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Push Notifications vs. SMS: Which One Is Right for Your Business?

Push notifications or SMS? This article helps you decide which one is best for your business.

In today's fast-paced digital age, businesses must utilize every communication channel available to stay connected with their customers. With people spending an average of 3 hours and 43 minutes on their phones each day, push notifications and SMS messaging have become essential tools for businesses to effectively engage their audiences.

While both methods have their own unique benefits, choosing the right one for your business can be a daunting task. In this article, we'll compare push notifications and SMS messaging to help you determine which one is best suited for your business needs. Whether you're looking to improve customer engagement, boost sales, or enhance brand loyalty, read on to find out which communication channel is right for your business.

What is a push notification?

A push notification is a message that is sent to a user's mobile device through an app or website without the user actively requesting it. These messages can appear as a banner, alert, or badge on the user's screen, and are typically used to notify them of new content, events, updates, or any other relevant information. Both phone and web push notifications are powerful tools for businesses to engage with their customers in real-time and keep them in the loop.

What is an SMS text message?

An SMS message (short message service message), also known as an SMS notification or text message, is a message that is sent from one mobile device to another. It is a simple and widely used form of communication that allows users to send short, text-based messages of up to 160 characters to anyone with a mobile phone number. Text messages are typically sent and received through the user's mobile network and do not require an internet connection. They can be used for a variety of purposes, such as personal messaging, marketing, and customer communication.

7 key differences between push notifications and SMS messages

Push notifications and text messages are both popular communication methods used by businesses to engage with customers. However, there are several key differences between the two that can impact their effectiveness. In this next section, we'll explore seven of these differences, helping you choose the best option for your business needs.

1. Opting in

Both push notifications and SMS marketing campaigns require users to opt-in to receiving messages on their phone.

With push notifications, the user must download the app and agree to receive notifications and advertisements from the app.

SMS text messages, on the other hand, require written user consent for opt-in. The customer must voluntarily text the SMS number and respond with a message indicating their consent, such as "yes," "agree," "consent," or any other word that clearly states their permission to receive messages. This opt-in process is a crucial aspect of SMS marketing and is required by FCC regulations to ensure that customers are not receiving unwanted or unsolicited messages.

2. Delivery speed

Push notifications are generally faster than SMS messages in terms of delivery speed. When a push notification is sent, it is delivered almost instantly to the user's mobile device, regardless of whether the user is actively using the app or not. In contrast, SMS messages are sent through the user's mobile network and can be affected by network traffic and other factors, resulting in potential delays in delivery.

However, while push notifications are faster in delivery, they rely on an internet connection and may not be delivered if the user's device is not connected to the internet. SMS messages, on the other hand, do not require an internet connection and can be delivered even when the user's device is not connected to Wi-Fi or cellular data.

3. Message length

Both push notifications and SMS messages have character limits, but the limit is higher for push notifications. Android push notifications have a title character limit of 65 and a description limit of 240, while iOS push notifications have a combined limit of 178 characters. In contrast, no matter the platform, you can only send 160 characters with text messages.

4. Additional content

While text messages offer the option to use the MMS (multimedia messaging service) format, allowing businesses to attach website links, images, and other multimedia content to their messages, push notifications are limited to a preview image or graphic only. However, a well-designed graphic in your push message can still effectively entice users to further explore your offering within the app.

5. Customization

Users want to have control over how they receive notifications on their mobile phones for a variety of reasons, whether it's to minimize distractions or save battery life. Push notifications offer more flexibility in terms of preferences, allowing users to customize their settings, while SMS messages only have an on/off option. Furthermore, push notifications enable users to choose what they see when the notification arrives, whereas text alerts typically display only the first five to ten words.

6. Open rates

SMS messages have an impressive open rate of 98%, with about 90% of messages read within three minutes of receipt. They are a very reliable way to help you reach your marketing targets. In contrast, push notifications have a lower open rate of 20%. While users are more likely to swipe away a notification for later reading, they are less likely to ignore a text message.

7. Cost

Push notifications have an initial cost associated with developing an app to send them, but are otherwise free to send. On the other hand, text message marketing typically incurs a cost per message sent, or through a bulk text messaging package with a set price for sending a certain number of messages. However, businesses can often take advantage of discounts when sending a large number of SMS notifications, which can help reduce the overall cost of SMS marketing efforts.

When to send push notifications

Push notifications are used to send messages that are in-depth or personalized to the people who have installed the app. The format of the push notification lends itself nicely to this use, and can be used for messages that require using the app for more information. Some best case uses include:

  • Reminders of items left in a shopping cart
  • Upcoming promotions
  • New product arrival
  • Discounts or free items for a user's birthday
  • Unadvertised sales

It's good to be mindful of how frequently you send notifications to your customers. Too many messages to smartphone users in a short period of time can result in user fatigue and cause them to tune out whenever they get an alert.

When to send SMS messages

SMS messages can be used for purposes other than marketing messages. You can also use them for one-on-one communication with your customer when they have a problem or need assistance with their account. They're also useful for sending a message to as many users at once. Some of the reasons for sending SMS messages as marketing channel include:

  • Sending a one-time password to help a user get back into their account
  • Confirmation of a sale or package shipment
  • Tracking numbers and delivery updates
  • Emergency alerts or service interruptions

SMS messages can also be used to provide customer support on a more time sensitive, one-on-one basis. A customer support agent can connect with the user directly and discuss the issue that needs resolution. This gives the customer direct contact with the support agent and alleviates the need to wait on hold for someone to pick up the phone.

Find the best way to reach a wider audience

In conclusion, choosing between push notifications and SMS messages comes down to understanding your business needs and your customers' preferences. Both communication channels have their unique advantages and disadvantages, and it's essential to consider factors such as message delivery speed, customization options, cost, and user experience before making a decision. You may even want to consider a multichannel marketing approach that combines both push and text messages.

At Mailchimp, we understand that running a successful business requires a lot more than just choosing the right communication channel. That's why we offer a wide range of marketing tools and resources to help you optimize your marketing campaigns and achieve your business goals.

Our platform provides insights and analytics that help you understand your ideal customer, identify underperforming areas of your website or products, and develop effective growth marketing strategies. Whether you're new to marketing or a seasoned pro, our easy-to-use platform and helpful resources can help take your business to the next level. Sign up today and start exploring all the ways we can support your business.

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