Aggregation

SMS API: Benefits, Uses and How to Get Started

Learn more about how SMS APIs work, the benefits of using them, and why choosing the right SMS API provider is a critical component in setting your automated messaging up for success.

Jonathan Reilly
Senior Product Manager
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

For brands and businesses, the name of the game these days is efficiency, scalability, and cost savings. When you add in the layer of A2P text messaging, integrating with an SMS API helps you achieve all three, enabling data sharing and interaction across systems to deliver the right message to the right people at the right time — without having to onboard, manage and learn yet another platform.

Here’s more on how SMS APIs work, the benefits of using them, and why choosing the right SMS API provider is a critical component in setting your automated messaging up for success.

What is an SMS API?

An SMS API is a software interface that gives companies the ability to send SMS (Short Message Service) text messages from one of their applications through an SMS aggregator, which is the technology that connects to mobile wireless carriers that then deliver the text messages to the end user.

How Does a Text Message API Work?

When a company uses an SMS API to send text messages, the SMS provider or “aggregator” they partner with will ingest those text messages through their own SMS APIs and then translate the message to a more suitable format for the wireless carriers to understand and be able to deliver it to the end user’s mobile device.

Wireless carriers often utilize an older form of messaging protocol called short message peer-to-peer protocol, or SMPP. Since SMPP is a more complex, trickier protocol to implement SMS aggregators will often supply an SMS API to make it easier for companies to integrate with and start sending text messages to their customers. 

Tier 1 SMS aggregators, like Vibes, have direct connections across every wireless carrier in North America. This means that when our customers use our APIs to send their text messages they go directly to the carriers - no other middlemen involved - while accelerating the speed and deliverability of those messages.

SMS API

Benefits of Using an SMS API

From scalability to operational efficiencies, there are a number of benefits you get as a business as a result of using SMS APIs to send your text messages.

  • Operational efficiency. SMS APIs allow you to reach your customers directly on their mobile devices without having to worry about the intricacies of the mobile carrier networks.
  • Message automation. SMS APIs give you access to sending text messages programmatically. In other words, it gives you the ability to set up messages to automatically send in response to an action to drive engagement, like a shopper who has abandoned their online shopping cart.
  • Personalization. You can use any customer data your business has collected to personalize text messages using dynamic content within the SMS API, such as including first name.
  • Real-time response. From sending appointment reminders to emergency alerts or shipping notifications, SMS APIs enable real-time communication with your customers. 

How Are SMS APIs Used?

Here are just a handful of text messaging use cases that SMS APIs can be utilized for.

  • One-time passwords (OTP): one of the most commonly known examples of two-factor authentication (or 2FA), you can use SMS APIs to automatically send algorithmically generated codes to your customers to verify their identity, such as an attempt to logging into their account.
  • Abandoned cart: in the world of online retail, one of the top use cases seen today is a shopper who does not complete their purchase because they simply got distracted going down the shopping rabbit hole. SMS APIs give you the ability to automatically send a reminder text message to your customers who have abandoned their online shopping cart.
  • Product launches / event announcements: sometimes, nothing sells faster than “new”. Use an SMS API as a means of instantly communicating to your customers what’s new and hot off the press before anybody else hears about it.
  • Emergency alerts: SMS APIs are what make it possible to send highly time-sensitive alerts that may require user action, such as a credit card holder who receives a text message alerting them of a possible fraudulent transaction seen on their account.
  • Shipping & delivery notifications: 79% of consumers say they would be deterred from buying from a brand again if they had a subpar post-purchase experience, such as the lack of delivery updates or canceled purchases. SMS APIs can help you successfully build that post-purchase trust with your customers by giving them play-by-plays of their order status in real-time.

How to Integrate an SMS API with your Business

Integrating with a text message API should be a relatively straightforward process, so here are a few tips for finding the best fit. Your goal should be to integrate with the types of SMS APIs that enable you to get your SMS campaigns up and running as quickly as possible, not stuck in a waiting period once your engineering team is done with their portion of work.

Obtain Text Message API Documentation & Credentials

Familiarize yourself with your SMS aggregator’s API documentation. The most reputable SMS aggregators have their documentation readily available - often easily accessible on their website. Make sure you see certain details included that would help you easily troubleshoot, such as clearly explained error codes and carrier codes.

You may want to consider also speaking with your SMS aggregator’s messaging operations team to have them walk you through what credentials are needed to integrate their APIs with your systems.

Run Test Messages on a Test Sender ID

Before sending your first text message through an SMS API to an end user, be sure to run a successful test on the sender ID you’re using to communicate with your customers, whether it’s a short code, 10DLC, or toll-free number.

Once you’re ready to begin sending your text messages through the SMS API, after sending your first message you should ensure that you are receiving two response codes:

  1. The Carrier Ack code, which is an acknowledgement from the carriers that the SMS provider successfully sent the message on to them.
  2. The Handset Delivery Receipt (DLR) code, which verifies if a message was successfully delivered from the SMS provider’s platform or not.

These two responses are critical for providing companies with the assurance that their messages were successfully delivered to the carriers and all the way to the end user’s mobile phone.

What to Look for in an SMS API Provider

​​Picking a reliable SMS API provider is critical to the success of your SMS campaigns - ensuring your messages will be delivered intact and on time. 

Start by doing some research on the top SMS API providers on G2, making sure you’re only considering ones with a good reputation with the carriers and have positive feedback from businesses using their services. 

Here are some key things to look for in an SMS API provider.

​​Direct Carrier Connections

There are a lot of SMS API providers in the market today, but only a select handful of them are Tier 1 SMS aggregators, which means they are directly connected to the carriers. 

Non-Tier 1 SMS aggregators have to send each and every message through one or more additional aggregators before they even reach the carrier. That carrier then sends the message to the end user, which means there will always be a minimum of three different touchpoints before final delivery.

Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want your messages jumping through that many hoops before it gets to your customers - it opens the door to more security risk, makes the delivery of timely messages at scale a challenge, and since every “middleman” needs to be paid for their services, it’s going to cost you more.

Message Deliverability

You should look for an SMS API provider that has a proven track record of reliable platform uptime and message throughput. The best SMS API providers should not only have redundancy built into their platform - a technique that involves duplicating critical components of their platform - but they should also be taking things a step further and making sure they are geo-redundant across multiple regions.

If you are constantly having to reach out to your provider about problems you’re having with your message deliverability, then they might not be the best fit for you. 

The Vibes platform is backed by geo-redundant data centers with active-active failover, a design that enables our platform to be highly tolerant to failures at a server, availability zone, or region level and ensures that our customers’ messages are still delivered even during a widespread, cloud service provider outage.

Scalability

Even if you’re not sending a large volume of text messages, chances are other brands using the same SMS provider are - and you don’t want them to hinder your ability to send your messages in a timely manner. That’s why, no matter if you are sending thousands or billions of messages a month, you should ensure your SMS provider is set up to be able to scale for peak traffic periods, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

Pricing

Like any commodity, messaging costs can add up. It’s important to find an SMS API provider that has reasonable prices and no additional, hidden fees. Get in touch with us if you’re interested in learning about our fair, competitive pricing that we offer.

Customer Support

If any issue with your messages does occur, you want an SMS API provider who will respond quickly and has a depth of knowledge on how to troubleshoot. So beyond the messaging capabilities you should also look for the services that come with the package, including a customer service team that is always available and responsive.

Vibes offers 24/7/365 award-winning customer support, which is access to a team of real humans - ones that lessen the workload on our customers’ IT teams.

About Vibes’ SMS API Offering

Vibes’ text message APIs give you the ability to easily send both SMS and MMS messages to your customers’ mobile devices, as well as route any messages they send back to you to the endpoint of your choice.

Not only that, but when it comes to time-sensitive information that businesses may rely on SMS APIs for - such as roadside assistance alerts or one-time password requests - many SMS API providers equate messages reaching the carriers with “successfully sent”. At Vibes, our triggered API callbacks can confirm that a message was successfully delivered to the end user’s mobile device.

We also support Client Certificate Authentication as an added layer of security for API calls - this coupled with our Tier 1 direct carrier connections gives our customers the utmost confidence every message sent out of our platform is safe and secure.

Finally, we know that different IT teams have varying degrees of experience, which is why we offer both HTTP and SMPP gateways to help keep the level of effort to implement our low-code APIS to a minimum. 

As easy to set up and start sending text messages as they are powerful, it can take just a matter of 3 days to establish a connection and then you’ll be sending texts through our high-performance network in no time.

The Bottom Line

SMS APIs are a reliable solution for any company that wants to activate text messaging as a channel to its utmost potential, and having a reliable SMS API provider as your partner is a critical component.

If you are using SMS APIs today and are constantly having to reach out to your SMS API provider with problems, then they might not be the best fit for you. 

As the only independent Tier 1 aggregator, when you partner with Vibes you can be sure that your text messages take the fastest path from you to your customers without sending through your competitors.

I believe firmly that, if you are doing your job as an SMS API provider, your customers won’t even notice you. 

Want a partner who can offer you fast, reliable, consistent messaging at a fair price across every single carrier? Reach out to us today - we’d love to chat with you further.

Jonathan Reilly
Senior Product Manager
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