SMS Short Code vs SMS Long Code: Which is Better?

While many eCommerce stores are playing catch-up with social engagement through various channels, none of them are as convenient as a text message. As we place a premium on convenience and brands that expedite customer service, reaching out to your consumers where they communicate the most will command a much higher response rate than any other approach such as in-app notifications, pop-ups or email.

What is Conversational SMS Marketing?

Conversational marketing has been around for some time and more and more brands are turning to creating genuine connections with their customers through communities and transparent communications.

But how does it apply to text marketing?

Conversational text marketing takes your SMS strategy to the next level. Unlike bulk messaging which pushes out promotions and discount codes with no intention of offering personalized real value, conversational SMS focuses on engaging with your customers and building up rapport. It’s an empathy-driven approach, showing true care for a customer’s pain point, and it allows your shoppers to text you back and get answers in real time.

This has a number of benefits, like reducing the number of support tickets, increasing customer retention and prompting customers to return to their abandoned carts. With almost 70% of carts ending up abandoned, many brands face issues converting them to a final sale. With tools like Cartloop, we help guide shoppers through every step of the customer journey.

What is a Short Code

Short codes (also called short numbers, Common Short Code, or CSC) are commonly used to send bulk SMS marketing campaigns to a user’s mobile phone. It’s designed for high volume and mass texting.

However, the short code SMS number is also a highly brand-driven and non-personalized communications. They are generally used by bulk messaging companies primarily for pushing out promotions and latest offers or high volume messaging replies (e.g. voting shows).

Types of Short Codes

There are two types of short codes: shared short codes and dedicated short codes.

Shared Short Codes

“Text BAGS to 12388”

“Text SHOES to 12388”

“Text WIN to 12388”

These are shared short codes. They are shared between several businesses, thus sharing costs and making it an affordable option for text marketing. Incoming mobile traffic is differentiated by the use of a unique keyword that routes the text to the organization who reserved it, within the same industry. For example, three fashion online stores may share the same short code, but use different keywords for incoming texts.

Dedicated Short Codes

“Text SHOES to 12388”

“Text SHOES to 13595”

“Text SHOES to 15743”

The examples above are dedicated short codes. What this means is different brands get to use the same keyword, but route it to a uniquely assigned short code number, which is assigned to each specific store. The costs associated with dedicated short codes are higher than the shared ones.

The Future of Short Codes

In 2018, AT&T informed A2P partners that they will stop activating new shared short codes, and also mentioned they will ban existing short code SMS campaigns at some point in the future. As of October 2020, both T-Mobile and AT&T now removed support of shared short codes in their T&Cs.

This decision makes sense in the context of Conversational SMS Marketing - short codes are not consumer-driven, and, at Cartloop, we made the decision to use typical long code, local numbers, from the start, to further support our mission of providing personalized, real-value support. We strongly advise brands currently using short codes to make the switch. The risk of not doing so is highly interconnected with the deliverability of your text messages.

What is a Long Code

Long Code numbers, also known as Virtual Mobile Number (VMN), are a 10-digit standard-length, typically used by conversational text marketing companies, like Cartloop, to create a 2-way communications channel between the online stores and their shoppers.

A major difference between long code and short code numbers is their inbound to outbound text ratio. According to mobile networks regulations, it should be better than 1:3 for long codes. If a large number of promotions go out to the same recipient from a long code number, chances are, the number will get blocked by the carrier. This offers some peace of mind for your customers, especially in the case of brand communications, that you are not misusing this channel for spam or unrequested promotions.

Best Usage for Short Code SMS

Short Code SMS are impersonal and offer no choice of a two-way conversation. However, while shared short codes are starting to be blocked by carriers, there are a couple of situations where a Short Code text message is advantageous:

  • Alert notifications: airlines or security companies
  • Polls: text to vote surveys, mobile voting or polls
  • Financial services: payment reminders and billing notifications sent by banks and financial institutions always user a short code SMS to keep customers informed of due dates or delayed payments

However, even if you do have a need for sending out account alerts or security notifications, we strongly advise you use a complementary SMS service for brand notifications and customer communications.

Best Usage for Long Code SMS

Ten-digit numbers look like they come from real people, not autodialers or bots, creating a personalized approach to text marketing. Long code SMS have several benefits and areas of applicability:

  • Local businesses: As the long code is an actual 10 digit phone number, it can be very appealing for local company. For example, if you’re an eCommerce store based out of Boston, MA, you can send your customers tracking information via SMS using a 617 area code, and have it appear as coming from an actual mobile phone (e.g. Delivery Company).
  • Dynamic phone number allocation: similar to the feature above, with Cartloop you can get different numbers based on your customer's location, all under the same roof
  • 1 to 1 communications: Creating a meaningful 2-way communication stream and offering your customers an additional channel to contact you
  • Appointment reminders
  • Appointment confirmations
  • Customer retention nurturing flows
  • Delivery and tracking updates
  • Customer service via SMS
  • Troubleshooting and service issues

Key Takeaways

The ban on short code SMS is a clear signal that the carriers are moving away from brand-driven messages and making the switch to useful, personalized and informative content. Conversational SMS marketing stands out through convenience and the trust it gives shoppers.

Text marketing is one of the most effective ways to bring in new revenue. At Cartloop, we help convert your abandoned carts without you lifting a finger. Real people, our Cartloop Recovery Experts, help bring in additional revenue by texting your customers in real time, at just the right time.

As our focus is on building true, meaningful relationships with your shoppers, we use long code SMS as it looks more familiar to shoppers, it allows them to reply and they are a sure way to entice a 2-way conversation start.

If you've been using short codes as part of your strategy, consider pivoting your content to a more conversation focused strategy. Our experts can help you make the transition and show you how you can turn inactive customers into engaged brand ambassadors. If you want to know more about how Cartloop works and why you should use it in your marketing communications, we wrote about it in detail here.

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