Conversational SMS vs. SMS Messaging: Key Differences and Why They Both Matter

Topic: SMS Marketing, Uses of SMS

Conversational SMS is a type of messaging you may have heard a lot about. It’s a one-to-one conversation between a business and a customer that can happen on any messaging platform. Conversational messaging has the potential to drive customer engagement, improve the overall experience, and drive business growth.

What about SMS messaging? How does it differ from conversational SMS and can it not also drive engagement, boost experiences, and improve sales? Of course – it’s still a formidable communication channel, with 91% of customers saying they’d opt-in for texts from businesses and SMS open rates being an average of 98%.

What’s the difference between conversational and regular SMS messaging?

The most significant difference between regular SMS and conversational SMS is that the latter offers two-way communication. In other words, you give your customers the ability to respond. 

Being able to respond to business messages may not sound like much. But for customers, it mimics the natural, spontaneous conversations customers have with their friends and family. These are conversations they want to have with their favourite brands too.

Customers can interact with businesses in a variety of ways – on social media, via email, through customer support channels, and so on. But the majority of this tends to be one-way. For example, when someone likes a post on Instagram or customers reach out for help. And if you’re sending promotional emails, chances are they’ll end up in a spam inbox, never to be read because it’s buried under hundreds of similar emails.

With SMS, you can connect with your customers more directly. For starters, they have to give you permission to contact them via text. Not many customers do – most would rather select email. But if they do give you permission, it’s often because they not only want to receive communications, but they also value what you’re pushing out and will read it. 

SMS is so much more personal than an email, after all.

Conversational is the new evolution of SMS

Today’s customers want more than a one-sided conversation. Perhaps they want to hear about the latest sales, promotions and product launches, but they want to feel as though they’re actually interacting with the brand. 

Take Dior Beauty’s WhatsApp campaign, for example, which is a great example of conversational messaging in action. For the release of its new Dior Addict lipstick, the luxury brand launched a messaging-based campaign featuring its global brand ambassador and Blackpink member Jisoo. 

Even though it was a chatbot that represented Jisoo and not actually her, fans could feel like VIPs, speaking exclusively one-on-one with her. Not only were the messages personalized, but users could also choose various phrases as a response, and receive videos and other media.

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Although this is an example of a WhatsApp message, a similar principle can apply to SMS messaging. You can use a virtual mobile number (VMN), which is an 11 digit number that allows you to receive SMS messages directly back to your SMS account. In other words, a VMN lets your customers reply to you, thus allowing you to have natural conversations with customers.

Is conversational SMS better than regular SMS?

It’s difficult for regular SMS to be as engaging and interactive as its conversational counterpart. However, that doesn’t mean that you should swap regular SMS immediately and go straight for conversational. 

Conversational SMS isn’t necessarily better than regular SMS or vice versa. Regular SMS is much better if you’re sending out something that doesn’t require a response – such as:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Booking confirmations
  • Payment reminders
  • Order and delivery updates

In contrast, conversational SMS is better if you want your audience to actively engage with you, whether that’s with a response or you want to send them media, such as an image or a video.

Best practice would be to use a mixture of both messaging strategies to benefit from:

  • Maximized resource usage
  • Cost efficiency
  • A complete audit trail
  • A constant connection to your customers
  • Excellent customer experience

Learn more about conversational messaging and the impact it can have on your customer comms strategy

Product/service and price aren’t the only factors that differentiate you from competitors these days – customer experience plays a huge role too. Think along the lines of personalization, proactive responses, and one-on-one connection. 

Your messaging strategy matters. While regular SMS can get you noticed, conversational SMS can help you be remembered.

Author Avatar
Julia Applegate

Based in Charleston, SC Julia is a Demand Generation Marketing Manager with 6 years of experience in B2B technology businesses and an emphasis on growth and demand generation marketing. Julia is passionate about balancing data-driven marketing with creative campaigns and bringing agile methodology to new companies.