Why push notifications are better than SMS

The following is a guest blog by our CEO, Julie Bray. It was first published on First5000.com.au.

Is your business still sending SMS to communicate with staff or clients? It may be time to consider a messaging app that is both more efficient and cost-effective.

With more than 30 million mobile phones in the hands of Australians, the debate to go mobile is over. Your business must communicate with your customers and staff with the method they use the most – their mobile phone.

In fact, that’s more phones than people. Australia’s current population is 23 million. Research shows that 90 percent of those own a smartphone and Forrester Research predicts mobile ownership to be at saturation point in only a few short years.

Mobile communication provides opportunities for marketing, customer engagement, internal communications, along with many other operational uses within a business.

Whether you use SMS or push notifications, developing a strategy is a real advantage for your business. First, distinguish the differences between the two options and then target your resources.

SMS has been with us for more than 20 years now. It’s a short message sent directly to or from a mobile phone number.

And if you have a smartphone, you are likely the daily recipient of push notifications through household apps like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, even if you don’t know the term. Basically, push notifications send messages directly to your phone. The difference is they are messages sent by installed applications on your smartphone device.

How to choose the best messaging service for your business

Apps and push notifications go hand in hand. Not all apps use push notifications but many do. It’s a way for an application to send you messages, even if you are not using the app at the time.

As a business, getting your message across is one of the most critical things you need to achieve to win customers, keep staff and maintain loyalty, or as I prefer to think of it, maintaining relationships.

Use SMS when you need a broad reach. Everyone with a mobile phone has a number. It can generate leads and has potential for customers who don’t regularly engage with your brand.

SMS works across all mobile phones whether they are smartphones or not. It’s important to note though, that by law customers need to opt-in to receive your SMSs so it’s crucial you have processes around how people can opt-out.

Use push notifications when you have an engaged audience – customers who regularly buy your product or service, or for staff. They need to download your app, but it gives you the opportunity to send relevant, targeted messages and content to people.

Take a look at your own phone. It’s likely that you have your bank app, a social networking app and perhaps one or two businesses (think eBay or realestate.com.au). You probably downloaded the app because you regularly use their services or product and want to get your needs met – fast – each time you go back.

Apps can provide targeted personalised messages. Plus, push notifications can be less intrusive than SMS. Messages can be delivered silently to a user's phone. They'll see the message next time they pick up their phone but it won't interrupt what they're doing when it's sent.

In a business context, this is good news. Having the flexibility to send messages with or without sound gives companies control over the delivery of urgent versus non-urgent messages. Plus users have the ability to change their settings so that they receive notifications in the way they want.

With SMS there’s a risk of sending irrelevant messages and being blocked. Equally, a poor experience with an app that doesn’t deliver, can be deleted.

If you need to share newsletters, images or links to video, then an app with push notifications is a good approach. Users can receive a push notification each time there is a new message, then open the app to access the information. Related information is all kept in one spot and can be referred back to. An app allows you to provide richer content versus SMS.

What’s the cost?

There is a cost consideration too. SMS is charged per message whereas push notifications use very negligible amounts of data that is a fraction of the cost of an SMS, or even no cost. Some businesses have saved thousands in SMS expenses by turning to a push notification system. One client who regularly sent SMS to nursing staff saved more than $15,000 a year after switching to a messaging app.

The expense to consider is whether you decide to develop your own app or pay a subscription to use an existing application. Messaging solutions for business vary in price depending on the size of your business and start from $3,000 per year.

What matters most is the message and the experience

Regardless of your mobile communication choice, it's important to get the content, frequency and volume of your messaging right. Too many non-critical or irrelevant messages will quickly cause your audience to switch off notifications or delete your app.

Whether you choose to use SMS, push notifications (or both!), with people checking their phones on average every 30 minutes, it’s clear that mobile messaging is a valuable way to reach your audience.