Leveraging A2P SMS Text Messaging for Your Business

The majority of consumers today depend on mobile devices to function in their daily lives, and it has become imperative for companies to evolve from desktop to mobile-first strategies. From marketing promotions to notifications, people demand fast and convenient communication. By integrating Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging into your business, you’ll be able to reach your customers directly with real-time alerts and receive instant feedback on products and services. This post focuses on the basics of A2P SMS text messaging and the common types of applications for your business; exemplifying the importance of this cutting-edge technology in modern business.

What is A2P SMS?

Application-to-Person (A2P) SMS is the type of SMS text message communication between an application and an individual. This typically involves automated content that an organization or business sends from their application to a subscriber via a text message. A2P is most commonly used for confirmations, alerts, marketing campaigns, and two-factor authentication (2FA) across multiple industries.

A2P SMS is used so widely, that it is part of people’s everyday experience without even knowing it. For example, a store could send an A2P SMS to notify shoppers of a holiday sale. Customers can then login to their online shopping portal by providing an additional code sent to their SMS for extra security. Certain establishments can even accept payment via SMS, which can then be confirmed using A2P messaging sent from the online portal. Subsequently, to deter credit card fraud, the consumer’s bank can send notifications of their purchases instantly upon the completion of each transaction.

A2P messaging is in essence a direct contrast to P2P (Peer-to-Peer) messaging, which is defined as communication between two individuals and typically involves one-on-one conversations. P2P communication use cases include group messaging apps, ride-share logistics and dating apps. Although restrictions on A2P and P2P usage varies between countries, it’s best to always check with your service provider on regulations within countries that you would like to send A2P campaigns.

In the United States and Canada, pro-consumer regulations have strict guidelines and limitations on how A2P traffic can be sent. This protects consumers from unsolicited messages and ensures that spam is kept at a minimum. More specifically, only P2P messages can be sent over long codes (i.e., regular 10 digit phone numbers), while A2P type traffic can only be sent over SMS short codes or Toll-free SMS phone numbers.

Short codes are a special five-to-six digit phone number that is specially procured for businesses to send A2P traffic (e.g., 12345). Toll-free SMS phone numbers are toll-free phone numbers that have SMS-enabled (e.g., 1-888-222-3333). Both short codes and long codes require special validation processes to ensure that only reputable businesses with legitimate use cases are approved. This also ensures that businesses are responsible with the purpose of sending their customers messages. Any violation of SMS regulations can lead to cessation of entire SMS campaigns and even suspensions of accounts.

Even though this may sound limiting, but once approved, short codes and toll-free phone numbers have been built for A2P messaging. For example, short codes have the ability to send 40 times more SMS per second than long codes; making them highly desirable for sending a message to multiple users simultaneously. Shorter digits and unique phone numbers can also mean that it’s more memorable to consumers and hence can increase campaign retention and engagement.

A2P SMS Use Cases

Below are some ways businesses have leveraged A2P SMS to grow their customer base.

Marketing and Promotional Campaigns

A2P messaging is a powerful resource for advertising and other promotional campaigns. Since short codes and toll-free phone numbers have two-way SMS enabled, businesses can send engaging SMS marketing and promotional campaigns. For example, companies can ensure compliance by having customers opt-in for each promotion by responding with a specific keyword. In the past, businesses have also used A2P messaging for campaigns that involve riddles and quizzes. Upon answering these quizzes correctly, subscribers received a specific promotion such as a coupon.

Companies like CallHub, an SMS and voice broadcasting software company that helps companies collect data from consumers, use Plivo’s two-way SMS service to distribute and monitor marketing campaigns, polling initiatives, and automated replies. Through a user-friendly dashboard, CallHub clients can publish custom messages to their contacts, increase engagement, and generate real-time feedback. Within three months of choosing Plivo, CallHub launched their polling system in 12 countries and gained a 4.6X increase in revenue. Because Plivo does not charge for incoming SMS, they also saved nearly 40 percent on rates.

Confirmations and Alerts

One of the most popular use cases of A2P SMS is to send confirmations and alerts—brief, structured messages that notify a customer of time-sensitive information. For example, an airline could send you an alert that your flight will be arriving an hour late. This type of information is urgent and it is crucial that it be delivered quickly and successfully. This is why, latency for this type of SMS should be kept at a minimum and the caller ID should be specific to your business. More on this in later sections.

Another example is Zomato, a global food delivery service operating in 23 countries around the world. With so much logistics in place, SMS dependability is essential. An undelivered confirmation is a grave complication that could lead to significant delays in their order queue. Plivo’s reliable voice and SMS services enableds Zomato to deliver instant order confirmations and delivery notifications, while also lowering their SMS costs around the world.

Two-Factor Authentication

Another common application of A2P SMS is mobile two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, is a security method that verifies identity using a password sent to the user’s cell phone. Most people have encountered this before when they’re signing up for an app for the first time, or accessing their bank accounts, or even logging into applications with sensitive data and files (e.g., Google, Dropbox, etc.).

Confide, a private messaging application that self-destructs messages after they’re read, uses this two-step verification process to increase security. Once a user creates an account with Confide and enters their cell phone number, Plivo uses a SMS short code to deliver a random password. The user then copies that password into the Confide app so that they can complete their registration. This ensures that an individual can have only one account, since most people only have one mobile phone number. And it can also deter fraudulent signups by making it difficult for a bot to sign up with multiple phone numbers.

While it is always preferable to use SMS short code for 2FA, there are some instances where regular 10-digit phone number (i.e., a long code) is beneficial. For example, if there is a spam block in place against short code messaging, your users may never receive your 2FA message. To minimize this risk, it is best to use a combination of both short and long code SMS. Since short code lets you know whether or not your message delivers successfully, it’s advisable to use short code for the first 2FA message, and follow with a long code SMS if the initial message fails.

Another method is to ensure a fall-back on a voice call as well. This means that if text messaging fails within a given amount of time, then an automated phone call with the codes can be spoken via a text-to-speech engine to the receiver. In order to enable this, it’s best to select a service provider that offers both an SMS and a voice API.

Integrating A2P SMS into Your Business

A2P messaging with short codes can be a powerful business tool when used responsibly— companies are advised to be aware of the regulations for mass messaging customers. Even if consumers have opted-in to receive your texts, the messages themselves must adhere to CTIA regulations. In fact, failure to comply can result in the prompt cessation of your service.

Moreover, not all SMS service providers are created equal, even though it’s a simple product on the surface, there are a lot of factors that goes into the quality of the SMS. Three main factors for assessing SMS quality are latency, fixed sender ID, and delivery rates.

SMS Latency

Latency for SMS refers to the time an SMS is initiated to the time an SMS is received and it should take only a few seconds. From the end user’s perspective this starts when the SMS is triggered. For example, when a user is requesting a 2FA authentication code, it should take less than a second to receive the code. Likewise with credit card notifications, notifications of new purchases should arrive almost instantly upon the transaction completion.

Fixed Sender ID

Sender ID is not a factor that most businesses test for, but it’s essential to any two-way SMS campaign. This is because the sender ID has to match the phone number or short code that you want to receive replies on. If the sender ID doesn’t match, then the replies to your campaign will never arrive. Sender IDs can be a problem if your service provider is using aggregators that are not directly transmitting your text messages directly to the receiving carrier. This means that your text message may travel through multiple carriers and multiple countries before arriving to its destination, which can cause large latencies and incorrect sender IDs.

Delivery Rates

Even though there are many factors that can affect delivery rates that are outside of your service provider’s control (e.g., recipient’s phone is off, bad reception, etc.), delivery rates for your SMS campaigns should be above 80%. For undelivered SMS, your service provider should also be able to provide the error code (i.e., reason) for why the SMS was not delivered (e.g., incorrect destination phone number).

How Plivo helps its Customers?

Plivo is one of the leading Cloud Communication providers that helps enterprises and SMBs with their voice and messaging needs.

Every company has multiple applications that can leverage voice calling and SMS text messaging. Plivo is uniquely positioned to offer solutions that match the varying needs of an enterprise with the right balance between quality and price. Plivo helps enterprises to differentiate their customer experience and also bring in operational efficiencies as they grow.

Whether you are a fast growing organization or a stable business, Plivo would have something to offer that meets your business priorities and needs.

Plivo also includes free 24/7 email support to assist our clients in integrating these services into their businesses quickly and seamlessly. To get started with A2P SMS messaging and begin engaging your customers today, contact our sales team.

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