Even though mobile apps make big headlines, texting is far more widely used.
One SMS (Short Message Service) firm, Clickatell, believes the technology offers a robust way for companies to communicate quickly with customers.
A Sept. 14 Pew Research Center survey of 1,917 adult cell phone users found 72 per cent send or receive text messages on their cell phones, well ahead of the 29 per cent who use apps or the 30 per cent who send or receive instant messages. That's up from 65 per cent who said a year ago they send texts. Teens are "heavy" texters, defined as someone who receives and sends more than 50 texts a day.
Text messages are used by businesses in many ways. Bankers alert customers about impending overdrafts on accounts, airlines notify passengers of flight changes and dentists even advise patients of upcoming cleanings, said Clickatell CEO Pieter de Villiers.
Texting is quick, easy and widely used, which makes it ideal for businesses to push information to customers, de Villiers said in an interview. His company has 10,000 business customers who send texts over more than 800 wireless networks in 221 countries and territories.
"We have mom-and-pop businesses, banks, airlines and even Homeland Security through the GSA as customers," de Villiers said. "We are all in e-mail hell, and SMS at 160 characters sends finite information to the consumer."
"SMS is here to stay," de Villiers said. One reason he feels so confident is that 95 per cent of wireless phones, totaling 5 billion globally, support SMS, compared to fewer than 400 million smartphones that can be used to download apps, he noted.
"If you are a business or a Web site and you only focus on app markets, you are ignoring 85 per cent of the population that doesn't have a smartphone," he said.
Clickatell competes in the U.S. against Esendex USA, Sybase 365 and others. Clickatell only offers SMS for delivering SMS to a person using a cell phone from an application, PC or Web site, and not SMS from mobile device to mobile device. A business even as small as a dental practice can send SMS messages converted from e-mail for 3 to 4 cents per message on average in the U.S., although a U.S. carrier provisioning fee of $2,000 to $3,000 is required, de Villiers said.