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SMS short codes vs long codes: The definitive comparison

Reading Time: 8 minutes

One of the major marketing channels ecommerce companies should adopt is SMS marketing. Given that 91% of consumers in the US would sign up to receive text messages from their preferred brands, SMS marketing makes promotions much easier.

Graph shows that 91% of consumers in the US would sign up to receive text messages from their preferred brands
Image via

Furthermore, text messaging provides consistent two-way conversations between businesses and customers. This is shown by the high open and engagement rates that they attract compared to other marketing methods. 

A recent survey showed that close to 60% of people in the US read a text within 1 to 5 minutes of receiving it.

Graph shows that close to 60% of people in the US read a text within 1 to 5 minutes of receiving it.
Image via

When using SMS marketing, many marketers face the long code vs short code SMS conundrum. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. 

What is an SMS code?  An SMS short code or an SMS long code is a type of phone number people use to send messages. 

Starting with their definition, we’ll compare SMS short code vs long code to help you understand which one fits your marketing needs best.

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What is a long code SMS?

A long code SMS is a standard 10-digit number that can be used to send messages, receive calls, and send faxes. 

They come in two types. First are the 10-digit long codes (10-DLC) that support voice and MMS marketing

They use the latest long code technology and are more affordable compared to SMS short codes. They however do not support read receipts.

The second are the SMS-enabled toll-free numbers. Toll-free numbers are common in businesses and are different from 10-DLCs in that they support read receipts.

Long code numbers are tied to an area code and are typically used in ecommerce marketing for such functions as sending shipping and tracking messages. 

One of the most noticeable differences between long code vs short code SMS is that you can make and receive calls with SMS long codes. 

Long code SMS
Image via Facebook

This next section discusses the benefits of long code SMS.

Benefits of long code SMS

Besides enabling multiple communication channels, long code SMS has other advantages that make it preferable to SMS short code. 

Here’s what your business will gain from using SMS long code instead of short code.

  • Increases trust: With long code SMS, businesses use one number that customers can recognize. This establishes them as a viable business, which increases the trust customers have in them.

Besides, this 10-digit number looks like a private contact and this offers a better personal experience. 

Customers feel like they’re communicating directly to a human being as opposed to a robot as it is with automated text messages sent via short code SMS.

  • Supports two-way texting and voice communication: Long code SMS offers two-way MMS and SMS messaging as well as voice calls. Businesses can send messages and get a response from customers. 

With this two-way SMS marketing capability, customers can give feedback and help companies improve their services.

  • Local appeal: If you run a local company, using a 10-digit SMS code can give you an edge with your local customer base.

Long code SMS contains an area code attached to it and consumers are more likely to read a message from their area code.

  • Supports voice calls, SMS, and MMS: Unlike SMS short codes, SMS long codes offer various means of communication including voice calls and faxes. 
  • A more personalized experience: Long code SMS includes an area code as well as a two-way texting feature. This allows you to send personalized text messages to relevant audiences, including alerts and reminders.
  • International reach: Long code SMS supports international text messaging for businesses with a global presence. You can send messages to various countries using your long code virtual number and get responses.
  • Easy to set up: Long codes are easy to set up as you can easily convert a landline number into a 10-DCL. With short codes you’d need state and carrier approval, and this takes 6 to 10 weeks to clear. 

One major downside to long codes SMS is that they’re not suitable for mass messaging like short codes are. 

What are short code SMS and how can you use them in your ecommerce omnichannel marketing?

Let’s find out.

What is a short code SMS?

A short code SMS is a 5 to 6-digit number used in SMS marketing campaigns to send a large number of SMS and MMS messages to customers. 

With the help of text messaging software, businesses can send up to 400 messages per second via short codes depending on the provider. 

This is one of the main differences between long code vs short code SMS. Even though long codes let you send multiple messages, they’re typically designed for person-to-person contact. 

As such their throughput rate is lower compared to common short codes and can only send up to 30 messages per second depending on the provider.

Short code sms
Image via Facebook

Short code SMS is appropriate for text message marketing for small businesses and medium-sized companies. There are 3 types of short code messages:

  • Dedicated short codes: These are unique business numbers that allow companies to send unlimited texts for a specific keyword. Dedicated short codes are random and not often remembered by customers.
  • Shared short codes: Also known as common-use short codes, SMS marketing shared short codes are used by multiple businesses simultaneously. The SMS service is provided by SMS marketing service providers like Omnisend. The short code is used by their different clients for different keyword triggers.
  • Vanity short codes: These are the numbers chosen by businesses that are related to their name or product. For instance, 7-Eleven’s short code is 711711. They’re also used when businesses want a code that customers can easily remember.

Here are a few examples of SMS short codes that popular businesses use:

  • Chipotle uses the short code 888-222 for SMS promotions.
  • You can reach Facebook for offline notifications via the short code 32665
  • Pizza Hut uses 69488 short code to send promotional messages to clients who opt in.

Omnisend’s free plan provides free SMS credits to help you kickstart your SMS marketing campaigns. Get started here.

Benefits of short code SMS

The following are the benefits of SMS short codes that will help you decide whether they’re the best fit for your business.

  • Easy to remember: Since they’re short, SMS short codes are relatively easy to remember. For an even more memorable SMS short code, businesses can opt for vanity short codes.
  • Sends messages faster: SMS takes the least time to reach your customers compared to other marketing channels. Compared to long codes, short codes have better deliverability and are faster as well. 
  • Better brand recognition: A short code can be as recognizable to your customer as your Twitter username or website address. This is especially true for vanity short codes.
  • Control what goes out: When you have a dedicated short code, you can be in total control of how your SMS campaigns are seen by your customers, which helps you maintain a consistent brand image.
  • Allows bulk messaging: SMS Short codes are suitable for businesses that send bulk messages for marketing campaigns. Unlike SMS long codes, which have a lower throughput, SMS short codes let you send up to 400 messages per second.
  • Supports two-way messaging: You can use SMS short codes to improve engagement with your consumers. You can send reminders, promotions, and alerts to thousands of users and give them a chance to respond.
  • Better for SMS marketing: Given the bulk messaging and memorability aspects, short codes are overall better for SMS marketing campaigns.

Despite the numerous benefits, one downside to having short codes is their price. SMS short codes are leased from the national registry at a fee for at least three months. Then you’d also have to pay for the volume of messages you send using the short code.

It’s even more expensive to lease vanity SMS short codes compared to dedicated and shared short codes. So if you’re going for an easily memorable code, you’d have to pay roughly $500 more monthly.

Long code vs short code: a quick comparison 

Both long codes and short codes have their advantages and disadvantages. You can use them both for your marketing needs if you understand their characteristics.

This way, you’d know how and when they’d serve your marketing needs best. This table shows you a side-by-side comparison of long code vs short code SMS.

Take advantage of Omnisend’s free plan that provides free SMS credits and other SMS marketing features. Start free

When to use a long code SMS

SMS long codes are designed for communication and customer service more than they are for marketing. They’re meant to have a more in-person effect on customers for issues such as support, delivery, and other service-related communication.

As such, here are their most common use cases.

  • One-on-one communication: Long code SMS are well suited for interpersonal communication with customers both via call and messaging. This means more specific and personal messages as opposed to automated promotional ones.
example of long code sms
Image via
  • For customer service messages: Long code SMS is preferred by most businesses for customer service. They’re more engaging and do not appear automated, which improves their validity and human touch.
example of providing customer feedback via sms
Image via
  • Consistency: Using an SMS long code allows you to have a consistent phone number across all your marketing channels. This establishes your credibility among your customer base.
  • Delivery and tracking updates: Long codes are suited for person-to-person communication for instance, in courier services for shipping updates. 
Long form sms with order and delivery details

When to use short code SMS

Short code SMS are excellent for mass SMS marketing campaigns and other things that require bulk messaging. Here are some of its common use cases.

  • Running large-scale SMS campaigns: Short codes are excellent for one-way messaging to thousands of customers instantaneously. 
short code sms with discount

With their high throughput, they are most suited for marketing purposes. These include SMS mass promotions, automated cart abandonment SMS, and SMS push marketing

  • Running text to win promotions: A simple response to the company’s short code SMS allows customers to enter a contest. For instance, a food chain may prompt you to send a keyword response such as “FREE” to win a shopping voucher.
  • Sending product discounts to contacts: Promotional messages can be automated and sent simultaneously to a large volume of contacts without altering their contents. Unlike long codes, short codes let you do this.
  • Collecting feedback from “text to vote” surveys: Most businesses use short code SMS for their surveys. It’s easy to set up and provides customers with easy response options.
short code sms with text to vote message

Long code vs short code SMS: which one’s best for you?

Both short codes and long codes provide different messaging solutions to businesses.

If your marketing needs are more customer service-oriented or your marketing budget is low, long codes are great. For mass automated SMS marketing and promotional updates, short codes are best.

No matter which you choose, you need a good SMS marketing solution. Omnisend is one such solution that’ll help with all your SMS marketing needs. 

Use Omnisend to take your SMS marketing to the next level. Get started for free.
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Bernard Meyer
Article by
Bernard Meyer

Bernard is the Director of Content at Omnisend, with a passion for good research, helping ecommerce businesses with their marketing automation needs, and beating absolutely everyone in Mario Kart 64.

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