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SMS vs email: Know when to use each channel to connect with your customers

Twitter vs TikTok. Instagram vs Facebook. All across the interweb, everyone’s talking about which marketing channels are best for business. But what about when you need to get in touch with customers? Is it email, or is it SMS? 

Well, the truth is, there is no winner. That’s right. We’re not going to say that SMS is best (even though we’re in the business of helping you send text messages). Why? Because certain types of messages suit certain channels better. 

So instead of forcing your teams to choose between channels, why not embrace the benefits of each? The trick is to know which channel to use for what types of messages. That’s what we’re here for.

In the inbox: The pros and cons of email

Let’s look at email first. After all, it’s been around for longer as a business messaging tool (if you’re keen on a trip down email memory lane, here’s a great podcast looking back on the early days of email, before it took over the world).

For relationship building, customer nurture journeys, and general communications, email is super useful and pretty cost-effective. Here’s what to love about it:

  • Pretty much everyone has an email address.
  • Once you’ve taken the time to write and prepare your email, it’s cheap to send to the masses.
  • You can easily brand your email with custom headers, images, fonts and colours.
  • You can add loads of content, links to your website, calls to action (CTAs) and more.
  • Customers can easily save your emails and refer back to them later.

All of the above sounds great. So, what’s not to love about email? Well, there’s the fact that customers today are constantly bemoaning how full their inboxes are. The average worker receives over 100 emails per day, which means that your helpful little missive may very well get lost in the deluge. Many people ‘park’ marketing emails to look at later, which is why their open rates are much lower than SMS (which has an incomparable open rate of 98%). In other words, some of your emails won’t get seen.

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Textbook texting: The pros and cons of SMS

Then there’s SMS. Text messaging is rapidly growing in popularity as a marketing tool, and for great reason. Customers are constantly on their mobile phones, and who doesn’t love that little ping of dopamine that comes with a new message?

Here’s why marketers rate SMS as a solid communications channel.
SMS marketing offers:

  • Unbeatable open rates, with 98% of messages opened. Plus, 90% of them are opened within 3 minutes of sending. 
  • Sky-high response rates of around 45%.
  • Cheaper rates than email marketing.
  • Better ROI – due to its higher response rates. (Just saying.)
  • A concise and clear way to communicate – perfect for your busy, time-poor customers.

Plus, SMS is great for sharing time-sensitive messages like flash sales or appointment reminders.

But, like email, SMS has its drawbacks. There’s the 160-character limit for a standard message, of course, which doesn’t make it ideal for longer or more complex messages. There’s the fact that you really shouldn’t include more than one CTA. And, because texting feels more personal (as it’s going straight to your customer’s phone), you can’t rely on SMS for all your blasts – or you’ll risk your customers opting out. Less is best.

SMS + email = the perfect match

Given the unique pros and cons of email and SMS, no wonder they’re a match made in heaven. Some types of communication suit email; others suit SMS. Then there are those types that suit both. Let’s take a look.

If you want to send out a newsletter full of tips and styling ideas about your products or services, then email is best. It’s the ideal forum for non-urgent communications that include more detail, links, images and more.

If there’s a time-sensitive or urgent message you need to blast out to your customers, then SMS is best. It gets straight to the point and, importantly, straight in front of your customers’ eyeballs. 

Then there are customer journeys that suit both forms. For example, you might send out an email campaign to build customer engagement. If a customer doesn’t respond or open their emails, you could send a quick SMS to remind them to check their inbox. 

Or, you might use SMS as a reminder if emails about overdue invoices aren’t getting through. As SMS cuts through like no other channel, this can help ensure customers pay up, STAT.

Want more ways to match up email and SMS?

The more you use both SMS and email, the more you’ll appreciate the ability to switch seamlessly between the two channels.

Check out our Email to SMS feature – it lets you send SMS messages from any email service. Better yet, see if your platform integrates with text messaging. For example, you can send both SMS and emails from HubSpot. Check out our integrations marketplace.

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