How are A2P SMS, P2A SMS, and Notifications Different?
Acronyms. They pop up everywhere. Just when I think I really am understanding something I’ll read an article that uses an unknown acronym. And usually the author hasn’t been kind enough to define it for me. But I’m digressing. In this blog we’ll talk about the differences between “automatic” messaging and mobile notifications (and define those acronyms!).
A2P SMS, or Application to Person SMS, messaging is when an application sends a person a text message just like you’d send a text to your mates. An example is a scheduling program automatically sending reminders for appointments. Equally when you get text message notifying you of an impending delivery, that too is an A2P SMS message.
P2A SMS, or Person to Application SMS, messaging is when a person send texts to an application. If we use the example from the A2P above, it would be you replying to the appointment reminder to confirm you can still make it. Or responding to a delivery notification with a request for a different delivery day.
Mobile notifications are alerts or “banners” that pop up on your mobile. Notifications are generated by the apps you have on your phone and you can turn them off or on in the settings. Sticking with a scheduling example, your calendar app could pop up for you a notification for your appointment.
There’s a huge debate over whether SMS or notifications are better for connecting and marketing to people. The truth is there are benefits to both sides. In the end it depends on what you want to do, what your resources are, and ultimately what the people you want to reach actually use.
The benefits of SMS are numerous, but for this comparison the primary one is that it’s universal. Anyone with a mobile phone can receive a text message. They don’t need to download any special apps, or have their settings configured just right to see the messages. This makes it a great tool to keep people informed whether it is about their scheduled appointment, bank balance, or child at school. It is also easy for someone to reply to you if they need to (P2A SMS) as everyone knows how to use SMS. The downside of SMS is that you need someone’s mobile number and permission to contact them.
Notifications can come in different forms depending on user settings and device. But they usually pop up on the “lock” screen and either disappear on their own, or require the person to manually dismiss the message. The greatest benefit is that all someone has to do is install the app, and you can send them notifications – if they say you can. Apps generally require someone to agree to receiving notifications, but it’s as simple as clicking a “yes” button. You don’t need to run opt in campaigns or get explicit permission to send them marketing messages as long as they allow notifications during install or in the settings later. A disadvantage to using notifications is that the user can turn them off just as easily as they turned them on. And if the person ever uninstalls the app, you can can’t reach them again (with notifications).
It also isn’t easy to have two way interactions using notifications. In order to take action on a notification the person has to open the app, find what the notification was about, then take the action you want them to. Depending on how well the app is made, the user may do this fairly easily or never at all. I can’t even count the times I’ve received a notification, opened the app and then either couldn’t find what the notification was about or if I did it wasn’t easy. User friendly app design is a must if you want to use notifications this way.
Which Should You Use?
Some data shows people are interacting more and more with applications, so this points to notifications being the best method to use. Other data shows that SMS is still one of the best, and most personal ways to reach people. In a perfect world with unlimited resources, you might consider using both methods. But that isn’t practical or even necessary for everyone. Bear in mind also that it is relatively easy to integrate Fastsms functionality into your own software systems using our SMS API.
If you’re trying to decide whether to integrate SMS into your application, or build an app of your own, consider what is most important to you. Is being able to reach everyone all the time (with SMS messaging) more important than being able to say you have an app? Yes, that’s a bit simplified. There are many other reasons to have an app other than to send notifications, but if you’re looking for a guaranteed way to inform or market to your list, SMS may be the better choice.