SMS vs Email Marketing: Which Channel Is More Effective?

SMS vs Email Marketing: Which Channel Is More Effective?
02 February, 2023 • ... • 3804 views
Irene Dmitrieva
by Irene Dmitrieva

As businesses look to maximize their marketing efforts, they often have to choose between two popular channels: SMS marketing vs email marketing. Both are effective tools for connecting with customers, but which one will provide more impact? 

This article will explore their differences and help you decide which channel will be best for your customer outreach efforts.

What are email and SMS marketing exactly?

Email marketing is a form of direct marketing that uses electronic mail as a way to communicate with customers, clients, and prospects. It is one of the most common forms of online marketing, not just because it’s easy to do, but also because it works. More than half of all small businesses in the US use it and over 90% of marketers find it crucial for the success of their companies. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that your business also uses email marketing. 

SMS, also known as text messaging or mobile marketing, is another extremely popular form of digital marketing. It refers to the use of text messages sent from your business directly to a customer’s cell phone.

While the two marketing channels have some similarities, they also have some very distinct differences. Let’s take a look at some of the key features that differentiate SMS marketing from email marketing.

SMS marketing vs email marketing: how do they compare

Trying to decide which marketing strategy is the best fit for your business? With a multitude of customer tastes and different tools available, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when picking between SMS and email marketing. To help simplify things, here are some critical elements to take into account when selecting the ideal approach for your next campaign.

Open rate

Compared to email, SMS marketing has a decided advantage in terms of open rate. Text messages have an overwhelming average open rate of 98%, as opposed to 19.8%  of emails. This is why SMS campaigns can be powerful tools for driving conversions and boosting engagement.

Text messaging is a surefire way to get in touch with customers, as the recipients of your message are notified almost instantly. Unlike emails which can take up to 90 minutes for someone to open, text messages have an average opening rate of just 90 seconds! This makes the SMS channel the fastest way to reach out to your customers.

Click-through rate

The click-through rate (CTR) measures the success of a message by calculating how many recipients interacted with it. Specifically, it is determined by dividing the number of clicks on a link within your message by its total delivery.

SMS messages take a limited amount of time to read, and the click-through rate is an impressive 30% due to its succinctness. In contrast, marketing emails are often too long-winded for most people – only 1.7% actually make it through to clicking on links within them.


While both tools can be cost-effective, there are a few key differences in terms of price. For example, SMS messages are typically more costly to send than emails due to their limited length and the cost of sending an SMS message from a phone carrier. Additionally, some email platforms may charge for features such as automated emails and email templates, while SMS messages are generally cheaper to send without these additional features. 

However, the cost of sending emails can vary depending on what email service provider you use and how many emails you need to send. Ultimately, both tools can be a cost-effective way of getting your message out there, but it’s important to consider the cost of each option before making a decision.

Let’s compare the cost of one email and one SMS send. 

If you have 1,000 subscribers, in Selzy you will pay $0.005 per email. That would be $5 total. The other option is to pay $7 for unlimited emails to 1,000 subscribers.

In Twilio, for example, each SMS costs $0.0079. So to send SMS to 1000 subscribers, you will pay $7.9.

Keep in mind, we didn’t include the additional costs like a domain or a number. 

On the bright side, you can send 1,500 emails to 100 subscribers for free in Selzy!

When it comes to return on investment (ROI), text marketing often provides better results. Per a report, for every dollar spent on SMS advertising, you obtain an average ROI of around $71; but when it comes to email advertising the estimated return is approximately $36 per dollar invested.

Customization and personalisation

As there are no character limitations, an email campaign is much more customizable than an SMS message. Email messages can include a variety of formatting and design features, including interactive elements. You can craft complex appealing messages using clever layouts, colors, and fonts to grab attention. Additionally, the content of email messages is usually much longer than SMS messages which allows for more in-depth personalization

On the other hand, SMS messages are limited to 160 characters or less. This makes it difficult to create highly personalized messaging. But, this does not mean that you cannot personalize SMS messages. It just requires a bit of creativity. Using fields like first name, last name or other customer information can still create a personalized experience for your customers. 

Incorporating visuals in text messages is also an option with MMS; however, note that the cost of your message will be higher with images. Additionally, due to various formats and resolutions available, some recipients may not be able to view your image.

Response rate

With an astounding rate of 45%, SMS responses are significantly higher than other marketing channels, such as email which only produces a mere 6% response. Nevertheless, these rates vary based on the type of business and targeted customers.

When deciding between SMS marketing vs email marketing, consider the key elements. Text messages have higher open and click-through rates with faster delivery times, while emails are more customizable but may require additional features that increase the cost. Ultimately, both methods can be effective depending on your campaign goals and target audience.

SMS vs email marketing: advantages and disadvantages compared

To choose the right tool for your business, assess all the advantages and disadvantages of SMS and email marketing.

Pros and cons of SMS marketing

✅ In most cases, cell phones are at the fingertips of their owners and are used by most of the population. And that means readers will almost instantly view the message as soon as it is received. The information you want to tell your regular or potential client will be read minutes after sending.

✅ Your customers don’t need the internet to read a text message.

Brevity is the sister of SMS marketing. In 2-3 sentences you can profitably describe your service or product and attract the customer. In the abundance of promotional materials that customers view daily, this point is particularly important in a marketing strategy. SMS messages are read quickly. The immediacy factor provides a greater response rate than most other media.

Easy to send. You don’t need to prepare templates, develop a corporate style, or spend money on design and layout. Simply prepare the text of the message and send it.

❌ The limit of one message is only 160 characters, which isn’t always enough to fully describe the advertising offer. If the number of characters is exceeded, the cost of SMS increases.

❌ Mobile users rarely have a chance to unsubscribe from the SMS mailing list. This can be very annoying for the customers. 

No complex design, just text.

❌ With the vast amount of spam inundating people daily, your important messages may not be noticed and get the right reaction.

Pros and cons of email marketing

61% of consumers rely on email as their main form of communication when interacting with online brands — this leads to greater customer recognition and eventually higher conversion rates.

Email lives longer: people can save it, mark it as important to come back to it later. Plus, with the long-term storage provided by email services and inbox search functions, people can always find messages when they need to.

Low cost of sending emails.

✅ Ability to send several types of automated emails to interact with the audience (welcome emails, abandoned cart emails, etc.). 

Unlimited number of characters.

✅ Emails can be formatted differently thanks to layout options. You can add useful content (video, audio, photo) to the email to engage readers and a logo to build brand awareness.

Ability for users to unsubscribe from the newsletter. This helps maintain the trust of the customers and avoid any potential legal issues that may arise when sending unsolicited emails. 

❌ Email marketing can be a source of frustration due to its lower click-through and open rates. With an overflowing inbox, it’s increasingly difficult for your emails to stand out.

❌ Customers loathe receiving generic emails from huge lists. Marketers will need to pay a lot of attention to personalizing emails to ensure that customers don’t perceive them as spam.

❌ Even perfectly fine campaigns can trigger spam filters which can be unpredictable.

Best real-life examples of text marketing to get inspired by

SMS and email marketing offer an effective way to engage with customers and promote products or services in a cost-effective manner. However, crafting campaigns that are both engaging and successful can be tricky. To help you out, we’ve compiled some of the best real-life examples of SMS and email marketing from around the world.

If you want to get your message out there quickly and effectively, then SMS marketing is the way to go. To truly demonstrate the might of this remarkable tool, let’s explore some actual text messages from companies who opted for SMS marketing.

Sending welcome SMS

When businesses embark on text message marketing, one of their first steps should be crafting a warm welcome message for new SMS subscribers. This is an essential move to introduce your brand and create a positive initial impression with customers.

If someone has subscribed to receive Larry Kim’s marketing updates, this is an example of the message they will receive:

An example of a welcome SMS
Source: MobileMonkey

Informing about special offers

Sending special offers and discounts is one of the most popular uses of SMS marketing. It’s a great way to reward loyal customers and entice new ones. 

Proof Eyewear is offering an exclusive promotion: take 55% off your purchase with this special code: 

An example of using special offers in SMS
Source: MailCharts

Using post-purchase SMS

Strengthen your relationships with your customers by showing appreciation for their purchase. Rainier Watch is an excellent example of a brand that does so with SMS marketing.

An example of a post-purchase SMS in marketing
Source: SmartrMail

Sending the abandoned cart SMS campaign

Reward your customers with a considerate reminder after they left something in their cart. Bellami Hair makes the most out of this, without delay clarifying the reason behind the message:

An example of the abandoned cart strategy in SMS marketing
Source: MailCharts

Best real-life examples of email marketing

Crafting creative email marketing campaigns can help you to better communicate with customers and make a lasting impression. Email offers unprecedented versatility for brands, allowing them to express their products and values more authentically and become easily recognizable. Email marketing offers you the following opportunities:

Staying consistent

It’s important to consistently send emails to your customers. A regular cadence helps keep them engaged and can be used to share news, promotions, and updates in a timely manner. 

Netflix is one company that has perfected its email marketing strategy. They send regular emails highlighting new content and special offers.

An example of an email announcing the release of new content from Netflix
Netflix provides an exemplary example of how businesses can leverage email newsletters to keep their audiences engaged and informed in a timely manner. Source: Really Good Emails

Making your emails more personal

Creating personalized content for each customer is one of the best ways to make them feel valued by your brand. An example is US-based audiobook and podcast service Audible’s email campaigns. 

They have mastered the art of personalization, creating emails that feel like they’re specifically made for each customer. Audible uses dynamic content to make sure their emails are tailored to the individual’s interests and preferences, including product recommendations and featured products. This kind of personalization helps them stand out from their competitors and increases customer engagement. 

An example of a personalized email from Audible
Audible wisely customizes its emails to each user's individual interests, preferences, and purchase history by using personalized dynamic content. Source: Really Good Emails

Fostering relationships with subscribers

Email is an incredibly efficient way to make sure your customers feel appreciated. Create campaigns that recognize and reward customer loyalty, such as offering discounts or providing exclusive access to special offers. That’s exactly what Moment did, offering a discount on the first order:

An example of a promotional email with a discount from Moment
By receiving special deals, customers can feel valued and encouraged to buy. Source: Really Good Emails

Re-engaging and encouraging customers to take action

Email is a great way to get your customers to act, whether it’s signing up for an event or making a purchase. By including compelling calls to action in your emails, you can encourage customers to take the desired action and drive them closer to conversion. For example, you could offer special discounts or provide a link to the product page so customers can easily take advantage of your offer.

Re-engagement is a way to activate subscribers that were once opening emails, clicking, and buying but now aren’t. To win them over, brands usually offer discounts or other enticing deals.

Dot And Bo offers discounts on items left in the cart. With the help of an automated email prompted by subscribers’ actions (transactional email), brands can effectively encourage customers to return and make purchases on their websites.

An example of a cart abandoned email from Dot And Bo
Transactional emails like this one will push visitors back onto the website with great deals that are too attractive not to check out. Source: Really Good Emails

Bringing fun and excitement into your campaigns

You can use email to make promotions and announcements more exciting. Use creative visuals, GIFs, animations, or videos to give your emails a unique look and feel. You can also experiment with different formats and layouts to keep things fresh. Experimenting with new ideas for your campaigns will help you stand out from the competition and capture customer attention.

Google has crafted a revolutionary email that allows you to experience the Pixel Buds in an entirely novel way. By clicking on interactive elements, users can select their preferred color of headphones directly within the message.

Example of an email with interactive elements from Google
Interactive elements also provide a more immersive experience to customers. Source: Really Good Emails

Email marketing vs SMS marketing: which one to choose

To sum up, here’s a table combining SMS and email marketing pros and cons:

✅ Pros ❌ Cons
Email marketing Personalization and customization options

Lower cost

Consumers’ favorite way to interact with brands

Lives longer


No character limits

Vast layout and design options

Easier to unsubscribe from

Lower OR, CTR, ROI, and response rate

Require internet connection

Very competitive

Takes time to personalize

Can go to spam

SMS marketing High OR, CTR, ROI, and response rate

Read quickly 

No internet needed


Easy to send

Higher cost

Almost no personalization and customization options

Strict character limit

Hard to unsubscribe from

No complex design

Can be viewed as spam

Still can’t choose between the two? When considering which medium to use for marketing, the answer is easy: combine email and text! SMS messaging coupled with emails can be an incredible tool in constructing your brand awareness.

Utilizing SMS in tandem with email is a savvy way to maximize marketing resources and draw customers’ attention to their inboxes. And with Selzy’s service, you can access powerful features that will help you get the most out of both SMS and email marketing. This way you’ll benefit from both SMS’s high ROI and email’s personalization. Plus, it’s very easy to start sending messages. It will only take 15 minutes to send your first email campaign with Selzy!

02 February, 2023
Article by
Irene Dmitrieva
As a marketing copywriter, I have experience creating compelling content for websites and social media posts. My background in market research helps me ensure that my copy is both on-brand and data-driven. I am excited to bring my skills and experience to Selzy team and help drive success for this company.
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