Finally, a well-researched post on SMS marketing for 2016

SMS marketing statistics to background your text marketing efforts in 2016

Google “SMS marketing statistics” and you’ll find yourself drowning in heavily SEO-optimized, if useless, web pages. I had a similar problem while working on a recent post: when it comes to finding SMS marketing statistics actually backed up by solid data, you have to dig your way through reams of useless, wordy, SEO-targeted content to find something properly referenced that you can trust. I would boil everything down to three main complaints:

- The vast majority of authors don’t take the time to reference their sources - I’m a professional and I need data, guys.

- Unfortunately, it’s common to cite secondary sources…that link to other web pages that link to other web pages that link to an expired domain—it drives me crazy.

- Worst, most of the stats you can find are hopelessly outdated, with nobody caring to point out that they come from 2013, 2012, or even 2010—are they still relevant in 2016?

Let me give you an example. You’ve probably heard that mobile text messages have an open rate of 98%. I have. I see it on every single web page out there that has anything to do with SMS marketing, in fact. What they all forget to mention is that that stat dates back to 2010. Two-thousand-ten, for Pete’s sake (here’s the source report)! Do you think SMS open rates stay the same while everything else - technology, devices, user behavior, means of communication, the marketing landscape - is constantly evolving? I doubt it.

I doubt it very much indeed.

I even started to doubt that the post I was looking for even exists: a solid, concise, well-researched post bringing together all the essential SMS marketing statistics while linking directly to the sources those figures were pulled from. Ultimately, I called off the search once I realized that the only way to find that post would be to write it myself. So let’s get started!

I believe this post stands out from the noise because I strictly followed these three rules:

1) Up-to-dateness
Every single fact mentioned below comes from surveys and other research conducted no earlier than in 2014, and preferably in 2015. It doesn’t get any fresher than that in the world of SMS stats.

2) Clear attribution
I linked directly to original reports rather than just mentioning them, and you'll find a list of those reports at the end. They’re all available for free (though registration might be required), meaning you can really dig into the context for every fact on this list.

3) Primary sources only
I stayed away from secondary sources, sticking solely to original reports from trusted researchers.

For convenience, I broke all the stats down into five categories:
- General facts
- SMS usage patterns
- Demographics
- Customer perception
- SMS marketing in use

The numbers in parentheses refer to the corresponding reports in the source list.

So without further ado, let’s get started.


General facts

We should start off by learning how many SMS-enabled cell phones there currently are in the world, how many people own a cell phone, and why text messaging still captures twice as much of the market as any other mobile marketing tool.

1) Out of the world's total 7,4 billion mobile connections, 3,6 billion are associated with basic not-smart phones meaning text messages still reache almost twice as many customers as any other mobile marketing medium. (4)

2) Due to inactive subscriptions and multiple device ownership, the number of subscriptions exceeds the number of unique subscribers, which totals around 4,9 billion unique mobile subscribers. (4)

3) Mobile operators reached approximately 90% of the global population with GSM/Edge networks and only 65% with WCDMA networks. (4)

4) Despite the fact that by 2016 the number of smartphone subscriptions is set to surpass basic phones (4), feature phones will remain the primary device in many developing markets for a number of years to come. (1)


SMS usage patterns

Moving on, here’s what marketers need to know about SMS behavior in 2016.

1) On average, 16% of all SMS exchanges in the world are with businesses. That figure does vary by region: the ratio is 22% in APAC, while in the US it is 12%, and EMEA registers at 15% - one in seven messages. (3)

2) 82,1% of respondents say they open every SMS text message they receive. (7)

3) Operator-provided voice and SMS usage in many markets has increased (4) due to the fact that a growing proportion of mobile plans now offer unlimited voice and messaging. (1)

4) 87% of millennials have their smartphone close at hand 24/7 while 80% say reaching for it is the first thing they do in the morning. (8)



Next let’s look at some differences in SMS usage between demographic groups.

1) There is a significant gender gap in mobile ownership: women are 14% less likely to own a mobile phone than men in low- and middle-income markets. (1)

2) Women tend to use mobile services less frequently or less intensively than men. (1)

3) At the same time, women report a greater interest iin using texting as a way to communicate with businesses (5). In particular, they are more likely to use mobile text messages to get coupons or other special offers (83% of females vs. 68% of male consumers). (7)

4) Younger men are more interested in using texting to accomplish more complex customer service tasks (like asking questions) as opposed to older men, who are more interested in using it to meet simpler needs (such as resetting passwords and refilling orders). (5)

5) 97% of Americans in the 18-29 age bracket use their cell phones for SMS messaging. That figure drops somewhat to 75% when we move to the 50-64 group. (5)

6) While 48% of all consumers agree that it would be convenient if a company offered text messaging as a customer service option, that number jumps to 68% for those with children in their household and 85% for students.(5)

7) Consumers aged 45-54 were significantly more likely to feel that a brand’s text messages don’t provide meaningful content (62% agreed with this sentiment versus the 41% average across all age brackets). (6)

8) Women are less likely to read every single SMS text message they receive (78,7% of females versus 85,7% of male customers). (7)


Customer perception

What insights can we glean into customer attitudes toward SMS marketing?

1) 64% of consumers believe that businesses should use SMS messages to interact with customers more often than they currently do. (3)

2) 70% of respondents agree that using SMS text messaging is a good way for an organization to get their attention. (3)

3) 91% of users who opted-in to receive texts from a brand see those messages as somewhat or very useful. (6)

4) The top five reasons why consumers opt in to a brand’s text messages are:

- coupons or deals (77%)
- personal alerts (50%)
- being in the loop (48%)
- more meaningful content (33%)
- no need to visit a physical location/website/app for information (31%). (6)

5) 74% of respondents report an improved overall impression of businesses that interact with them via text messaging. (3)

6) Only 17% of respondents consider SMS messages sent by companies to be intrusive. (3) This figure is significantly higher among those who are not opted in to receive texts from a brand, with 52% saying they’re disruptive. (6)

7) Customers also stated that SMS services helped them to ‘feel like they are cared about’ and ‘feel in control’ of the services they received.(3)

8) There is a particular preference for SMS-based services focused on security, identification, and assurance. (3)


SMS marketing in use

And to wrap up, here are insights into SMS marketing from 5000+ practitioners.

1) At the end of 2014 only 24% of marketers were using SMS as a digital marketing channel, though another 31% reported that they would start using it in within the following 12 months. (2)

2) 89% of marketers employing SMS marketing find it from somewhat to very effective, or more effective than corporate websites (64%) and display/banner ads (59%). (2)

3) 82% of marketers said they plan to increase or maintain their spending on SMS marketing in the next year. (2)

4) SMS marketing performs much better when integrated into an overall marketing strategy rather than being treated as an isolated channel. (2)

So that was 28 SMS marketing statistics you can use to build a foundation for your text marketing efforts in 2016. Just remember that SMS marketing works better when it’s automated, so feel free to learn how you can leverage the power of Apifonica SMS API for text marketing automation, bulk messaging, and SMS alerts here.


Source list

1. GSMA Global Mobile Economy Report 2015

2. 2015 State of Marketing Survey by Salesforce, autumn 2014 

3. The SMS Advantage Report by SAP & Loudhouse Research, September 2014 

4. Ericsson Mobility Report, November 2015

5. The High Demand for Customer Service via Text Message by OneReach, August 2014 

6. 2014 Mobile Behavior Report by Salesforce, January 2014 

7. Shift Communications Consumer Survey, September 2015 

8. Zogby Analytics Millenial Study, June 2014 


Have anything you’d like to add? Feel free to chime in!