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How to improve SMS deliverability (explanation, tips & reasons)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A common myth in SMS marketing is that SMS providers can guarantee deliverability for messages they send on behalf of businesses. 

This is not exactly true. Issues with SMS delivery mostly occur on the carrier or recipient’s end, and understanding this is key to improving your SMS deliverability rates. 

This article explains why your texts won’t deliver, what you can do to fix that, and how having a reliable SMS provider fits into the equation. 

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What is SMS deliverability?

SMS deliverability refers to the metric that shows marketers what percentage of their sent SMS messages successfully reach recipients. Your open rates can only be high if your messages are delivered. 

Therefore, this is the most fundamental metric to track when measuring the performance of your SMS marketing campaigns.

A study by SimpleTexting revealed that 70% of consumers are currently signed up to receive text messages from businesses.

That number is, of course, pointless if your messages don’t deliver.  

Your SMS campaign success largely depends on the number of texts successfully received. The higher the rate of deliverability, the more successful the SMS campaign is likely to be.

How to calculate SMS delivery rate?

When using SMS messages for marketing or promotional purposes, it is important to understand how to calculate the SMS delivery rate. Without it, you’re not getting an accurate picture of the results.

Messages can be sent to ecommerce customers, but that does not always mean successful delivery.

The formula used to calculate the SMS delivery rate percentage, and therefore understand what portion of text messages makes it to the recipient, is simple:

(Number of text messages successfully delivered / Total number of text messages sent) X 100

For example, let’s pretend a marketer sent 5,000 text messages. Of those, 3,778 were received. That equates to a 75.56% text message delivery rate.

Use this calculation to create a basic SMS delivery report for each campaign. You can also use the SMS pricing calculator to better understand the costs of your campaign.

Delivery rates for text messaging are traditionally high. We recommend investigating low percentages, as they are typically indicative of issues with the network or other components of text delivery.

How to improve SMS delivery speed 

Since we’ve established the importance of SMS deliverability in marketing campaigns, let’s now look at how we can improve this metric. 

Here are a few tips to help ensure that your SMS messages reach your recipients successfully:

  • Use the correct phone number type: Long codes are for two-way messaging, but have restrictions as to how many texts you can send per day before the code gets blocked. Short codes are meant for bulk SMS blasts but lack interactive messaging. Using the right phone number type for the right messages increases SMS deliverability.
  • Personalize your content: Recipients are more likely to be receptive to personalized content and not label it as spam. Include elements like your recipient’s name.
  • Keep your SMS texts short: Shorter messages have fewer delivery issues compared to longer ones. The longer ones may need more data which can slow down delivery speed or lead to failed deliveries.
  • Clean your contact list regularly: This will help you avoid sending messages to incorrect or inactive phone numbers and getting charged in the process.
  • Use double-opt-in: The additional confirmation step also helps to ensure a higher quality list and avoids incorrect or fake phone numbers.
  • Make sure your messages do not appear spammy: Do this by including an opt-out, using proper language, correct spelling, etc. This way, you can avoid carrier spam filters.

Common reasons why text messages are not delivered 

Why can’t text messages be delivered? Several reasons can interrupt the text journey and cause message delivery failure. These include:

Incorrect phone number

One of the most obvious and simple-to-fix causes of message delivery failure is having an incorrect number for the recipient. Perhaps the number was recorded or entered incorrectly. Or it belongs to the subscriber, but it’s a landline phone unable to receive texts.

Carrier spam restrictions

Most phone carriers utilize spam filters to block junk messages from their users. If you send a mass number of texts, be forewarned that the carrier network may identify your text message as spam and stop it from reaching the recipient’s inbox.

Breaking up messages into small groups can help reduce this risk. Identical automated messages can also trigger alarms, so we advise changing the text to avoid rejection.

Network problems

Technical network issues sometimes arise, depending on the cell phone carrier. Drops, weak signals, or other technical glitches can be responsible for SMS delivery failure.

Phones are sometimes temporarily unavailable due to service suspension, such as those on a pay-as-you-go contract that depletes the credit. Until the credit is replenished and phone service restored, text messages are not received.

Inbox limitations

Similar to email inboxes, SMS message inboxes are limited in the number of messages they can receive and store. Full inboxes don’t accept new SMS messages.

Using gray routes

SMS sent using gray routes can easily get lost along the way or be labeled as spam. This is because, though they’re initially sent through legal channels, they travel through illegal channels before reaching the recipient. 

Some companies use gray routes to save on cost, but it’s not advisable because, besides being illegal, you run the risk of security attacks and poor deliverability.

How to improve SMS deliverability using Omnisend

Using a reputable SMS delivery service, such as Omnisend, is one of the best ways to avoid rejected messages and spam filters, and reduce your delivery failures.

You also want to be on the right side of the law.

Omnisend stays ahead of industry changes and SMS compliance rules designated by the U.S. wireless communications industry advocacy group CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association).

For instance, when you collect phone numbers from your customers, you need their direct consent before sending any texts, just like with email marketing. This is in line with the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulations. 

Omnisend’s signup forms ensure you obtain this consent from each of your SMS subscribers:

Other features that Omnisend offers to enhance your SMS deliverability include:

  • Segmentation tools: These help you separate customers into categories so you’re sending texts to relevant audiences.
  • Personalization capabilities: With smart recommendations, Omnisend allows you to design more personalized flash sales, offers, and reminder messages that your recipients will love.
  • SMS automation workflow tools:  Omnisend can help you enhance your conversion rates with automated welcome emails, abandoned cart alerts, cross-sell messages, promotional SMS, and more. 
  • SMS frequency capping and quiet hours: This helps you ensure you send messages worldwide at the appropriate time, especially since some countries have guidelines against sending business messages beyond working hours. 

SMS deliverability: Wrap-up

Many ecommerce businesses have successfully incorporated SMS messaging into their marketing plans and are driving sales and improving customer communications as a result.

The secret lies in, first, ensuring high SMS deliverability. Understanding the best practices and tips and putting them into practice is the first step. The second and perhaps more important step is finding a reliable SMS delivery service.

Platforms like Omnisend ensure compliance and incorporate most of the above practices into their core features. 

Get started with Omnisend and see how SMS marketing and automation can improve your ecommerce efforts
Richard White
Article by
Richard White

Richard is a Content Marketing Manager at Omnisend. An avid writer, he's said to have been born holding a pencil. Fascinated by all things handmade, if he's not reading or writing he can often be found practicing leathercraft.