SMS vs. IM – the battle of the communication channels

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SMS: the leading business communication channel

SMS: the leading business communication channel

Mobile messaging has two main and distinct platforms, SMS and Instant Messaging over the Internet. Instant Messaging has grown in popularity, which is mostly just due to being a low-cost messaging solution. For example, WhatsApp charges users about $1 per year for the messaging service. For this reason, many believe it poses a threat to SMS as the champion of mobile communication. However, when you compare the mediums on the basis of merit, it’s fair to say SMS is still the victor.

Deloitte predicts that throughout 2014, Instant Messaging services on mobile phones will carry more than twice the volume (50 billion versus 21 billion per day) of messages sent via SMS services. However, they also expect that on a global scale, SMS will have generated more than $100 billion over 2014, equivalent to approximately 50 times the total revenues from all IM services.

So, IM wins the battle for volume in 2014, but still loses the war over all. Where SMS has IM beat is it’s ubiquity and accessibility, components that can’t be sacrificed in terms of critical business communications.

SMS is the one messaging standard common to almost every mobile phone, with over 3.2 billion unique mobile subscribers that can send and receive SMS. IM is also popular, but it requires a smartphone. Not just this, it requires a mobile data plan or a connection to Wi-Fi networks to even function. Even if consumers have access to this, many over-the-top (OTT) providers are incompatible with each other. For example, a WhatsApp user cannot message a WeChat user using the App. In order to communicate across applications, users will need to download more and more applications. This will cost them in data usage, so the seemingly free apps end up costing anyway.

Furthermore, some IM services only work with specific phone brands. This means that when reaching large audiences for businesses purposes, the service may be incompatible with a large portion of that intended group. IM may be cheap, but it’s not very reassuring for mission critical messages that it could easily fail to access a huge portion of the audience without the specific mobile device necessary to receive the message.

Smartphone users travelling abroad can receive SMS easily as well, but may not wish to use IM because of the expenses of purchasing a mobile data package to send and receive IM while roaming.

Business Review Australia recently said that “from a business perspective, it (SMS) is an excellent solution for communication across the broadest population coverage and does not require the user to install an app. Furthermore, it works even when a mobile data network is unavailable.”

So there you have it, SMS is still the clear leader in business communication.

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Felicity Cullen

Marketing assistant at Esendex