Marketing through cellphones' SMS (Short Message Service) became increasingly popular in the early 2000s in Europe and some parts of Asia when businesses started to collect mobile phone numbers and send off wanted (or unwanted) content. On average, SMS messages have a 90% open rate, and are read within 5 minutes, making it highly effective at reaching recipients quickly.
Over the past few years SMS marketing has become a legitimate advertising channel in some parts of the world. This is because unlike email over the public internet, the carriers who police their own networks have set guidelines and best practices for the mobile media industry (including mobile advertising). The IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), as well, have established guidelines and are evangelizing the use of the mobile channel for marketers. While this has been fruitful in developed regions such as North America, Western Europe and some other countries, mobile SPAM messages (SMS sent to mobile subscribers without a legitimate and explicit opt-in by the subscriber) remain an issue in many other parts of the world, partly due to the carriers selling their member databases to third parties. In India, however, government's efforts of creating National Do Not Call Registry have helped cellphone users to stop SMS advertisements by sending a simple SMS or calling 1909.
Mobile marketing approaches through SMS has expanded rapidly in Europe and Asia as a new channel to reach the consumer. SMS initially received negative media coverage in many parts of Europe for being a new form of spam as some advertisers purchased lists and sent unsolicited content to consumer's phones; however, as guidelines are put in place by the mobile operators, SMS has become the most popular branch of the Mobile Marketing industry with several 100 million advertising SMS sent out every month in Europe alone. This is thanks in part to SMS messages being hardware agnostic—they can be delivered to practically any mobile phone, smartphone or feature phone and accessed without a Wi-Fi or mobile data connection. This is important to note since there are over 5 billion unique mobile phone subscribers worldwide in 2017, which is about 66% of the world population.
SMS marketing has both inbound and outbound marketing strategies. Inbound marketing focuses on lead generation, and outbound marketing focuses on sending messages for sales, promotions, contests, donations, television program voting, appointment and event reminders.
There are 5 key components to SMS marketing: sender ID, message size, content structure, spam compliance, and message delivery.
A sender ID is the name or number that identifies who the sender is. For commercial purposes, virtual numbers, short codes, SIM hosting, and custom names are most commonly used and can be leased through bulk SMS providers.
The message size will then determine the number of SMS messages that are sent, which then determines the amount of money spent on marketing a product or service. Not all characters in a message are the same size.
Concatenated messages can only fit 153 characters instead of 160. For example, a 177 character message is sent as 2 messages. The first is sent with 153 characters and the second with 24 characters. The process of SMS concatenation can happen up to 4 times for most bulk SMS providers, which allows senders a maximum 612 character message per campaign.
Special elements that can be placed inside a text message include:
UTF-8 Characters: Send SMS in different languages, special characters, or emojis
Keywords: Use keywords to trigger an automated response
Links: Track campaigns easily by using shortened URLs to custom landing pages
Interactive Elements: Pictures, animations, audio, or video
Texting is simple, however when it comes to SMS marketing - there are many different content structures that can be implemented. Popular message types include sale alerts, reminders, keywords, and multimedia messaging services (MMS).
Similar to email, SMS has anti-spam laws which differ from country to country. As a general rule, it's important to obtain the recipient's permission before sending any text message, especially an SMS marketing type of message. Permission can be obtained in a myriad of ways, including allowing prospects or customers to: tick a permission checkbox on a website, filling in a form, or getting a verbal agreement.
In most countries, SMS senders need to identify themselves as their business name inside their initial text message. Identification can be placed in either the sender ID or within the message body copy. Spam prevention laws may also apply to SMS marketing messages, which must include a method to opt-out of messages.
One key criterion for provisioning is that the consumer opts into the service. The mobile operators demand a double opt in from the consumer and the ability for the consumer to opt out of the service at any time by sending the word STOP via SMS. These guidelines are established in the CTIA Playbook and the MMA Consumer Best Practices Guidelines which are followed by all mobile marketers in the United States. In Canada, opt in will be mandatory once the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act comes in force in mid-2012.
At the most simple level, SMS infrastructure is made up of special servers that talk to each other, using a software called Short Message Service Centre (SMSC) that use a special protocol called Short Message Peer to Peer (SMPP).
Through the SMPP connections, bulk SMS providers (also known as SMS Gateways) like the ones mentioned above can send text messages and process SMS replies and delivery receipts.
When a user sends messages through a bulk SMS provider, it gets delivered to the recipient's carrier via an ON-NET connection or the International SS7 Network.