SMS Marketing vs Email Marketing – What is the Difference?

Advantages and Disadvantages of text messaging and email

It can be very tricky when deciding which marketing avenues are the best for your ecommerce business. There are so many different ways to do it and let's be honest, there are pros and cons to everything.

In this article, we'll explore two marketing strategies that have a very positive impact on ecommerce retailers. Email marketing may already be familiar to you and you be using it, but we'll also explore the lesser-used tactic of SMS marketing.

We'll first explore what they are, give you the advantages and disadvantages of both and explore whether these two marketing pillars can work in tandem. For good measure, we'll also highlight some good examples so you can replicate them for your ecommerce business.

What is Email Marketing?

Email marketing allows you to send electronic communication with your current and prospective customers.

It's a vital tool for your business and it can help you create email marketing campaigns to promote your brand, introduce a new product range, highlight a sale, or simply to help build a relationship between your business and the customer.

To do email marketing well you need to consider the following elements.

  • Design
  • Content
  • Reporting
  • A/B Testing

If you are just starting out then the design of your email can be particularly tricky to crack, especially if you don't have any design experience.

That's where the right email software can come in handy. At Ecommerce-Platforms.com, we are big fans of Sendinblue (read our Sendinblue review).

Sendinblue allows you to create professional designs very quickly via their drag & drop editor. They have an extensive library of email templates, or if you're feeling brave you can design one from scratch.

sendinblue email marketing

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing is the process of sending text messages to your customer base.

Due to GDPR regulations, companies must obtain permission from their customer to allow them to send text messages. This option can be available when your current or prospective customer signs up for an account.

The idea then is to send texts with a call to action (CTA) to drive the users to your store. There are many SMS services available, but we would recommend finding a service that already integrates with your marketing system.

That is where a marketing tool like HubSpot (read our HubSpot Marketing Hub review) works so well. You can manage your email marketing, SEO, live chat and SMS text messages within one platform.

Unlike email marketing, there isn't a lot of design work that needs to considered, however, we would suggest using a good URL link shortener tool. SMS messages are limited by character count and URL's can get long, therefore using an option such as Bitly or Rebrandly is essential.

Advantages of Email Marketing

1. Engagement

Average open rates and click-through rates tend to be very good with email marketing due to it being permission-based.

These are customers or prospective customers that have opted into your communications and want to hear from you. According to Statista, there will 4.6 billion people using email in 2025, so that's where your users are.

2. Cost

It is such a cost-effective communication channel, which can also scale dependent on how successful your business becomes. Sendinblue offers their software for free, which comes with unlimited contacts and a limit of 300 emails per day. There are no additional fees with email marketing as well, what you see is what you get.

sendinblue pricing

3. Directness

Unlike traditional offline marketing, emails allow you to direct users right to the action. Whether that's a flash sale or a blog post, you can drive users right to your website.

4. Brand awareness / Design

Email is very flexible and allows you to send plain text, add graphics or attach files. A lot of email marketing software allows you to very easily mould your emails so that it matches your website, which is vital in increasing brand awareness.

5. Testing

When it comes to A/B testing most people assume that it's just your subject line that can be tested. However, most software allows you to trial different CTA's, email content and images. Seeing what is successful in your emails can help influence your website copy then.

6. Reporting

All good email providers allow integration with Google Analytics. This allows you to see how many users clicked your email and most importantly what pages they interacted, or didn't interact with. This can inform your future digital marketing campaigns.

Disadvantages of Email Marketing

1. Spam

Finding the right balance between being informative and being seen as ‘spammy' can be tricky when you use email.

If there are too many commercial emails then this can dilute your message and a sale doesn't look that important then. This can lead to you losing subscribers. You also need to ensure that you are allowed to email that person and the right permissions have been given.

2. Deliverability

There a number of reasons why your email may not get delivered. If emails are poor in design, contain words that seem ‘spammy' or there is an overuse of punctuation then that may not get past many email inbox spam filters.

Ensuring your customer email list is up to date as well can be a lengthy manual task also.

3. Click-through rate (CTR)

Whilst generally CTR is good on email, it does drop when you consider marketing emails. Again, if you're sending emails with offers too frequently then they run the risk of being ignored. A less is more approach is best here.

4. Devices

Not everyone will be viewing your email on the same mobile phone, device or computer. Therefore you need to test how your email looks and make sure you cover all bases. Images not downloading or text that is indecipherable are just a couple of common issues.

Advantages of SMS Marketing

1. Access

Mobile or cell phones are incredibly personal so the average person carries them around everywhere they go. Unlike email, the user isn't required to have an active internet connection.

2. Time-sensitive

SMS marketing campaigns are very effective if you have time-sensitive offers. People are unlikely to be checking their emails, but a text arriving on their mobile phone with information about a sale ending soon is much more effective.

3. Deliverability

As text messaging is predominantly plain text, you don't have the issue of the text being blocked by the user's phone. People also tend to stick with their phone number which ensures that there is someone on the other end to receive it. Users can have several email addresses, including defunct work email addresses if they leave a business.

4. Engagement

Research has shown that open and engagement rates for SMS marketing can be as high as 98%.

Further to that is that due to its plain text nature, it's much easier for people to engage and respond to your CTA. Just think, when was the last time you received a text message that you didn't read? This makes the response rate very good.

5. Targetting

If you have a good customer relationship management (CRM) tool then you can tailor your message based on your customer's activities or purchasing habits.

Disadvantages of SMS Marketing

1. Content limit

The obvious limitation with SMS marketing is the character count.

Not only does the text have to be short but most SMS messages display with a preview which is even shorter. That means you have a 20-30 character window to grab their attention in order to then visit your website.

2. Cost

Unlike email marketing, SMS marketing can come at a price. When looking at integrations with HubSpot, the most cost-effective solutions can set you back at least $100 a month.

That's because the owners of that integrations will need to acquire the services of a mobile phone agency. Pricing plans are also based on delivery volume, the level of support you need and whether your business is international. It can also cost additional to have your business name including in the text. If you want to see gifs, or interactive media via a multimedia messaging service (MMS) then this will cost extra again.

3. Spam

It's unlikely text messaging will ever be seen as spammy as email, but it's definitely been increasing over time.

That's why it's crucial that your business name is used in the text and that you have the requisite permissions in order to contact the recipient.

4. Contact List

People are much more unlikely to give you their phone number, compared to their email address. That means it's very important that when someone registers an account with you that you don't make the mobile data field required.

You may think, well how will I get their number? If you make the mobile number essential, then you risk not getting their number at all. At this stage, it's worth assessing your CRM system and calculating whether it's worth carrying out SMS marketing based on how many contacts gave that information.

Good examples of Email Marketing

We've told you the clear advantages of using email but which marketers are crushing it when it comes to this marketing strategy?

Statista has shown that 90% of internet users are email users and have sent at least one email in the last month, so how can you ensure that you stand out amongst your competitors?

Quiksilver

I recently received this email from Quiksilver and I absolutely loved it.

It's a great use of a gif within an email that portrays the selection choices involved with the shorts. The vague statement of “iconic for a reason” is almost clickbait but in a tasteful way. It entices the user to discover more.

quicksilver email marketing

What Quiksilver has done very well on this email is that they haven't even mentioned a price. Initially, it's all about building the story around the product and giving the user a reason to buy.

The email also includes a short story about how these shorts were worn by world title-winning surfers. The language they use to contrast how theirs is the “original” is superb, mentioning that other competitors have “ripped off” their design.

Quiksilver is very clever in further promoting their range, by displaying items that would compliment the shorts.

additional products

As good as this email is, the landing page has to match. Quicksilver's boardshort page mirrors the content used in the email, but also offers some other media that may have slowed down the email, such as video.

Tesco

Tesco uses email so well. Particularly in their use of subject lines.

People like to feel that they are part of an exclusive community and that they are getting something back for being a customer. Tesco does this by using the word “special”. Using synonyms of this such as ‘exclusive', ‘private', ‘personal' or ‘individual' are really good in increasing CTR.

tesco email

Recognise as well how Tesco don't use ‘we'. Companies are so eager to boast about themselves, but ultimately customers just want to know what you can do for them.

MyProtein

Being topical and relevant is crucial in your email communications. MyProtein is used this in great fashion, coinciding with the gyms opening back up with a deal.

This subject line was one of the most powerful I came across. It asked a question that was pertinent, included an offer and also a time-sensitive action.

It also used an emoji to indicate the “flash sale”. There's debate around whether emojis are good for your brand, but a study by Search Engine Journal showed that they did improve click-through rate and are best placed at the end of the subject line.

myprotein email

Are your products seasonal, can current affairs affect your business? Then check the news, look on social media and see how are your customers are reacting.

Good examples of SMS Marketing

So what about SMS and how can you utilise this high open rate marketing strategy? As we've mentioned it's very difficult to be creative and piece something together as Quiksilver have done above. The key with SMS is to get straight to the point and to use your character count wisely.

Here are 3 good examples and for good measure, one bad one.

Size?

Ecommerce giant Size? is very big into their SMS and it's a marketing channel that they clearly value.

Firstly their name is clearly displayed for recognition. They've also included a few key brands to entice the user, you could also use your CRM system to personalise this based on the user.

Another important element is that there is an easy way to opt out, or should we say OPT OUT. The capitalisation makes it clearly visible to the customer and it shows Size? care about their customer's preferences.

size sms

Hello Fresh

Not all text messaging has to be used to promote a sale. Hello Fresh do a great job here of delivering a notification on the delivery of an item, by almost promoting their prize draw.

That way Hello Fresh benefit from getting a customer review and their customer feels they are being rewarded for doing so.

Hello Fresh sms

Muscle Food

As marketers, you will be aware of your competition so sometimes it's not a bad idea to mention them.

Not in a positive light, but more like how Muscle Food have done below. How are you better than your competitors? Are you cheaper? Do you offer a quicker delivery? Do you offer free returns. Put your unique selling point in the SMS.

What Muscle Food have also done here, unlike the others, is used a shortened URL. This is great for increasing CTR as it's branded and it also reduces the character count of the SMS.

Muscle Food sms

I thought it might be worth point out one bad example, courtesy of Papa Johns. I received this text from them, despite never buying more than one pizza at a time. A family deal would not interest someone who lives alone, so I was a bit miffed. That's why it's important you use your CRM wisely and make sure your customer demographics are up to date.

papa johns sms

Using Email and SMS Marketing together

As I mentioned earlier, it's much easier to get someones email address as opposed to their mobile number. Therefore you can use the power of email marketing to get your customers mobile numbers.

Here's an example from MyProtein again, who offer you to “sign up to sms” in their footer when a product review is sent out. It's critical that the landing page takes the user to their account and there's an obvious way to opt-in to SMS.

myprotein sms

Conclusion

When it comes to your marketing efforts it isn't a case of email marketing vs SMS marketing.

Both of these strategies can help your business and they both have very unique advantages and disadvantages. The only comparison between them is that CTR is good.

Email marketing is much more cost-effective and customisable, whereas SMS benefits from better open rates and improved deliverability.

Are you planning to use either or one of these communications channels in your marketing? Get in touch with us below in the comments and let us know how they worked for you.

Featured image via Depositphotos.

Richard Protheroe

Content Marketer at Veeqo. Veeqo allows you to link your Amazon Seller Central account with your other sales channels to better manage your inventory and shipping.