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By Dr Pieter Streicher, managing director of BulkSMS.com. Uploaded on: 09 September 2011.
While a cat has nine lives, it seems that SMS has an infinite number of lives. So while the rise in mobile instant messaging (MIM) has been heralded as its end, a closer look shows that this rather increases SMS’s value in the corporate space.
It was Blackberry and its ostensibly free messaging service between Blackberry
users that changed the game when it comes to MIM. Despite being bumped down the
ranks in terms of the number of handsets shipped in the second quarter
according to the latest analyst reports, Blackberry is still the number one
smartphone in South Africa and Indonesia. Mobile market commentator, Tomi
Ahonen, reminds us that initially Blackberry’s popularity baffled the company
itself, until they realised that it was the Blackberry instant messenger (BBM)
that was the driver of this uptake. It also resulted in continued uptake of the
handset as friends and family migrated to Blackberry for fear of being left out
of closed conversations.
Subsequently, application developers have allowed other handset owners to join
this low data cost instant messaging conversation via apps such as WhatsApp.
With all these people sending fewer text messages, one might think that this
has left SMS messaging out in the cold.
In the world of business SMS communications this is not at all the case. There
is no denying that personal SMS usage has dropped, thanks to cellphone users
migrating to mobile instant messaging (MIM) at a fraction of the cost of SMS.
This is hurting the network operators, for whom person-to-person (P2P)
messaging is a very profitable channel. But SMS’s inherent features still give
it an edge in application-to-person (A2P) messaging, especially when it comes
to urgent or emergency communications, business communications, or managing the
So while the popularity of MIM might be bad news for operators in terms of lost
SMS revenue – which they are trying to mitigate with SMS bundles for users – it
is good news for companies and organisations that rely on SMS for alerts,
emergency communications, CRM and a host of other uses. The SMS channel is
strengthened for mission-critical notifications, whether it is a banking alert,
appointment reminder or progress update. Already IM users are switching off the
beeping associated with incoming instant messages as it is unnecessary during a
conversation. The rather ironic result is that SMS is used as an alert to set
up an IM conversation.
Companies have dabbled with other online channels but they are going to be
hard-pressed to insist that customers download an individual app in order to
communicate with each company. SMS, which is already built in to every single
feature phone and smartphone handset, is going to remain the communications
channel of choice for companies and customers for some time to come.
Likewise from a software development point of view, it takes time and effort to
integrate a new channel into software, so it is wise to choose a stable
technology. With the MIM market still relatively new and very fragmented, there
is only one choice for a developer wanting to include mobile messaging into an
application, and that is SMS.
As SMS is a sender pays technology, and relatively expensive, it limits
information overload. SMS is less intrusive compared to a phone call, as it
allows the recipient to respond in their own time.
So rather like Mark Twain insisting that “the report of my death was an
exaggeration” when it was mistakenly believed he had died, it turns out SMS
continues to demonstrate the value of its inherent characteristics in the face
of the latest communication favourites.