How to choose between push notifications and SMS

Push notifications are cheaper than SMS, but SMS reaches pretty much every type of handset. Push messaging requires the Internet, but text messages are more static.

How to choose between push notifications and SMS

It can be quite difficult for businesses to choose between push notifications and SMS as a communication channel. Push notifications, as well as SMS both, have advantages and disadvantages. Push and SMS are individually very characteristic. Businesses tend to have different desires if it comes to reaching out to clients and customers.

Business-critical messaging

Banks and other financial corporations mainly use SMS to communicate business-critical messages to their customers. SMS provides them fast and guaranteed delivery as they do not frequently send out large batches of bulk SMS, which are delivered slightly slower if you compare it to large batches of push messages. In this particular case, the financial sector benefits from the guaranteed delivery that SMS offers.

What drives engagement?

For non-business critical communications like mobile marketing campaigns, push notifications could be an outcome. A large batch of push messages costs a lot less than thousands of SMS messages, and if one or two do not pop up on the designated handset, the world would no go missing. To put it differently: for less critical messages, push notifications are a fast and cost-effective solution, which furthermore drives engagement to the app and the brand itself.

The above requires some explanation on why that is. Reliability depends on numerous factors, which are not all just based on techniques. Uber, for instance, explains on its support website push notifications are more reliable than text messages and offer a more superior experience. 

Regarding that last statement: they could not be more right. Their first statement relies entirely on the various push notifications platforms that might queue messages if devices are out of reach. Apple's platform, for instance, tends to push the last queued messages to devices, which have been offline for a while.

Apple Push Notification Service 

The Apple Push Notification Service (APNS) doesn't guarantee delivery of push notifications and queued messages. If a device is offline or unavailable, the user's device might not receive all push notifications. Another thorny issue is that there is no way to know if a user's device received a notification or when: the APNS is unfortunately uni-directional. An SMS sent will always be delivered, or your SMS provider can inform you if a message failed. CM offers its customers up-to-date information on traffic through the SMS logging which displays which messages were delivered correctly.

Though app push notifications are more advantageous and more engaging than SMS, business-critical communications are (for now) better off with SMS. SMS fits in a premium service. 

"If an end-user pays a monthly fee for using an app and its service, he or she expects to be notified at the right time on the right device. Push notifications should be terminated on the right handset, which is part of the service level agreement of the premium service. The guarantee with which text messages can be delivered on handsets makes SMS a more effective channel than push notifications. We work closely with app developers who have a contractual engagement with their customers. Hybrid Messaging appears to be the best solution to deliver messages in time", says Jeremy Delrue, CM's Country Manager for France

Are you still confused? We've put all the advantages and disadvantages clearly in line.

Advantages of push notifications:

  • Faster
  • Low costs
  • Encryption possible
  • Interactive
  • Retry within 72 hours
  • Works without cell coverage (but with WiFi) 

Disadvantages of push notifications:

  • No delivery guarantee
  • No delivery reports
  • Needs Internet

Advantages SMS:

  • Delivery reports
  • High delivery rate
  • No Internet needed
  • High open rate
  • Safe sending to telephone numbers. 

Disadvantages SMS:

  • Costly
  • Needs cell coverage
  • Slow
  • Statically


Hybrid messaging

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