The Effectiveness of Email Marketing Versus SMS Marketing

When it comes to email marketing and SMS, marketers aren't sure which marketing channel performs best. Is email marketing dying? Should you focus on SMS? Read More...

When it comes to email marketing and SMS, marketers aren't sure which marketing channel performs best. Is email marketing dying? Should you focus on SMS? Are these still viable channels to use? There seems to be a lot of confusion about this topic.

It's a problem.

You need to a consistent way to get in touch with your customers. In the past, email marketing was the default channel for marketers. Email was a simple way to attract customer attention consistently. An easy way to request reviews.

Not anymore.

Are experts right about the death of email?

In 2007 Slate predicted the death of email. Then in 2010, Sheryl Sandberg predicted the death of email. Over the years, several experts have predicted the death of email.

SMS has been touted as the next big thing.

There's just one problem. The experts were wrong about the death of email. It isn't dying so much as it's changing. The way we use email, it's maturing. As new patterns and technology emerges, email is becoming focused, more niche.

Does this mean it's dying?

Not at all. Research from Statista shows it's actually the opposite. Email usage continues to grow!

Statistic: Number of e-mail users in the United States from 2013 to 2020 (in millions) | Statista

Statistic: Number of e-mail users in the United States from 2013 to 2020 (in millions) | Statista


Well maybe email's growth is simply limited to professional environments.


Statistic: During what events during your day do you read e-mail? | Statista

Statistic: During what events during your day do you read e-mail? | Statista

See the pattern?

We're checking our emails primarily during work and our dead time. We're bored or we're in the middle of a routine or mundane task. Using the bathroom, commuting, waiting for a meeting, in bed, etc.


Maybe it's an older segment of the population. I mean millennials aren't using email right?

Bzzzt! Wrong again.

Young people are email prodigies

Adobe's email consumer survey found that young people (18 - 34) were obsessed with email. It's sticky with consumers and professionals overall. In fact, 66 percent of these young people reported reaching inbox zero - that's right.

adobe email survey graph - young people, inbox zero

They've actually done it.

What's more surprising about all of this is the fact that consumers actually want email from brands. Almost two thirds of consumers, 61 percent, prefer to receive offers via email.

consumers prefer offers via email

Dig deeper and you'll find the research backs this up. Email as a marketing channel is here to stay.

What's changing then?

Users are looking for balance. They're doing their best to manage email on top of the other demands on their time.

What about SMS?

The research on SMS shows some amazing results. It's a rapidly growing channel with a promising future for marketers but, what does the evidence say?

· The Pew research center found 91 percent of Americans owned a mobile phone

· 72 percent of Americans own a smartphone

· 98 percent of mobile users will read a branded or business based SMS message

· 90 percent of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes!

· Response rates are as high as 45 to 98 percent (compared to email's 2 to 20 percent)

On the surface this seems clear.

It seems as if SMS marketing is the clear winner. With SMS, messages are delivered instantly. The content has to be short and sweet. It's cheap.

And the best part?

Customers can handle between 20 to 30 text messages per day!

It's beautiful.

Here's why this is a problem.

SMS vs. email: The hidden problem

Approx. 269 billion emails were sent and received each day in 2017. That number is expected to climb to 333 billion emails in 2022.

Statistic: Number of sent and received e-mails per day worldwide from 2017 to 2022 (in billions) | Statista

Statistic: Number of sent and received e-mails per day worldwide from 2017 to 2022 (in billions) | Statista

What about SMS?

Only 18.7 billion texts are sent worldwide every day, not including app-to-app messaging. What's worse, consumer adoption is surprisingly low. Only 54 percent of consumers have opted in to receive SMS messages from brands or businesses.

sms optin

You see the obvious problem, right?

It's an issue of volume. These two channels aren't even close. Email marketing has widespread adoption. It's pretty unlikely that email will be dislodged or unseated overnight.

Then there's spam.

Nearly 6 in 10 SMS users receive spam on a weekly basis, whether they've opted in or not. This makes it harder for unknown brands to get their messages through to consumers. It can work, but there are challenges.

emarketer SMS spam

What does this mean for marketers?

Email marketing vs. SMS: It's not either/or, it's both

These channels have a unique role in consumers’ minds. A recent report outlined the reasons behind consumers opting in to SMS messages:

1. Coupons and deals

2. Personal alerts (e.g. low balance, account updates, notifications, etc.)

3. Being in the loop

4. More meaningful content

5. Don't want to visit brand website/app for information

6. Quick access to information.

On the other hand, email is multipurpose. It's something customers have grown accustomed to, where it's used for a variety of purposes.

  • Email is used to inform and educate
  • Provide coupons and deals
  • Build, establish and maintain community
  • Sell products and services
  • Provide exclusivity and prestige
  • Give deep, meaningful content
  • Request feedback, action or advice

There's some overlap here. What does this mean for you?

You can use both.

If you have to use one, email marketing is probably the safer bet. But using both options can yield significant results. Smart Insights found sending out a simple follow up SMS message "have you read your email?" increased email open rates by an additional 20 to 30 percent!

It gets better.

SMS, when combined with other channels like email, improves customer engagement levels. Customer retention rates are higher and it's an additional touchpoint you can use to learn more about your customers.

This is perfect if you’re using emails to request reviews.

Wait a minute.

What about differences in demographics? Won't this affect your response rates?


There are significant differences with demographics. A study from OneReach found only 75 percent of 50 to 64 year olds used their phone to send SMS messages compared to 97 percent of 18 to 29 year olds.

There's also gender.

This study found women tend to read SMS messages less frequently than men.

It's complicated.

Which is actually good news in disguise. This encourages marketers to spend more time getting to know their customers.


There's a significant amount of variation. What's true in one industry or demographic may not be true in yours. Spending time with your customers ensures that you get these details right.

Here's why.

Demographics tell you how to use these marketing channels

Lets say your customers are sophisticated users. You want to create a review request campaign. What's the best way to use these marketing channels?

It's simple.

1. Talk to your customers. Map their demographics and psychographics. Get a sense of who they are and what they're about. Identify their desires, goals, fears, frustrations and problems. Identify customer evangelists, passives and detractors. Tag them accordingly.

2. Segment your audience. Use 10x content to segment customers into groups. One group receives an email autoresponder sequence while others receive an SMS + email autoresponder sequence.

3. Over deliver. Give your customers the amazing product or service they deserve. Show them that you're (a.) focused on their needs (b.) able to solve their problems and (c.) interested in their well-being over the long term.

4. Request feedback. Create an autoresponder sequence to request reviews. Pair that with customer segments who have already self identified/selected both channels. Send SMS + email marketing content to customers who have opted in for both. Send web and email marketing content to everyone else.

5. Use SMS templates to trigger response. The goal of your SMS marketing is simple. Get the click. That's it. But how?

Remember our customer segments?

We're going to use those here. You'll want to use templates to attract a specific audience. You can start the conversation with a simple question via SMS.

SMS: "On a scale of 0 - 10, how likely are you to recommend us?"

This enables you to confirm your evangelists, passives and detractors. Here's how you use this information with your SMS + email segment.

Evangelists. Add them to a review request SMS + autoresponder sequence. These customers receive a variety of text messages requesting a review.

SMS: "Sounds like you're pretty happy! Is there anything we can do to make things even better for you? Tell us more [insert review funnel link]"

SMS: "Reaching out to our best customers (top 3%) for feedback. That's You! Would you be willing to answer 6 questions? Takes 2 min.[insert review funnel link]"

SMS: "I think you're amazing. Would you be willing to share your success story w/ me? Just have 6 questions. Takes 2 min. [insert review funnel link]"

Passives attract other passives with their reviews so we'll leave them alone for now.

Detractors can be converted to evangelists or we can gain valuable feedback on our failure. Here's a few SMS templates we can use for that.

SMS: "I'm so sorry we messed things up. Would you be willing to help us understand more about what went wrong? Feel free to be brutally honest [insert review funnel link]."

SMS: "We definitely screwed things up. I'm so sorry. Would you allow us to make things right? Tell us where we went wrong [insert review funnel link]"

SMS: "We dropped the ball. I'm so sorry. What was the most frustrating part of our [service]? [insert review funnel link]"

If customers respond favorably, you win the chance to convert a detractor to an evangelist. You'll need to go above and beyond but it's definitely possible if you handle things well.

What about email?

We've got you covered. If you're looking for templates you can use to request reviews here are a few templates you can use right away.

The death of email is overstated

"Experts" have predicted the demise of email for more than a decade. SMS was touted as the next big thing. As we've seen, the data didn't support their claims.

Email isn't dying, it's growing.

It's changing and evolving. But SMS is growing too. This isn't an either or proposition. It's a chance for you to achieve more with both. Young consumers are email overachievers. They're accomplishing more with email in less time. Older consumers are adopting both.

You can too.

Email marketing. SMS marketing. They're both effective with the right audience. If you're focused on a particular industry you'll need to determine what's best for you.

You'll need to test.

With a customer driven approach and a little creativity you'll have everything you need to find the communication channel.

About the Author

Andrew McDermott

Andrew McDermott is the co-founder of HooktoWin and the co-author of Hook: Why Websites Fail to Make Money. He shows entrepreneurs how to attract and win new customers.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Nice blog and well explained about email marketing and its usage, Marketing your products or services by email can be a fast, flexible and cost-effective way of reaching new customers and retaining existing customers. Email marketingis important for building relationships with prospects,

  2. Thanks for sharing information on SMS Marketing. I really appreciate it

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