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SMS messaging in a digital world

The way we communicate is constantly changing. We've gone from using smoke signals, telegrams and radio broadcasts to instant messaging, social media and RCS. And while how we communicate keeps changing, the one thing that hasn't (and probably never will) is our need to communicate important information quickly.

This is exactly why SMS remains one of the most valuable tools in the communication space. Fast-forward 20 years from the first SMS, and SMS messaging has developed into a billion dollar industry with ever-evolving uses. Yes, the way we use SMS has changed, we don't really use it for person-to-person (P2P) communication anymore. It's not the go-to application to let your family know you'll be late for dinner and it's most certainly not the way millennials are communicating with each other on a daily basis. SMS has evolved into a very effective and efficient communications channel for business - where businesses are sending substantially more text messages than individuals ever did.

If we take a look at the numbers, we can see why. Ninety-eight percent of text messages are read within three minutes of being received. SMSes also have a 45% response rate, which is very high when compared to other business communications channels, like e-mail. So, where and how is SMS being used?

The reality is that SMS is a simple technology that can be easily integrated into complex systems. One could almost say that it's the "old tech" that is underpinning and enabling the "new tech", which is why transactional or application-to-person (A2P) messages are on the rise. These are the SMSes your bank sends you when you use your credit card or the SMSes that you receive reminding you of your dental appointment.

According to MobileSquared, this type of A2P messaging is set to increase by 68% from 2017 to 2022. We've also seen A2P messaging being used to meet more innovative communication needs. For example, one of our clients, E-bee, uses our SMS API to monitor activity in beehives. In this case, SMS messages are automatically sent via the E-bee server to the beekeeper's mobile, ensuring the beehives remain healthy and maintained at all times.

SMSes are also often automated and sent not just by or to people, but by and to machines as well, that is machine-to-person (M2P) and machine-to-machine (M2M) messaging. We see it being used to help manage and streamline business processes, from monitoring, alerting or sending important information to customers - we receive constant feedback from businesses about how integrations are freeing up valuable time, resources and offering a substantial cost benefit. Take a look at how the University of Minnesota is using our API for machine-to-machine messaging to monitor research laboratory equipment.

But how has SMS remained so relevant in the face of other digital platforms and emerging technologies?

Simple: the answer lies in the very nature of a text message.

1. It is reliable. Unlike data and Internet connections that get interrupted or are occasionally unavailable. SMS is a dependable platform to send out important information, making it the ideal tool for businesses to communicate critical and time-sensitive information.

2. SMSes are read. SMS is short and boasts a 98% read rate.

3. SMS is ubiquitous. Unlike most other instant messaging apps and social chat platforms, SMS is not an app and does not need to be downloaded or updated. It's available to everyone with a mobile phone and they know how to use it.

4. SMSes are paid for. And because of this, they tend to provide valuable content that is relevant to the recipient. And if you think about it, that creates a virtuous circle, because it's paid for, there are lower volumes on the channel, lower volumes means it's more likely to be read, therefore it is used for more important information, which means the content will be relevant and read, and so the cycle continues.

5. SMS is versatile. It has so many different uses and can be sent in so many different ways.

6. SMS offers more privacy for the recipient. SMS doesn't give the message sender the chance to see your profile picture, to see where you're living or whether or not you have, in fact, read the message. SMS respects your clients' privacy, while still sending them the important information they need.

So, in closing, in a digital world where we are becoming more and more reliant on technology, with its versatility and reliability, the simple SMS has evolved beyond its original use and remains as effective and practical as it has always been.