SMS stands for Short Message Service, but it is so much more than that. With 23 billion SMS messages sent per day (that’s 16 million per minute) SMS is an unmissable communication opportunity for your business, and if you’re not taking part, you’re missing out. Find out everything you need to know about what is SMS, how SMS compares with other communication methods, and how your business can benefit in our four-minute read. 

More on SMS

SMS (or Short Message Service) is commonly referred to as text messaging and involves exchanging up to 160 alpha-numeric characters of text between mobile devices over a cellular network. Invented back in the ‘80s, the first SMS message wasn’t sent until 3rd December 1992 (wishing Richard Jarvis a Merry Christmas on his Orbitel 901), but it was well worth the wait - sparking 27 years’ joy of messages, LOLs and emoticons. Nowadays, SMS is supported by all mobile phones and network carriers, without any additional downloads and, in many cases, spend. 

How does SMS compare with other communication channels?

You’d be forgiven for thinking of SMS as a little old school - something that kids in the early 00s would send from their Nokia 3310 before smashing a new record on Snake. But the simplicity and power of SMS messages make them a strong contender in any communication channel battle - let’s take a look. 


MMS is short for Multimedia Messaging Service and uses SMS technology to send up to 300KB of multimedia content, such as photos, audio and contacts. MMS messages were popular in the 00s, used as a means to send media before OTT applications entered the scene, but they have also received a lot of negative press thanks to their (often unexpected) cost. While they extend the character limit of SMS messages, they also defeat the clear, cost-effective and to-the-point beauty of SMS messages, making them very much second best. 


OTT stands for Over the Top applications, but you’ll more commonly refer to these as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger or WeChat. OTT messaging sends and receives data using IP (internet protocols) via WiFi or mobile internet. While popular among smartphone users, OTT applications require both the sender and recipient to download the same app, have an active internet connection and switch on their notifications. This limits their potential when compared against SMS messages which require no download, use no WiFi and sneak through anyone’s digital detox.  

SMS vs email

We’re sure from your overflowing inbox that you know exactly what email is, but how does it compare with SMS? While email allows you to send much more information to your audience, it also comes with much more chance of being unread, skimmed or, even worse, sent to the spam bin. Compare that with the 90% open rate of SMS messages, and suddenly SMS doesn’t seem so outdated.

What can SMS be used for?

So you’re clear on what SMS is (and you’ve no doubt used it yourself), but other than texting Rich a Merry Christmas, what can SMS be used for in your business?


SMS marketing is a powerful way to communicate promotions, sales and offers to current and potential customers. It cuts through the cat videos on Facebook, the GIFs on WhatsApp and the ads on Googles, to deliver personalised messages straight to your audience. And, with 86% of consumer purchases being influence by personalisation, this translates into increased sales and more profit. 


SMS communications are also ideal for reminding your customers about appointments, MOTs, expiring loyalty credits and more. Not only do SMS messages speak to your audience in an inbox reserved for personal one-to-one conversations, but the instant SMS message alert brings their attention directly to what you have to say, on a platform where they can take action immediately by clicking your link. 


A shocking £1.6 billion is lost by UK businesses each year due to missed deliveries, which is why SMS alerts generate so much ROI. You can use SMS messages to share delivery times, inform your audience about important news or simply keep your customer updated throughout their journey with you. 

What is SMS and why is it so powerful - final thoughts

SMS is more than the humble text message. It’s an opportunity to connect with your audience on a personal, one-to-one basis, sharing important information on a platform that they love so much, they spend a quarter of their day on it. Be different, be effective - use SMS.