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How transactional SMS supercharges customer communication

Amy Elliott Amy Elliott
· 18 min read · Tips and resources · September 23rd, 2022
Transactional SMS is the popular new way to reach customers, helping to bridge the communication gap when recipients are on the go and away from their inbox.

Customers prefer text messaging and businesses have taken notice, making it the next big thing in omnichannel communication. It’s often a more convenient and direct way for customers to receive your important updates—especially when not everyone has email notifications switched on, or checks their inbox multiple times every day. 

Transactional SMS solves this by delivering your important updates and messages straight to recipients’ phones. Not only does it allow you to reach more people, but it also enables you to improve the customer experience and increase customer engagement.  

Stick with us to learn about the benefits of transactional SMS and how all kinds of businesses can use it to boost their customer communication. 

What is transactional SMS?

Just like transactional emails, transactional SMS’ are automated messages containing important, time-sensitive information about an account or a transaction. They are triggered by an action carried out by the user, or an event in relation to the action or other account activity. For example, a shipping notification in relation to a recent purchase, or a subscription renewal notification.

Unlike transactional emails, to send transactional messages via SMS, you need opt-in consent from your customers.

The difference between promotional and transactional SMS

Promotional SMS messages are sent to people who subscribe specifically to receive promotional messaging from you. These types of messages are sent for SMS marketing and advertising purposes in order to promote your offers, products or services. 

On the other hand, transactional SMS messages are sent to customers when they are triggered by an action. They contain important information that is personalized and unique to the customer’s account, subscription or purchase. 

A promotional SMS subscriber may not be a customer, and a customer may not be a promotional SMS subscriber. But the goal of promotional SMS is to turn subscribers into customers, while the goal of transactional SMS is to strengthen customer relationships and enhance the customer experience. 

Why you should be using transactional SMS

The benefits of using SMS as a communication tool go far beyond simply reaching more customers. Transactional text messaging:

1. Enjoys high delivery and open rates: SMS has a near 100% delivery rate and 98% average open rate compared with email’s 20-30%. This is because SMS is super convenient for recipients—most of us have our mobile phone within reach 24/7. What’s more, the high level of regulation for SMS sending means that spam is much less likely, so SMS has higher delivery rates. 

2. Is very fast: Speed is a top priority for transactional messaging, especially for messages like password reset requests. SMS messages can be sent and received in seconds with the majority of recipients opening the message in the first 5 minutes. 

3. Isn’t internet dependent: No 5G? No problem. Recipients can still receive messages with no internet connection, making it a reliable way to deliver important updates.  

4. Provides channel ownership: Just like with your email list, you own your SMS opt-in recipients, and have complete control over your messaging and platform. There are none of the risks associated with 3rd party communication tools like social media.

5. Improves business efficiency and customer experience: With high delivery and open rates, more customers will read more of your important messages. This can help, for example, with improving the number of late or missed appointments or ensuring your customer is at home to receive a delivery. 

6. Integrates with your favorite apps and CMS: Transactional SMS solutions like MailerSend can integrate with thousands of apps to send SMS combined with email triggers for a fully automated, seamless experience. 

7. Is easy for customers to opt-in: Simply include a clear and easy-to-understand opt-in checkbox when signing up or in their account profile. 

How your business can use transactional SMS

There are many types of SMS that cover every step of the customer journey. They fit so well into the customer experience, you probably receive transactional SMS all the time without thinking about it. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular examples of transactional SMS.

User authentication

One Time Passwords (OTPs)

With online security becoming more and more of a priority for businesses and consumers, many websites and apps are opting to use OTPs. SMS is the ideal way to deliver OTPs, as they can be delivered instantly and without the need for the user to visit their email inbox. 

One time password text example.

Two Factor Authentication (2FA)

Similarly, two factor authentication allows you to add another layer of security to the users’ signing in process by sending an authentication code to a verified email address or phone number. Rather than this extra step being cumbersome or time-consuming, 2FA text messages can be instantly received on their mobile device so that they can continue seamlessly with their experience. 

Two factor authentication text example saying {$code} is your Shopping App verification code. This code will expire in 10 minutes.

Services

Reservation confirmation and cancellation

Whenever a customer makes a booking or reservation, a confirmation message is important in order to build trust and ease any anxiety about whether the action was completed. The same goes for when the booking or reservation is canceled. What’s more, if they need to access information regarding their booking, they can do so easily from their text message inbox. 

Transactional SMS examples for reservation confirmation and cancellation.

Payment and billing alerts

These days there is a subscription for everything, and staying on top of every outgoing payment can be a hassle. With payment and billing alerts sent via transactional SMS, your customers can know exactly when their account has been charged, or be informed if the payment has failed and take action as soon as possible. 

Transactional SMS examples for payment and billing alerts.

Appointment confirmation and reminders

Not only are appointment reminders useful for customers, but they also help you to make your business more efficient. By sending automated messages to remind customers about upcoming appointments, you can avoid lateness and no shows, which could potentially save your business money and time. 

Transactional SMS examples for appointment confirmation and reminder.

Welcome messages

Welcome messages are a great way to start off your SMS journey with a new customer or user. This is your chance to say thanks and let them know anything important about their account when they sign up with you online or in-store. You can also let them know that they can opt out of receiving SMS at any time. 

Transactional SMS example for welcome messages.

Service updates

Sometimes, updates to your service can be critical to the experience of the user. When you need to inform them reliably and as soon as possible, transactional SMS is the ideal solution. This could be for anything from service outages and important updates to the user’s account requiring attention and potential security breaches. 

Transactional SMS examples for service updates.

Support ticket confirmations

Contacting support and waiting for an answer is definitely not the most fun experience, but you can ease the pain for customers by providing them confirmation and updates about their support ticket. By confirming that their ticket has been received and offering a timeline for a response, you’ll ease some of the anxiety of the unknown and improve the customer experience. 

Transactional SMS example for a support request confirmation.

E-commerce

Receipts

Your customers may opt for receipts to be delivered via SMS whether they are shopping online or in-store. For in-store purchases in particular, many consumers and businesses are showing a preference for digital SMS receipts in an effort to cut down on waste and be more environmentally friendly. SMS receipts are usually structured much like their paper counterparts, like in the example below, or with a link to a full receipt.

Transactional SMS examples for receipt texts.

Order confirmation and status updates

I recently made an online purchase and received no communication until I got an SMS from the courier to let me know it was going to be delivered. It was a very long 3 days, and it left me wondering if I should trust the company from which I made the purchase. Order confirmation messages are a must—even better if you can give updates along the way on the order status. 

Transactional SMS examples for order confirmation and status updates.

Shipping and delivery updates

Everyone finds tracking their orders to be slightly addictive, right? Just me? 👀 Well, addicted or not, all customers enjoy the reassurance of knowing where their orders are in the shipping process and when they’ll be delivered. These notifications are especially useful for people that are often not at their delivery location during the day, so that they can arrange to be around or change the delivery time. 

Transactional SMS examples for shipping and delivery updates.

Abandoned cart reminder

Customers abandon their purchase before checking out a lot—and they do it for many reasons. Sometimes they get distracted and forget, sometimes they want more time to think about the purchase, and sometimes they just aren’t sure. Abandoned cart reminders are effective in giving them a little push in the right direction, and with the high open rates of transactional SMS, sending them via text message is a great way to get more sales. You can even throw in an incentive like a discount code or free shipping. 

Transactional SMS example for an abandoned cart reminder.

Product alerts

If you have a super in-demand, often out of stock product, or are waiting for a big launch, you can let customers know when it’s available with an SMS. Delivering a product alert directly to their phone will ensure they get the notification as soon as possible, making it a convenient way to get their hands on the item before it’s sold out again. 

Transactional SMS examples for product alerts.

Feedback requests and surveys

Gathering feedback about your product and service is essential to increasing customer satisfaction and improving your offering by understanding how you perform from their point of view. An SMS survey is a quick and easy way for customers to provide feedback, and you can even throw in an incentive such as an entry into a competition or a voucher for their participation. 

Transactional SMS example for a feedback request.

Government and other organizations

General alerts and notices

SMS is great for public sector services and governmental organizations, as it allows you to quickly send important information en masse. In addition to keeping people informed about their accounts with government services, SMS is an effective way to deliver alerts and notifications about events and other news. 

Transactional SMS example for a government alert.

Emergency alerts

During life-threatening events or emergencies, special alerts can be instantly delivered via SMS to protect people from harm and allow them to take the appropriate measures to stay safe. These emergency alerts allow as many people as possible to be informed as quickly as possible. 

Transactional SMS example an emergency alert.

Internal communication

To run a business smoothly, internal communication is just as important as your customer communication. While email and instant messaging work well when sitting at the desk, you can also utilize SMS to reach employees that are away from a monitor.

As well as using the above mentioned transactional SMS types to reach customers, you can also use them to communicate with employees. You can also use SMS for:

People updates

People updates let employees know when a new colleague joins the team or when one leaves. You can even give updates on promotions and department changes.

Transactional SMS examples for people updates.

Notifications for shift changes

While shift assignments are usually posted on a work shift planner, you can quickly inform all employees in one mass message that shifts have changed and they should check their itinerary.

Transactional SMS example shift change notifications.

Notifications for birthdays and work anniversaries

To keep employee morale high and build an enjoyable work culture, it’s nice to celebrate personal events and milestones such as birthdays and work anniversaries. You can send a simple SMS to say happy birthday or congrats, and encourage other employees to do the same. 

Transactional SMS examples for birthdays and work anniversaries.

Share your company newsletter

When we’re busy working, we sometimes overlook company newsletters in favor of other tasks. By sharing your newsletter via SMS, employees are more likely to open it when they have a moment away from work, or come back to it later.

Transactional SMS example for company newsletter sharing.

SMS autoresponders

Autoresponders, or Text for Info services, enable you to provide an automated information service to customers. It works by allowing customers to text a keyword to a number to request and receive information. Here’s a few ways that businesses can use SMS autoresponders.

  • Local businesses: Make business information such as phone numbers and addresses available on request 

  • Restaurants: Allow people to quickly find out about your specials, offers and menus

  • Banks: Enable account holders to access their account balance 

  • Real estate: Include your number and keyword on property listings to request additional information

  • Public transport: Provide real-time updates about the location and arrival times of buses

Transactional SMS best practices

Transactional SMS is a simple and convenient way to communicate with customers, and there are tons of ways you can use it to provide a better customer experience! But, there are a number of best practices you should follow to ensure your strategy hits that sweet spot.

You must get consent

To send transactional SMS to your customers, you must receive express consent to do so. This is usually done when the user signs up on your website, sends a text or if a customer provides verbal consent in-person when making a purchase or signing up for a service. Check out the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association’s (CTIA) guidelines for SMS consent.

Provide clear instructions on how to opt out 

You must let your recipients know that they can opt out of receiving SMS messages at any time, and provide instructions on how to do it. This would usually look something like this: Reply STOP to unsubscribe. According to the CTIA, you should also provide multiple methods of opting out, including by phone and email. 

With MailerSend, you can automatically add SMS opt out instructions by going to SMS, Phone numbers and then clicking Manage next to the number. Scroll to the Settings section and toggle Unsubscribe Instructions on. Click on Manage Unsubscribe Text to edit your message.

Keep your transactional messages informational

Unless your recipient has given express written consent to receive marketing messages, stick to sending only informational texts. Transactional SMS is about customer experience, relationships and trust. If you start sending promotional texts without permission, you risk marring these efforts. 

Use a professional transactional SMS service

SMS is a highly regulated industry that requires numerous checks and verifications to send messages on a mass scale. A transactional SMS service like MailerSend is built to handle sending SMS quickly and at scale, and will ensure you high deliverability and advanced features to personalize your messages and enhance your customer communication. 

Stay short and sweet

The character limit for a single SMS message is 160 characters. While longer messages will be split into multiple texts, it’s best if you keep your messages as succinct as possible. One reason that recipients like SMS is that they are brief, to the point and easy to read. If you need to include additional information, consider sending it in a URL. 

How to get started with transactional SMS on MailerSend

With MailerSend, you can start sending and receiving transactional SMS in minutes with the powerful SMS API, comprehensive documentation and regularly updated SDKS. Here’s how.

Note: A trial phone number is provided to all Premium accounts. Once you’re ready to start sending text messages to your customers, you can purchase a phone number from the Add-ons section on your Plan and billing page.

1. Create an SMS API token by going to Settings then selecting the API tokens tab and clicking Generate new token

Screenshot highlighting navigation and button to create a new API token.

Make sure it has the SMS permission toggled to Full access, so you have reading and writing access. You can also use an existing API token with full access. 

For more information on how to create and manage API tokens, visit our API token management guide.

2. Make a POST request to https://api.mailersend.com/v1/sms with the following:

{
  "from": "+18332647501",
  "to": [
	" +16203221059"
  ],
  "text": "This is just a friendly hello from your friends at MailerSend."
}

You can then check the status of the message under the SMS Activity page.

Customers love SMS, you should too!

If your business has a strong focus on communication and wants to enrich the customer experience, transactional SMS is the ultimate tool to supercharge these efforts! When done right, and by following the transactional SMS best practices, SMS offers convenience, efficiency, higher customer satisfaction and stronger relationships.

Have you tried communicating with your customers via SMS? Which types of messages work well for your business? We'd love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Start sending SMS today

MailerSend combines email and SMS for a holistic and seamless brand experience. Sign up for free today and get 12,000 emails per month plus a free phone number to test out.

Amy Elliott
I’m Amy, Content Writer at MailerSend. As a child, I dreamt about writing a book and practiced by tearing pages from an A4 notepad and binding them with sugar paper. The book is pending but in the meantime, I love taking a deep dive into technical topics and sharing insights on email metrics and deliverability.
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