Messaging • Last Updated 2/5/2024

Two Way SMS Marketing: Engaging Customers Effectively

Two-way SMS lets customers to communicate with your business via text, which enhances customer experience & increases efficiency.


By Emily Bowen

customer using two-way SMS

Traditionally, marketing SMS has been a one-way street. Businesses simply used SMS as an information delivery system.

But two-way SMS takes marketing to the next level by enabling customers to communicate with businesses. This turns SMS marketing into a conversation where brands can build relationships with their customers, eventually, creating advocates for your company.

What is two-way SMS?

Two-way SMS is a combination of inbound and outbound alphanumeric messaging (to learn how SMS differs from MMS, click here). Two-way SMS opens up conversations with customers by sending messages and letting recipients respond to those messages, allowing for real-time dialogue. Two-way SMS can be automated using keywords that prompt responses when customers text those keywords to your two-way SMS number.

How two-way SMS works

SMS stands for Short Message Service. It’s a standardized service for sending text-only messages between mobile phones. One strength of SMS is that computers and other devices can also send and receive SMS messages, assuming they’re equipped with the right software.

Typically, SMS messages are transmitted over cell phone networks. In fact, SMS messages usually travel on a cell phone network at some point, unless both the sending and receiving devices are connected to the internet.

This is one reason SMS messages are only capable of sending text. Messages with large packages of data, like images or audio files could quickly overload cell phone networks.

However, one feature of SMS is that no internet connection is required for sending SMS messages. Yes, SMS messages can be sent over an internet connection. But SMS messages can be sent and received on traditional cellular networks. This makes two-way SMS compatible with almost any device.

This broad compatibility is especially useful for businesses who need to communicate with as many customers as possible. Learn more about SMS numbers here.

Two-way texting—why it matters to your business

One-way information delivery is all right. But a two-way communication channel is far better for just about everything.

No matter what you’re doing, being able to get a response from your customers makes your SMS marketing better.

Faster response times

This might seem like a no-brainer, since you can’t get an SMS response from a customer without two-way SMS. But it’s not all about getting a direct response to your text messages.

When you’re advertising, you’re trying to get a response. Your desired response might be a reply to your message. Or it might be getting the customer to go to your website. Two-way SMS is better for getting just about any response as quickly as possible.

SMS open rates can be as high as 98%. And people respond to a text within 90 seconds, on average. Compare this to 90 minute response times for email.

So, no matter what action you’re trying to drive with your SMS marketing, using two-way SMS will get the fastest response possible.

Increased engagement

When it comes to customer engagement, two-way SMS is proving to be quite effective. In fact, text messages get anywhere from 45% to 98% response rates. Numbers like that are sure to improve both conversions and customer experience.

Even if customer response isn’t your primary objective, SMS click-through rates are 10-15% higher than email marketing campaigns. Those SMS click-through rates look even better when you consider over 62% of the world population owns a cell phone. Meaning, there’s no limit to your reach.

If engagement is important for your marketing strategy, two-way SMS gives you access to the largest possible audience and gets the best engagement rates from that massive audience.

Better customer experience

It’s difficult to quantify user satisfaction short of explicit feedback. However, the open rates, response times, and click-through rates certainly suggest that SMS delivers a strong customer experience.

Perhaps some of the strongest evidence that two-way SMS offers better customer experience, is the fact that 85% of consumers prefer to communicate with brands via text. There’s absolutely no other marketing channel that comes close in that category, with no other marketing channel getting scoring over 50%. That’s a pretty glowing endorsement for SMS.

Automated workflow

Two-way SMS is easier to automate than almost any other marketing channel. SMS messages can be sent by computers. And computers generate responses to text messages. This enables you to automate entire conversations with customers.

Also, the automaton infrastructure for SMS is relatively simple. Your SMS messages simply prompt customers to respond with a specific keyword, which triggers a response from your SMS system based on the keyword the customer sent.

This enables you to serve far more customers with a smaller customer service team. With a bit of creativity, you can let customers self-serve through an automated two-way SMS conversation, and free up your customer service teams to help customers with more complex problems.c

To learn about bulk messaging, click here.

Two-way SMS business use cases

So, what can you do with two-way SMS? The high engagement rates and fast response times aren’t that great if you can’t use two-way SMS to accomplish your goals. Here’s what you can do with two-way SMS.

  • Appointment reminders

One study showed that adding SMS appointment reminders reduced pediatric no-shows by 14%, saving doctors thousands of dollars each year. And you can send automated SMS appointment reminders without even using keywords, since the send time can be pulled directly from your scheduling software. Then your SMS system will automatically generate a message at the right time.

  • Booking and booking confirmation

    Two-way SMS can be used to set up appointments and confirm appointment bookings. Customers can set up appointments by texting your booking system, and scheduling appointments using keyword responses. And, even if a client books an appointment through a different system, you can send a follow-up text message to confirm appointments.

  • IVR alternative

    Nobody likes IVR menus, even good IVR menus are often merely tolerated. Two-way SMS presents an alternative to IVR menus. Simply setup a short code or long code number that customers can text to get a menu of options. Then customers can text keywords to the number to either get a text response from customer service representative or receive a click-to-call link that connects them directly to the person who can help them.

Incorporate two-way SMS with Telnyx

With the right SMS provider, you can use two-way SMS for even more business use cases.

Telnyx gives you two-way SMS, built on a private fiber optic network with complete API support so you can do just about anything you want with integrated two-way SMS.

Get in touch with a Telnyx SMS expert to learn all about using two-way SMS on the Telnyx network.

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