We humans are social beings. We need to talk, communicate, and love. There are two types of messaging: person to person (P2P) messaging between between friends and families, application to person (A2P) for business purposes. This article is more focused on A2P messaging for business folks.
There are a lot of channels for business messaging. From a business perspective, your customers should be the decision maker on which channel to use. Businesses should be able to respond to customers messages in the same channel. With Ominichannel messaging platform, you can use one system to respond to the most popular channels.
Let me explain the differences among the most popular messaging channels:
SMS stands for “Short Message Service”, which allows the plain text messages of up to 160 characters to be exchanged between mobile devices.
Engineer Neil Papworth invented SMS in 1992. SMS is one of the main applications installed in all cell phones by default. The default SMS makes it an unfair advantage as users do not have to download another app. By the end of 2010, SMS was the most widely used data application, with an estimated 3.5 billion active users, or about 80% of all mobile phone subscribers.
SMS has a 160 character limit which is named a segment. Even though you could send text messages longer than 160 characters, the long message could be split into several smaller 160 character snippets. SMS is typically charged by “segment” by the carrier. It is a good practice to keep SMS message short and to the point.
MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service, and was built with technology similar to SMS. The popular usage includes sending pictures, phone contacts, and video.
The first MMS-capable phones were introduced around 2002 in conjunction with the first GSM network. This means that MMS is about one decade after SMS.
SMS and MMS are sent over a cellular network, and there is no internet data required. Unlike SMS, MMS messages do not have a standard size limit. However, the maximum size depends on the carrier as well as the device receiving the messages. 300kb is the largest size for most carriers. When people send an image greater than the maximum size, the carrier may have to scale down the resolution of the image for the message to go through.
Electronic mail (email or e-mail) is a method of exchanging messages (“mail”) between people using electronic devices.
Email was invented in the 1960s. Email operates across the internet, and is one of the most widely used communication tools for individuals, businesses, and governments.
Popular email providers include Gmail, Yahoo mail, Outlook, AOL, iCloud, and Comcast for the USA.
Businesses have use Email for a long time. In the same time, SMS is adopted by more and more businesses. Here is a comparison Email vs. SMS.
Research shows that SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to that of just 20% of all emails. Additionally, on average, it takes only 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text whereas it takes 90 minutes to respond to an email. People increasingly prefer to communicate about business by text message.
The average American adult use a mobile device about 3 hours per day. SMS is the default application in all mobile devices, thus making SMS the the most effective business messaging channel.
iMessage is an instant messaging service developed by Apple Inc and launched in 2011. iMessage is a closed platform which is only available in Apple devices such as macOS, iOS, iPad, and iWatch.
Features of iMessage include texts, high resolution, images, videos, documents, location data, delivery status, read receipts and end to end encryption. End to end encryption means only the sender and recipient can read the message, with no one else, not even Apple, able to read the message.
Unlike SMS, iMessage is free of charge. If the recipient does not have iMessage, it falls back to SMS.
iMessage requires Internet data to run while SMS does not require Internet data.
The greatest drawback of iMessage is that you have to own an Apple device to use it. SMS is universal, and beats iMessage in this regard.
RCS stands for Rich Communication Services, which is the iMessage equivalent in the Android world, which is backed by Google.
It provides richer features such as high resolution photo, video chat, map direction, location sharing, typing indicator, group chats, etc. Furthermore, RCS has end to end encryption of the messages, adding to the security. This is something SMS can not compete with.
The Messages app on Android, developed by Google, is the main way to get access to everything. RCS is offered free of charge. SMS costs money while RCS is free for now.
This is a great advantage as RCS is free with more robust features. To enable RCS, you have to download the Messages App by Google. Click on Settings -> Chat features, and toggle the “Enable chat features”.
However, there are a few obstacles for RCS to be widely used.
- Your phone has to have Internet for RCS to run. SMS does not need Internet.
- RCS is only available for Android devices.
- The messaging app has to be enabled for RCS to run.
- iOS devices do not support RCS. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of RCS, as it’s unclear if Apple will support RCS in the future.
Businesses are adding RCS to the messaging channel for the advanced features. If RCS is not available in the customer’s device, the message falls back to SMS.
Google My Business Messaging
When people search for your business, you want it to be found in Google. Google My Business is where you create a profile for your business.
Once you have create a listing in Google My Business, there is a settings to turn on the Google My Business Messaging.
In simple words, Google My Business Messaging is a free messenger tool that enables your customers to get in touch with your business in real time from Google search results, all without clicking through a website and looking for an email or phone number.
Here are a few steps to enable Google My Business Messenger:
- Sign up to your Google My Business Listing. If you do not have a Google My Business Listing, create one.
- Visit Messages -> Settings
- Turn messages on
When people visit your business listing, there is a “Message” button on the listing. This feature is offered free of charge by Google.
Customers have to first create a message in Google My Business Messaging. Once an inquiry starts, the customer expects a quick reply. This could be a new lead or an existing customer. Businesses often take effort to respond to Google My Business Messaging quickly, or the customer will go to competitors.
Business owners are busy, meaning it’s hard to look for a system for email, another system for SMS, another system for Google messages. An alternative to this is to use the Omni channel platform to answer customer messages from Google.
Facebook Messenger is an instant messaging app and platform developed by Facebook. There are Android and iOS versions of the Messenger App. There are around 1.3B people in Messenger mainly for P2P messaging.
Facebook Messenger introduced Messenger for business in 2015. Businesses can use the Facebook Messenger to answer customer inquiries. Both customers and businesses require Facebook accounts to use the service. The service is free of charge at the moment.
Advanced features include direct messaging, group messaging, voice call, location sharing, etc.
Given that a lot of people are on the Facebook platform every day, businesses should enable the Facebook Messenger .
When people send a message, business should respond within 24 hours. Again, Omnichannel messenger can help business take care this channel.
WhatsApp is an instant messaging (IM) and voice over IP (VoIP) platform owned by Facebook. You can send text messages, make voice or video call, share images and user locations, and more.
WhatsApp has end to end encryption. Only sender and recipient can read the message and extra layer of security makes it harder for hackers to attack.
In order to use the service, users have to install the WhatsApp Android or iOS App in the mobile devices. WhatsApp requires Internet data.
WhatsApp for businesses costs money. Businesses have to pay a per message fee per whatsapp business pricing.
Around 20% of USA population uses WhatsApp. The usage is much higher in other countries.
|SMS||iMessage||RCS||Google my business messaging||Facebook messenger|
|End to End Encryption||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Easy to use||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||No|
Even though SMS lacks the rich features by the Apps, it is still the most effective and easy to use communication channel. Business text platform adds the missing features in SMS, and offers even more features such as reviews, payments, survey, e-sign, and more.
Businesses need to be at the places where customers are. Customers can use their preferred communication channel for a conversation, and it’s the job of the business to meet the demand. Winning businesses should invest in Omnichannel system to quickly respond to customer messages in the right channel, at the right time.