When developing a mobile marketing strategy, you’re going to come across the acronyms SMS and MMS frequently. But do you really know what they mean, or what the difference between them is? Understand each messaging type will allow you to build a comprehensive strategy that will appeal to your diverse customer base. Before we dive into strategies, let’s first define the difference between SMS and MMS messaging.

Related: Discover Listrak's SMS / MMS Mobile marketing platform >

SMS (Short Message Service) is essentially a 160-character text message that may include links.  Whereas MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) allows you to send a message with rich media content, including animated gifs and short video or audio files – and it has an increased limit of 1,000 characters. SMS messages cost less to send but MMS messages have a higher engagement rate with a 15% average click-through rate and 20% more campaign opt-ins than SMS.

Pier 1’s mobile marketing strategy includes both SMS and MMS messaging. In this example, the SMS message is the first message this user received. It’s simply content and a link. Whereas the second message has an image in addition to the content and link -- making it an MMS message.

Because almost all devices support both SMS and MMS messages, you don’t need to pick one over the other. A good mobile marketing strategy can, and should, include a combination of the two.

The Importance of Mobile Marketing Strategies

Mobile marketing has a greater potential to increase engagement and revenue due to the fact that it is delivered directly to your customer’s most personal device provides new opportunities for marketers.

Mobile marketing continues to grow year-over-year. The more people who are relying more on mobile, the more you should be trying to get your messages out to them on the devices they use most. Image courtesy of Smart Insights

For example, you can use it to re-engage email subscribers who have become disengaged with message - or, you can reward your most loyal customers with exclusive offers.

Not convinced yet? Think about it this way, almost everyone has their phone within reach all day. While the majority of our mobile time is spent on social networks, Informate reported that the average American smartphone user goes through 32 texts and 6 phone calls per day, accounting for a total of 26 minutes and 21 minutes, respectively. An even closer look by eMarketer shows we spend 22% of our time texting compared to 10% of our time interacting with email on mobile devices.

Test messages are used across the board when looking at the different age groups. Although it’s not surprising to see that the younger generations are sending more text messages per day than those 65+. Image courtesy of Pew Research Center.

SMS Mobile Messaginge Strategies 

SMS messages are great for campaigns like text-to-join keyword acquisition. The user sends a keyword to the brand’s short code number to opt-in to the program. Typically, the introduction messages include a double opt-in (reply Y to confirm entry) or a request for additional information (reply with your email to sign up), plus the required compliance language.


Both examples here are showing the opt-in message that is sent to new users upon joining a campaign. These are very important and need to be part of your campaign to stay compliant with regulations around SMS marketing. 

SMS messages also work well for triggered, transactional messages. Send short messages that your customers want the most.

Here are a few common examples:  – 

  • Information about a recent order
  • Shipping and delivery details
  • Appointment reminders
  • Updates
  • Password resets
Transactional messages are a great way to provide customers with quick communication about the things they want to know about. Order confirmations and flight status updates are two common types of SMS messages that help to notify customers about important updates.

Use MMS Messages to Enhance Your Mobile Marketing Campaigns

Treat your loyal customers well and give them a reason to stay on the list. It’s best practice to deliver timely, relevant SMS or MMS messaging that sparks an immediate action using an automated business solution. Pair images with an actionable message with a link in it to not only track activity, but to give customers instant access.

  • Send a sneak peek of new arrivals
  • Drive in-store sales with coupons 
  • Invite subscribers to in-store events
  • Give early access to sales
  • Send a special birthday or anniversary message
These are a number of different types of MMS messages people want to receive. Make sure you’re paying attention to what your audiences want -- is it coupon codes, loyalty programs, updates on sales?

Make Sure to Use the Right Content

MMS gives you the ability to add a subject line that appears above the image. This text is included in the 1,000-character limit. We recommend that you limit the subject line to around 40 characters.

Even though you have 1,000 characters to work with, it’s important to think about how recipients will interact with the messages. Test different message lengths to see what works best for your audience. 

Provide enough information to entice a click-through to your site, but don’t provide too much text that overwhelms your audience and causes them to close instead of click. Also, keep your CTA near the top of the content – don’t bury it at the bottom.

SMS and MMS messaging have higher response rates than email. The right content can talk your customers into responding back to your marketing messages and could turn them into returning customers. Image courtesy of Business 2 Community

Nail the Images in Your Messages

Every mobile messaging provider handles images differently. It’s important to note that iPhone models 5s and 6 open static images in preview mode, which adds a top and bottom navigation bar that covers part of the image. Because of this, avoid putting content in the top 129 or bottom 89 pixels. Here are some additional best practices to help ensure your images look great on every device.

  • Avoid transparencies as it will appear black on some devices 
  • Static image files should be in .JPG format and should not exceed 500 Kb
  • Image size should be 640 x 1,138 with an aspect ratio of 9:16
  • Animated images should be in .gif format and have a frame speed no faster than one every half second – file size should not exceed 600 Kb
  • Animated image size recommendations:
  • 480 x 480 
  • 480 x 640 
  • 480 x 720 
  • 640 x 640 

SMS & MMS Short Code Provisioning

In the provisioning process, you’re securing approvals from the wireless carriers to send and receive mobile messages to your short code. If you would like to send both SMS and MMS messages, it’s important to note that you must be provisioned for both. 

About Listrak’s Mobile Marketing Solution

MMS is available in Listrak’s Mobile Marketing platform. Send photos, gifs or longer text (1,000 characters plus an image) to add a fun and engaging layer to your mobile marketing campaigns. 

With Listrak’s Mobile Marketing platform, you can segment specific target audiences to create highly personalized messages while coordinating SMS with your email, paid social and other channels. Best of all, because you are sending to a targeted list, your carrier CPM rates will be much lower. You’ll spend less while driving even more revenue.

What's more, we’re here to help you through the entire process – from provisioning to navigating compliance rules to measuring ROI and providing campaign recommendations. 

Learn more about Listrak’s Mobile Marketing solution. 

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