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Short Code

What is an SMS short code?

Short Codes are five or six digit numbers that businesses typically use for sending high volumes of text messages to enhance effective communication with their customers, more easily than a regular text message or toll-free message. Short Codes are also used for opt-in promotions to help with consumer interactions for a certain product or campaign.  The opt-in promotions are usually associated with an SMS keyword, then in turn, the consumer will receive coupons, offer codes and more, via that same short code. MMS messages are possible to send via short codes, but it must be provisioned with their carriers to access this feature.

Types of Short Codes

There are two types of short codes; shared and dedicated. 

  • Shared short codes are used by multiple businesses. Because of this, it is very important that each business has their own unique keywords for opt-in promotions to separate incoming traffic. This helps SMS providers filter out which campaign or business a consumer is opting in to receive further communications from. 
  • Dedicated short codes are used by only one business, meaning that they and only they control the use of that short code. There are also two types of dedicated short codes vanity or non-vanity:
    • Vanity short codes are selected specifically by a business. Vanity short codes are preferred because the businesses can pick a set of numbers a consumer will remember more easily. 
    • Non-vanity short codes are given at random, and may not be as easy for consumers to remember or recognize.

Why Are Businesses Using Short Codes?

Using short codes allows businesses to send an unlimited amount of messages each month to their consumers, which in most cases is preferred, against other forms of business to consumer messaging, which allow only small-volumes to go through at a time. 

Consumers in this day and age prefer to communicate through text messaging instead of taking the time to make a call, especially if they think they’ll have to sit on hold or hunt through menus to find the person they need. Businesses are adopting short codes with a goal to maintain a lasting relationship with their consumers in this competitive market, providing better customer service and exciting benefits, in hopes to increase satisfaction and loyalty from their users. Examples of promotions or marketing campaigns used via short codes include:

  • Shipping notifications
    • These could be notifications from FedEx or retail factories that your package has shipped, or been delivered.
  • Service notifications 
    • Think of all the texts you’ve gotten from any maintenance company who’s doing work on your house, letting you know “Jeff is on his way!”, or from your lawn care provider that your services have been completed and is awaiting your feedback.
  • Appointment reminders
    • Simple text reminders from doctors and dentists offices. 
  • Promotional Campaigns
    • Prime examples of these would be voting for your favorite singer on American Idol, or texting “PIZZA” to receive a free delivery coupon. 

How Much Do Short Codes Cost?

In the United States, short codes can be leased for 3, 6 or 12 month terms.  Shared short code pricing will vary on setup fees and usage, but the cost of the number is typically free. Dedicated short codes, however, cost $1000 a month for vanity, and $500 a month for non-vanity. Here’s how it breaks down by length of lease:

3 Month Lease$3,000$1,500
6 Month Lease$6,000$3,000
12 Month Lease$12,000$6,000

Where Can I Get Short Codes?

Businesses can find a list of short code numbers from the United States Short Code Registry. If you want to look up more information on which businesses own specific short codes, and how they are being used, you can check out the United States Short Code Directory. This site will also let you know which short codes are available for purchase, and assist you in the buying process. Other times, businesses will use an SMS provider, or an SMS API provider, like Bandwidth, to acquire the short code for them.

What Consumers Need to Know about Short Codes

Short codes are aging out and considered a limited commodity, as there are only about 6,000 available. Each carrier must approve a business’s campaign before handing over a short code to ensure that it will not be spam or a threat. Due to lack of volume, lots of businesses use shared short codes which today, can cause your numbers to be blocked or blacklisted. All short codes are regulated by the CTIA, who released new guidelines in 2019, as well as the Mobile Marketing Association, which require all businesses to ask permission (opt-in) before reaching out to an individual. The reason for these consumer protection regulations is to help with the number of unwanted texts reaching the end user, and helping businesses create more successful campaigns. Due to some of these concerns and new regulations, carriers have started changing the rules and are implementing A2P and toll-free numbers, migrating away from short codes.

Short codes are country-specific, so only local replies will be accepted. If you need to reach a business or market internationally, long codes or toll-free numbers would be the best option. The best alternative to short codes are toll-free numbers. You can get more value out of your toll-free phone numbers by text enabling them, provisioning your numbers faster, delivering a better customer experience, and saving money.

How Bandwidth is Involved with Short Codes

Bandwidth currently leases and hosts US short codes. Learn more on our short codes page.

What Are the Benefits of Choosing Bandwidth’s APIs?

Bandwidth owns and operates one of the largest All-IP Voice Networks in the nation. On this network, Bandwidth has built a full suite of communication APIs to meet the ever-growing needs that our customers face to incorporate more ways for their customers to engage with what matters to them. Bandwidth offers services for voice, messaging, 911 access and phone numbers. Bandwidth allows for Voice and Messaging to be easily integrated into a businesses platform to create a better user experience that empowers users to communicate even farther with your business.

Since Bandwidth owns and operates the network, our customers are able to enjoy fast, reliable communication services, scalability, and cost savings. Bandwidth offers our customers world class support with a 24/7 NOC team that is there to address issues as soon as they arise. In addition, Bandwidth’s communication services are built to scale. Whether you are a small start-up or an enterprise giant, Bandwidth services can scale to meet your needs. In addition, partnering with Bandwidth lets you avoid dealing with a middleman. This means more cost savings for your business while connecting with a service you can trust. Bandwidth has mastered SMS APIs, so you can focus on what matters most to you.

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