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  • 2021 SMS Statistical Observatory: a focus on SMS Marketing in 2020
Paola Bergamini
10 June 2021
Reading time: 4 min.

2021 SMS Statistical Observatory: a focus on SMS Marketing in 2020

Let’s analyze the 164 million messages sent by the MailUp customer base over the 12 months of 2020 in order to understant the performances of the SMS channel from the year of COVID.

This focus, just like its twin version on Email Marketing, is an in-depth analysis on the performances of the SMS campaign sent by MailUp customer base during 2020.

We went for a special spotlight on SMS channel analysis to provide companies with a detailed overview of SMS Marketing and the performances of the various sectors.

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A general overview of SMS campaigns during the year of COVID

The global comparison between the 2019 and 2020 metrics shows a slight improvement in most of the study’s indicators. The only exception is the click-through rate related to message links, which had a slight drop (-6.3%).

The main rise relates to the sending volumes. The health emergency made communication and update promptness a sudden need. In fact, 2020 recorded a 23.69% increase in SMS texts sent.

Delivery and volumes distribution per month

Beyond the general increase, the 2020 distribution of sending volumes had a more discontinuous trend compared to 2019. There were two drastic, positive peaks and two net decreases: the first were recorded in the month of July with around 21 million text messages, then in November when occasions like Black Friday and the holiday season increased to a total of 17.2 million. On the other hand, the two drops occurred in April, despite the lockdown, with only 8 million SMS texts sent and, more predictably, in August.

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Sectoral breakdown

After a general overview, the analysis then focuses on the performances recorded by the individual macro sectors of the MailUp customer base. Retail was the most brilliant achiever with 41 million mailings, followed by Insurance/Finance/Banks with 24.6 million, and then Health/Fitness/Sports with 13.3 million. In particular, the latter two sectors recorded a significant increase in performance compared to 2019 with positive changes of 177.56% and 36.4%, respectively. In contrast to the previous year, there’s also a significant growth in the Gambling/Games sector. This saw a variation of +895.80% in 2019.

Click rates

In the analysis, the click-through rate is the only metric that experienced a slight decline from 2019 (from 6.67% to 6.25%). This drop, however, can be attributed to the increase in general sending volumes and an increment in the number of SMS texts with shortened links sent during 2020 (which went from 8% in 2019 to 13% last year).

Sectoral breakdown

The cross-section of the sectors reveals excellent results from the following: Utilities with a median CTR value of 12.27%; Insurance/Finance/Banks with a click rate of 10.68%, and Large Distribution with a CTR of 10.14%. Retail doesn’t exactly shine. Despite being first in the number of mailings, it obtains a median click-through rate of 6.86%.

This macro sector focus confirms the power of SMS as a civic communication channel. SMS is better for informing on public utilities or, in any case, the user’s personal services (such as details on a financial plan or on water, electricity, and gas), rather than for communicating discounts and promotions and incentivizing a purchase.

Sending times

The sending timing scenario is very similar to that of the email channel. There’s no substantial difference between 2019 and 2020: Thursdays and Fridays are when companies do most of their sending.

The sending time variable adds that the communication activity via SMS is more intense mid-day from 11:00 a.m.to 1:00 p.m. This proves that companies take advantage of the lunch break to intercept recipients in their free time when they pay more attention to messages with no work interference.

Delivery times

As for delivery times, i.e., the gap between when the message is sent to the gateway and the moment the recipient receives the message, 2020 campaigns turn out to be faster than those of the previous year. The median value shifted from 34 seconds in 2019 to 19 seconds in 2020. The SMS channel gained 15 seconds in speed.

Reaction time

When it comes to reaction times (i.e., the minimum time gap between receiving and clicking on the SMS), there’s a confirmed positive trend with improving performance: the median value shows a change from 102 minutes in 2019 to 75 minutes in 2020. The user, therefore, takes a little more than an hour to click on the message. This means messages are relevant and recipients have an equally positive interest in them.

Message layout

Message length in the 2020 SMS campaigns

The message length analysis highlights that companies tried to exploit all of the available 160 characters within a single SMS: the overall picture, in fact, detects a median length of 155 characters per message. 

Although the MailUp platform allows for chaining up to 10 messages (for a total of 1,530 characters), the study points out a clear preference of companies toward incisiveness and the construction of more essential and immediate communications. 

Keywords in the year of COVID

Let’s check out the analysis on the main topics of the 2020 SMS campaigns. Here, two interesting directions emerge:

  • on the one hand, keywords such as “until” and “discount” are the most used by companies, appearing 4,147 and 3,096 times, respectively; and
  • on the other hand, there’s a foreseeable increase in information-related mailings with words such as “info” (2,600 times) and “pharmacy” (2,433 times) ranking first and second in the list of the most used keywords. This figure clearly depends on the impact of the health emergency on last year’s communications. It further proves that SMS emerged as a very effective channel for sending updates and news on the pandemic’s evolution.

In summary

Although 2020 was a decidedly particular year, the results of the Observatory reveal a positive overall picture for the 2020 SMS campaigns. This shows how much the SMS channel remains a powerful communication tool, despite nearly 30 years of history

In fact, the analysis revealed an overall improvement in performance compared to 2019, even though the pandemic significantly affected the activities of many sectors.

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Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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