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How Big Brands Are Using SMS To Their Advantage?

How Big Brands Are Using SMS To Their Advantage?

Renata Liubertaitė

Emails are still one of the most popular ways for the brands to communicate their offers to their audience, yet the average open rate for this channel is (only?) 20%. It means that a lot of emails that land in a customer's mailbox are never opened and usually lost in the clutter of other marketing messages.

That’s one of the reasons why more and more brands are revisiting the best SMS practices not only to promote their business but also to improve customer experience. As well as emails, SMS can reach people globally, but being such a direct and personal channel makes it faster and more reliable, thus more effective.

In this article, we're going to talk about the ways businesses use SMS to their advantage, and look into a few examples of big brands that have been successfully using text messages to complement their communication strategy.

Why SMS?

  1. The nature of the channel itself. There are many reasons to choose SMS as a channel for business communication. It's instant, it's versatile, easily personalized, can be automated, and, of course, has incredibly high open and response rates.
  2. Global reach. Billions of people use mobile phones worldwide (not necessarily smartphones), and almost every country in the world has at least one phone carrier. It means that no matter if your business is local or international, there's almost 100% chance that your target audience will get to read your message.
  3. Many different use cases. Companies use SMS for many different purposes. Whether it's to update their customers with some news, offer some special deal, or to complement other marketing methods, a text message is a quick and reliable way to interact with a customer.

How to use SMS for business?

  1. Send personalized offers or members-only deals - That is one of the most obvious ways to use SMS messages for business, and it rarely disappoints. Offering your customers a discount code or a voucher in such a direct and personal manner increases your chances of a completed transaction.  
  2. Promote sales and time-sensitive deals - High open rates of SMS make it an attractive tool for businesses to inform their customers about offers that need to be noticed almost immediately. Studies show that 90% of messages are read within the first 3 minutes, not to mention that 98% are at least opened. Whether it's a blitz sale or just a sale that lasts for a few days, you want your customers to know that, and SMS is an obvious choice here.
  3. Send news and updates – Businesses can keep their customers updated and engaged by sending them messages about launching a new product, new arrivals, product updates, etc. It's also great for important and time-sensitive information, events, or in case one of the processes in your business is product shipment. Giving customers access to their tracking information and sending status updates via SMS not only improves their experience, but also the transparency of the company.
  4. Appointments, reminders - In most businesses that require prior booking, such as dentistry clinics, various beauty services, etc., no showup means damage. Some people just don't care, yet some customers simply forget. SMS, in this case, is a great way to quickly remind a person about his/her upcoming appointment and confirm the arrival (or cancellation) in a fast and easy way using two-way communication. Your customers can easily reply to the message and let you know if you should be expecting them or not.  
  5. Gather reviews and feedback - SMS is an effortless way to allow your customers to speak for your brand and help it grow. Simply include a link to a review website of your choice and it will take no more than a few minutes for a recipient to fill it, or create a poll to find out what your customers think about anything that interests you from a business perspective.

Word-of-mouth has been one of the most trusted sources of information when making purchase decisions for literally ages! It still is, and that’s why it’s important for businesses to not only be trusted and praised by their customers, but also to collect those opinions in one place, and let them do their job.

7 big brands that take advantage of SMS

1. Facebook

One of the social media giants, Facebook, has been using SMS messages for various purposes for a while. Facebook texts allow its users to get text notifications, post status updates, connect with their friends without using data, or improve the security of user profiles.

There are specific shortcodes that you can text Facebook (numbers vary depending on the country and carrier) and turn on notifications or get some update, such as OTP (for one-time password), START and STOP (to start/stop getting text notifications), or HELP.

Facebook also uses text messages for two-factor authentication. Users can either choose SMS or a third-party app to stay secure. In case a person chooses SMS, a special 6-digit code gets sent via SMS every time someone tries to connect to a specific account from an unrecognized device or browser.


Loyalty programs and surveys to grow sales and engage with customers are nothing new, and IKEA successfully uses SMS to get the best out of them.

A while ago, IKEA has noticeably increased response rates and customer satisfaction by delivering surveys via SMS. Every time the delivery has been made, a link to the survey is sent to customers, allowing them to quickly fill the form and share their opinions.

IKEA also sends special offers, updates about new products, and targeted messages for Family Program members.

3. Subway

After agreeing to receive messages from Subway, a customer should expect to get offers weekly. They started doing it in 2015 and the way this brand communicates with its audience has evolved over the years, becoming more personal and interactive. Today Subway has over 5 million subscribers and 85% retention rate!

Subway doesn't use any big tricks to get a customer to respond, it's very simple and straightforward. The company sends current specials, limited-time promotions, and allows customers to order their meals by using a text message.


PETA provides everyone with the easiest possible way to help animals, and again, it’s a simple SMS (currently, it's the U.S. only).

They offer a few keywords that people can text to their number (whichever cause they want to support), that will automatically send an email to the specific company's decision-maker. In that way, everyone can become a part of the movement and express their support and solidarity.

5. BBC

Most news services, such as BBC, allow their viewers to opt-in for SMS alerts, and never miss a story.

By simply texting ALERTS START to BBC’s designated code, you will be included in the subscriber’s list (U.K. only). Once you do that, BBC will send you breaking news alerts and other relevant updates so you will stay well-informed even if there's no sign of the internet around.

6. Kohl’s

Kohl’s is all about sales and promotions. Even signing up for SMS alerts already gets you an extra 15% off at their store or app. Before opting-in, Kohl's informs its customers that they can expect to receive about 7 messages per month, including Kohl's Cash coupons, Yes2You Rewards, and promotional gifts.

Final thoughts

There were times when brands seemed to be losing sight of SMS. Yet with the rise of social media and people being attacked by tons of not always relevant information, it has become very easy for a business to get lost in a pile of competitor messages. The wide opportunities of SMS not only allow brands to customize this channel to their objectives, but also improve customer experience by meeting people's needs. Sounds like a win-win to us!