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How a dedicated short code can enhance SMS engagement

How do you stand out from the crowd? 

SMS is incredibly effective, so why do many texts still come across as impersonal, asynchronous (one-way) and transactional? While this may be ok for some brands, customers want more. 

There is one simple bulk SMS service feature that will help you streamline communications and simplify the customer journey

In New Zealand, businesses communicate via a short code (typically 4-digits long), rather than a 10-digit dedicated number, so for the rest of this article we’ll refer to short codes instead

Why you should use a dedicated short code

Dedicated short code numbers are short, virtual phone numbers that are solely for the use of your business when texting customers.  

This is ultimately very important when you want to drive brand recognition, trust, and familiarity when you send a high volume of SMS messages.

For those starting out or currently using text messaging, you may notice that your communications can come from different numbers. For example, you may send out a marketing text to some customers, and reminder notifications to others. Both sends will appear from different numbers.  

Rotary pool infographic

These random numbers are known as shared short codes. Whether you sign up with MessageMedia or another SMS provider, your business will start out on a shortcode from our rotary pool.  

MessageMedia owns these numbers and they are shared out between our customers free-of-charge. That’s why they continue to change or rotate for every message you send. 

The rotary pool of shared short codes is perfectly fine for 2-factor-authentication or irregular sends, but they’re not always a good fit. If you’re sending a high volume of SMS each month or sending marketing messages, you will require your own short code.

2FA infographic for dedicated numbers

What if you want all your communications and conversations to come from one sender ID? It’s confusing for your customer when they keep popping up as messages from different numbers! Or you want customers to be able to save your number to your phone?  

That’s where a dedicated short code SMS number comes in. 


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Considerations about types of dedicated numbers in NZ

It’s pretty easy when it comes to short code messaging! There are only two options in New Zealand, and both are short codes.

Free to handset (zero-rated) short codes

3-4 digit codes where the end user does not get charged for messaging. The business sending the message takes on the charge. This is an excellent choice if you have customers who do not want to pay to message. 

For opt-out compliance reasons, if you are using your messaging for marketing purposes, your short code must be zero-rated. 

Standard rate short codes

3-4 digital codes where the end user pays a charge to reply, but will accumulate less tariffs for the business sending messages. 

If your messages do not require replies (and are not for marketing purposes), a standard rated short code may work for you. 

Please note, there are no dedicated long code numbers.

How to apply for an SMS short code

In order to obtain one of these short code messaging options, please speak with MessageMedia or your chosen messaging provider. They should be able to obtain a short code with the right features for you.  

Each carrier offers dedicated short code mobile numbers with different sets of features and restrictions. It’s important you choose a messaging provider who can wrangle exactly what you want.  

RELATED READING: Please review New Zealand’s Telecommunication Forum’s compliance and code of conduct guide and consult your legal advisors before sending on a dedicated short code number in order to ensure local compliance.

Once you have decided what you want for your SMS short code service, you will need to fill out a service request form. For example, you may want a 3-4 digit, zero-rated code for marketing purposes.

Within the form, provide a detailed description of the service. Include everything you know about the service, including what the purpose of the service is. The approval process for your application may take between 4-6 weeks so plan ahead.

Keep in mind these requirements: 

  • 0800 free-to-call helpline number – if you do not have one, we can help you with that for a small fee.
  • You must have a website.

Top tip: Towards the end of the year, the carriers agree to freeze new applications. That means between a certain date in December and the end of January, no new services are activated. We suggest contacting us immediately if you wish to process a dedicated number request around this time. 

The many benefits of a dedicated SMS short code

The true advantage of a dedicated SMS shortcode number is that they run the gamut with feature-rich options for customer engagement. Let’s look at these in detail: 

Dedicated number infographic
  • Single identity: provides a single point of contact and consistent number for customers to text. All communications will also appear within the same text message chat or thread instead of from random numbers.  
  • User customisation: Allowing recipients, instead of the business, to customise the name of your brand when they save it to their phone.  
  • Custom keywords: Use keywords alongside your number to distinguish between specific campaigns, and track them with more granularity. 
  • Automation: Easily automate reminders, bookings, RSVPs, notices and other notifications all through the same number.  
  • SMS chat: Customers are able to send and receive (i.e. converse) with your business directly through 2-way messaging. Fantastic for customer support or queries.  
  • Customer journey: Don’t force customers to go elsewhere to speak to you or trigger an action. Allow them to do it all within the text message!

With all these features, it’s easy to see how short codes build a strong mobile identity. 

You may also enjoy having something that is just yours too! 

Examples of businesses using dedicated numbers

Now that we’ve discussed how advantageous dedicated numbers can be, you’re probably still wondering when you should use them?  

Are they right for your business situation? 

Here are some examples of when dedicated numbers are particularly successful: 

  • Retailers looking to drive retention and loyalty while differentiating in their SMS marketing 
  • Service businesses who want to give customers the ability to do everything via text 
  • Maturing businesses who want to build a brand and boost customer acquisition  
  • Brands keen to offer effortless and unobtrusive customer support through texting 
  • Business players who want to communicate with stakeholders proactively 

These are just some, not all situations that a business might find themselves benefiting from a dedicated number. Think of it like receiving messages in a single conversation as you do from a friend. 

Simply ask yourself, would deeper engagement help me achieve better outcomes when I send a message?  


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Final thoughts, further reading

A dedicated SMS number means one phone number and one interface for your brand to the world.  

If it’s right for you, your business can enjoy new economies of scale and an SMS presence as recognisable as a web domain. Get in touch with our support team now to get a dedicated number today. 

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