Push Notifications
6 min

Choosing Between Push Notifications Vs. SMS – Which Is More Effective?


According to a report, 7 out of 10 companies believe that they are communicating effectively with their customers. However, only 2 out of 10 customers agree with this sentiment. Clearly, there exists a great business-customer communication divide that the organizations are failing to acknowledge. Such a grave statistic may make one question a lot about their marketing campaigns and strategies. More specifically, it begs businesses to wonder whether they are marketing over the right channels and at the right time.

When it comes to mobile marketing, push notifications and SMS have proven to be effective in their respective realms. Here, we will be comparing their performance and discovering where to use what.

Push Notifications and SMS: Quick Overview

Upon quick perusal, SMS text messages and push notifications may appear the same – they are both brief messages delivered across a one-way channel. However, that’s where the similarity ends. Let’s quickly go over the definitions of push notifications and SMS, along with their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Push Notifications

Push Notification from top mobile apps

Customers who have your mobile app installed on their phones can view the push notifications. These are pop-up notifications that appear on your phone’s lock screen. These are typically 100-200 characters long and can contain rich media. Businesses send push notifications through the OSPNS (Operating System Push Notification Service) to deliver the message to the device owner. Check out the benchmarks observed by MoEngage here.


  • Instant delivery of personalized messages with appropriate links and CTAs.
  • Capturing subscribers for push notifications is easier as they do not require identifiers such as mobile phone numbers.
  • You can automate push notification delivery to remind users of incomplete action.
  • Push notifications attract high conversion and open rates.
  • Push notifications have a wider scope for creativity and engagement through the use of media like images, GIFs, music, etc.


  • Users often disable push notifications in the app settings.
  • They can be viewed as annoyances, which could prompt a user to uninstall the app entirely.
  • It requires downloading the app over a smartphone with the given specifications.
  • The sudden explosion of push notifications is making it tougher to capture audience interest.
  • The user receives push notifications only when they are connected to the internet.

SMS Messaging


SMS or short messaging service is your regular text message with a limitation of 160 characters (extendable up to 1600 characters). Since SMS delivery takes place over a mobile network, the recipient should have a SIM card or an eSIM card with an active network status. Furthermore, since it requires knowing the recipients’ mobile number, you must have explicit permission to send text messages.


  • Quick and immediate delivery of messages regardless of the internet status.
  • Smartphones or downloading the app are not necessary.
  • Setting up two-way communication is possible.
  • Businesses can carry out network tracking to know about delivery status, replies, opt-out, etc.
  • The matter gets saved in the messaging apps and can be accessed over and over again until it is deleted.


  • You can only send text messages (or URLs), which does not leave room for higher engagement rates.
  • The credibility of SMS text message content and their sender is difficult to authenticate.
  • High delivery rate failure with decreasing click-through and open rates.
  • Poor opt-in measures could get you marked as spam.
  • Sending text messages can get expensive depending on the regions and volumes.

Push Notifications and SMS: When to Use What?

From the above list of pros and cons, you might have gained some clarity on when to send SMS text messages versus push notifications. In this section, we will explore further when should you send push notifications and when to send SMS.

Send Push Notifications When…


Push notifications are often successful in nudging a user towards a specific task. It could be anything from updating to the latest version of the app to completing payment or announcing a sale. If you wish to retain the push notifications permission, your messages should offer instant value. Fortunately, they are highly versatile, and you can use push notifications to transmit information related to:

  • Promotional alerts – any ongoing deals, discounts, flash sales, coupons, etc.
  • Product recommendations – product suggestions or recommendations based on customer behavior, such as a recent purchase.
  • Reminders – updating profile, watching the introductory or onboarding content, abandoned cart, renewing or purchasing a subscription plan, linking social media accounts, etc.
  • News and Updates – announcing new changes or additions to the catalog, changes in business models, updation in the data privacy policy, etc.
  • Education – spotlighting a new feature or functionality, educating users on how to use the app, and more.

Avoid sending push notifications for reference information that the customer may require access to later, messaging without any immediate value proposition, and lengthy messages.

Send SMS Messages When…

SMS messaging is considered more personal and trustworthy as it involves the mobile phone number of the recipient. As such, you must use this direct channel very sparingly for marketing purposes. Since it addresses the receiver personally, you can use SMS campaigns to update the receiver regarding any information that may affect their health, finances, safety, or personal interests.


Ideally, SMS messages are more suited for transmitting information that is:

  • Urgent – banking alerts, appointment reminders, weather warnings, etc.
  • Transactional – delivery updates, package alerts, billing reminders, etc.
  • Time-sensitive – event cancellation, flight delays, appointment rescheduling, etc.

Avoid sending messages for long messages and reference materials.

Push Notifications vs. SMS: Which One is More Effective?

Push Notifications vs. SMS: Which One is More Effective?Source 

Push notifications and SMS text messages are both useful in their respective domains. Hence, the efficacy of both primarily depends on who is receiving the message, the nature of the content, etc.

Based on multiple factors, here is a head-to-head comparison of how they perform against each other:

1. Audience

Push notifications can work in the case of mobile or desktop users, while SMS messages are suitable only in the case of the former.

2. Nature of Content

As stated previously, text messages primarily contain textual matter and links. In contrast, push notifications can contain text material, links, buttons, images, music, GIFs, emojis, videos, custom CTAs, audio, etc.

3. Subscriber Acquisition

SMS marketing promises long-term customer acquisition as sharing a number is a larger commitment. Push notifications are susceptible to a higher churn rate as the subscriber can sever the connection by uninstalling the application.

4. Delivery Guarantee

The delivery rates for SMS messages are nearly 90%, whereas the same for push notifications stands at around 75%. Is your push notification delivery suffering? Locate the possible culprits through this quiz.

5. Click-Through Rate

At present, the CTR for SMS messages is 7%, while push notifications can register CTR as high as 35-40%!

6. Cost

Push notification packages start at $4 per month for 1,000 subscribers. On the other hand, SMS messages cost $0.02 per message.

Final Thoughts

Eventually, the decision to go with SMS or notifications only (or use a combination of two) lies with your audiences. You may find someone who pays more attention to push notifications, while others may be interested in receiving text messages. Hence, depending on how they respond to either communication, you will have to tailor your marketing campaigns accordingly.

Now that you know the advantages and limitations of both channels, you can find the technique that ticks with your audiences and harness it to your strengths! For best results, it is always wise to strike a balance of multi-channel marketing tactics for long-term engagement, higher conversion, and improved retention rates.

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