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Learn the pros and cons of SMS and email, strategies for using both channels in a flow or campaign, and tips for how to implement these strategies.
Pros and cons of email and SMS
Email and SMS have their own advantages and disadvantages, but they complement each other when used together. Where email shines, SMS struggles, and the same is true in reverse. Below, we go over what each channel has to offer.
Email has 3 key benefits:
- Many people will sign up for email marketing
- You can send more often with email than SMS
- Email is easier to get started with
You're able to reach more people and send more often with email than SMS. Many people don't hesitate to give out their email, particularly if it's a brand they're interested in. Thus, email helps you directly reach a large portion of your target audience.
Another benefit is that you can send more often than with SMS. This allows you to frequently send updates and information to subscribers via a channel you fully own. You can quickly iterate on what works well with subscribers and then create custom messages targeted to your audience in order to build a long-lasting relationship with them.
Email has been around a long time, and most people are familiar with email sending best practices (e.g., don't send spammy messages). There are also fewer laws surrounding email, so you can a wider range of content, at more times of day, and to more people than SMS. In general, it's quicker to get up and running with email, as there's a lot less compliance to worry about.Cons
The cons of email are:
- Not all recipients read an email
- Takes longer for people to open the message
Not everyone you send an email to sees your message. A good open rate for email is typically 20%, meaning the majority of recipients might not see your message.
Of those who open the email, a fifth do so within 1 hour, and half open it within 6 hours. Thus, it can take a while for results to trickle in; there’s no immediate return.
The pros of SMS are that:
- SMS messages are seen by almost all recipients
- People who consent to SMS tend to be more highly engaged with your brand
People check their texts almost immediately after receiving them. There is a near-guarantee that recipients will see every message delivered to them within seconds. Thus, if you want to send an urgent message, SMS is the way to do it.
Those who sign up for SMS marketing from your business tend to be more invested in your brand than your average email subscriber. They are almost like your VIPs, brand enthusiasts who you can cultivate long-lasting relationships with.Cons
The cons of SMS are the opposite of the pros for email:
- Fewer people are willing to sign up for SMS
- You can't send as often
- There are more compliance regulation you have to adhere to
Fewer people are willing to give their phone number than email, so list growth is slower and you can’t reach as many via this channel.
Further, it’s better to not send as often with SMS. Since texts will send an alert to someone’s phone, if you send too frequently, your recipients may mute your messages or unsubscribe.
There are also more things to read up on before you start sending SMS. You can't send too early or late, or you risk breaking quiet hours regulations. Certain content is also prohibited for SMS, such as gambling or sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco (SHAFT).
Email and SMS consent are separate, so you must collect each individually.
With SMS, you also have to include copy that explicitly states that by signing up, the person consents to receive SMS marketing messages from your business. This is usually done via disclosure language.
Use a multi-step form
The best approach for collecting email and SMS consent is through a multi-step form.
Typically, you would collect the email as the first step, as more people will be willing to fill that out. Then, add a second step for SMS.
If a visitor only completes step one, you’ll be able to reach them via email, and can encourage them to subscribe to other channels in the future.
Targeting the 2 channels
Before sending out any messages, you should (at the very least) have:
- List of all subscribers (email and SMS)
- SMS subscribers segment
As you grow each channel, build out more segments for both email and SMS. However, you don’t want to divvy up your subscribers when you only have a few for one channel. The only exception is engagement, as you shouldn’t over-message those who haven’t recently shown interest in your brand.
Your segments for SMS and email can be almost exactly the same. In either case, you can group subscribers by profile properties, location, behavior, etc. As long as you’ve collected that data, the channel doesn’t matter; you can group subscribers and become really targeted in your messaging.
Below are some examples of segments you can create for both email and SMS, depending on your business:
With these and other advanced segments, you can become more targeted in your messaging and also learn more about your audience.
Messaging your subscribers
Regardless of whether you’re sending a campaign or setting up a flow, prioritize your SMS subscribers when messaging both channels. While your email subscribers are important and should not be neglected, giving out a phone number is more personal than an email. Thus, it is typically better to treat SMS subscribers with greater care and preference.
If all of your subscribers are supposed to get a certain message, we suggest sweetening the deal for SMS subscribers (and, if applicable, your email VIPs). For instance, you can provide a better discount, free shipping, early access, etc.
With campaigns, there are a couple more ways you can easily provide value to SMS subscribers. One way is to send the SMS campaign several hours or days ahead of the email so that SMS subscribers get the information first. Another option is to provide your SMS subscribers with exclusive information that email subscribers, site visitors, and social media followers don’t have access to.
First, let’s discuss sending the SMS campaign.
- Go to Campaigns > Create Campaign > SMS.
- Include your SMS-only segment.
While you could send to your whole list, those who are not consented for SMS will be skipped automatically. This may throw off your reports in the future, whereas sending only to the SMS segment will give you a clearer picture of how many will actually receive the text message.
Next, create an email campaign by:
- Navigating to Campaigns > Create Campaign > Email.
- Selecting your main list of subscribers or an engaged segment
- Excluding your SMS subscribers segment.
- If you don’t exclude this group, anyone with consent for both SMS and email will get the message twice. Further, since SMS subscribers are excluded, you’ll still get an accurate picture of who will receive this campaign.
When you have a flow with both emails and SMS, it’s important to remember that someone may be consented to both channels.
Thus, if you set the flow up with the SMS and email directly next to each other (as shown in the image below), someone may receive both messages at the same time. This can lead to confusion for your customers, especially if you give one channel a better offer than the other.
Instead, include splits to send anyone consented to SMS down a different path than those who have only subscribed to email. The example below shows how this setup can look.
To avoid sending too many text messages, you shouldn't send an SMS for every email you have.
We recommend using email to follow up on SMS messages. Keep track of what you offered in the SMS and email paths so your reminders make sense. Also, separate the email and SMS with a time delay (e.g., two days) and then, if applicable, a split to check if they have already performed the desired action (e.g., placed order).
We encourage you to test how your subscribers like to communicate so that you can serve up different content to your various audiences. Keep in mind that SMS and email subscribers may differ from each other; e.g., SMS subscribers might appreciate a more informal tone and more emojis compared to email subscribers. Continue to test, analyze, and optimize how you interact via each channel so that you can find what works best for your brand and audience.
- Learn more about the differences between SMS and email.
- See how to leverage Klaviyo email and SMS for a product launch.