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SMS vs. Push Notifications: Choosing the Right Communication Channel

May 25, 2023

In today's fast-paced digital world, businesses need to communicate with their customers quickly and effectively. SMS and push notifications are two popular channels businesses use to reach customers. Both offer unique benefits and drawbacks, making it challenging to choose the one best suited to your needs.  

In this blog post, we'll explore SMS vs. push notifications to help you decide which communication channel is right for your business.

SMS vs. Push Notifications: What’s the Difference?

Both SMS and push notifications send messages directly to a customer's mobile device. The key difference is that SMS is a text-based communication channel, while push notifications are alerts sent by an app or website that a customer must download first.

Let’s review each in greater depth.

push notifications vs SMS comparison chart


SMS stands for Short Message Service. SMS only requires the customer’s phone number and a mobile network connection, unlike OTT apps (like WhatsApp, iMessage and Facebook Messenger) that require an internet connection or WiFi. 

That makes SMS especially useful when you need to get time-sensitive information to customers without an internet connection. Here are some common SMS use cases for industries or businesses:

  • Healthcare providers can remind patients about upcoming appointments, provide test results or send medication reminders.
  • Retailers can alert customers about sales and promotions, notify them when a product is back in stock or provide updates on their order status.
  • Restaurants can send out daily specials, promotions, or limited-time offers.
  • Travel and hospitality businesses can send booking confirmations and flight status updates or remind guests about check-out times.
  • Educational institutions can send reminders about upcoming events and emergency notifications or provide information on school closures.

SMS is typically used for customer service messages, such as appointment confirmations, bill payment reminders, critical systems alerts and delivery tracking. Think about it like sending personal texts to your customers — just in a quicker, more scalable and cost-effective way. 

“Just a reminder, your dentist appointment is tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.” 

Ultimately, SMS is a quick and relatively cheap way to contact your customers. Since six billion people worldwide will be able to send and receive text messages by 2025, it’s a good investment for reaching your customers exactly where they are.

Read: 6 Tips for Mastering SMS for Customer Service

Push Notifications

Push notifications are usually used to convey information from websites or downloaded apps. One important note is that they can be received even when the app is not open or actively in use. 

Push notifications can be used to send varying types of messages, like breaking news, offers and sales and many other types of branded content.

“While you’re in the store, here’s a special code for 25% off your purchase!”

Businesses and industries prioritizing customer engagement, retention, and personalization would benefit the most from using push notifications. For instance:

  • Ecommerce businesses can alert customers about new products, exclusive sales and discounts. 
  • News outlets can provide breaking news alerts and updates on important stories. 
  • Entertainment apps can alert users about new content, provide personalized recommendations or promote upcoming events.
  • Banking and financial apps can alert users about low balances, fraud alerts or confirmations of transactions.
  • Gaming apps can notify users about new game releases, limited-time events or in-game promotions.

Push notifications are not regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or Federal Trade Commission (FTC), meaning fewer constraints. They don’t require opt-in from customers since they already opted in by downloading the app. Plus, push notifications place no restrictions on character limits.

Word to the wise: Keep in mind that not all customers will opt-in to receive push notifications. In addition, you must be careful not to overload customers with too many notifications, which can lead to customer fatigue and churn. Therefore, it's crucial to have a well-thought-out strategy in place to ensure your push notifications provide value to customers and improve overall business outcomes.

So, which route should you take: SMS or push notifications?  Both are effective, but each is appropriate in different circumstances. 

Push Notifications vs. SMS: A Comparison



Push Notifications

Requires internet connection



Need opt-in consent


No. Users opt in when they download the app

Regulated by the FTC



High open rates


Attention-getting, but users can delete the app or turn off notifications

Works on all mobile devices


Must have an app installed

Can include media

Varies by platform* 


Character limits

160 characters**


Content flexibility

Can include links to social media or any webpage

Can only direct traffic back to the app

Easy to implement


Must build a stand-alone app, which can be costly

* Textedly enables you to exchange picture messages with your customers, allowing you to send and receive visual content

**Textedly lets you send texts with over 300 characters

Ultimately, you should carefully evaluate the pros and cons of both communication channels and choose the one that best fits your needs and objectives. Doing so will help you improve customer communication, satisfaction and overall business outcomes.

Start Sending Better SMS Campaigns With Textedly

SMS is an excellent way to communicate with your customers while remaining helpful, informative and non-intrusive. Ready to connect with your customers in this scalable, cost-effective way?

Textedly makes it simple to send timely and on-brand SMS text messages to your customers. Whether you want to send a one-off text or mass text message, Textedly lets you create a customized SMS marketing plan that fits your business needs.

Need one more reason to try Textedly? It’s one of the few companies that allows you to send up to 300 characters per message instead of the traditional 160-character limit. What more could you ask for?

Sign up for a free trial with Textedly, so you can start leveraging text with your customers today.

Start Texting Your Customers for Free With Textedly