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Email vs. SMS Marketing: When to Use Which?

May 13, 2020

Email has been the preferred method for sending mass messages and reaching audiences for decades. But a formidable opponent has arrived on the scene. 

SMS marketing has emerged as a fast, cost-effective and reliable way to share promotions, reminders and updates with customers. 

Email and SMS can work together to create a seamless communication experience for customers. And while certain messages are best delivered in an email, many marketing messages are more effective when sent via SMS. 

In this blog, we’ll compare email vs. text marketing to help you maximize ROI from your marketing campaigns – and share the best scenarios to send SMS messages and emails. 

Difference Between Email and SMS

Marketers and business owners are constantly looking for the best way to win consumers’ attention. Between advertising, social media, email and other forms of marketing and advertising, consumers see thousands of ads every day

As the world becomes increasingly mobile-centric, more companies are adopting SMS marketing. 77% of consumers have a positive perception of companies that offer SMS as a communication channel. And research shows that SMS produces engagement rates 6-8 times higher than email marketing.

Let’s take a look at the difference between email and SMS across a few important categories: 

Open Rate

SMS messages boast a 98% open rate, compared to 20% for email. 

Click Rate

29% of recipients click on a link in an SMS message they receive. In contrast, average email click-through rates hover around 2.5%


SMS marketing requires customers to explicitly opt in, so your list includes only engaged customers who want to hear from you. 

Alternatively, emails are typically sent to larger lists on a more regular cadence, increasing the likelihood that recipients will mark messages as spam. Less than 3% of SMS messages are considered spam, compared to nearly half of all emails.


Email is an overly saturated marketing channel. The average office worker receives 121 emails per day

Fewer companies run SMS marketing campaigns, which means you have a higher chance of standing out in your audiences’ inboxes. 

Response Rate

It takes the average person 90 minutes to respond to an email and 90 seconds to respond to a text. 


SMS is one of the most cost-effective ways to share your message with a large number of people, though the cost varies from provider to provider. Textedly starts at $29 per month for 1,000 messages and goes up from there to accommodate any business’s needs. 

Email marketing costs vary dramatically depending on your provider, list size, email send frequency and additional features. You can expect to pay anywhere from a few dollars per month for a bare-bones email platform or several thousand per month for an advanced platform. 

If you want to achieve high open rates and response rates and consistent engagement, SMS is a solid bet. 

But you can’t write off email completely. Next, we’ll look at use cases for SMS and email to effectively use both channels. 

SMS Marketing vs Email Marketing

When to Use SMS Marketing

If your message is time-sensitive or requires immediate action, SMS is the best communication channel. Use SMS when you need to send:  

  • Limited product offers and discounts
  • Appointment reminders
  • Urgent updates and notifications
  • Personal alerts
  • Purchase confirmations 
  • Information that requires two-way communication

Advantages of SMS Marketing

  • Immediate: SMS allows you to deliver important messages straight to the hands of your customers. 
  • High open rate: With a 98% open rate for SMS, you can virtually guarantee your audience sees your message. 
  • Simple and concise: SMS puts a 160-character cap on every message, forcing you to condense your message to only the most vital information. Your customers will appreciate the brevity. 
  • Conversational and casual: Consumers want to be treated like human beings. SMS allows you to send essential information in a personal way – without causing the relationship to cross inappropriate boundaries.
  • No WiFi required: SMS messages are sent via a mobile network connection, which means your customers can receive them even without an internet connection.

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When to Use Email Marketing

In general, email is the best communication platform when you want to share information that is not time-sensitive or you have a longer message to send. 

Email also offers more creative freedom, allowing plenty of space to feature imagery, graphics and calls to action (CTAs). 

Smart uses for email marketing include: 

  • Newsletters 
  • Long-form educational content
  • Visual product announcements
  • B2B campaigns that cover technical information
  • Press releases or publicity updates

269 billion emails are sent daily, and nearly 50% are classified as spam. It’s no surprise that many people disregard marketing emails and delete them before ever reading them. 

However, email still has a clear time and place in any marketing strategy. 

How to Strike a Balance Between SMS and Email

SMS and email both have their strengths, and they work best as complementary channels. 

As a general rule of thumb, remember: SMS is best for time-sensitive information, urgent requests, or messages that require two-way communication. Email is best for content that is long, contains rich media or needs to be accessed at a later date. 

Here are a few ways to use email and SMS together:

  • Send a text message to encourage customers to subscribe to your email list for weekly newsletters.
  • Send an order confirmation receipt via email and follow up with SMS tracking updates. 
  • Send an email to inform customers about a new product launch. Then, send a mass SMS to announce a flash sale on the new product. 

Tip: Be careful not to overwhelm customers with marketing messages. Cap your SMS messages at 1-2 per week. Email marketing frequency depends on your industry and how often customers currently hear from your business. But in general, 1-2 bulk emails per week is ideal for most companies. 

When used in conjunction with email, SMS marketing is a great way to build brand awareness and grow relationships with customers who actually want to hear from you. 

Whether you’re brand-new to SMS marketing or want to try out a new platform, Textedly can help. Textedly provides straightforward, flexible SMS solutions that are easy to set up, so you can start messaging customers immediately. 

Get started with a free Textedly trial to jumpstart your SMS marketing campaign. 

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