Skip to main content

THE STATE OF BUSINESS TEXT MESSAGING

The ultimate guide to business text messaging in 2022

A deep dive into how business text messaging works, how it has changed in the last year, and what to know as carriers roll out new requirements and fees.

Read the guide ↓ Watch the webinar

Phone showing message delivered

In 2022 text messaging is looking at a Restructure—Like last year, the ground is somewhat shifting under our feet. There are some new fees, regulations to keep on top of, and many choices. So, where do we stand?

An overview of business text messaging

The four “R”s of recent SMS industry developments

While you should read up on the entire history of SMS, the truly meaty bits have happened in recent years

Revolution 2019

When the CTIA released its updated Messaging Principles and Best Practices, and the carriers announced the intent for 10 digit long code (10DLC), it was clear that business text messaging over local numbers was having a revolution. A key part of this revolution was that businesses utilizing text messaging would need to adapt to new consent management, volumetric filtering, and spam filtering that can increasingly interfere with message delivery.

Renaissance 2020

2020 sparked a renaissance for business text messaging. The pandemic brought a massive need for contactless experiences. Verizon’s implementation of 10DLC established new procedures to follow when sending messages on local numbers to Verizon users. This new process prompted other carriers to follow suit.

Reformation 2021

In 2021, business text messaging experienced a reformation. AT&T and T-Mobile introduced more procedural requirements and traffic monitoring with the rollouts of their 10DLC programs. Carriers also introduced new fees and surcharges for unregistered traffic.

Restructure 2022

Business text messaging continues to restructure as people navigate new environments. That’s not to say new fees and regulations won’t turn up, but with 2021 behind us, let’s take a deep breath and make sure we’re ready for what’s next.

As we go through 2022, changes will likely continue to happen. For instance, business text messaging providers may continue to see increased surcharges with 10DLC, making it trickier to consider it the low-cost option. And some speculate that toll-free could be a haven from campaign registration requirements, but is this true?

Read the full history in our guide Get The Guide

Types of messaging

All mobile messages are not the same. From what they are, what they are suitable for, to the specific considerations, several factors make one kind of text message different from another. Here are a few common types of messages you should know about:

SMS

What it is: Short Message Service (SMS) has been around for decades and is the most globally accepted form of text messaging worldwide.
What it’s good for: Regardless of the device you use (iOS, Android, etc.), SMS works with no extra app download. It also doesn’t require a smartphone, making it the most friendly option across economic statuses.

MMS

What it is: MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) is used to send messages that contain multimedia content like pictures and videos to and from mobile devices. The MMS extends messaging capabilities, allowing messages to be greater than 160 characters in length.
What it’s good for: It’s built using the same technology as SMS to allow SMS users to send multimedia content. While it’s most popular to send pictures, you can also send audio, phone contacts, and video files. Like SMS, MMS works well in the U.S. and doesn’t require a smartphone.

Verified SMS

What it is: An enhancement to SMS on Google devices that provides an added level of validation to messages sent by businesses. In other words, better spam and phishing protection for mobile subscribers with added brand recognition and trust for corporations.
What it’s good for: Mobile subscribers can lack trust when they receive a text message from a random number. Verified SMS allows businesses to offer a method of validating the message’s authenticity and provides the ability to display the company’s logo in each SMS message.
What you should consider: Verified SMS only works on Android handsets running Google Messages. Even though Verified SMS does not cover 100% of the mobile market, the benefits are compelling. Each Verified SMS offers companies a chance to promote their brand directly in the mobile subscriber’s Messages App while providing consumers the peace of mind that the actual business sent the message.

OTT Application Messaging

What it is: iMessage, Whatsapp, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, and other messaging applications are often referred to as “Over The Top” (OTT) applications. They’re called this because they do not require a cellular network connection and instead use IP (internet protocols). To send and receive texts using these apps, your device needs to be connected to the internet, either over WiFi or via a mobile internet connection.
What it’s good for: OTT apps are preferred over MMS for sharing multimedia files since they don’t have the same file size limitations. They also have more features like group messaging, message broadcasting, and audio and video calling. Finally, and most importantly, OTT apps are —unlike SMS— often free to use without the need for a phone plan.
What you should consider: While SMS is supported by all modern mobile phones, OTT apps need to be downloaded from iOS or Android app stores, creating problems from a logistical standpoint.

Business text messaging best practices

The CTIA

The CTIA is an association representing the wireless industry and other communications providers based in Washington, D.C. Bandwidth is a member of the CTIA. The CTIA’s controlling members are primarily representatives from the major wireless telecom companies. Part of the CTIA’s stated mission is to ‘Convene the industry to tackle our most difficult challenges and coordinate voluntary best practices and initiatives.’ The CTIA aims to gain consensus on best practices that set the tone and expected behavior throughout the communications industry.

The most recent iteration of the CTIA’s Messaging Principles & Best Practices, released in July 2019, can be found here. In addition, the CTIA has 12 major guidelines that the wireless industry uses to deliver a consistent experience for consumers, which you can read here.

The big 3: important reminders about messaging

Are you a business sending messages to consumers for any use case? If yes, you are sending application-to-person (A2P) messages, and the CTIA guidelines should be followed to ensure the best possible chance of delivery. The most important ones to follow are:

Consent management (Opt-in/Opt-out) best practices (see table 1) this is arguably the most important one to adhere to as the TCPA law protects consumers from unwanted communications. Also, make sure to keep track of user consent in your CRM or via another method in case there is ever a dispute.

Avoid number cycling and snowshoeing — using techniques like these to avoid carrier fees and filters when attempting to reach users is a surefire way to end up fined, blocked, or even blacklisted.

Identify yourself and regularly include program reminders — one of the best ways to avoid being misidentified as spam is always to have your business or program name at the top of the message content and provide recurring reminders for STOP and HELP keywords.

Types of messaging and consent required

Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation that takes place over text. If the consumer texts into the business first and the business responds quickly with a single message, it’s likely conversational. If the consumer initiates the conversation and the business simply responds, no additional permission is required.

What makes it conversational messaging?

  • The first message always sent by the consumer
  • Two-way conversation
  • Message responds to a specific request

Implied consent

If the consumer initiates the text messaging exchange and the business only responds to each consumer with relevant information, no verbal or written permission is required.

Informational messaging is when a consumer gives a business their number and asks to be contacted in the future. Appointment reminders, welcome texts, and alerts fall in this category because the first text message sent by the business fulfills the consumer’s request. A consumer should agree to receive texts when they give the business their mobile phone number.

What makes it informational messaging?

  • The first message is sent by the consumer or business
  • One-way alert or two-way conversation
  • Message contains information

Expressed consent

The consumer should grant permission before the business texts them. They can grant permission over text, on a form or website, or verbally. Written permission also works.

Promotional messaging, or text marketing, is when a SMS message contains a sales or marketing promotion. Adding a call-to-action like a coupon code to an informational text may place it in the promotional category. Consumers must agree to receive promotional texts in writing before a business can send promotional messages via SMS marketing campaigns. Businesses that already ask consumers to sign forms or submit contact information can add a field to capture consent.

What makes it promotional messaging?

  • The first message is sent by the business
  • One-way alert
  • Message promotes a brand or product
  • Prompts consumer to buy something or go somewhere

Expressed written consent

The consumer should give written permission before a business may text them. They can sign a form or check a box to allow promotional text messages. Participation in text promotions should never be a requirement.

An important note about carrier nuances and differing SMS rules

With the current state of deregulation due to text messaging being classified as an information service, carriers can and are setting their own rules on their networks. This effectively means carriers can declare what they intend to do on their side of the equation when it comes to the intercarrier text message exchange. While this is extremely practical for a single carrier in a vacuum, having customized rules from each carrier is not operationally viable or competitively neutral. Your business is not texting only one carrier’s end users. In a perfect world, carriers of all stripes would have a forum to come together and agree on a single set of requirements that work to support legitimate wanted traffic across a wide array of platforms, but that vision remains a work in progress.

Opt-in requirements and logistics Want to learn more about SMS opt-in logistics and requirements? Read the blog post
Green wave

Types of phone numbers for business text messaging

The options can be hard to navigate when figuring out what number type to use for your business text messaging program. Which one is right for your use case between toll-free, local (10DLC), and short code? Which one gets you the best return on your investment in 2022? Let’s take a look.

Short Codes – The ol’ reliable

Toll-Free – The convenient campaigner

Local 10DLC – A local presence

Number types and features
Let's Compare
Volume Limits
Registration type
Voice-Enabled?
MMS
Time to Market
Carrier Surcharges?
Cost
Toll-Free Number
1-800-848-7566
Virtually unlimited messages per second (mps)
Toll-free verification *will be required as of September 30, 2022*
Yes
Yes
2-4 day approval process
Yes
$$
Short Code
750-93
Virtually unlimited messages per second (mps)
Direct carrier campaign registration
No
Yes
Minimum 4-6 week approval process involving all carriers
Yes
$$$
Local 10DLC
252-903-1375
A max. of 60 mps depending on campaign approvals
Registration via The Campaign Registry (TCR)
Yes
Yes
1-week approval process
Yes (A2P)
No (P2P)
$$
Phone call
Do all of these messaging rules and fees have you concerned about reaching your customers? Don’t forget about voice! Check out our consumer preferences survey to learn how they like to be contacted (spoiler: they still like to be called). CHECK OUT OUR CONSUMER PREFERENCES SURVEY

Price Increases Continue

With new carrier rulings and fees, the industry is changing as we speak. And with all that comes added costs for comms suppliers and their customers. But where does that leave us? Well, we must get some context here.

In 2015, that changed with a petition to the FCC, which argued wireless messaging should be classified as a ‘telecommunications service.’ That petition forced a decision on the classification of messages.

The FCC rejected the petition, putting SMS and MMS firmly in the information services box. The rationale was that SMS and MMS are more akin to the instant messaging you get on Instagram, Snapchat, etc, than a telephone call, so you don’t have to adhere to the stricter regulations of a telecommunications product.

This rejection might not seem like a big deal, but what happened, as a result, rocked the entire telco space. Why did the FCC decide this? There are a lot of unknowns. But, this decision has given the wireless carriers more control over the ecosystem. This is why we continue to get new and increasing “access fees.”

P2P – A system not fit for purpose

In the past, carrier surcharges haven’t had much of an impact in the broader industry, but costs have steadily increased, and new ones have been introduced in the last few years.

Even since 2020, the average cost of a 10DLC SMS message has doubled, and Toll-Free messages now come with a $.003 surcharge. So why the added expenses? It comes down to new mobile carrier systems, cleanliness, and a change in the way messages get sent.

In the past, P2P messaging was simple—one person sending messages to another. But with A2P technologies like 10DLC, Short-code, and Toll-free, that wasn’t the case. So now businesses were using one or several numbers to send thousands and sometimes millions of messages in minutes.

The problem is that this A2P traffic was (till recently) using the identical network setups as P2P. Like trying to send too many cars down a single lane – with such high volumes, something needed to change.

All providers want to keep messaging a practical option for businesses and consumers. Consumers need to retain trust in the SMS channel as being relatively free of unwanted or spam messages. Unwanted business calls have been a challenge for communications providers to combat, and as a result, there has been increasing regulation intended to stem the problem. This regulation is something mobile carriers have looked to avoid with messaging. Instead, they have created their own systems, requirements, and fees for businesses to send messages to their mobile subscribers.

Campaign registration, volumetric filtering, and spam filtering make up the ever-lengthening list of strategies wireless carriers and others use to control and monitor business text messaging. And with those strategies, plus a change in network management, there are some added cost

Business text message examples and templates

Getting business messages delivered isn’t as simple as pressing send. There are best practices to follow and user consent requirements that should be present for every messaging program. This section looks at a few examples of business text messaging in action, done right.

Web advertisement and service messages

Web advertisement example Advertisment

Although opt-out instructions are not required on the advertisment itself, they must appear in the terms and conditions

Terms and conditions

Complete terms and conditions should include customer care contact information; Complete opt-out instructions; a recurring message disclosure, a product description and a program (brand) name. Some program types (e.g., sweepstakes) have additional requirments carrier by carrier

Automated text message example

TV advertisement

TV advertisement example Advertisment

Although opt-out instructions are not required on the advertisment itself, they must appear in the terms and conditions

Terms and conditions

Complete terms and conditions should include customer care contact information; Complete opt-out instructions; a recurring message disclosure, a product description and a program (brand) name. Some program types (e.g., sweepstakes have additional requirments carrier by carrier

Text message TV ad

Non-marketing opt-in and service messages

Opt in text message Recurring-messsages appointment reminder

Service representative records customer's request for messages and customer's phone number. Program terms and conditions, including complete opt-out information, and privacy policy are available from the representative.

Non-marketing text message

Web keyword advertisement and service messages

Website coupon code example
Text message coupon example

Point of sale advertisement and service messages

Point of sale example
Text message point of sale sample

Hard copy advertisement and service messages

Hard copy ad example
Text message hard copy ad example

Web advertisement and service messages

Website ad example
Text message website ad example

Print advertisement and service messages

Print ad example
Text message print ad example

Verbal opt-in and service messages

Verbal promotion example
Text message verbal promotion example

Hardcopy opt-in and service messages

Hard copy promotion example
Text message hard copy promotion example

POS advertisement and service messages

Point of sale single example
Text message point of sale single example

International texting for business

While sending and receiving SMS messages in the US can almost be taken for granted thanks to its prevalence, international texting presents some unique challenges. Fees, regulations, and even technical limitations on number types vary not only by country but also by carrier within the country, and there are over 1,400 carriers to consider.

Think about how complex business messaging in the US is. Now apply that to every country, big or small, in the world. Instead of detailing every nuance in this guide, here are some things you should know about what goes on behind the scenes of international business text messaging.

One-way messaging

The most significant discrepancy for international business text messaging is when considering one-way communication instead of two-way. The global texting landscape is ideal for one-way communication such as notifications or promotions. However, the design of one-way messaging internationally is counterintuitively simple compared to what we're used to. Unlike the U.S., which requires phone numbers or short codes, certain countries allow the use of different types of sender identification altogether: Alphanumeric Sender IDs.

Alphanumeric Sender ID - In reality, this can be broken down into both Numeric and Alpha Sender IDs, as some countries have restrictions on one or the other. An entirely Alpha Sender ID registration, i.e., “SENDER NAME,” might be required, but a Numeric Sender ID is allowed in some cases. Depending on the carrier (yes carrier, not country), the technical support for Alpha vs. Numeric Sender IDs will vary. It’s common to see that A2P messaging use cases, like notifications or promotions, must be sent from a registered Sender ID and do not support two-way messaging. If your business requires two-way messaging, you’ll need a virtual mobile phone number or a registered short code, even more complex.

Two-way messaging

For use cases that require two-way messaging, like an outbound text message that requires a reply, local mobile virtual numbers are needed. However, these numbers can be challenging to obtain and require wireless number authority where messages are exchanged. For example, suppose you want to enable patient appointment notifications in France, where patients reply to confirm their appointment. In that case, you’ll need a French long virtual number that is mobile—and for that, you’ll need a messaging partner who can provide that number for you.

Local Virtual Mobile Number - When sending international SMS from businesses, we almost always hear, “I need two-way messaging internationally.” However, numbering authority and A2P messaging rules differ from country to country. Unlike the U.S., sending from a local number is not always an option. In many countries, virtual mobile numbers are restricted to person-to-person interactions only, with strict throughput limits (like ½ mps). They are also not even available in every country (only 20 countries allow virtual mobile numbers).

Regulations

Similar to the CTIA, the GSM Association (GSMA) is the international industry organization representing the interests of mobile network operators (carriers). The GSMA performs a similar role to the CTIA in the U.S. They help provide generally accepted guidelines and standards for carriers to follow, but they have no governing power to enforce those standards.

International regulations can get very complicated, as each country has a different outlook on what should and should not be regulated. On top of this, political and economic unions can affect which countries are regulated under laws applicable to that territory. or example, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), applies to all member states of the European Union (EU) and has inspired similar data protection laws worldwide.

Alternatives to A2P

International messaging is complicated even between residents. With the complex nature of international A2P messaging, businesses have begun to look to the same alternatives that people use to communicate within and outside country lines.

As SMS can be cost-prohibitive in some countries, over-the-top (OTT) messaging applications that rely on data to exchange messages have grown to be the primary messaging platform of choice in some countries outside the U.S.

So if you’re looking for a better customer experience with 2-way communication internationally, these platforms can offer a low-cost solution with low friction when it comes to adoption.

On the other hand, while these applications offer the media-rich experiences of SMS and MMS, they don't come pre-programmed on mobile devices and can't send messages to anyone outside the app; this can limit their usage to smartphone users with no data access. But depending on your use case and market, this could be a minor issue.

Bandwidth experts

Want to learn more about our business messaging offerings?

TALK TO A BANDWIDTH EXPERT TODAY

How to choose a business texting
service provider

Here are some considerations and questions to answer when making your decision and red flags you might be experiencing that signal it's time to reconsider your current provider. In an industry that’s changing as rapidly as business text messaging, it’s critical to have a partner that can inform you and advocate for you.

    What to look for in a provider

  • Provides transparent industry update information with in-depth explanations of changes
  • Dedicated human point of contact to ask questions and consult on messaging/business strategy
  • Interested in co-creation and a true partnership that benefits both of you, integrating your feedback into their product roadmap
  • Practices what they preach, following stated best industries guidelines
  • Proactively works to identify and resolve issues before they become problems/before they impact your business

    What to avoid in a provider

  • Withholds or only provides industry information via support documentation without any explanation
  • No dedicated point of contact and no planning for strategies that align with your business' needs
  • Product direction and development indicate they may be competing against you or have conflicts with your business
  • Does not follow stated best industry guidelines
  • Requires you to put in support tickets for issues that are impacting your business

Want to learn more?

Check out the resources below to learn more about how Bandwidth has been leading marketplace technology innovations.

State of messaging
WEBINAR

Watch the 2022 State of Business Messaging

WATCH THE WEBINAR
State of messaging quick guide
THIS GUIDE ON THE GO

Download the guide

GET THE GUIDE
Bandwidth employees
WEBINAR WRAP-UP

We’ve compiled vital takeaways in our wrap-up!

READ THE POST

Alianza Partnership

Pindrop Integration