SMS Marketing Vs. Email Marketing

by | Mar 25, 2024 | Blog, Email Marketing

When it comes to capturing your target audience’s attention, SMS marketing and Email marketing stand out as two of the most powerful tools in a digital marketer’s arsenal.

As an eCommerce business owner, you’re likely wondering which marketing channel you should prioritize your efforts to maximize your brand’s impact. Email marketing has been around for decades and is a reliable way to communicate with customers and future prospects. SMS marketing is a newer but growing channel that utilizes text messages to connect with your customers right on their mobile phones.

Let’s take a closer look at the nuances of SMS marketing and email marketing to help you make an informed decision on which marketing method most aligns with your business goals.

Understanding SMS Marketing

SMS marketing, also known as text message marketing, thrives on the immediacy and intimacy of communication via text messages. It’s a communication channel where promotional messages, offers, and/or alerts are sent directly to your customers’ mobile phones. SMS marketing began just over 20 years ago, in 2003, shortly after the first commercial mobile SMS service was launched. With people on their smartphones more than ever, the channel has really taken off in the past few years in the United States. In 2023, SMS marketing reached a staggering valuation of $31.7 billion, or 6.2% of the market.

Pros of SMS Marketing

Want to capture your audience’s attention? An SMS marketing campaign is a great way to go about it. Here are some pros to utilizing SMS messages to promote your brand:

  • High Open Rates: Think about it—when have you not opened a text? You open the ones you don’t even want to open. That’s why SMS marketing campaigns have an average open rate of 98%. In comparison, email marketing has an average open rate of 20%.
  • Fast Response Rate: 90 seconds. That’s the average response time for SMS marketing campaigns. In comparison to 90 minutes for email marketing campaigns, this is nothing to laugh at.
  • High Conversion Rates: With an average conversion rate of 29%, you can really maximize your profits on your time-sensitive promotional offers.
  • Cost-Effective Pricing: Depending on your list size and SMS marketing platform, SMS messaging is a cost-effective channel, only charging 5 to 15 cents per SMS. If you’re a small business, this is a cost-effective way to communicate with your customers.
  • Higher Deliverability: Text messages are less likely to be flagged as spam than their email counterparts, with a spam rate of 3% in SMS vs. 85% in email. This is because when you use SMS marketing, there are much fewer spam filters in comparison to email marketing campaigns.
  • Enhance Customer Loyalty: Use SMS to build trust with your audience through genuine, two-way communication and customer engagement. SMS marketing is inherently more interactive than email marketing (which does not allow replies), so send personalized messages, ask questions, and provide polls to connect with your audience.

SMS marketing messages are unparalleled in their ability to capture your customer’s attention in real time. If your business is promoting a time-sensitive flash sale, asking for customer feedback, or sending an appointment reminder, SMS marketing will ensure that your message lands directly in the palm of your customers’ hands (quite literally)!

Cons of SMS Marketing

Now that we’ve explored the positives, let’s take a look at the disadvantages of SMS marketing.

  • Limited Character Constraints: Text messages have a 160-character limit, meaning you need to be concise with your messaging. This leaves you little room for complex or detailed information.
  • Limited Visual Options: When using SMS, you can only attach one image up to 500KB for each message that you send. This gives you limited visual options in comparison to email, where you can beautifully design the HTML to fit your brand’s messaging.
  • Strict Opt-In Requirements: SMS marketing campaigns require explicit opt-in from customers, as your business can face legal action in several parts of the world if you text someone who has not permitted you to send them marketing materials via SMS. No cold texting!
  • More Intrusive Than Email: Remember how almost all SMS messages get opened (98%)? This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your message. If your SMS marketing is poorly executed, it can feel intrusive for your customers, and you’ll have higher opt-out rates. Keep in mind that the industry average opt-out rate for SMS is 5% when figuring out the right cadence to send to your audience. Make sure to send messages that are relevant and valuable to your customers. And make sure to always add a line that says, “Text STOP to unsubscribe.”

In short, SMS is not the right communication channel to push out long-form content or visual messaging to your audience because of its built-in constraints. You don’t want to repurpose your email or social media content for SMS, as it is a much different channel. SMS marketing is best used for time-sensitive offers, promotions, and reminders, as well as interactive campaigns that can get feedback from your customer base.

Understanding Email Marketing

Email marketing is a versatile and reliable platform for building brand awareness, nurturing leads, and driving conversions with your audience. With its flexibility in design, extensive segmentation options, and measurable analytics, email marketing is a marketing channel that provides a uniquely high return on investment. The first email marketing campaign was sent in 1978, a mere 7 years after the first email was ever sent in 1971, and yielded $13 million in sales. In 2023, email marketing reached a valuation of ~$11 billion, and it is predicted to grow to $17.9 billion by 2027. People expect email marketing campaigns, as they have been widely used by businesses for the past 40+ years, while SMS marketing is much newer. While the average open rate of emails hovers around 20%, strategic segmentation and compelling content can improve conversion rates, build brand loyalty, and increase your return on investment.

Pros of Email Marketing:

Let’s talk about the advantages of email marketing.

  • High Return on Investment: Email’s greatest strength is its return on investment. Compared to higher-cost marketing channels like direct marketing and paid advertising, your upfront costs are much lower. And with the right email marketing strategy, you can expect up to $42 for every $1 you spend on email, compared to $10 for every $1 you spend on SMS marketing campaigns. If you’re doing it right, you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck through email.
  • Large Reach: Did you know that 4 billion people use email worldwide? You can’t email all of them, but you can find your niche. Email service providers (ESPs) like Klaviyo and Hubspot allow you to send to many people simultaneously. Depending on your email list size, you can reach anywhere from 1,000 to 100,000 to 1,000,000 consumers at the same time.
  • Easier Opt-In: Generally, it is easier to get someone to join your email list than to join your SMS list. Consumers subscribe to email newsletters all the time through “lead magnets,”  which usually offer a discount or giveaway in exchange for subscribing to your newsletter. While the same strategy works with SMS, the opt-in rates are generally higher with email. Plus, there are less stringent regulations around email marketing campaigns; you are legally allowed to send cold emails in the United States (as long as you include an unsubscribe link), giving you a wider reach.
  • Flexibility in Content: Unlike SMS marketing, there is no limit to the number of characters or images you can put into your email marketing campaigns. This makes email marketing great for delivering long-form content as well as branded emails with heavy graphic design elements. Email marketing campaigns can be whatever you want them to be. If your audience responds better to shorter, more concise messaging, email gives you the flexibility to do that too.
  • Easy Tracking & Measurable Analytics: Email marketing platforms track all sorts of metrics like open rate, click rate, click-through rate (CTR), bounce rate, and unsubscribe rate that can help you optimize future email messages so you can maximize your return on investment. Having access to all these measurable analytics will help you understand your target audience and make better business decisions. Plus, with the right integrations, you can track valuable metrics like who has and hasn’t placed orders after opening your emails.
  • Targeted Messaging Through Segmentation: What can you do with all of these metrics? Create more targeted messaging through segmentation. Email service providers allow you to segment your contact list and send targeted messages to specific groups based on their consumer behavior (clicks, opens, purchases, and more). Segmentation also allows you to suppress specific groups who don’t want to receive different messages, like users who have recently purchased your products or users who haven’t opened your emails in a long time. Segmentation allows you to intentionally communicate with all the different parts of your target audience.
  • Cons of Email Marketing:
  • Now that we’ve covered the benefits of email marketing as a channel, let’s take a hard look at some of the disadvantages.
  • Deliverability Issues: Just because someone signed up for your email and you’re sending it to them doesn’t mean it will end up in their inbox. The deliverability rate for email as a channel is 81%, meaning 1 in five emails never gets to an inbox. Many factors can affect deliverability, including the caliber of the email service provider, the quality of the email list, the frequency of the emails, the company domain, and others.
  • Over-Saturation: How many of your emails do you read? Customers’ inboxes are flooded with more than 100 emails daily on average, and most of them are promotional. The average open rate for email as a channel is only 20%, meaning that even if your email makes it to the intended inbox, there is only a 1 in 5 chance it will be opened and read. This means less visibility and engagement than some other channels that are less saturated.
  • Spam Filters: Email providers like Outlook, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail have spam filters that protect users from unsolicited messaging. Even if your users have opted in, your emails can end up in spam folders if they don’t pass these filters. You can test whether your email will pass spam filters here.
  • One-Way Communication: Unlike SMS marketing, email is not a two-way marketing tool. Most email messages can’t be replied to, which gives you less room to work with to directly engage with your audience. This doesn’t mean marketing emails can’t be interactive, as you can still include links to interactive polls and surveys that can help you connect with your target audience.
  • Longer Response Times: Users usually respond to emails in 90 minutes, versus responding to SMS messages in 90 seconds. This means limited immediacy if you are pushing out time-sensitive messaging.

Best Use Cases of SMS Vs. Email Marketing

Still scratching your head on how to use SMS vs. email marketing? 

Think about what you’re trying to say with an upcoming marketing campaign, and see which table it fits more into.

SMS MarketingEmail Marketing
Limited-time discounts or offersNewsletters
Promote one productPromote multiple products
Feedback or review requestsCompany news or press
Time-sensitive updates or alertsNot time-sensitive updates
B2C campaignsB2B campaigns with technical information
Donation requestsHighly visually branded B2C announcements
Appointment reminders and confirmationsLong-form content (educational, B2B, B2G, or other)
Two-way communicationOne-way communication

Remember, you can use both types of marketing effectively. Some campaigns are better suited for SMS (donation requests, limited-time discounts) and some campaigns are better suited for email (newsletters, long-form educational content). It’s about finding the right balance and cadence for each.

Choosing the Right Channel for Your Business

As you weigh the pros and cons of SMS marketing and email marketing, it’s essential to consider your business objectives, target audience preferences, and the nature of your various marketing campaigns.

Are you aiming for immediate engagement and real-time communication? If so, SMS marketing may be the ideal choice for delivering time-sensitive promotions and personalized messages.

On the other hand, if your goal is to nurture leads, share long-form content, or reach a broader audience with newsletters, email marketing offers the versatility and scalability you need.

At eAccountable, we understand the complexities of digital marketing and the importance of choosing the right channel to maximize your marketing efforts. As an award-winning digital marketing agency, our experienced creative team specializes in helping businesses leverage both email and SMS marketing to enhance brand visibility, boost engagement, and drive growth.

Interested in learning more? Drop us a line here for a free consultation with our creative team.