How to choose an SMS API provider
When choosing an SMS API provider it’s important to note the deliverability, reliability and ease of integration. In this blog we guide you through what makes an ideal SMS API provider.
If you think your business is in a place that’s ready to scale up, then you may be considering a modern messaging solution that helps you achieve your growth goals. Using an SMS API for your customer communications is the perfect way to scale your business. An essential part of your omnichannel communications strategy, SMS API services can help you:
- More efficient
- Engage more with your users
- Scale fast
- Scale globally
- Provide real-time customer communication
Choosing the right SMS API provider for you might seem like a daunting task, but we’ve listed some key features to keep in mind to help you with your search.
Reliability and performance
You’ll want to look for an SMS API provider that has a proven track record of handling high message volumes. You might want to consider a provider that uses a cloud-based infrastructure, or is a well-known CPaaS provider.
If a provider isn’t forthcoming about their delivery rates it could indicate messages may not be consistently reaching their recipients. This would be a good reason to discount them from your list of candidates.
Similarly, you’ll want to ensure that you pick a provider that can:
- Scale as your business grows, and
- Handle your current volume of messages.
If a provider claims to be able to accommodate your needs, but this comes at the cost of performance, they won’t be able to grow with you and likely aren’t a worthwhile investment.
Message delivery and routing
We’ve already mentioned the importance of making sure that your messages reach their recipients reliably and in good time. This can be enhanced with good message routing – determining the best path for delivering SMS messages from the SMS gateway to your customers’ mobile devices.
It’s crucial to consider the type of traffic you’re sending when looking at delivery and routing. For instance, two-factor authentication (2FA) traffic for OTPs relies on speedy delivery over the highest quality routes. However, other traffic types such as marketing promos, won’t rely too heavily on instant delivery in order to succeed.
Routing will vary depending on your country of origin, the location of your recipients, the type of media you’re sending, and the load on mobile networks at any given time. Different platforms will use different methods to ensure optimal message delivery. It’s also important to see evidence of fallback routes – alternative routes to use in the event of primary carriers being down.
Expanding on the previous point – if your customer base is global it’s a good idea to opt for an SMS API provider that offers broad coverage across multiple countries. You might want to see examples of the local carriers that they are partnered with. The more mobile network operators in different countries, the wider reach you can expect to have.
Look for an SMS API provider that lists how many direct connections they have to operators around the world. This ensures that your business has direct connections to customers, globally.
Message types and features
Make sure that you understand the types of messages and levels of message customization on offer from each provider you look into. You might be interested in a high level of personalization in your customer service, or looking to use advanced service features, like A/B testing, for example, and connect with your audience in an engaging way. Scheduling and delivery tracking features should also be high on your priority list.
Meeting GDPR requirements is a must for any SMS API provider. Their security should be up to industry standards, as they will be handling sensitive customer information and data. Encryption, two-factor authentication, and secure data storage are features to keep an eye out for. A history of data breaches might indicate that their security is not up to scratch.
When engaging your global audience over SMS, you need to ensure that your content complies with local laws. For instance, did you that in the USA, you can’t send messages promoting casinos? Or that in India there are severe do-not-disturb (DND) restrictions in place?
Look for an SMS API provider that knows national compliance – so that you don’t have to. SMS providers that operate internationally through locally established offices will know the rules and help you and your business stay compliant.
If an SMS API sounds ideal, but is difficult to integrate with your existing marketing channels, then is it truly perfect? Your development team will appreciate all of the supportive resources they can get – if your chosen provider offers lots of options, such as SDKs and support forums, it shows that not only are they keen on you using their services, but they want you to be able to get the most out of them.
Analytics and reporting
One of the main benefits of using SMS for business is the fact that SMS has a much higher open rate than email – but if your provider can’t give you the data to back this up, you might not be able to prove its worth to your stakeholders. Analytics and reporting capabilities should be a key element for any SMS API provider, as it is these insights that will allow you to optimize your SMS campaigns and get the most out of this communication channel.
This includes detailed analytics that help you see click-through ratios on links in messages, for example, as well as connecting analytics over webhooks or APIs to your system, granting you real-time notifications.
While your preferred method of customer support is an individual preference, it is prudent to opt for an SMS API provider that is known for being responsive and helpful, whichever way they choose to communicate. You’ll want to know that, should an issue arise, you’ll be able to get quick and efficient technical support before there’s a chance for anything to go wrong.
An added bonus is if your SMS provider has offices around the world that can provide support in your local language and be on top of regulations in your area.
Pricing and contracts
It’s always a good idea to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best price, and SMS API pricing is no different. You may already have a budget in mind, but be willing to renegotiate for the right provider. Similarly, contracts and terms and conditions should be thoroughly understood before any commitments are made, as there may be cancellation policies or minimum requirements.
Just like with so many things – you get what you pay for. Check the quality of the connections versus the price. Some providers may have lower prices, and while this may be great for your budget, it could prove disastrous for your delivery rates, delivery times, compliance etc. This is because most low-cost providers don’t have direct connections to operators and instead rely on different aggregators, and this can potentially result in lost traffic.
Integration with existing systems
As mentioned above, your provider should be able to help you with integrating your chosen SMS API into your existing systems. However, some services are bound to be more compatible than others. You may need to verify with your CRM, marketing automation and customer support platforms that your chosen SMS API will work well alongside them. The goal is for a streamlined workflow, not crosscurrents.
Reputation and reviews
While public perception of a service may not always be 100% accurate, first-hand accounts of services are an invaluable source of information. A provider may tick all of your boxes, but if their reviews consistently mention issues and setbacks then it would be an easy decision to steer clear of their services.
A tried and tested method is to pay attention to middle-of-the-road reviews. These reviews – the three stars, or the five out of tens for example – often show a lot of thought has gone into their evaluation, as they often list both pros and cons of the service they are reviewing.
Trial and testing
It’s always good to see if your SMS API provider offers a demo or trial period. This means that you can experience their service firsthand before agreeing to a contract or partnership. SMS API pricing can vary significantly depending on your needs, and you don’t want to end up paying high prices for a service that ultimately doesn’t suit your needs.
Offering a demo is a sign that a provider is so confident in their offerings that you’ll have no reason not to commit after trying them for yourself. Even if you’re only browsing, taking advantage of free trials and demos is a great way to develop a more rounded opinion on what features you need from your provider.