SMTP vs. SMS: Whats best?
No doubt about it: We live in a mobile world. A recent PEW Internet study (The Mobile Difference, March 25, 2009) found that 39 percent of consumers have increased their use of and improved their attitudes about mobile communication devices. This is good news for savvy e-marketers who understand the unique characteristics of reaching consumers effectively via cell phones or other wireless devices. But in the area of text marketing, a debate has been brewing: Is it best to send messages to consumers via SMTP or SMPP?
SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) was developed primarily as a method to send email messages. Using SMTP, marketers basically send emails to cell phone numbers. To consumers, the messages look just like texts. And like emails, there are no fees for delivering SMTP messages.
Using SMPP (Short Message Peer-to-Peer Protocol) to exchange SMS (Short Message Service) messages, marketers send true text messages, routed through cell phone carriers. There is a fee charged for each message sent.
So, with consumers not being able to tell the difference between the two, and one imposing no delivery fees, what's the debate? It looks like SMTP would be the easy choice. Maybe not. Many experts recommend caution when using SMTP for text marketing. Some considerations:
Delivery concerns Because SMTP messages aren't routed through cell phone carriers (they are routed through email networks), they are more likely not to be delivered. Carriers have the discretion to accept SMTP generated messages, but monitor these connections to protect their customers from unsolicited messages and commercial traffic. Carriers can easily stop messages they deem questionable, with no notice given to the sender. Also, priority likely goes to SMPP messages, which earn carriers delivery fees something SMTP messages don't provide.
When the consumer moves the phone number to a new carrier or the carrier changes domain name addresses (i.e. Cingular and ATT), that old email address used to reach the cell phone via text is DEAD! Legal concerns SMTP messages fall under CAN SPAM requirements pertaining to email, meaning you must have permission to send commercial messages. And even if you have prior permission, consumers may still think your text message is spam and report you. SMPP messaging comes with protections for businesses unfairly accused of spamming.
Reputation concerns Anyone considering text marketing must understand the tactic and use it carefully. The primary benefit of text marketing the ability to reach consumers on the go can quickly backfire if they feel they are being interrupted with unwanted or irrelevant messages. There's no quicker way to ruin a company's reputation.