SMS is the most underrated channel. If we consider the success rates of SMS deliverability, open rate and click rate over the past years you would understand why. Countless companies are going back to SMS in order to maintain a high frequency of engagement with their customers and reach tough geographic markets.
Even with the promising future of SMS, the questions are always the same: is it easy/budget-friendly to use this channel in my marketing campaigns? Which use cases are best suited for my business objectives? Is an SMS a medium that can deliver commercial benefits, or just a transactional one?
To answer these questions and more, let’s dive into MobileConnect, the module that enables Marketing Cloud customers to send SMS. We’ll cover the key functionalities, and the types of messages you can send using my organization, Merkle Switzerland, as a case study. Finally, we will look into the principles of SMS to keep in mind when enabling this fantastic channel.
What is MobileConnect?
MobileConnect allows you to create SMS/MMS messages within the Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Mobile Studio.
MobileConnect doesn’t actually send messages directly to the subscriber’s mobile phone, however. In order to send messages, MobileConnect pushes a message to partners, known as Aggregators, who then push the message out to the local phone Carriers via their SMS gateways, for the final delivery to the subscriber’s mobile phone.
The local carrier is often a telco company based in a specific country; therefore, it is subjected to local regulations and restrictions. So, always double-check the carrier capabilities with Salesforce and your legal department before you start to avoid wasting any time if the carriers don’t meet your business expectations.
There are common challenges along the way, which I will cover:
- Form registration for the Alpha Sender ID (the SMS ‘From Name’)
- Opt-out keyword pre-registration (STOP, UNSUBSCRIBE, etc.)
- US and CA registration forms
- Auto-messages for opt-out and opt-in pre-registration
SMS Campaign Setup in Marketing Cloud
When you get to know MobileConnect and all its out-of-the-box functionalities, you will surely end up loving it as much as I do!
I strongly recommend enabling MobileConnect in your Salesforce Marketing Cloud instance if you want to diversify your message experience, create on-demand services and ensure the best customer engagement.
- MobileConnect allows you to set up an SMS quickly and easily, thanks to the message creation wizard in Content Builder.
- Thanks to the guided options in Mobile Studio, you can generate bidirectional conversations or surveys, implement opt-in functionalities, perform progressive profiling, or to trigger emails on-demand.
- AMPScript provides you with endless personalization capabilities, too.
Mobile codes enable your Marketing Cloud instance to connect to local carriers for delivering SMS to one or more countries.
A mobile code can be relatively cheap (or expensive!) depending on the country and the type of code. Each mobile code has an associated ‘tier’, which represents the price to activate it (not necessarily determined by the type).
Today, four tiers exist:
- Tier 1: UK private long, Italy private long, Czech Republic private long, Netherlands shared short, Mexico shared short
- Tier 2: Colombia private short, Singapore private long, UAE private short
- Tier 3: UK private short, Canada private short
- Tier 4: Brazil private short, France private short, Mexico private short
Few Tier 1 codes are usually included in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Enterprise licenses, but it’s always recommended to check with Salesforce.
Long Codes vs. Short Codes
What do ‘long code’ and ‘short code’ mean? Here’s a comparison table, followed by a longer explanation:
|Long Codes (AKA international code)||Short Codes (AKA local code)|
|What they do:||Unidirectional SMS communication||Bidirectional communication. Always specific to a country. (ie. the USA, Canada, France, and others, require it to deliver messages).|
|What they’re used for:||Meaningful 1:1 conversation with customers e.g., to collect survey responses or to send out international messages.||Used for engagement campaigns, security authentication, or to send out service disruption notifications (due to their better throughput)|
|Send rate:||1 SMS per second||Up to 100 SMS per second|
|Activation period:||1-2 weeks (dependent on the country-specific activation requirements (eg. pre-registration form, documents)||From 2 to up to 12 weeks (will likely require pre-registration forms, documents and legal commitment for contents and intent)|
Enable unidirectional SMS communication, meant for meaningful 1:1 conversation with customers, e.g., to collect survey responses or to send out international messages.
Also known as international code, these can only be sent out at a rate of 1 SMS per second.
Long codes can be specific to one country or can serve multiple countries. The UK long code is widely used for international SMS campaigns.
The activation for a long code can take 1-2 weeks and it is dependent on the country-specific activation requirements (eg. pre-registration form, documents).
Long codes are usually cheaper than short codes and are very often associated with Tier 1.
Enables bidirectional communication*, and it’s always specific to a country. The USA, Canada, France, and others, require a short code to deliver messages.
*they can be used for unidirectional communication too.
Also known as local code, their activation can take from 2 to up to 12 weeks and will likely require pre-registration forms, documents, and legal commitment for contents and intents.
Short codes have better throughput and are often used for engagement campaigns, security authentication, or to send out service disruption notifications. Using a short code allows us to send up to 100 SMS per second.
Shared Codes vs Private Codes
Used by multiple companies, at the same time, to deliver SMS messages in specific countries. They are usually very quick to activate (1 week).
Their main limitation is on the availability of keywords (which I will cover shortly), due to sharing these codes with other clients; however, they do come with 5 keywords for your choice, and the opportunity to purchase 5 additional ones.
Used only by your company. They are often more expensive than shared codes. You benefit from an unlimited number of keywords and are often able to have Alpha Sender ID (From Name).
NOTE: Alpha IDs are better to represent a brand, however, users cannot respond directly to the SMS; therefore, it’s crucial to add the phone number at the bottom of the text message to allow the users to reply.
Private codes vs. shared codes – which is better?
In my experience implementing SMS with Marketing Cloud, I absolutely prefer Private codes to Shared codes. Brand identity is key. The send name is more than ever to implement a trusted, multichannel user experience. Private codes will definitely add this value to your brand.
Should You Use Keywords?
To keyword, or not to keyword?
Using short codes enables you to use keywords for bidirectional communication with your customers, handling use cases, for example:
- SMS campaign subscriptions,
- Providing services,
- Automated SMS bots.
Keywords must contain more than 3 characters and must be unique within a code. They are often displayed in all CAPS (capital letters) to be identifiable as keywords.
Tip: MobileConnect keywords are case insensitive and so can process all different versions of a word. For example, these variations would be recognized as the same word: CALLME, CallMe, callme, callmE, cAllme.
System keywords in MobileConnect that cannot be edited, assigned to any campaign, or used in an automated process. They are mostly related to opt-out management, for example:
I’ve seen brands using keywords, especially, for country-based campaigns; for example, in the United States, their keyword usage is extensive in some cases.
Keywords and bidirectional communication are powerful tools. Always keep in mind to use them only when SMS is the best communication channel for a specific country or campaign.
Remember, Marketing Cloud can offer several other options, such as Whatsapp or Line, for bidirectional communication, which perhaps fit more to a company use case.
Why Use MobileConnect?
I want to show some use cases taken from real campaigns implemented with my company, Merkle Switzerland, to provide some real insight into what MobileConnect is and what it can achieve.
The types of messages you can send are:
- Transactional messages, eg. order confirmations,
- Commercial messages, eg. product promotions,
- Security messages, eg.
- Progressive profiling, eg.
Please let me know in the comments if you are inspired by any of these, or if you have implemented use cases that are not covered in this guide.
NOTE: texts have been simplified to appear as generic as necessary
Transactional messages are widely used and easy to implement, thanks to the low level of personalization required relative to the service benefits, for example:
- Order confirmations,
- Registration confirmations,
- Appointment scheduling,
- Product delivery, shipment tracking, etc.
Commercial messages are used to engage customers in 1-to-1 conversations. Generally, the purpose should be to re-engage dormant customers; as SMS is an alternative channel to email, this may work better to engage that particular subscriber. They are used also to redirect mobile traffic to websites or to landing pages, for example:
- Promoting rewards, competitions, discounts, or advantages from a brand,
- Surveys, reviews.
Security messages can be considered as a subcategory of transactional messages, for example:
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA) codes,
- Security notifications (password expiration reminder, expiring tasks to complete,
- Guidelines containing useful links to web resources,
- Message sending limits exceeded.
A clever way to use bidirectional codes is to implement data enrichment campaigns, known as progressive profiling, that have the purpose of collecting customer interests or demographic data, based on what is missing from their record in your database.
The system processes a campaign in different waves, requesting only the missing information every time, and skipping questions if the data is already in the database.
We’ve seen a high success rate for these campaigns, especially where the questions have been funny or short, generating the interest of the customers.
SMS Marketing Principles
I’m usually over-excited when brainstorming about customer engagement, no matter the channel, no matter the industry, therefore I strongly believe MobileConnect to be a crucial asset for whoever implements Marketing Cloud and dreams about multichannel marketing, all in one platform. However, channels and industries are key factors to be considered. When drafting journeys and messages, also consider the message frequency, target audiences, and personalization. SMS as a marketing channel, especially, comes with a set of best practices and mandatory contents to apply, that is always important to follow to ensure worldwide compliance.
To help you remind yourself of these principles every time you set up a campaign, use this checklist:
- Get the permission to send messages to your users, which can be by global subscription or ad-hoc campaign opt-in,
- Be clear about your campaign/program,
- Clarify the frequency of messages you will send. The opt-in of a user should be oriented by this. Complaints regarding message frequency can force a local carrier to stop your service,
- Include disclaimers such as message and data rates when your users reply to your messages,
- Provide an opt-out option, always! It can be through an inbound SMS triggered by the user, or through an external link to a web preference center. Some countries require an opt-out keyword and the possibility of doing it directly from an SMS.
Before enabling a new marketing channel in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, organizations should first consider if they have strong use cases, especially if they plan to do it as a global roll-out.
A good practice is to start with marketing use cases for SMS, which involve unidirectional SMS and a small scope of countries. This will build your confidence with creating SMS messages, configuring a journey, personalization with basic fields, and the data required to be able to deliver an SMS.
Personally, I find the SMS world fascinating. Though it has been around for some time, it is still so effective, in terms of deliverability, engagement, and reach.
Again, please let me know in the comments if you are inspired by any of these, or if you have implemented use cases that are not covered in this guide!