Ask These 4 Questions To Save Your SMS Campaign

Learn the four most common reasons that international SMS marketing campaigns fall flat, and what you can do to fix them.

July 07 2016

Your SMS campaigns are a smash in some places, but not others. The offer makes sense. The call to action is clear. But in some places you have high open rates, but low conversions. In other places you have open rates so low that you wonder if messages are getting through at all.

In this post, we highlight the four most common reasons that international SMS marketing campaigns fall flat, and what you can do to fix them.

The Big Picture: Delivery Percentages Vary By Country

SMS is very dependable in the U.S., Canada, and Western Europe. If you send a text message to someone in these countries, the delivery rate is going to be at least 95 percent. And for the most part, the recipients will open the message and see what’s being sent.

But, in some countries, communications systems are less than perfect. Mailing a letter, sending an email, making a phone call—all of them are potentially problematic in countries that lack resources or the right infrastructure. Sending an SMS message campaign is often the most effective way to reach people.

When your delivery and open rates aren’t as high as you’d like or not getting through at all, what can you do then? Here are four questions to ask to help you fix the problem.

Can You Shorten Your Delivery Chain?

Ideally, you’d send your messages directly through to a mobile network operator (MNO) who in turn would deliver it directly to its customers. That’s the shortest possible route, but it’s not feasible. B2C SMS messages aren't typically sent directly from an operator to its customers. Intermediaries are used between the business and the carrier to send messages to customers. In fact, there is a whole classification system exists to explain the different routing possibilities.

A Tier 1 service is a company that has a direct connection to an operator. If you want to send messages to customers served by that operator, using a Tier 1 connection (i.e. company) is about as good as you can get. Tier 2 is where a company sends messages through a Tier 1 connection and then to the operator. Tier 3 service means three companies are involved in the transmission, Tier 4 means four are involved.

Each time you add another link in the chain, you increase the odds of a message not reaching your customers. Messages are delivered in large batches, always with the possibility of a few being dropped each time they’re moved down the line. How many? It can vary widely from country to country and connection to connection. This is why is best to have the shortest delivery chain between you and your customer.

Ironically, these longer delivery chains are also typically more expensive for companies to use. Each participant in the chain is paid for its services, so even though it’s a less efficient, less reliable method, it also often costs more too.

With a growing number of direct connections (300+) and by covering over 800 global operators, Infobip offers the best access and reliability in the industry.

Can your messaging provider bridge the technology gap?

The majority of mobile network operators have kept up with P2P (peer-to-peer) messaging - this is regular SMS we use with friends. As A2P (application-to-person) messaging emerged and technology have rapidly changed, some of them was confronted with a challenge they couldn’t overcome.

Supporting A2P messages requires an investment in hardware and software to manage messages that originate from one number, but go to hundreds of numbers at once.

For example, an operator may try to send an A2P message to a customer whose phone is turned off when the message is sent. The message, in that case, doesn’t get delivered. In systems that fully support A2P, the operator’s SMS platform resend the message a few times before “giving up”. 

When an operator doesn’t have the A2P technology needed to support your traffic, your messaging partner fills the gap benefiting both sides of the ecosystem.

Is Your Message Breaking A Rule?

Between the explosion of commercial/A2P messages and rise of Over-the-top (OTT) apps like WhatsApp, many operators were overwhelmed with traffic (A2P) and were losing revenue (OTT) so they started making rules to manage messages. It’s not surprising that operators sometimes created overly-strict rules that can be onerous for customers and companies alike.

Many countries have Do Not Disturb (DND) lists that will block incoming commercial messages. In India and France, for example, many people are on DND lists (in India roughly 50% of people are on the DND list). Violating DND lists with commercial messages can get a sender into serious trouble.

Around the world there rules, laws, and guidelines from operators, governments, and regulators restrict or manage how companies send A2P messages to consumers. If you run afoul of the rules, your messages could be blocked, you could be banned from sending messages, or fined. Most of the rules are easy to navigate and work within, but you have to be working with someone who knows the rules in the first place. Your messaging provider is your best resource to help you plan campaigns and messages that stay well within the rules.

Is It Something Specific To A Single Country Or Culture?

In some Western countries, users pay a premium to read some messages, so not surprisingly, open rates for those messages are much lower. If you don’t understand how each country operates, you could be sending messages that people won’t open just because they think they will be charged for them. In some countries when you send an SMS text to a phone number, you may be trying to reach a customer that doesn’t even exist.

Customers will buy a pre-paid phone, list its number as a contact, then abandon the phone and replace it with another. Messages sent to that first phone just go off into the ether, never to be seen or read. Often it’s easier to just get rid of a phone and SIM and start fresh than deal with tons of offers.

If needed, your messaging provider should be able to tell you what to expect in a given country. The best partners have first-hand knowledge of each country they support and will set the right expectations for your campaigns to A2P programs.

The Good News: Delivery Rates Will Continue To Improve

While SMS messaging is well-established as a medium, it is undergoing rapid change in many parts of the world. In Myanmar, there was no platform for A2P traffic last year. Now the country’s government and operators are embracing it and quickly adapting methods to distribute messages. There’s a simple incentive for them to do so: revenue. The quicker countries and operators provide reliable messaging platforms, the quicker they can start sharing in the financial benefits of the system.

In the meantime, Infobip and other Tier 1 providers operating in these countries play a role in helping work around some of these obstacles while also providing much-needed infrastructure to operators who want to quickly and seamlessly upgrade their existing systems.

Getting Deeper Answers: The secret is in the reporting

Text messaging is the easiest and most reliable way to scale messaging internationally, but to understand your campaign’s effectiveness you need one crucial thing - data. Using Infobip’s SMS API you have access to a wealth of data for reports that show what’s working and what's not in near-real time as your campaign unfolds. Combining your own conversion data with reports from Infobip, you can see conversion rates segmented by country, mobile network operator, and operating system.

Without reports like these, you may not even know your conversation rates are low, let alone what to do about it. Given the differences in delivery chains, technology, and cultures around the world, every campaign will require at least a little optimization. Infobip’s on-the-ground reps can identify the problem and find a solution based on real data and first-hand market knowledge.

Build your international campaigns with a leading international partner

When you want to reach a global audience with clear, concise messages, SMS is the leader. However, launching of a successful global SMS campaigns is easier with a helping hand. From access to networks to insight into local laws to understanding the nuances in each market, Infobip has the people with the skills and background to help you be successful.

With forty-seven offices around the world, serving over 190 countries, Infobip has unprecedented access to global markets.

Run and manage your SMS campaigns with a trusted partner.

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