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October 27, 2021

Your Guide to SMS & Push Notifications

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Your Guide to SMS & Push Notifications

Businesses can use mobile text alerts to stay in touch with prospects, grow their sales, alert subscribers to special events, remind customers to pay their bills, and more. Unlike other marketing channels, messages sent via SMS are almost always opened by the recipient, making them a highly effective way to get your message across. 

Here, we’ll define the different types of messages you can send with an SMS platform and share best practices to follow if you send texts for marketing purposes.

What is SMS?

You’ve probably heard the terms SMS and text messaging used interchangeably. So are SMS and text messaging the same thing? The answer is yes. If you text with friends and family, the majority of the messages you send are via SMS. 

SMS stands for short message service. Offered by telephone service providers, it’s a channel for sending text-only messages up to 160 characters. Though most of us only started texting regularly within the last 20 years, SMS has actually been around since the 1980s.

You may remember the days when your text messages would get cut off if they were over the 160-character limit, but today most providers simply break longer messages up into several smaller ones and send them in a thread. 

If you use a smartphone (and who doesn’t?) you’re probably wondering about the ‘text-only’ limitation of SMS, since most of us are used to seeing photos, links and funny gifs interspersed right alongside the words in our text conversations. Those messages that contain media are sent by MMS–multimedia messaging service. 

SMS versus MMS is a distinction that doesn’t matter much to regular smartphone users, but it’s an important distinction for online businesses because MMS messages typically cost more to send. Also, their deliverability rates aren’t as high as SMS messages, since not all users have a plan or device that allows them to receive all types of media files.

What are push notifications?

Now, let’s discuss another kind of alert you can use to engage your customers: push notifications. 

Push notifications are pop-up messages that instantly appear on a recipient’s device, be it a smartphone, tablet, or wearable device. They’re called push notifications because they’re “pushed” from a backend server to a user interface, usually an app. Depending on where they’re being displayed, push notifications may contain images, emojis, and links in addition to straight text. 

Because they’re displayed instantly, without any trigger from the user, push notifications are a great way to grab attention and increase engagement. Unlike with a text message, the user doesn’t even have to open the push notification to see the full message. Businesses can use push notifications to alert customers to sales and special offers, inform them of updates to their order status, and share time-sensitive information. 

Because push notifications are sent over an internet connection, they can take advantage of rich features like geo-targeting, which sends a notification when a customer is within a certain radius of a brand’s store. Compared to text messaging, push notifications are a newer messaging medium–they’ve been around since 2009–and marketers are still discovering creative ways to use the service to interact with subscribers. 

Key differences between SMS and push notifications 

For online businesses, both SMS messages and push notifications are useful ways to reach customers. But what’s the difference between them? Here are the key distinctions. 

  • SMS messages don’t require an app. They can be sent to anyone with a mobile phone, whereas push notifications require the user to have a brand’s app installed. 
  • SMS messages are a two-way communication channel, allowing the customer to reply within the messaging thread. 
  • Push notifications don’t have the 160-character limit of SMS messages. 
  • Push notifications don’t incur an additional cost, other than the cost of the marketing platform being used to create and send them. SMS messages come with a per-message fee from the mobile provider. 
  • Push notifications can only be sent to smartphone users. While most consumers have a smartphone these days, not all of them do. 
  • Push notifications disappear after being seen. SMS messages can be reopened an unlimited number of times just like a regular text conversation. 

The best practices for SMS and push notifications 

When using push notifications and SMS marketing tools, you’ll need to strike a balance between staying top-of-mind with subscribers and not being too pushy or invasive. Follow these best practices for mobile text alerts to stay on your customers’ good side–and the right side of the law. 

Get permission

Getting permission before messaging your customers isn’t just a best practice; i’s the law. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) stipulates that businesses contacting consumers for marketing purposes must first get express written consent from them. 

For SMS messaging, one of the easiest methods to gather consent is by using text-to-join, where users opt-in to receive messages by texting a specific keyword to a designated number. Brands should make it equally easy to opt out, like by replying with the word ‘STOP’ at any time. 

With push notifications, gathering consent happens when the user downloads the app. If you’re an iPhone user, you’re probably familiar with screens like the one below

mobile app notification alerts

One upside of push notifications is that you can give users additional options for customizing the messages they receive, like opting to only receive a certain number of alerts per month or selecting certain types of notifications, like sale alerts, that will make them more likely to engage. 

Time your messages wisely

How often should you send mobile text alerts or push notifications? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule, but it’s best to err on the side of fewer messages than too many. One alert per week is a good starting point for many brands. Then, if you find customers are engaging with your messages frequently, you can experiment with sending them more often. 

When determining timing, it can also be helpful to examine how often a normal customer shops. If you sell something people buy frequently, like takeout, a couple messages a week might be reasonable. But if you sell a big-ticket item, like fine jewelry, that customers only shop for occasionally, it might only make sense to send a few messages a year. 

Personalize, personalize, personalize

The more you can tailor your messaging to your customer’s specific circumstances, the more well-received your message will be. You can personalize SMS and push messaging based on factors like:

  • Purchasing history
  • Recent support calls
  • What types of messages they’ve engaged with in the past 
  • Pages they’ve viewed on your website
  • Products they’ve looked at 
  • Geographic location
  • Personal events like birthdays, anniversaries, and length of relationship with the brand

Want more ideas for how to personalize your mobile text alerts? Ask your subscribers! It’s a great idea to check in periodically with recipients to learn what they want to see more or less of. 

Personalized messages make the customer feel known and understood, which goes a long way toward building brand loyalty. 

Keep it simple

Even though SMS messages and push notifications are highly visible, it’s still a good idea to keep your communications short and sweet. Use plain language that can be easily understood within a second or two, so your message gets across even if the user is just glancing down at their phone. Don’t forget to include a clear call to action, like ‘shop now,’ ‘pay bill,’ or ‘redeem offer’ to make taking the next step clear and easy.

Track results and analyze them frequently

SMS and push notifications each offer their own benefits in terms of analytics. With text messaging, you can assess downstream conversations to see what the customer is interested in and if/how they’re replying, in addition to tracking metrics like click-throughs. With push notifications, you can get even more nuanced, tracking things like how long they use your app after receiving a message and the frequency of in-store visits following an alert. 

Don’t just set it and forget it; after measuring and analyzing your results, be sure to update your messaging strategy frequently based on customer preferences and campaign performance. 

Choose the right messaging infrastructure

However you choose to message your customers, you need a platform that allows you to do it reliably and in compliance with the proper protocols. A cloud contact center seamlessly integrates your messaging platform with your customer database, so you can draw upon information like purchase history and previous interactions when customizing messages. Plus, it allows you to keep an automatic record of written consent and track any changes to it over time. 

LiveVox’s unified omnichannel approach

From SMS to email, live chat to phone support, LiveVox helps businesses deliver a unified experience across channels. We make it easy for your customers to reach you–and vice versa–in a way that’s seamless and intuitive no matter what device or channel is being used. 

We specialize in delivering digital messaging that helps customers rather than annoys them, and agent experiences that minimize friction while maximizing productivity. Simple point-and-click setup makes it fast to get up and running, while drag-and-drop campaigns mean you don’t need to enlist a developer every time you want to send a message. 

Contact us to learn more 

Leading brands choose LiveVox as their all-in-one provider for omnichannel, CRM, AI, and workforce optimization solutions. Visit our website to learn more or contact us today to request your free demonstration.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next-generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion interactions a year. By seamlessly integrating omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WFO capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers an exceptional agent and customer experience while reducing compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 500 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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