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How do companies use SMS in 2021?

What are the 2021 trends in usage, sending habits and content of A2P mobile messaging? What are the evolutions compared to 2020? What impacts has the Covid-19 crisis had on mobile marketing?

Sending SMS A2P (Application to Person) is a practice favoured by brands. Very efficient, it allows them to establish a direct and immediate link with their contacts.
As new messaging channels (RCS, WhatsApp Business, etc.) enter the A2P mobile messaging market, SMS remains the preferred mobile communication medium for brands to communicate with their customers and contacts directly on their mobile.

To establish this second major survey dedicated to SMS A2P, smsmode© analysed more than 170 million SMS sent by some 1917 French brands and companies between September1st, 2020 and January 31st, 2021.

SMS barometer A2P 2021



The number of SMS notifications sent was higher (58.34%) than the number of advertising SMS (41.65%). 2020 is thus the first year in which SMS notification has become the main use of A2P SMS and has dethroned advertising SMS, the historical use of this communication channel by companies.

Despite the health situation related to VIDOC-19, A2P SMS sending volumes were maintained (+0.16% compared to the previous year). It should also be noted that COVID-19 has had little impact on notification shipments. On the other hand, marketing mailings were dependent on containment measures (-21% over the period from 1 to 20 November 2020 compared to the previous year).
SMS marketing operations linked to major promotional events (Black Friday 2020 or the 2021 winter sales), both postponed due to the health situation, were largely less impacted and suffered a drop in sending volume of "only" -7%.

breakdown of SMS per day and per use
Distribution of SMS Marketing / Notification


In terms of sending habits, we do not notice any major changes compared to our previous study in terms of variations in notification traffic over the course of the week: SMS notifications are sent in a descending fashion from Monday to Friday, with an increase in sending at the beginning of the week.
On the other hand, on the advertising side, in 2020, marketers have favoured Tuesday and Friday (and to a lesser extent Monday) to carry out their promotional campaigns by SMS, a real change compared to last year when Thursday was the preferred day for marketers to carry out their campaigns.

distribution of shipments according to days of the week

As for the hours of sending favoured by companies, SMS operations (marketing & notification combined) are still mainly - and this trend is increasing from year to year - carried out throughout the wide time slot from 8am to 8pm (representing 91.15% of SMS sent).
We will notice 2 trends:
- a shift in sending preferences for the morning, especially between 9am and 12 noon (+4.1 points over 1 year), the time slot where delivery notifications are sent, a booming sector that increasingly uses the SMS channel,
- an increase in end-of-day mailings, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm (+2.3 points compared to the previous year), which reveals the rise in Click and Collect and meal delivery services that traditionally use this schedule to send their notification messages.

distribution of SMS by time of sending


distribution of A2P SMS by operator

There has also been little change in the breakdown by French mobile network. The ranking of operators receiving A2P SMS campaigns is therefore composed of : Orange (31.38%), SFR (24.87%), Bouygues Télécom (20.37%) and Free (17.89%) and is consistent with their respective market shares.


The content of SMS campaigns conducted in 2020 includes 160 characters or less - i.e. 1 SMS per message - in a very large majority of cases (73%).
In terms of changes compared to the previous year, we note both a trend towards shorter and shorter messages (+1 point increase for SMS messages of between 80 and 120 characters), and a rise in long and detailed messages (+2.6 points for messages of more than 160 characters over 1 year).

number of characters in A2P SMS messages

SMS A2P and Sender ID

At the same time, there was a decline in the use of personalised issuers (down 2.3 points in one year). This underlying trend corresponds to the development of ShortCodes (or short numbers) dedicated to a brand. Indeed, to cope with the growing use of fraudulent personalized issuers, more and more advertisers are resorting to a dedicated short number as protection against smishing (phishing by SMS).


SMS A2P return code

As far as performance indicators are concerned, the SMS confirms study after study that it is a very effective communication channel. With a deliverability rate of nearly 95% and an unsubscribe rate (Opt-out or STOP SMS) of 0.11%, it is a powerful lever in marketing strategies, and thanks to its performance, it is an essential channel for mobile communications.

This year 2021 sees the rise of SMS notification. Reflecting a latent trend that we have been observing for several years, the surge in informative messages can be explained in part by the transformation and digitalisation of the economy, of which the crisis linked to the Covid-19 will ultimately have been only an accelerator.

The very gradual arrival of new mobile messaging channels (WhatsApp Business or RCS) should not disrupt this growth in the coming months. Reserved for notification - and in addition to conversational commerce messages for RCS - these new channels are building strategies that place highly targeted and interactive One-to-One communications at the centre. All in all, these practices foreshadow the mobile marketing of the future.