Mobile Marketing Insights

Overcoming Barriers to Ensure SMS Message Deliverability

What Marketers must consider before they can effectively communicate with timely mobile messages, successfully and at scale

Alex Campbell
Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

This article was originally published on and can be found here.

Every brand's goal is to send a message to a consumer and be certain they’ll receive it. The one sure way to do that is through SMS. After all, the average person now spends over five hours a day on their phone, and they are increasingly using it to communicate with brands. In fact, eMarketer predicts mobile commerce sales to nearly double before 2025

Timely messages build and foster loyalty and improve the overall customer experience of a brand. And mobile messages are a sure-fire way to reach shoppers, since their phones are always within arms’ reach. 

However, there are several important subtleties brands must consider before they can effectively communicate with timely mobile messages, including deliverability at scale. Since timing is so important with SMS, it is critical for messages to get to their intended recipients exactly when they can make the most impact. With SMS, that could be a matter of minutes or even seconds. 

Speed Matters, but Deliverability Is Everything

The fact that consumers open 90% of SMS marketing messages within three minutes makes SMS an extremely powerful marketing tool. This hyper-awareness of the consumer means messages must be targeted at the very minute or second that makes sense. This makes timely delivery the single most important factor in a successful SMS campaign. 

For example, a message designed to increase lunchtime traffic is wasted if it’s delivered after 11:30 a.m., when people are no longer planning their lunch. An order pickup notification that is even a few minutes late turns a good customer experience into a bad customer experience.

SMS messages fall under a range of critical touchpoints. This includes delivery order notifications, texts about flash sales or time-sensitive offers, as well as sending receipts at the point of sale. If a consumer doesn’t receive an important message in a specific window of time, brands can lose customer trust, loyalty, and, ultimately, sales.

The Barriers to Delivering Messages

SMS messages are simple when it’s one person sending a message to their friend. However, it gets complicated when a brand sends an SMS to millions of people across multiple time zones. To reach consumers, an SMS message sent from a brand must travel from the marketing platform to aggregators that route to carriers before ultimately reaching the end user. 

If the platform is trying to send messages faster than they can get them out, a queue forms as messages get stacked up. Several factors can impact message delivery, especially when sending at scale. This includes the size of the audience and number of messages in a campaign, as well as the type of content, whether MMS or SMS. Different time zones can add another layer of complexity.

So how can a brand overcome these hurdles and ensure their messages are delivered at scale?

Ensure Timely Messages Are Sent With Aggregators

Mobile messages can require multiple hops between marketing platforms and the consumer. Aggregators connect SMS marketing application providers to mobile carriers, serving as a gateway to reach consumers. All SMS traffic must go through an aggregator approved by the carrier to reach their network, and aggregators influence how quickly messages are sent, often throttling — or slowing down — during peak times of the day. 

In addition to Tier 1 aggregators, those approved by the carriers, who maintain a direct connection to major networks, sub-aggregators do not, and have their own throttling. In the U.S., Tier 1 aggregators connect directly to the top three networks: Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile.

As a result, larger messages and message sends cause messages to back up, creating a queue at every delivery hop between application provider and carrier. Even relatively short messages may be delayed behind other larger sends.It’s like being stuck in heavy traffic on a one lane road during rush hour.

Tier 1 Aggregators Minimize Risks

The only way to minimize the risk of being throttled is to minimize the hops your messages must take before it gets to the end consumer. Tier 1 aggregators have only one hop, and using an SMS marketing platform that is also one hop can eliminate this bottleneck issue. What’s more, Tier 1 makes messages more secure and protected, as only the aggregators and carriers could potentially see the messages and customer information.

With Tier 1 aggregation, brands don’t have to worry about factors such as size, security or speed. They can trust that their messages will be delivered exactly when expected. 

Reach Consumers Anytime, Anywhere

Just like texting a friend, when they hit “send,” brands want their messages to be instantaneous. When using Tier 1 aggregators, factors such as MMS vs. SMS and volume are no longer hurdles. Ultimately, Tier 1 aggregation brings brands closer to the consumer, faster. As mobile commerce and consumer demand for instantaneous service grows, this is key for brands to effectively reach consumers anytime, anywhere. 

— Alex Campbell, Founder and CIO, Vibes

Alex Campbell
Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer
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