SMS Marketing vs. Mobile Marketing: Where, When and How to Use Them

By Edward Page,
business.com writer
| Updated
Aug 06, 2020
Image Credit: DMEPhotography / Getty Images

Both SMS marketing and mobile marketing are critical to your overall marketing strategy. Learn how and when to use each form.

Thanks to the resounding popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices such as tablets and phablets, marketers have found ways to integrate SMS marketing and mobile marketing into the fold of digital marketing campaign strategies.

Although both SMS marketing (sometimes known as text message marketing) and mobile marketing can be viable marketing tools for your business, it's important to know what distinguishes one customer engagement tactic from the other to help you strategize your campaigns. It is also important to know what SMS marketing is. But first, here are some staggering numbers of global smartphone and tablet use:

  • As of spring 2017, there were 237.7 million cell phone users in the United States.

  • In China, approximately 1.4 billion cell phone subscriptions were registered in September 2017.

  • An online survey conducted in the U.K. in May 2017 revealed that a high percentage of Brits owned smartphones, while 11% of the respondents owned basic phones.

  • By 2018, the number of tablet users in the United States was forecast to be over 177 million.

  • In 2017, Americans spent an average of 91 minutes on average on mobile apps daily, compared with 76 minutes in 2014.

It is no wonder that marketers are pouncing on digital communication to deliver content and reach customers as part of their digital marketing strategies.

To help you choose the right channel for your marketing objectives, here's a rundown of what SMS marketing is, what mobile marketing is, and how these two marketing campaign types stack up against each other for reaching the desired consumer base.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS (short message service) marketing is the use of a mobile phone to send an SMS or text message that contains promotional content, such as special deals, product updates, customer loyalty perks, or any other marketing information directly to customers.

How it works

An SMS campaign operates on a permission-based model, meaning customers opt in to receive marketing offers from you via SMS message. By texting a designated keyword to a shortcode, which is usually a five-digit number, customers give your company permission to add them to your SMS campaign and database. You could also get consumer approval to collect their number when you're on the phone with them, through a sign-up form on your website, or at your physical store's register.

What is SMS marketing used for?

SMS and text marketing are generally used to issue reminders, delivery notices, limited-time or exclusive offers, and redeemable coupons to your consumer base. SMS marketing is also an effective method for driving customer engagement through polls or survey-type messages.

What SMS marketing tools are available?

These are some of the many SMS marketing tools available:

  • Twilio, which includes options for SMS messaging and Facebook Messenger, plus tools for traditional email marketing campaigns

  • Textedly, which includes easy shortcode creation, list opt-in tools and text message scheduling

  • EZ Texting, which includes keyword options and text-to-landline capabilities

  • Mobiniti, which includes free unlimited support and integrates with many email and content marketing platforms

  • Avochato, which includes contact segmentation tools and integrates with many internal database and communication platforms.

Advantages of SMS marketing

Since text messages are generally opened within five minutes upon receipt, SMS is an instant way of marketing to your audience and building customer loyalty. Additionally, some SMS marketing software options allow you to personalize text messages for recipients of your messages. When you choose an SMS marketing tool that allows you to insert a customer's first name in your message, you're more likely to capture their interest and attention – in addition to generating a good response and conversion rate.

Another benefit of text message marketing is its automated response function. Depending on the action your subscribers take, you can send messages automatically to their phones that would trigger a series of follow-up replies or actions from your SMS marketing software to engage customers further.

Last but not least, your SMS marketing tool will usually give you options for easy segmentation and management of your contact database. This makes SMS marketing a cost-effective business strategy that helps your team hit your SMS metrics.

SMS marketing tips

  • Be clear in communicating what your SMS marketing campaign is all about, including what types of SMS messages your customers will receive, how often they will receive them, and how they will benefit when they opt in.

  • Give subscribers the chance to opt out of your notifications anytime by including relevant instructions in your text campaigns from time to time.

  • Don't text during irregular hours, and don't use shorthand texts – aim for a professional tone instead.

  • Add a disclaimer in your initial text message about possibly incurring data and message charges if customers don't have unlimited plans for their subscription.

Mobile marketing

Mobile marketing is the practice of marketing your business on the mobile device platform, smartphones and tablets included, although current trends extend the concept of mobile marketing to other gadgets, such as smartwatches.

It's a multichannel digital marketing strategy that utilizes content marketing tools such as websites, social media, mobile apps and SMS/MMS (multimedia messaging service) to send mobile ads to audiences.

The key with mobile marketing is to use smartphones and other handheld devices to provide potential or existing customers personalized and time- and location-based information about your business.

Types of mobile marketing

Mobile marketing is a well-rounded technique in digital marketing because it gives you several options on how to format your ads. These are some of the most popular strategies for marketing on mobile:

  • Video ads: As digital technologies make watching videos possible on mobile devices, you could create video ads to reach your target market. Contrary to finding them intrusive (as some people may consider email marketing campaigns to be), many consumers consider video ads entertaining and engaging. Your video ads can be part of your MMS messages that you send from your mobile messaging service provider or website to your mobile audience.

  • Mobile apps: Mobile consumers spend 82% of their device time on apps, which makes app-based marketing or in-app advertising a popular strategy among marketers. Facebook is an example of a third-party mobile app that allows you to integrate your ads into the social media platform through sponsored posts.

  • In-game mobile marketing: Mobile games can also host your mobile ads, which can be in the form of banner popups, full-page image ads or video ads that load in between game times.

  • Location-based marketing: This allows you to send ads on users' mobile devices when they are within a specific distance from your business or location. Fast food or other specialty stores use this strategy to promote brand awareness among consumers.

  • Mobile search ads: These are ads that customers see when they do a basic search on Google. These ads often have extensions like click-to-call or maps to help users find your business.

Mobile marketing tips

  • Optimize your ad's message, format and design for mobile. With the small screen that you have to work with on mobile devices, every space and word should be used wisely.  

  • Your business's homepage must be responsive to mobile SEO so users can find your local business at the time of their search.  

  • Know your audience. You'd do better, for example, to use in-game ads to interact with gamers than sponsored posts on social networks like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. 

As users use mobile devices more and more, it's safe to say that the future of digital marketing is shifting more toward mobile, specifically SMS marketing and mobile marketing.

Mobile marketing tools 

These are some of the most commonly used mobile marketing tools:

  • Google Analytics, which includes relevant metrics for mobile marketing campaigns such as traffic reports, keyword referrals, event tracking and attribution

  • AppsFlyer, which monitors app engagement, tracks app installation locations, and tracks and improves mobile marketing campaigns

  • App Annie, which can rank apps and keywords, estimate app usage and advertising, and offer SDK insights

  • Flurry, which provides tools for funnel analysis, user segmentation and event tracking

  • Braze, which offers live customer views, journey building and real-time mobile marketing campaign optimization

When considering SMS versus mobile marketing, keep in mind that SMS marketing can help you build a more direct and personal relationship with your audience, while mobile marketing can help you improve customers' interaction with your brand. Either way, it's a must to incorporate these two strategies into your overall marketing plan.

Max Freedman contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

As a Business Development head, I lead a team to keep on pushing the envelope when it comes to using technology for recruitment—a hiring process that focuses on diversity and less on the bias.
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