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February 10, 2021

SMS Marketing vs. Email Marketing: When to Use Which?

Neither SMS marketing nor email marketing is better, they just are best used in different situations. We cover everything you need to know to best use both.

As technology evolves and customer preferences change, it can be difficult to know which marketing medium is best for your business. We have gathered some tips to help you get the most out of every campaign - whether it be powered by email or SMS. 

Before delving in, here are some stats you should know: 

  • SMS has a 98% open rate, while email has an open rate of 22% (EZ Texting).
  • On average, it takes someone 90 seconds to respond to a text and 90 minutes to respond to an email (B2C)
  • Text messages have a 209% higher response rate than phone calls, email, or Facebook (Textedly)
  • 73% of millennials prefer that communications from businesses come via email, while 69% of consumers across all age groups want to be able to contact a business via text (HubSpot, Business Wire). 
  • On a daily basis, 85% of American adults check their email while 81% of American adults use SMS (Campaign Monitor). 

Overall, it may seem like SMS marketing has the upper hand. However, there is a time and place for each strategy. Good marketers use both email and SMS to get their message across - the trick is finding the right balance. 

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Email Marketing: Personal, Inexpensive, Non-invasive, dynamic

Despite what people may say, email is not outdated - and you don’t just have to take our word for it. The numbers are impossible to ignore. 

There were 3.9 billion daily email users in 2019, and by 2023, this number is projected to reach 4.3 billion (Statista, 2020). Even more encouraging, HubSpot found that 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months. 

Therefore, email marketing isn’t going anywhere. In fact, 60% of consumers prefer email when it comes to receiving personal offers. Aside from customer preference, email makes a lot of sense from a business marketing perspective.

The Advantages of Email Marketing:

  1. Email is personal and non-invasive. Email lets you connect with your customers on their own terms and allows for individualization. Even something as small as including the first name of the email recipient results in a higher clickthrough rate
  2. Email is inexpensive. A report by Litmus found that the return on investment for email marketing is 38 to 1. That means, for every $1 invested in email, your business will receive a $38 ROI. Further, email costs the same regardless of distance or number of recipients, making it an affordable and practical marketing strategy. 
  3. Email is dynamic. Unlike SMS, email is not limited. You can easily include photos, graphics, and emojis in your message, which increases your chances of getting your customers’ attention. For instance, the average click rate for an email is 2.69%. However, according to Campaign Monitor, adding a video to your email can increase CTRs by 65%. Similarly, adding a GIF improves click rates by 72%.

When to Use Email Marketing:

  • Sales/promotions
  • Newsletters/community updates
  • Order confirmations/status updates

When it comes to email marketing, we recommend that you keep it personal. Emails don’t usually prompt response, so it’s best to reserve them for non-urgent news or content-based messages. 

The Downside of Email Marketing:

The disadvantage of email marketing is that everybody’s doing it. About 73% of email marketers send emails weekly, and more emails mean more clutter in your customer’s inbox. To put the sheer volume of email traffic in perspective, the average office worker receives 121 emails a day. If you aren’t mindful about how you approach email marketing, your efforts could get lost in the mix or worse - marked as spam. 

SMS Marketing: Direct, Visibile, Converts

When was the last time you went anywhere without your phone? On average, people check their phones once every 10 minutes, making SMS one of the most effective ways to reach your customers. 

More good news: 65% of customers feel more positive towards a business that offers SMS communication. Avochato also found that “almost two-thirds of respondents would switch to a company that offered text messaging as a communication channel. Still, less than 20% of businesses use text to communicate with customers. 

If you’re in the majority of businesses and fail to take advantage of SMS, we recommend you start now. Below are measurable marketing advantages that come with SMS communication. 

The Advantages of SMS Marketing:

  1. SMS offers visibility. 85% percent of respondents keep their phones within arms reach a majority of the time. Further, studies show that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, cell phone usage has increased by 56%. Therefore, if you contact your customers via text, they are almost guaranteed to see your message - and within the first 5 minutes of receiving it too.
  2. SMS converts. Texts have a 32% conversion rate, which is significantly higher than email’s 3%. Why? It’s permission-based. This means that if you are texting your customers, they want you to be. As a result, customers are 4.5 times more likely to reply to a text than they are to an email, proving SMS prompts customer interaction. 
  3. SMS is what people want. Nine out of 10 customers prefer SMS as their method of communication with businesses. Additionally, 86% of small business owners indicate that texting offers higher engagement than email - suggesting it’s the favored method of contact. Overall, texting allows your customers to connect with your business through a convenient, accessible, and familiar channel. 

When to Use SMS Marketing:

  • Appointment confirmations/scheduling  
  • Responding to questions (or any communication that requires a response) 
  • Personal offers or updates
  • Asking for a review 

As a general rule, we think SMS is best for urgent, personal, and concise communication with your customers. 

The Downside of SMS Marketing:

Compared to email, SMS marketing is complicated. Legally, there are many privacy rules and regulations a business has to follow in order to text customers - the most prominent being the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This article does a great job of explaining SMS laws in more detail. Additionally, texting has the potential to feel more intrusive than email, especially with the recent rise in SMS spam in the US. 

While the disadvantages of SMS marketing may seem prominent, texting is really about boundaries and respect. Too much correspondence can annoy customers, so don't overdo it. Make sure to give customers the choice to opt-out of communication. Lastly, keep all correspondence within business hours. Nobody wants to be bothered early on a Saturday morning with a marketing text, no matter how much they love your business. 

We Use SMS to Help Local Businesses Get More Reviews

It’s clear that both email and SMS strategies have their benefits. Here at Widewail, we believe firmly in the power of SMS marketing when it comes to reputation management, which is why we created Invite - a text-based automated review generation system. 

Invite is proven to widen outreach, improve local search ranking, and increase conversions. It’s a strategy that gets genuine results fast. You’ve seen the value of SMS marketing. If you want to learn more about what Invite can do for your business specifically, check out some real-life examples of Invite in action or connect with a member of our sales team.

Or, download the Playbook to learn more about how local business's can leverage SMS to generate reviews on Google, Facebook, and industry specific sites. Download the Playbook

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Tag(s): Local Marketing

Emily Keenan

Originally from Scarborough, Maine, I moved to Vermont this past summer after graduating from St. Lawrence University, where I received my BA in English and Spanish. I have always been interested in writing and communication, which is what initially drew me to the Review Response Specialist position at Widewail. In my spare time, I can be found reading, playing electric guitar, or strolling/biking around one of Burlington’s many scenic trails. I always welcome the opportunity to talk about my work, and invite anyone with questions or comments to reach out or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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