What is SMS Delivery? Factors, Rates, and Reliability

Oct 20, 2021 - By Skirmantas Venckus

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In today’s fast-paced world, it’s crucial for businesses to reliably deliver SMS (Short Message Service) to stay in touch with customers. This article dives into SMS delivery, covering the basics, how delivery rates are calculated, and what factors influence them.

Understanding these concepts helps businesses improve their messaging strategies to ensure messages are promptly delivered.

We’ll also explore SMS delivery confirmation and why it’s important, along with discussing the impact of SMS deliverability and reliability. By grasping these key points, businesses can optimize messaging campaigns for better engagement and stronger connections with their audience.

What is SMS Delivery?

SMS delivery refers to the process of successfully transmitting text messages from a sender to a recipient’s mobile device, ensuring that messages are delivered promptly and reliably without delay or interruption. In simpler terms, it’s akin to email deliverability, a vital metric in marketing campaigns.

In the context of marketing, SMS delivery rate is crucial for the success of SMS marketing campaigns, much like email delivery rates are for email marketing. However, while SMS delivery rate may sometimes refer colloquially to the successful arrival of a single message, for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll focus on broader deliverability metrics.

How is SMS Delivery Rate Calculated?


Before proceeding, we must note that due to the fickle nature of SMS services, a 100% delivery rate is likely unachievable. Every text message can be “lost, ” whether due to technical difficulties or other reasons.

A good ballpark to aim for is about 98%.

SMS delivery rates are fairly easy to calculate. As mentioned above, it’s a ratio of messages sent to messages delivered. As a result, the formula is:

Messages delivered / Messages sent

It should be noted that a set time frame should be included. Sudden surges in undelivered messages can indicate a misstep in marketing strategy. Such data would be invisible without a shorter time frame.

As a result, some testing will be required. Usually, it’s recommended to keep tabs on at least monthly, quarterly, and lifetime results.

What Influences SMS & MMS Delivery Rates?

Most businesses won’t be sending marketing SMS messages manually. APIs, platforms, and software will be used. As such, most of these companies will have best practices available that can improve SMS deliverability.

Additionally, they may provide better delivery rates as part of their value propositions.

There are, however, two factors that are within the power of the business that influence deliverability.

  1. Carrier spam filters. Triggering these means a lot of bad things are going to happen. While these differ by country and company, getting familiar with terms and conditions and the relevant laws is highly recommended. There is one strategy that works nearly universally – personalization. Mass messages are failed messages because carriers frequently tag them as spam. It might even ruin your credibility.
  2. Grey routes. These take advantage of various vulnerabilities of mobile carrier services to reduce the cost of SMS messages by routing them through foreign countries. While they are not illegal, grey routing reduces the deliverability rate substantially. As such, it’s recommended to avoid using grey routes.

Additionally, phone issues can be a culprit. These, however, are outside of your control and are usually temporary. So, if you follow the above tips and your text message is not delivered, don’t fret. Sometimes it isn’t your fault.

A sudden increase in failed deliveries might indicate another issue – customers opting out or banning your number. While these are in some ways unavoidable, it’s worth keeping in mind the SMS marketing best practices. We have written several extensive blog posts on how to write compelling and enticing SMS copy.

If you want a short summary, however, here are the most important steps to keep in mind:

  1. Always introduce yourself.
  2. Always offer opt-outs.
  3. If possible, add a confirmation after a subscriber opts-in.
  4. Avoid sending too many marketing messages too often.
  5. Stay within the voice and tone of your company.
  6. Make sure the SMS body is grammatically correct.

Avoiding all of the above is a surefire way to skyrocket blocks from users. In short, things like grammatical mistakes or messages without introductions feel like spam. Users might even inadvertently block you.

What is SMS Delivery Confirmation?

Many SMS marketing platforms will provide some form of analytics. We, for example, provide an SMS delivery report for data analysis purposes.

Businesses can take the data and create actionable insights that will help them improve their marketing strategy.

You might be wondering, however, how these reports appear and how valid they are. If you are familiar with an SMS receipt (or SMS read report), you already know the basics. Delivery status metrics are essentially based on the same concept.

If you’re still wondering how to know if an SMS is read, then you should know that all phones, including both Android and iPhone models, have (or at least used to have) specialized read receipt settings. Simply put, you could put a confirmation pop-up for every SMS message you send. The recipient would then confirm that they have read the message.

These receipts functioned as a delivery notification. SMS messages, however, have more functionalities that work in a similar fashion. For example, a delivery report SMS is sent back to the carrier each time a message arrives successfully.

These delivery report SMS are used as the primary way to track deliverability. Most platforms have access to such information, which provides data for reports.

SMS Deliverability and Reliability Impact

SMS delivery rates are a carbon copy of email deliverability. As the concepts are the same, so are their importance to marketing. SMS deliverability is everything for marketing. Each percentage point under maximum efficiency cuts into profits greatly.

Want an SMS marketing platform that will make you feel at peace? Since our inception, we have maintained SMS delivery rates with utmost care. With all the automation and high delivery rates, creating powerful campaigns will be a breeze.

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