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Two-way SMS: What it is, use cases, and tips for success

Reading Time: 8 minutes

It’s a commonly believed myth that two-way SMS is too expensive. So, marketers are often discouraged from using this technique.

While it’s true that two-way SMS is typically costlier than one-way SMS, it’s essential to consider the much bigger value it can bring to a business.

Many SMS service providers offer competitive pricing plans, and the cost per message is often relatively low. When you weigh this against the benefits of improved customer engagement, support, and potentially higher conversion rates, the expense can be justified.

Furthermore, two-way SMS communication is instrumental in improving customer retention rates. It achieves this by swiftly resolving customer issues and keeping them informed.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at two-way SMS. We’ll explore what it is, how it’s used, and share some tips for using it in your marketing messages.

Enhance your SMS marketing campaign with Omnisend

Table of contents

What is a two-way SMS? 

Two-way text messaging lets you both send and receive messages. It allows for interactive communication, enabling you to have back-and-forth conversations.

This is different from one-way SMS, where you can only send messages to recipients.

Two-way SMS is commonly used for customer support, surveys, appointment reminders, and more. They can be sent using either a short code or a standard phone number.

Here’s an example of a two-way SMS:

Business (SMS 1): “Hi there! You left some items in your cart. Would you like to complete your purchase? Reply ‘YES’ for assistance or ‘NO’ if you have any questions.”

Customer (SMS 2): “YES”

Business (SMS 3): “Great! We’re here to help. Do you need a discount code to sweeten the deal?”

This interaction can convert potential lost sales into successful transactions.

How does two-way SMS messaging work? 

Two-way SMS operates on a simple principle. It enables a two-sided conversation through text messages.

When you send a text message, it’s like starting a chat. The recipient can reply just like in any text conversation. This back-and-forth communication happens through a messaging service or platform. The platform acts as the middleman, ensuring the smooth exchange of messages.

It’s a valuable tool for businesses to engage with customers, provide support, or gather information.

Difference between SMS short codes and long codes for two-way messaging

SMS short codes and long codes are phone numbers for facilitating two-way texting. Let’s explore both options in detail.

SMS short codes

Short codes are brief numeric phone numbers (often 5-6 digits) for mass SMS campaigns. These include marketing promotions, TV show voting, and sending alerts.

There are three categories of short code messages:

  • Dedicated short codes: These are unique business numbers that let companies send unlimited texts for specific keywords.
  • Shared short codes: Shared short codes are used by multiple businesses simultaneously. SMS marketing service providers like Omnisend offer this service.
  • Vanity short codes: These are numbers selected by businesses, often related to their name or product. For instance, 7-Eleven’s short code is 711711.

Short codes are effective for two-way SMS marketing and sending bulk messages. 

However, acquiring and maintaining short codes can be expensive. Moreover, there are strict regulations and carrier approvals involved.

SMS long codes

Long codes are regular, full-length phone numbers with area codes. Unlike short codes, long codes resemble traditional phone numbers. They support two-way SMS and MMS, as well as voice calls.

Long code SMS has two main types:

  • 10-DLC: 10-DLC, short for “10-Digit Long Code,” utilizes standard 10-digit phone numbers. This option is well-suited for two-way text messaging, particularly individual interactions with customers.
  • SMS-enabled toll-free numbers: SMS-enabled toll-free numbers are recognizable by prefixes like 800, 888, or 877. Traditionally used for voice calls, these numbers can also handle SMS messaging.

How to use two-way SMS?  

Two-way SMS opens a whole new world of engagement opportunities to customize your marketing and use it to drive customer retention. The best part? With the Omnisend + Gorgias integration, it’s all easily scalable.

Here are some ideas on how you can use two-way SMS service and automate your marketing based on the responses.

1. Collecting (and acting on) customer satisfaction survey responses

Two-way SMS for customer satisfaction measurement is something you might have already heard of, but we’re talking about a use case with a spin. By combining Omnisend’s SMS automation features with the collected customer satisfaction scores, you can act on the responses you gather. Here’s a simple how-to:

  • Set up an automated customer feedback workflow with an SMS message, asking the customer to leave a satisfaction score after a completed purchase.
  • Assign auto-tags for each response score in Gorgias (e.g., a “review_score_5” tag for all 5-point responses). Tags created in Gorgias are synced to Omnisend, so you can easily create tag-based segments.
  • Use customer responses to segment the audience and further engage them, such as by identifying customers who were not satisfied with their shopping experience and asking them for more information or by providing special incentives to those customers as a way to make amends (e.g., gave a score of 1-3).

2. Running special contests with an SMS opt-in

SMS is a channel with great potential for driving customer engagement. An Omnisend report shows that in 2022, SMS campaigns had a 10.66% click rate, while emails had only 1.23%.

Now, with two-way SMS available, Omnisend customers can take it one step further and not only incentivize the recipients to click through to their store but also engage them in special contests. You can include a link in the text message to direct recipients to a contest webpage or get more information.

As an example, you could try running an SMS campaign to a specific audience segment, inviting them to respond and participate in a special giveaway contest. 

SMS campaign for a specific audience segment

You can auto-tag all incoming texts with a contest opt-in keyword (e.g., WANT100) in Gorgias. The tag will also be visible in your Omnisend account, so you’ll be able to create a segment of everyone who took part in the giveaway and send them a special offer—even if they didn’t win (after sending the giveaway prize with the winner, of course).

thanks for taking part in giveaway SMS

You can also keep this segment of active giveaway contest participants for your future SMS campaigns where you want to target your most engaged customers.

3. Collecting extra data to power your segmentation

Two-way SMS messaging opens up the opportunities to ask your customers… basically anything. The smart way, of course, is to ask them for information that you could later act on, as in the example of customer satisfaction scores. Other, more open-ended yet scalable use cases could be:

  • Asking new subscribers to select their preferred geo-location of your brick-and-mortar retail stores as part of their Welcome Series. You can then use this additional data to segment the audience and send geo-specific, personalized text messages.
  • Creating an automated order cancellation series where you send an SMS asking for more details (reasons) about the cancellation and then responding accordingly.
  • Gather more information from your new subscribers (ones you don’t have much data on yet), such as whether they are shopping for home or beauty products, and send them segmented messages based on that information.

4. Booking or appointment setting and confirmation

Booking and appointment setting is a practical use case for 2 way texting. Businesses can use this method to:

  • Confirm appointments promptly. They can confirm the date, time, and other relevant details.
  • Send automated reminders. As the appointment date approaches, businesses can send automated SMS reminders. This helps ensure that customers don’t forget their commitments.
  • Allow clients to reschedule or cancel via text message. Last-minute changes or delays can be promptly communicated through SMS.

Two-way messages can also facilitate post-appointment feedback or surveys. This can help businesses improve their services.

All in all, two-way SMS streamlines the scheduling process, minimizes no-shows, and is often more cost effective than traditional appointment reminder methods.

5. Opting out from brand communication

Ensuring SMS compliance involves offering subscribers an easy way to unsubscribe. In fact, this is not just recommended, but also a regulatory requirement.

People like controlling their interactions with businesses, and two-way texting lets them do that. When people no longer want messages from a brand, they can reply with “STOP” or “UNSUBSCRIBE”. These keywords serve as a way to opt out of receiving further messages.

This action triggers an automated process that removes their phone number from the brand’s messaging list.

After this, the recipient should receive confirmation of their successful unsubscribe. Additionally, businesses can provide details on how to resubscribe in the future.

This two-way message use case is crucial in respecting customers’ preferences and privacy. It strengthens the bond of trust between consumers and businesses.

Leverage the power of two-way SMS with Omnisend

How to send two-way messages using Omnisend? 

Omnisend’s integration with Gorgias enables two-way SMS messaging. It’s an excellent opportunity for ecommerce businesses to enhance their SMS marketing efforts.

Let’s look at the steps to get started:

Step 1: Link your Omnisend account to your Gorgias account. Here’s a comprehensive step-by-step guide.

Step 2: Verify your SMS credit balance. All Pro and Enterprise plan users receive complimentary monthly SMS credits. If needed, you can consider acquiring additional SMS credits through a subscription. These credits are utilized for SMS campaigns, automation, and responding to customer messages.

Step 3: Establish your SMS campaign or automation. You can even utilize two-way SMS beyond customer support. Simply include a concise call to action to guide your customers on how to respond effectively.

Step 4: When you receive SMS responses, they will automatically generate new tickets in your Gorgias helpdesk. These tickets will be tagged with “Omnisend.” Moreover, their subject lines will begin with “SMS via Omnisend.”

Please note that responses other than “STOP” or “HELP” are excluded from this integration. They should be managed directly in your Omnisend account.

Step 5: When you or your helpdesk agent replies in Gorgias, the responses go back to the customer via SMS through Omnisend, using the same phone number.

This integration streamlines customer interactions. It allows you to respond using the same channel where the inquiry originated.

You might wonder, “What else is possible with two-way messaging?” Well, with an omnichannel marketing automation platform, you can unlock several possibilities to leverage SMS.

Wrap up

Two-way SMS has the potential to engage customers, boost revenue, and enhance conversations. Integrating it into your marketing strategy lets you build meaningful relationships. This is something one-way texting can’t do.

Select either SMS short codes or long codes based on your requirements and audience.

Next, determine the specific purpose you intend to achieve with two-way SMS. Possibilities include running contests, gathering data, and enabling text message opt-outs.

Embracing two-way SMS marketing is more than a choice. It’s a strategic necessity for businesses to thrive. Over time, it leads to deeper relationships, greater satisfaction, and long-term success.

Try 2 way SMS marketing with Omnisend
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.


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