When to Use SMS Marketing vs Email Marketing

If you haven’t adopted SMS marketing, now might be the time. The benefits of SMS marketing are numerous, and businesses are seeing success with it. But you shouldn’t throw out all your traditional ways of marketing right away. 

While SMS marketing is the fastest-growing marketing channel in the world, we believe that email is still an effective marketing channel as well. And rather than choosing one over the other, combining your email marketing strategy with SMS is likely to 2X your marketing effectiveness. 

We’ll explain why and how — starting with the case for email marketing. 

Is Email Marketing Still Effective?

The average email open rate across industries is 21%. And according to MailChimp, the average click-through rate for an email marketing campaign is around 3%. That may not seem significant, but it could be depending on the size of your email marketing list. 

Email marketing, once the undisputed digital marketing champion, has faced challenges in recent years due to declining engagement rates. Consumers are more savvy at spotting and filtering out promotional emails. This decline in engagement has prompted marketers to reevaluate their email strategies.

Regardless, email is still a top marketing channel for many reasons. 

Why Email Marketing Is Still Important

According to recent research we conducted, 63% of businesses use an email marketing platform — that’s more than any other marketing tool out there. That’s because email is still effective at influencing consumer decisions. According to another survey of over a thousand online shoppers, when asked what influences their buying decision, email comes first.

Pros of email marketing: 

  • Versatility: Email marketing allows for creativity and personalization with unlimited space for content, making it ideal for newsletters, long-form content, and detailed product descriptions.
  • Automation: Many email marketing platforms offer advanced automation features, allowing you to send targeted messages based on behavior and demographics, increasing the relevance of your emails.
  • Cost-Effective: Email marketing is often more cost-effective than SMS marketing, especially when dealing with a large subscriber list. Some pricing models for SMS will charge you by the text. 

Cons of email marketing: 

  • Declining Engagement Rates: As mentioned, email open rates are declining. Though not at a significant rate to warrant concern just yet, it is a consideration for future marketing strategies. 
  • Spam Filters: Emails often end up in spam folders, reducing their visibility and effectiveness. And if you use Google, promotional emails can be automatically bucketed into a “Promotions” folder and never looked at. 

Delayed Communication: Unlike SMS, emails are not as immediate, which can be a drawback for time-sensitive promotions.

chart of email marketing click through rates over time

Why SMS Marketing Is on the Rise

SMS marketing, slow to take off, has emerged as a powerful tool for businesses to connect with their audience. According to MobileSquared, 90% of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes of being received, with response rates well over that of email. As a result, these engagement rates have captured the interest of marketers worldwide.

But are consumers open to text from businesses?

Consumer sentiment is a crucial factor in determining the effectiveness of any marketing strategy. One study by Grand View Research found that 75% of consumers prefer texting customer support over interacting via phone or social media. Other research shows this preference translates to promotional content too, with 90% of consumers saying they would sign up to receive text messages from businesses.  

However, it’s essential to respect their preferences and provide easy opt-out options —- in fact, it’s legally required.

SMS Compliance Guide

Learn how to properly get SMS opt-in from your customers

Pros of SMS marketing: 

  • High Open and Engagement Rates: As mentioned, SMS messages have incredibly high open rates, making them an ideal channel for time-sensitive promotions and announcements. SMS marketing ensures your message reaches your audience promptly.
  • Instant Delivery: SMS messages are delivered instantly, ensuring your marketing content reaches recipients in real-time. This immediacy is especially advantageous for promotions during flash sales or urgent updates.
  • Easy to Track ROI: Hallelujah! A marketing strategy that is as straightforward as can be in tracking. Create a custom UTM URL to add to your texts and you’ll know exactly how many clicks you’ve received and purchases that have come from it. 
  • Opt-in Audience: SMS marketing often requires users to double opt-in, meaning you are reaching an audience that is already interested in your products or services, increasing the chances of conversions.

Cons of SMS marketing: 

  • Character Limitations: SMS messages have a strict character limit (usually 160 characters), which can be challenging for conveying detailed information or lengthy messages. So you may have to get savvy in how you communicate, being brief, concise, and to the point. More on best practices for crafting SMS messages here
  • Compliance & Privacy Concerns: Overzealous SMS marketing can lead to privacy concerns and annoy customers if not managed carefully. It’s important to obtain explicit consent from users and provide opt-out options.
  • Getting Subscribers: Unlike email, people are very hesitant to give out their phone numbers to just anyone. It can take a significant incentive to get consumers to subscribe — and only those who truly like you will stay opted-in. 

Examples of When to Use SMS vs Email

So, which is better, SMS marketing or email marketing? The answer isn’t a clear-cut one. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and the best strategy is often a combination of the two. Here’s why you should consider using both text and email marketing strategies:

  • Diverse Reach: SMS and email marketing cater to different preferences. Some people prefer quick, concise SMS messages, while others prefer the depth and visual appeal of emails. By using both, you cover a broader spectrum of audience preferences.
  • Enhanced Engagement: SMS can grab immediate attention, making it perfect for flash sales or limited-time offers. Email, on the other hand, allows for more extensive storytelling and nurturing customer relationships over time.
  • Complementary Effect: SMS and email marketing can complement each other. For instance, you can use SMS to alert customers about a sale and follow up with a detailed email containing product descriptions and reviews.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Using both channels allows you to gather more comprehensive data on customer behavior and preferences, which can inform your future marketing strategies.

When to Use SMS Marketing

SMS marketing makes the most sense for time-sensitive communications. It’s also ideal for loyal customers who love your brand, product, or service and for communications that can be quickly and easily communicated in fewer words. Overall, SMS is better for the following types of communications: 

  • Time-Sensitive: SMS is ideal for delivering urgent and time-sensitive texts such as urgent promotions, appointment reminders, order and shipping updates, emergency notifications, and other important alerts. 
  • Short and Concise: When your message is short and straightforward, such as announcing a store closure or changes in business hours, SMS is more efficient in delivering the message quickly.
  • Customer-Specific: It’s harder to come up with text message ideas for people who aren’t your customers. If they are your customer you have a lot more information about them to be able to send them personalized messages — and they’ll be more open to them.
  • Location-Based: If you’ve got a phone number, you’ve got an area code. It makes it easier to target customers in specific locations with promotions that are relevant to their geographic region. Even better if you also have their zip code!

Get Started with SMS Marketing

A comprehensive guide on how to start and scale your SMS marketing services

When to Use Email Marketing

Use email marketing when you’ve got more information you need to share or information that the customer might like to save and reference later. It’s also better to use email to nurture customers who are new to your brand, product, or service in a less intrusive way. Use email for communications that involve: 

  • Detailed Information: When you need to provide comprehensive information, such as long-form content, product descriptions, educational content, videos, or lots of images, email is the better choice due to its unlimited character space and customizable formatting. 
  • Nurturing Leads: Email has been proven effective at lead nurturing. It’s easier to set up a series of automated emails to educate prospects and guide them through the sales funnel. Then once they convert, get them to subscribe to SMS communications!
  • Larger Lists: When dealing with a large subscriber list, email is generally more cost-effective than SMS. Most email marketing platforms don’t charge you based on the number of emails you send.
  • Less Urgent Announcements: If the message doesn’t require immediate attention and isn’t critical to communicate, email is a more relaxed and suitable channel for consumers to digest content on their own time. 

Combining SMS marketing with email marketing should be your ultimate strategy

In a debate between SMS marketing vs. email marketing, there’s no clear winner. The effectiveness of each channel depends on your specific goals, target audience, and the nature of your products or services. Instead of choosing one over the other, savvy marketers are harnessing the power of both SMS and email marketing to create a more holistic and engaging customer experience.

As marketing professionals in an agency or corporate setting, it’s vital to adapt to the changing landscape of digital marketing. By embracing both SMS and email marketing strategies, you can maximize your reach, engage customers on multiple fronts, and stay ahead in the competitive world of digital marketing. 

Why choose one when you can have the best of both worlds? It’s time to strike the perfect balance and reap the rewards of a well-rounded marketing approach.

GatherUp Makes SMS Marketing Easy, Affordable, & Compliant

GatherUp extends the impact of SMS marketing by combining your SMS marketing strategy with your reputation management. The people most likely to opt-in to your SMS marketing are the ones who love you! With GatherUp, you can capture customer feedback and review data that makes it easy to identify the customers who love you and automatically enroll them in your SMS marketing. 

Then you can send targeted text campaigns, track performance, and glean valuable insights to drive better customer experiences. Using GatherUp for your SMS marketing needs allows you to: 

  • Easily obtain written explicit consent to build and maintain a compliant SMS subscriber list 
  • Create segmented lists of customers for more personalized communications
  • Test and schedule messages to improve engagement rates 
  • Use customer feedback and insights to inform your SMS campaign strategy 
  • Incorporate Net Promoter Score data to identify and win back your detractors, thank your promoters, and influence your neutrals 

To learn how GatherUp can support an SMS marketing strategy for your local business or agency clients, book a demo with us today. 



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