels should be driven by recipient engagement.

For example, a retail promotion might include both SMS and email messages, but you’ll want to use engagement segmentation to send over the channels users actually engage with. For some recipients that will mean complementary texts and emails, whereas others will only receive one or the other.

Email and SMS Similarities and Differences

Fact:

Businesses identified as leaders in customer communication tailor their communications to deliver the right information using the right channel at the right time.

Twilio, Customer Communications Report 2017

Up Next

Learn How to Send and Receive SMS

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Learn How to Send and Receive SMS

Getting started with SMS is easy. Twilio provides quickstart docs and videos for all major coding languages, including Java, Node.js, Ruby, and Python.

In a few lines of code, your PHP application can send, receive, and reply to text messages with Twilio Programmable SMS.
Fact:

According to Gartner, 1.5 billion smartphones were sold in 2017 — each one capable of handling text messaging at a minimum

Gartner Press Release, February 2018

Up Next

SMS Best Practices

Chapter 5

Chapter 5

SMS Best Practices

To get the full benefits of SMS communications, you’ll want to make sure you follow a few best practices:

  • Get permission: Like with email, you’ll need to get permission before sending SMS messages to your customers. Customers can opt-in to receive your text messages through an online form or by texting to the message with a keyword or phrase. For example: “Text MOBILE to 75757 to subscribe to our weekly discounts!” If you don’t have permission, don’t message a number.
  • Check your list: Double check that the phone numbers on your list are correct and can receive text messages. Invalid numbers (like landlines) will cause message delivery problems, and changed (or fake) phone numbers will fail to reach their destination. If someone requests to stop receiving SMS messages from you, promptly remove them from your list and honor their opt-out.
  • Use a shortcode: Use either toll-free numbers or short codes—both support higher sending volumes and reduced filtering. Shortcodes are 5 or 6 digit phone numbers made specifically for mass mobile communications. Wireless carriers individually approve shortcodes, so they’re less likely to be blocked and can send at a faster rate compared to regular mobile numbers. Consider using a unique, brand-friendly shortcode for mass SMS messages. Note: Toll-free numbers and short codes aren’t available in every country.
  • Improve deliverability: Follow country, state, local regulations, and wireless carriers’ messaging policies to improve your SMS deliverability. A reliable API will help you send and receive SMS with custom shortcodes, engage in two-way conversation, and use RCS (Rich Communications Services) to send images and attachments that are automatically optimized for mobile. For help with your email deliverability, reference our 2020 Deliverability Guide.
  • Keep it simple and concise: Text messaging is intended to be short and sweet. Keep your messages simple with clear-cut CTAs and relevant content.   
  • Control your frequency: How often you send is just as important as what you send. Less is more. Excessive content, deals, and updates can cause annoyance and even increase opt-out rates. Data shows that opt-out rates tend to increase significantly when businesses begin sending more than 10-15 SMS messages a month.

START SENDING

No matter what language you’re coding with, getting started with SMS is quick and easy. If you’re ready to start sending, our Sales team is here to help!
Fact:

Nearly 7 out of 10 UK businesses think they’re communicating with their customers effectively, while only 2 out of 10 customers agree.

Twilio, Bridging the Communications Divide

Up Next

Common SMS Mistakes to Avoid

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

Common SMS Mistakes to Avoid

SMS is a powerful tool, but it can be equally destructive when used incorrectly. Here are the most common SMS mistakes and how to avoid them:

  • Sending unsolicited messages: Permission, permission, permission. Like with an email preference center, be transparent and let your customers know what to expect. Better yet—let them decide the specific messages they receive, the frequency, and the timing.
  • DTR from the start: A common mistake with SMS communications is not laying the foundation for future messaging. Failing to let your customers know when and how you plan to stay in touch can leave them angry and confused when they receive your next SMS blast. DTR (define the relationship) from the beginning with a welcome text after users opt-in to explain the terms of your communications.
  • Using the same messages for SMS and email: While it might save time to copy/paste the same email and SMS messages, you’ll lose out on the benefits each channel offers. Due to its 160-character limit, SMS is perfect for short, time-sensitive promotions and information. Email, on the other hand, is great for longer messages with important links and images. Sometimes you’ll send the same information via email and text, but make sure you optimize the message to fit the medium.
  • Poor timing: Whether you’re sending to locals or a global audience, a poorly timed message is an unopened or irrelevant message. SMS is best used to encourage urgent action, so timing means everything. To account for a global audience, use an API provider that systematically scales and optimizes for different countries’ mobile regulations. Since no one wants to receive brand texts at 1 AM, use a provider that automatically delivers your messages to your audience at the right time in the right time zone.
  • Sending long messages: SMS is meant to be short and sweet. Longer messages on mobile go ignored, so make sure your message length matches the medium. If you can, condense the message to fit the 160-character limit—if you can’t, determine if the message would be more appropriate as an email.
  • Forgetting a clear CTA: Because SMS messages are so short, there should never be more than one CTA. Whether it’s completing a task, subscribing to your mailing list, entering a contest, participating in a sale, or responding to a survey, limit your messages to one ask.
  • Sending too many messages: Less is more when it comes to SMS. Sending multiple messages a day is a good way to earn unsubscribes and blocks—limit marketing texts to your customers to once or twice a week.
  • Not thinking of the customer first: Think about what messages your customers actually want to receive on their phone. They may have opted in to receive important updates from your company, but they likely couldn’t care less about your new product when they reached for the phone expecting a personal message from friends or family.
  • Only using SMS: Don’t hop on SMS to replace email or your other channels—use it to complement your entire communications strategy. SMS and email don’t compete with each other—they’re used hand-in-hand to create a seamless communication experience for your customers.

 

 

Up Next

Leveraging SMS to Improve Email and Vice Versa

Chapter 7

Chapter 7

Leveraging SMS to Improve Email and Vice Versa

Some tasks can be accomplished via email but not SMS, and vice versa. However, the pair don’t just benefit each other in a roundabout way. SMS and email have different purposes and use cases, but they can be used to directly benefit the other.

  • Grow your lists: Use your lists to cross-pollinate each other. Encourage your email list to subscribe to your SMS messages, and vice versa.
  • Cross-promote campaigns: Some campaigns don’t need to be email or SMS—they can be both. For example, at a hiring event, Twilio had interested applicants submit their application by texting a number—quite different than the traditional email registration approach.
  • Segment your audience: Learn from both SMS and email engagement holistically to create customer personas that transcend channels. If a customer always opens emails about new hats but not shoes, they’ll likely respond similarly to SMS messages.

Up Next

Companies Using SMS and Email Together

Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Companies Using SMS and Email Together

See how some high-volume email senders at Twilio SendGrid are also embracing SMS:

When hosts receive a reservation request through Airbnb, they only have 32 hours to accept or decline the request. However, hosts aren’t always at their computers and able to respond quickly. To facilitate a better user experience, Airbnb turned to text messaging. If a host doesn’t respond to a booking request, they receive an automated SMS message with info on the guests, dates requested, and prices for the booking. Hosts can then accept or decline with a text response. Learn more about how Airbnb uses SMS to improve their user’s experience.

Uber’s emails weren’t providing the speed and reliability riders needed in order to know if a ride had arrived or canceled on them. To deliver the level of communication its service demanded, Uber turned to text messages. With Twilio SMS, customers can stay up-to-date on their Uber ride with real-time ETA alerts delivered as a text. Learn more about how Uber created a fantastic ridesharing experience with SMS.

Yelp Reservations gives restaurants the tools they need to manage their reservations. However, they needed a way for restaurants to reach their customers in the critical moments before their reservation time. Learn more about why Yelp chose to use SMS as the medium for those messages.

Instacart relies on Twilio’s SMS notifications to manage order confirmations, delivery ETA’s, customer satisfaction surveys, and employee shift alerts. Most critical to the business is the speed in which alerts reach their personal shoppers, so Instacart can begin to process the order and deliver on their hour-or-less promise. Learn more about how Instacart uses Twilio for an excellent customer service experience.

Check out How 6 Successful Companies Use SMS in Addition to Email Marketing to find more examples of how businesses are combining email and SMS to engage their customers.

Up Next

Conclusion

Chapter 9

Chapter 9

Conclusion

Your customers are using a growing number of communications channels, and if you want to stay relevant, you’ll need to send messages and information where those customers want to receive it. A communications strategy that uses both SMS and email is critical for any company wanting to open up a conversation with their users. 

While people interact and have different expectations of email, the two channels are not at war with each other. Think about how your customers approach the two—they probably aren’t thinking, “Well, I already have an email account, so I probably shouldn’t use text messaging, too.” No, they’re having conversations and engaging with businesses on email, SMS, Facebook, WhatsApp, video, browser chat, and more—and that’s where your business needs to be, too.

Getting started with SMS is incredibly quick and easy, no matter what language you’re coding with. If you have more questions, our Sales team is here to help!

Get Started with SendGrid

SendGrid helps you focus on your business without the cost and complexity of owning and maintaining an email infrastructure. And with a full-featured marketing email service that offers a flexible workflow, powerful list segmentation, and actionable analytics, all of your email needs are met in one simple platform.

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