Could instant messaging replace text messages for businesses?

Thanks to the enormous growth that Instant Messaging (IM) apps have experienced over the last few years, there’s been a lot of buzz in the marketing world about their capacity for customer communications, with debate raging about whether they have the potential to displace more traditional channels like SMS. Have a look for yourself and see how these apps match up against the long-standing text message.


Users typically download whatever app their friends are using to allow for easier communication, and users with older smartphones are more limited in their choices due to smaller hard drives. How do you know which app your customers are using?

In comparison, practically every mobile phone in existence can send and receive text messages, whatever the network or operating system of either party!


Advocates of IM apps may quote the enhanced media capabilities when compared to SMS – but that simply isn’t the case. Can you attach pictures? Check. Videos? Check. Send from a computer? Check. Send from an email? Check. Basically, if you need it for your business to customer communications, SMS can do it.


By sending instant messages over a data connection, you can avoid the charges levied by mobile networks for sending messages. This only works, however, if both sender and receiver have a strong data connection at the time of sending – and residents of smaller towns or villages know that data connections can be a real issue.

Users can also be limited by their data plans. If users reach their data limit they may be unable to access their IM apps until the data plan renews – but you can always receive a text!

Suitability for business

IM apps are mostly for personal use, and users don’t want marketers on yet another of their personal digital spaces, especially one which doesn’t allow for anonymity. The facilities for mass communications are not even in place yet on most apps, with WhatsApp’s broadcast facility only allowing a maximum of 250 recipients.


IM apps aren’t ready for marketers just yet. 85% of people would prioritise unopened text messages over push notifications or emails, and 97.5% of texts are opened within five seconds of being delivered. When it comes to fast communication of information to the mobile consumer, SMS still rules supreme.