What is a short code?

A short code is a five- to six-digit mobile number businesses use to send and receive both SMS and MMS messages – either as part of marketing activity or business operations.

They are usually country-specific and don’t support international roaming (although there are a few exceptions, such as the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland).

A short code can ONLY be used for SMS and MMS messages – you can’t make a voice call to a short code. They are commonly used in marketing campaigns for transactional interactions and two-factor authentication (2FA).

What are the types of SMS short codes?

In general, there are two types of SMS short codes:

  • Shared: Short codes are shared by more than one company, and differentiation is made by choosing a dedicated keyword – INFOBIP or LOJAX. These short codes are usually much cheaper than dedicated ones, so they represent a good option for those short and unique campaigns. However, you should remember that most carriers discontinue these short codes in various countries.
  • Dedicated: This 5-6 digit code is only used by your company and does not need a dedicated keyword. It should be noted that this second type of SMS short codes are more secure since the traffic goes directly to your account. On the other hand, like many of the good things in life, they are more expensive.

Additionally, since they are short codes, you can choose the digits that make them up. This strategy is usually used for specific marketing campaigns and causes short codes to be divided into:

  • Random codes: These are a combination of random numbers assigned by the operator. As you can imagine, they are cheaper than the second option.
  • Chosen codes: the company can choose a sequence of numbers that, in some way, has to do with the brand or that is easy for users to remember.

What are the benefits of short codes?

As we’ve mentioned, businesses most commonly use short codes when communicating with customers or prospects. Most of the benefits relate to their suitability for this purpose.

  • Scalability! It is much quicker to send messages via a short code – especially if you send a large number simultaneously. If you send a monthly statement alert to all 50,000 of your subscribers, it would be about 50x quicker to do this via a short code than via a 10+ digit number.
  • Being short! They are far more memorable than conventional mobile numbers and are easier to use in marketing material and outdoor media. Messages from short numbers are instantly recognizable as being from a business and can be incorporated into a brand identity.
  • Easily recognizable! Messages from short numbers are instantly identifiable as being from a business and can be incorporated into a brand identity.

How to get a short code?

Short codes are usually leased for a set length, i.e., three months, six months, or 12 months at a time. You must apply for a short code via your SMS service provider.

Infobip can help with this process with a service that covers more than 50 countries globally. It is worth mentioning that the operator approval process can take 2-8 weeks. In addition to this, with us, you have the option to migrate your short code from one provider to another.

How much do short codes cost?

The exact price depends on the type of short code you want (Dedicated, Premium, Shared, etc.), the country you will be using it, and the duration you need it for. In the US, a randomly allocated short code is the cheapest to lease and usually costs between $400 and $600 a month, but it can cost more than double if you want a specific number (for example, one that spells your business name on a phone keypad).

What are zero-rated short codes?

Zero-rated short codes are used for 2-way interaction between companies and their customers where the customers do not pay the cost of sending messages to the company, who pick up this cost. The common use case is for opt-out, as many countries’ regulations require free opt-out.

Zero-rated short codes are also used to motivate customers to leave feedback. Companies will send messages to end customers requesting service or product ratings and stress that the message is free for the customer.

What is the difference between short codes and long numbers?

Long numbers are very similar to the traditional cell phone numbers we all store on our smartphones. They usually start with the country code followed by an area number and the phone number itself. The maximum number of digits for this type of format is 15 digits.

Short numbers (also known as short codes) are, as the name suggests, smaller than long numbers. They are usually made up of 5 or 6 digits (but can be between 3 and 8 depending on the situation) and refer only to the SMS provider’s subscription number.

What is the difference between short codes and verified SMS?

The significant differences between a short code SMS and a verified SMS are as follows:

Verified SMS works only on cell phones running the Android operating system. Short code, on the other hand, works on all existing operating systems. For example, when sending a verified SMS to an iOS mobile phone, the message is sent to the user via a short code.

In a verified SMS, instead of a short code, the name of the company and the verification badge awarded by Google will appear. The user will also have access to a brief description of the company.

It is possible to insert links and pre-viewable images through a verified SMS, which is impossible through a standard SMS.

For Google to verify your SMS, you must first have a short code associated with your business.

Google SMS sender verification requires an internet connection. For this reason, in cases where the end-user does not have a connection, the message “verifying sender” will appear, and -additional- the message will appear along with the short code.

Dec 20th, 2023
5 min read

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