What is A2P Messaging? A Simple Guide for Brands

Learn about what A2P is, how it's different than P2P and various ways it's used today

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
A2P messaging graphic
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Text messages have become a powerful tool for communication—whether a business is sending updates to customers about an upcoming sale, a school is confirming a student’s course selections, a hospital is reminding a patient about an upcoming appointment, or an individual is sharing news with a close family member.

To better manage text message traffic, wireless carriers separate these messages into two delivery types: A2P (application-to-person) messaging and P2P (person-to-person or peer-to-peer) messaging. Here’s what you need to know about their differences.

What is A2P Messaging?

A2P messaging is when a company sends an SMS or MMS message to someone (or a group of people) using an automated messaging platform.

If you’ve signed up to receive text messages from a company such as marketing messages, shipping notifications or appointment reminders, or if you've ever interacted with chatbots or virtual assistants, then you’ve received an A2P message. This communication approach is typically a one-way conversation where a company sends A2P SMS or MMS messages and recipients don’t respond (there are exceptions to this, of course, and we'll get to those in a little bit).

A2P Messaging vs. P2P Messaging: What’s the Difference?

A2P messaging is a message that travels through an aggregator, which is the technology that connects the SMS application provider to mobile wireless carriers who then deliver the message to the end-user.

While P2P messaging also involves wireless carriers in the message delivery process, P2P messaging refers to the back-and-forth text conversations that most people have among their inner circle: friends, family, and colleagues. The messages are generated and sent individually by people, not an automated process—and recipients can respond to P2P messages as they receive them.

3 Ways Companies Can Send A2P Messages

Businesses can select how they want to send A2P messages by choosing from three types of sender IDs. Each sender ID offers different benefits and is appropriate for different scenarios.

10-Digit Long Codes (10DLC)

These sender IDs look like regular phone numbers — and they appear that way to the recipient when they receive the text message, too. Because 10-digit long codes can be used not only to send SMS or MMS messages but also to place phone calls, this can help businesses create consistency across different customer communication channels.

10DLCs are a more cost-efficient choice for companies that aren’t concerned about message delivery speeds and want to send A2P messages to a smaller volume of people. This is why the companies that typically use this type of code are most often smaller brick and mortar businesses, such as dental and optical care practices or salons.

Toll-Free Codes

A2P messaging can also take place through a text-enabled toll-free number (800, 888, etc.). Similar to 10-digit long codes, they can be used to send SMS or MMS messages and to place phone calls, which can create consistency across customer communication channels. Incoming messages look like they’re sent by a traditional (toll-free) phone number. 

Toll-free codes offer many of the same benefits and drawbacks as 10DLCs: they’re a more cost-effective option but they offer less reliability and slower speed. This makes the toll-free option most useful for small businesses and local shops who want to use A2P for informational purposes, such as texting receipts to customers upon request, automating order confirmations, or sharing shipping updates.

Short Codes

A short code is a five- or six-digit number that allows businesses to have two-way text messaging with their customers. If you’ve ever seen a message encouraging consumers to text a specific word to a five- or six-digit number to opt in to receive marketing messages (text “YES” to 54321), then you’ve seen a short code.

Short codes act as a great brand identifier because they look different than a regular phone number, making it more likely that consumers will recognize the company sending them text messages from that number.

While short codes may be the most expensive of the 3 options, they're built to successfully handle sending text messages at a much higher volume (i.e. more messages per second). And if the company is sending text messages through an aggregator like Vibes - who is directly connected to the carriers - then short codes become even more reliable for message speed and deliverability.

For companies launching or optimizing an SMS program with a large number of SMS subscribers, a short code is essential.

Benefits of A2P Messaging

A2P messaging gives businesses of all kinds and sizes the opportunity to connect with their customers in effective ways, whether it’s to improve service, offer order visibility, or alert them to special promotions. Additionally, A2P messaging offers:

  • Greater efficiency. Automating customer communication with A2P messages allows both critical and non-critical messages to be sent without human intervention, saving employees time and effort.
  • Instant delivery of important messages. Delivering automatic confirmations and reminders to customers can also reduce missed appointments and wasted resources all while increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Most engaging communication channel. Because A2P messages reach people in their text message app, they have much higher open rates, read rates, and click-through rates as compared to other messaging channels. For example, on average, SMS message open rates are five times higher than email open rates. In other words, with SMS comes the confidence that A2P messages will be received and read.

Types of A2P Messaging

Over the years we've helped simplify things a bit for our customers by breaking A2P messaging down into two different categories.

1. Informational Messaging

Also referred to as service-based or transactional messaging, informational messages are the types of messages that are not promotional in nature, like account updates, back-in-stock alerts, upcoming appointment reminders, order confirmations, shipping updates, etc.

2. Promotional Messaging

SMS or MMS messages sent for sales or marketing purposes fall into the category of promotional messaging.

These types of messages have the end goal of driving sales, such as new product announcements, updates about flash sales, offers and coupons, etc.

While these categories help guide our customers they are by no means the golden rule. What is considered informational content vs. promotional content for one company may be defined differently for another, plus the type of message a business sends to a consumer may have different SMS compliance requirements to follow. This is why working with the appropriate legal counsel to determine what is required for your company and the messages sent is a must.

How You Can Use A2P Messaging

From healthcare and hospitality to retail and insurance, all types of businesses are using A2P messaging as a way to connect and communicate with consumers.

Here are just a few of the ways we’ve seen organizations successfully send A2P messages.

  • Order and purchase confirmations: messages that contain order numbers, shipping information, and verification information about an order that was received.
  • Appointment confirmations and reminders: messages that provide consumers with details about an upcoming appointment or reservation times and locations.
  • Tracking notifications: messages that share real-time shipping and delivery updates so a consumer knows when an order will arrive.
  • Suspicious activity alerts: messages like fraud alerts that let consumers know when something out of the ordinary happens with a sensitive account.
  • Company promotions and announcements: messages that keep consumers in the know about events, sales, discount codes, or new product arrivals.
  • Congratulatory wishes: messages that recognize something special about a certain consumer, like a birthday.
  • Abandoned shopping cart notifications: messages that remind consumers about purchasing products that have been sitting in their online carts for a certain amount of time.
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA): messages that contain part two of a two-step process to verify or confirm an account login, like a one-time passcode.
  • Feedback requests: messages that ask consumers to rate or share information about a recent experience with a business.

Effectively Send A2P Messages With Vibes

There are many ways to launch and manage your A2P messaging program: different sender IDs to choose from, different types of messages to send, and different mobile vendors to partner with.

But you don't want just any mobile vendor, you want someone like Vibes whose direct connections to all of the US wireless carriers makes message deliverability speed 3x faster than other messaging platforms and guarantees that when a message is sent from the platform, it’s received.

Vibes has maintained an SMS uptime record of 100% since 2016, and can also process 8,000 messages per second to ensure timely and successful message delivery at scale.

The Bottom Line

Whether you want to find new ways to connect with existing and prospective customers, improve sales and engagement, deliver reminders and notifications, or support user authentication, the right A2P messaging strategy can help you build brand awareness, increase loyalty, and make sure you get the right messages to the right people at the right time.

Connect with Vibes today to learn more about A2P capabilities and how we can help you build the mobile messaging strategy that will make the most impact on your business.

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
Cookie Preferences/Do Not Share My Personal Information
Close Cookie Preference Manager
Cookie Settings
By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage and assist in our marketing efforts.
Strictly Necessary (Always Active)
Cookies required to enable basic website functionality.
Made by Flinch 77
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.