22 years ago today, the first text message (reading ‘Merry Christmas’) was sent by Neil Papworth via Vodafone UK’s ‘GSM’ network. Since then the SMS has gone from strength to strength driven by mobile device accessibility and global user adoption. The total number of messages has grown from a single message in 1992, to 2015 forecasts of over 8 trillion (Portio Research estimate).
Due to the popularity of Instant Messaging (IM) services such as WhatsApp, SMS is no longer the UK’s number one method for quick updates between friends, but the world’s most popular messaging application is by no means on a downwards trajectory. While the number of Person to Person (P2P) SMS for basic communication purposes has declined in recent years, SMS has seen growth driven by an increase in Application to Person (A2P) messaging.
A2P involves sending an SMS from a web application to an individual’s phone, and has traditionally been used by companies to deliver messages such as transaction notifications, delivery times for goods and appointment reminders. SMS is such a useful tool because it has more reach than an online message, is not reliant on Internet connectivity or ‘credit’ to be received, and therefore has considerably higher ‘opening’ and ‘sale conversion’ rates than Email or IM marketing. A2P experiences greater success than online alternatives as, unlike ‘spam’ emails, the service requires an individual customer to opt in.
In recent years more affordable A2P SMS solutions have allowed smaller companies to take advantage of a service previously exclusive to large banks and retailers. Portio Research estimates that by the end of this year the combined global revenues generated by A2P and P2A (Person to Application) SMS traffic will be more than $50bn (£31bn).
Dr Pieter Streicher, Managing Director, BulkSMS.com says: “SMS is still vital to the customer journey and experience. Using SMS for marketing and other services is low cost, ubiquitous and businesses have a greater guarantee of delivered messages. They can also use SMS to embed links to rich media content bearing offers, promotions or vital information for customers.”
Dr Streicher continues: “Promotional offers are far more likely to reach the relevant consumer, and the consumer is far more likely to react positively. SMS is undoubtedly transitioning from a consumer to business focus, but it is by no means over as a force within global communications.”
When the vast business opportunities it continues to present are kept in mind, SMS can still be an immensely powerful tool for reaching individuals quickly, efficiently and securely.