Weighing the pros and cons of SMS vs. push notifications? Want to understand the differences between them? We’ve got you covered.
Both SMS text blasts and push notifications can be useful ways to communicate information and marketing material to customers. Both are bite-sized and easily readable, but customers interact with them in different ways. The right one to use will depend on the message you’re delivering, the medium on which your customers prefer to interact with you, and other factors.
Our industry guide below will help you decide whether to use SMS, push notifications or a mixture of both are right for your business’ needs.
SMS stands for short message service.
An SMS is a 160-character, text-only message that recipients view through a texting app, like iMessage on iPhone and Google Messages on Android devices.
A step up from SMS is MMS, which stands for multimedia messaging service. Delivered through the same texting apps we mentioned above, MMS messages can contain rich media like photos and videos, and can be longer than 160 characters. These days, most users send and receive SMS and MMS messages with ease using the native apps that come pre-installed on their phones.
For businesses, SMS is an efficient way to communicate with entire audiences or smaller, select groups of customers quickly. Using a dedicated shortcode offers fast message delivery and makes it easy for customers to remember how to get in touch with your brand over text.
Text messages have a very high read rate and they’re incredibly user-friendly; if you have a smartphone, you probably understand how to text and don’t have to download any additional apps to do it.
Push notifications are clickable (or tappable) alerts that pop up within a user’s web browser or on their device’s home screen. Push messages from brands are displayed regardless of whether the brand’s website or app is open.
You’ve probably seen push notifications sliding in on the bottom right corner of your screen while you browse the internet. Or, when you go to use your phone and have a series of alerts on your home screen, those are push notifications, too.
To receive push notifications, a user must opt-in. They’re usually shown a message asking them whether they’d like to allow push notifications the first time they open your app or visit your website.
Push notifications are text-centric, but they may also contain elements like links, images and emojis. They’re a quick communication tool for conveying offers or delivering messages to customers.
Pros and cons of SMS vs. push notifications
Both SMS messages and push notifications can communicate information and boost customer engagement. However, they can also both easily overwhelm users if not used appropriately.
So how can you avoid being a nuisance and instead accomplish your campaign goals? First, let’s consider some pros and cons of each medium. Then, we’ll talk about use cases that might be a good fit for each one.
When it comes to read rates, SMS messages are hard to beat. Nearly all texts are read by the recipient, and usually within a matter of minutes. While push notifications are displayed automatically even if the recipient isn’t actively using your app, they’re easier to dismiss than an unread text message. Plus, once dismissed, there’s no way for the user to come back and view a push notification later. So, it’s not the best medium for sending urgent messaging.
Both SMS and push messages are great for engagement. SMS messages have a high response rate. They allow for two-way communication, where the user can text back and forth with the brand, which can build loyalty. Push notifications offer the opportunity for instant engagement. If recipients find the message interesting, they can take action with a single click or swipe.
Sending multimedia can be tricky with SMS. Content like images and GIFs aren’t always supported across mobile networks and devices, which can make a bad impression. So, SMS messages are typically limited to text and links. Push notifications allow for greater multimedia customization, with the ability to use links, images, graphics and emojis to enhance your message.
SMS and push notifications can be highly personalized based on customer data. In fact, this is one of the best ways to drive ROI from either type of campaign. Both SMS and push campaigns can pull in known data from a user’s record, like their previous purchases or browsing history. Both can also be sent based on triggers, like taking a certain action on your website.
Consent, or opt-in, is different for SMS and push notifications. For text messages, consent is mandated by law. Brands need express written consent before sending users communications for marketing purposes, or they may risk fines or legal action. It’s also best practice to obtain consent before sending push notifications (and iPhones ask for it), but opting in is not required on Android devices.
Use Cases for SMS
- Sending time-sensitive information
- Sharing promotions and coupon codes
- Providing order tracking info
- Sending appointment and billing reminders
- Providing technical support
- Collecting user feedback
- Helping users take the next step in a series of actions, like clicking a link to complete their online check-in
Use Cases for Push Notifications
- Sending real-time order updates, like with meal delivery services
- Reducing abandoned carts by reminding customers to come back and complete their purchase
- Sharing company news updates that match the user’s content preferences
- Alerting users about upcoming events
- Promoting new content, like a just-published blog post or a free guide
- Adding value, like suggesting products a shopper may like based on previously viewed items
- Communicating service updates or user-specific alerts, like weather updates and outage info
- Sending discounts or limited-time offers
The pros, cons, and use cases above should give you a better idea of how to use SMS vs. push notifications and decide which one is the best choice for your goals.
Frequently asked questions
Are push notifications safer than SMS?
Push notifications can offer more security than SMS messages. Apple, for example, offers end-to-end encryption and authentication that ensures the message is sent only to the intended recipient.
Are push notifications cheaper than SMS?
Sending push notifications is cheaper than sending SMS messages. There are some services that allow you to send push notifications for free. Most SMS messaging services charge per message or per user.
What is the difference between push notifications and notifications?
A notification is shown within an app while you’re using it, like when Facebook alerts you that you have a new comment on your post. Push notifications are “pushed” to the user and displayed on their screen regardless of whether they’re using the app.
What does SMS mean in notifications?
SMS stands for short message service. It’s the same thing most of us call a text message, and you receive a notification when you have an unread one.