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How is COVID-19 changing our message?

As COVID-19 continues to spread across borders and countries, companies are changing the way they communicate with their customers and teams. It's no longer business-as-usual messaging notifying us of sales specials or monthly payment reminders; we're now getting SMSes telling us to "stay inside and stay healthy".

As a bulk SMS provider, it's been interesting to watch this change unfold. We've seen how SMS has become one of the primary tools in communicating time-sensitive, critical information to the masses globally, and across all sectors during this pandemic - from government to retail and NGOs to SMEs.

For example, government departments are sending weekly SMSes to thousands of mobile phone users, updating them on everything from lockdown rules to how to wash your hands. Many people in the UK received an SMS from the government reiterating guidelines to stay at home. This message also included a Web link for further information and was signed off with: "Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives."

Retailers have gone from sending promotional and marketing messages to sending SMSes to their customers informing them of special opening times and updates on the restrictions they have in-store. For example, a large South African retailer recently sent an SMS informing their customers that they have special check-out points allocated for essential workers, the elderly and the disabled to ensure a quick and easy shopping experience for high-risk shoppers.

Healthcare and insurance providers have teamed up to offer online doctors' consultations for anyone who think they may have contracted the virus. Recently, a simple SMS was sent from a private healthcare insurance company to thousands of mobile phone users in South Africa with a link to an online COVID-19 info hub. The Web site also allows you to book a virtual medical assessment if you suspect that you have been infected.

Some NGOs are losing corporate funding and are looking to SMS as a simple and cost-effective way to help generate donations in these uncertain times. From donation lines to simple, genuine pleas for help, SMS is a tried and tested fundraising tool used by NGOs around the world.

And lastly, corporates and SMEs are using SMS to stay in touch with their teams. From meeting reminders, lockdown updates, sending informative PDFs, to two-way communication and helplines, SMS is enabling reliable internal communication at a low cost.

In these uncertain times, we're committed to doing our part in enabling our customers when it comes to keeping their communities informed and up to date. SMS is a powerful tool, and it is encouraging to see it being used for such good in times of crisis.