What does the future hold for SMS?

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What does the future hold for SMS?

By Neil Chalk
Product Manager, 15below

A simple browse of my phone reveals the selection of channels my friends, family and colleagues use to contact me is now wider than ever. WhatsApp, email, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and Slack are just a few of the platforms I receive messages through on a daily basis.

One channel that has dropped off the radar when it comes to personal messaging in recent years is SMS. What was once the primary method of communication for mobile users – if we ignore voice calls – is now something of an afterthought.

So does this mean SMS is dying? No. In fact, quite the opposite is true. It might not be surprising that I don’t send or receive many SMS messages anymore, but there is one type of communication that is driving SMS in the modern era: Application to Person (ATP).

If you’re anything like me, most of your SMS messages are now more likely to be from the doctors, bank, local takeaway, train operator or grocery delivery company than your husband, wife or best friend.

There are already more than 1.7 trillion ATP SMS messages sent each year and this is predicted to rise to 2.8 trillion by 2022.

The reason for this is incredibly simple. Mobile ownership is now so widespread that SMS has become the go-to baseline technology for businesses and service providers looking to connect with their audiences as it captures everybody from tech-savvy consumers to laggards. It’s perfect for mass market communications.

What’s more, the open and read rates for SMS are simply phenomenal in comparison with email. A massive 98% of people will read a branded business text message. This makes SMS perfect for time-sensitive offers, marketing and important messages.

SMS is also great for signing up to alerts, whether it’s a train timetable using a code for the station or flight status alerts. One simple text and travellers can have the information they require in their hands. It's easy for the traveller to use and easy for the travel provider to automate in a timely fashion - a rare business win-win.

Additionally, SMS is not all about messaging. Here at 15below, we also use SMS to create and send one-time passwords that can be used to supplement more advanced channels, such as smartphone apps, to verify and authenticate users.

This two-factor authentication is becoming a security standard and SMS makes use of the ‘something someone has’ principle without requiring dedicated hardware.

It’s clear to me that while SMS has fallen behind instant messenger tools and other apps in terms of Person to Person messaging, it will continue to be increasingly relied upon by organisations looking to send ATP messages to large audiences, particularly those with varied demographics or in instances when time sensitivity is a consideration.

And if the signs that it will become a crucial verification and authentication tool for security providers are accurate too, reports of the demise of SMS will surely prove to be premature.


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