What are Transactional SMS and Promotional SMS


Sometimes the terms Transactional SMS, Promotional SMS, and Marketing SMS are used when discussing product features (either for SMS platforms or products that use them), and it happens from time to time that people that are new in the field don’t fully recognize the different use cases for these different type of messages.

Worry no more! In this post we are going to take a deep dive into these concepts to get to know them better, but also to learn a bit more about that’s the real difference between them, and when you should pick one above the other.

What is Transactional SMS and when you should use it?

Transactional SMS have to do mostly with A2P messages and notifications. A2P means that your client (or user) is interacting with your systems by sending requests and receiving responses through SMS. This could be for example requesting the balance of an account, or triggering different kind of transactions or actions.

A2P is discussed in detail in our posts “How To Create An Amazing Customer Service With SMS“, “How SMS changed the Call Centre Business forever“, “SMS A2P is on! Are you?“.

A2P is common in OmniChannel CRMs, home bankings, and any system where the user can accept notifications and trigger actions by sending an SMS. Another common example is when using 2FA (Two Factor Authentication) and OTPs (One Time Passwords) that are used to authenticate a user by sending a specific code via SMS to a mobile phone, and then asking for that code in a website (you can read more about this kind of A2P use in our blog post “Verifying your Clients Mobile Phone Number with SMS“).

But there are other use cases for Transactional SMS’: notifications. These are great to let your clients know that something of interest for them has happened (for example a financial transaction was accepted or declined, an order has been shipped, a server has exceeded the limit in disk usage of CPU, etc).

Some examples for the use case of notifications in Transactional SMS can be found in other blog posts like “Sending Librato Alerts As SMS with Group Messaging“, and “6 Great Uses For SMS Notifications In Your Business“.

You will usually have a low volume of A2P messages.

How Transactional SMS differs from Marketing SMS or Promotional SMS?

SMS’ that are sent to promote your product or offer special deals to your customers are called Promotional SMS (and/or Marketing SMS).

Promotional SMS also have a clear “Call To Action” that the target should follow in order to trigger a promotion or accept a deal. Some extra information and best practices for SMS campaigns are discussed in detail in some previous posts, like , “Schedule your SMS Marketing Campaigns for a better ROI“, “Best Practices For Running Effective SMS Campaigns“.

You will usually have a HIGH volume of marketing messages, and this tend to be considered as SPAM for both the receivers and the carriers that route your messages if you are not responsible enough.

The REAL difference between the two: Your clients’ privacy

Transactional SMS can be sent to any mobile number (and it doesn’t matter if they are in a DND -Do not Disturb- or DNC -Do not Call- list), and can be sent on any hour of any given day (sleep hours and holidays are included).

On the other hand, Promotional SMS must not be sent to numbers arbitrarily, and each customer must provide you with their consent (perhaps by signing a physical or web form, or sending a text to you and signing up to your service) to receive your messages. And even with a prior consent to send messages, you should only send those messages in specific hours where you know you won’t be bothering people (for example, don’t send a message at 4am!).

Marketing messages should obey different rules and regulations that are of course different in several countries, but they all come close to what common sense say about avoiding to spam people, and honoring and respecting your clients’ privacy.

For more information about this rules and different tips to avoid being considered SPAM and run your marketing campaigns with respect for your clients, see “Doing SMS Marketing with Good Karma“and “Permission Marketing: The Four Noble Truths“.

We really hope you enjoyed this post! Please let us know if you have any questions, we’ll be more than happy to help you.

— The PortaText Team.