Are SMS and Push Notifications Replacing Email?


For as long as there has been email, there have been people predicting its downfall. I can’t tell you why.

Perhaps the early naysayers had a bad experience trying to make the jump to near-instant communication with their coworkers. Others may have jumped on the bandwagon after marketers got their hands on email and turned into a non-stop promotion machine. Invasive spammers certainly caused their issues but the email service providers have essentially eliminated that from our experience with email these days.

Every new technology since email has at one time or another been described as an email killer. None of those predictions is worth very much today.

That said, in a world with more ways to connect with people than ever before, companies should always question whether their preferred channels of communication with customers are still the right ones.

Companies Using SMS

Companies have been using some form of text messaging for marketing for the last decade. For people who found the intrusion of brands into their inbox, SMS was probably not the solution they envisioned. Nowhere is a promotional message more intrusive than on your phone, right?

But many consumers actually prefer the convenience the channel offers to email. In many ways, it’s more immediate, and more intimate. With brands you already have some connection to, an SMS can inspire action in ways an email won’t.

It’s most commonly used as a way to communicate with existing customers about special promotions or location-based offers.

Companies Using Push Notifications

Mobile apps opened up a whole new channel of communication that companies have been excited about for some time. Push notifications from apps come in the form of banners on the lock screen, drop down alerts on the home screen, and red dots above app icons.

They are announcements to the user that there is some action they need to take.

Push notifications were designed as a way for apps to communicate with its’ users when they were not in the middle of using the app. Rather than send an email or a text message, they can use the phone’s notification system to “send a message”.

Companies use these as a subtle nudge to get customers to engage with their apps more frequently than they otherwise would.

Is There Still Room for Email?

As you may have guessed from the introduction to this article, there is and always will be room for email. SMS and push notifications are good ways for brands to communicate with customers. But they supplement email, at best. They will never replace.

Email continues to be the marketing channel with the highest return on investments. No one is predicting that SMS or push notifications will take that honor anytime soon.

Does SMS Marketing Actually Work?

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SMS, or text messaging, has been a channel used by marketers to communicate with prospective customers for years. But most companies don’t dare try it, or have never considered it. Why is that?

If you ask them, they will most likely tell you it’s because SMS marketing doesn’t work. Or they may hedge by saying that it “probably” won’t work for them.

But how do they know if they’ve never tried it? As marketers, it’s our job to test. Test new offers, new copy, new channels.

The truth is, SMS marketing exists because companies have made it work for them. And it’s your job to find out whether or not it can work for you too.

What Can You Use SMS Marketing For?

  1. Lead Nurturing – If your company uses a lead generation and follow up strategy as part of the selling process, then SMS can fit nicely into your nurturing program. Following up with those customers who have expressed interest via text can be a convenient way to spur them to take the next step.
  2. Promotional Offers – If you have the phone numbers for your existing customer base, SMS can be a perfect tool to generate follow on purchases. Send text messages anytime you have a special offer or discount to share.
  3. Confirmations and Welcomes – We’re used to email as a channel for simple communication with new customers. But SMS can accomplish the same thing and may help your company stand out from the crowd.
  4. Service Requests – Convenient customer service can go a long way to establishing customer loyalty with your brand. SMS is a channel that some customers may find more convenient than traditional outlets like phone or live chat.
  5. Events – Whether you host or participate in events, brick and mortar or digital, you can use SMS to invite your fans and customers. Webinars, product launches, trade shows, and talks are all tools in an event marketer’s belt. And SMS can be a great way to get the word out.

SMS marketing works for many companies. And the only way to know whether or not it will work for yours is to try it.

We should never ignore or assume a marketing strategy won’t work for us. If we do, as marketers, we risk missing out on true opportunities to grow our businesses.