Utilising SMS text messaging on websites and apps

Utilising SMS text messaging on websites and apps

SMS text messaging has been well and truly taken over by instant messaging apps like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger etc, but it can still be an extremely useful form of communication in some cases.

While online instant messaging apps are popular for two-way personal communication, they are not necessarily the best tool for sending out notifications and announcements from your business or website.

Most businesses and organisations use good old email for notifications and announcements that are sent out, usually based on some kind of action happening on their website, for example a customer placing on online order on an e-commerce website.

Often there is no thought given to using SMS text messaging instead of, or in addition to email.There are two main reasons for this:

  1. There is a belief that a text message isn't going to reach anyone that an email can't, and it won't improve the experience.
  2. Most web developers either don't consider offering this option, or don't have the required knowledge to implement it.

SMS text messaging Vs Email

Email has been around as long as the internet and despite its age, it hasn't changed a whole lot over the years and still a hugely important and utilised form of communication, especially in the business world.

If you sign up to any website or online service, buy something online, or perform any action on the web that requires some information to be sent to you, it will almost certainly arrive in the form of an email.

It's cheap and easy to send emails en masse, however despite the challenges in ensuring that emails are actually delivered to the recipient, there are other problems with email.

Sometimes the announcement or notification you are sending is time sensitive, and its critical that the recipient clearly sees the message among the noise of all the other emails they are receiving.

This is where SMS text messaging can be a much better tool than email.

Your text message may not be the only one that the recipient gets from a business, but you can be sure that they will be getting far fewer text messages than emails, meaning you can cut through the noise of all the other notifications and alerts, and reach your target in a far more focused way than email.

Some people check their emails less frequently than others and there is also the added issue of not having internet access at any given time, or having access on their mobile that is so slow it's just not practical to constantly receive email notifications.

Instant messaging and push notifications from an app on a mobile phone only partially solve some of these issues, you still need internet access but an even bigger issue is that you are still competing with too much other noise.

You lift your mobile phone and see two notification icons, one is a red bubble with a number, the other is the new text message icon, which one are you more interested in? Sure, you will check your push notification messages eventually, but you're going to read the text message first.

If you have a function of your website that sends important messages to staff or members for example, SMS text messaging can be a huge improvement over email. Even for more conventional uses like sending an order confirmation, it can make you stand out from competitors, and although there is additional cost - it's probably not as much as you think.

How does a website send SMS text messages?

The first thing required to send automated text messages is an SMS provider. There are loads of them and they all offer pretty much the same thing, the ability to send and receive text messages using a virtual number for a fee per text.

Secondly, your website developer must have a certain degree of knowledge with an SMS provider, and they must be comfortable writing some custom code to connect to the API.

You can of course find a number of 'ready made' WordPress plugins that connect to various SMS providers, but as with all WordPress plugins you will be limited to whatever that plugin does off the shelf, unless you have the most basic of use cases it's not going to fit into your specific business logic and workflows without major modifications, which isn't going to be a realistic option with WordPress.

At ProBlue Solutions we have developed a bespoke Drupal module that uses the TextMagic service, so we are familiar with this particular service provider, but for the main features they are similar to any other provider.

In order to hook the SMS service into your business logic and events, you need to be able to access the features directly from your website code. To do this you need an API (Application Programming Interface), and TextMagic offer an excellent API.

We developed a custom Drupal module to perform a few different functions:

  • Synchronise TextMagic distribution lists with Drupal user accounts
  • Send text messages in reaction to website events
  • Receive text message replies from users and display to website admins

 

The key to making the most of SMS text messaging is incorporating it into an existing business process to improve communication. This requires triggering text messages at specific points in your workflow, but also using data you already have in your website as the content of your messages. This isnt possiblle with 'off the shelf' plugins, which mostly amount to nothing more than a new user sign up alert system, or some other very generic event.

Conclusion

SMS text messaging can be an excellent method of communication to reach your customers, staff, members, users etc.

It can be a great addition to, or replacement for email, and the cost is fairly minimal considering the benefits it can provide.

We can develop custom SMS text messaging functionality for your business, developed to use your specific business workflows and data. If you would like to discuss further, get in touch.

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