Email vs. SMS Marketing: Which Marketing Channel is Right for Your Business?

Email vs. SMS Marketing: Which Marketing Channel is Right for Your Business?

In today's digital age, businesses have a myriad of channels through which they can communicate with their customers. Two such channels, which have proven to be highly effective for many businesses, are email and SMS. While both serve to reach out to customers and potential leads, they offer unique features and advantages and can serve different purposes in your marketing strategy.

In this blog post, we're diving deep into the world of email marketing and SMS marketing, comparing their strengths, weaknesses, and best applications. Whether you're a small business owner, a marketing professional, or someone simply interested in the dynamics of digital marketing, this comparison can offer valuable insights.

We'll explore various factors like reach, open rates, cost, target demographics, and more. Our aim? To help you understand these marketing methods better and choose the one that's right for your business — or perhaps even both! Let's delve into the world of email vs. SMS marketing.

Definition of email marketing

Email marketing is a digital marketing strategy that involves sending emails to a group of people in order to promote a product, service, or event, build brand awareness, or strengthen relationships with customers. It's an efficient way to directly reach potential and existing customers right in their inboxes.

Key elements of email marketing typically include:

  • Email Campaigns: These are coordinated sets of individual emails with specific purposes, such as promoting a particular product or sale, or sending a regular newsletter.
  • Subscriber List: A list of people who have opted-in to receive emails from a business. This could include existing customers, potential customers, or people interested in the business's industry or niche.
  • Personalization: Emails can be personalized based on information known about the recipient, such as their name, purchase history, or browsing behavior. This can make the emails more relevant and engaging.
  • Segmentation: This involves dividing the subscriber list into different groups, or segments, based on criteria such as demographic information or behavior. Different emails can then be sent to different segments to better match their interests or needs.
  • Analytics: Most email marketing platforms provide analytics that track metrics like open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates. This data can be used to measure the success of email marketing efforts and make improvements.

Definition of SMS marketing

SMS marketing, also known as text message marketing, is a strategy that uses permission-based text messaging to spread promotional content. Businesses use this technique to communicate short, immediate messages to their customers. 

It's an effective way to reach customers directly and instantly, as most people carry their mobile phones with them at all times and tend to open text messages promptly.

Key elements of SMS marketing include:

  • Opt-in/Opt-out: SMS marketing is permission-based, which means customers must opt-in to receive messages. Businesses are required to provide an easy way for customers to opt-out of messages at any time.
  • Short Codes and Keywords: Short codes are five to six digit numbers that businesses use to send and receive text messages. Keywords are specific words that customers can text to a short code to opt-in for messages, such as 'JOIN' or 'SUBSCRIBE'.
  • Personalization: Like email marketing, SMS marketing can also be personalized. Personalized text messages might include the customer's name or tailored offers based on customer data.
  • Immediacy: SMS messages are typically opened within a few minutes of receipt, making them great for time-sensitive offers or urgent information.
  • SMS Campaigns: These are coordinated sets of individual SMS messages with specific purposes, such as promoting a flash sale, sending appointment reminders, or sending confirmations for online orders.
  • Regulations and Compliance: There are strict regulations governing SMS marketing, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in the United States. It's crucial for businesses to understand and follow these regulations to avoid penalties.
  • Analytics: Just like email, SMS marketing can also provide analytics like delivery rates, open rates, and response rates. This can help businesses measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and make necessary adjustments.

What to compare email marketing and SMS marketing

When comparing SMS and email marketing, consider the following metrics:


This indicates the potential audience that each platform may be able to reach. Think about factors like global accessibility, the number of email users compared to mobile phone users, and whether or not internet access is required.

Open rates

Open rates are the percentage of recipients who open the messages. Different studies give varied figures, but generally speaking, SMS has a far greater open rate than email.


It refers to the costs related to starting and running campaigns on each platform. Think about factors such as platform fees, cost per message, and cost-effectiveness at various scales.

Target demographics

Reaching different demographics may require using different platforms. The effectiveness of email or SMS can vary depending on factors including age, lifestyle, and professional status.

Engagement and response rates

It is all about how recipients engage with the messages they get. Think about elements like SMS response rates and email click-through rates.

Regulatory considerations and consent

Both email and SMS marketing are subject to regulations that require consent from recipients. However, regulations for SMS tend to be stricter due to its more personal nature.

Integration with other marketing channels

Analyze the degree to which each platform can be incorporated with other marketing strategies.   Email, for instance, can include hyperlinks and social media buttons, while SMS can incorporate URLs or prompt recipients to engage with other platforms.

Personalization and segmentation capabilities

Both platforms allow a degree of segmentation and personalization, but email often offers greater flexibility because there are no character limits.

These comparison metrics ought to give a thorough understanding of the differences and similarities between SMS and email marketing.

Email marketing vs SMS marketing

Email Marketing vs SMS Marketing Comparison Table
Email Marketing SMS Marketing
Reach Global, requires internet access Local to global, no internet needed
Open Rate ~20% ~98%
Cost Lower, especially at high volumes Higher, especially at high volumes
Target Demographics All age groups, especially older and professional demographics All age groups, especially younger demographics
Engagement Rate Varies, can be high with effective strategies Typically higher due to immediacy and directness
Response Rate Lower compared to SMS Higher due to ease of replying
Regulations and Consent Regulated, consent required Highly regulated, consent required
Integration with Other Channels Easily integrated with social media, websites, etc. Can be integrated with online content or in-store offers
Personalization and Segmentation More advanced capabilities due to more content space Limited due to character restrictions

SMS marketing is best for short, urgent messages that are highly targeted because of its high open rate, immediate delivery, mobile accessibility, and appeal to younger demographics. Email marketing, on the other hand, is best for detailed, content-rich campaigns and a professional demographic due to its global reach, low cost, advanced personalization options, and integration capabilities.

Let's explore a comparison between Email Marketing and SMS Marketing in detail:

Reach and Effectiveness

Since email can be accessed on many different devices and doesn't require a mobile network, it has a larger worldwide reach. But compared to emails, which typically have an open rate of only about 20%, SMS has a greater open rate, with roughly 98% of text messages being opened. Since SMS can be sent right away and doesn't need an internet connection, it has a significant benefit over other communication methods.


Typically, email marketing is less expensive, especially at high volumes. For small organizations, many email systems have free tiers, and even paid plans can send thousands of emails for a relatively modest price. Due to per-message charges, SMS marketing can be more expensive, especially for companies that send a lot of texts.

Target demographics

Both platforms target distinct demographic groups. SMS communication may make it easier to connect with younger generations, who are often more reliant on their smartphones. Email marketing may be a more effective strategy for reaching older and professional audiences who spend more time checking their emails.

Engagement and response rates

Due to its immediate and direct nature, SMS typically has greater engagement rates. Because it's so easy to reply to a text message, response rates are typically greater with SMS. Email marketing, on the other hand, can offer more in-depth information, images, and room for creativity, which over time may result in deeper engagement.

Regulations and consent

Regulations require that companies must get customers' permission before delivering marketing messages via email and SMS. Because text messages are so intrusive, there are often stricter rules for SMS marketing than there are for email marketing.

Integration with other marketing channels

It is possible to integrate email and SMS with other marketing channels successfully. Emails may include links to social media platforms, websites, or even SMS opt-in codes, whereas SMS messages may direct users to specific online resources or offer exclusive coupon codes for use in-store.

Personalization and segmentation

Personalization and segmentation options are available in both SMS and email marketing, but email typically has more advanced features. Emails can be segmented based on user behavior or preferences and personalized with dynamic content. SMS gives less flexibility because of its character constraint.

In conclusion, depending on your business's particular needs, target market, and marketing objectives, both email and SMS marketing have distinctive strengths and can be successful. For maximum impact, it's important to be aware of each medium's unique dynamics and use them strategically. 

Deciding between email and SMS - or both?

Deciding between email marketing and SMS marketing — or choosing to use both — depends on several factors. Let's discuss these considerations.

Nature of your business

Which channel is more effective can depend on the type of business you have. Email marketing might be a better option if your company heavily relies on visuals and in-depth information to offer products or services. However, SMS can be a better option if your company wants to send out time-sensitive alerts or reminders.

Target audience

Your target audience's preferences and behaviors are also very important. SMS can be the best route if your target group is younger and strongly reliant on mobile devices. Email might be more beneficial, though, if your audience is more professionally oriented or enjoys detailed content and newsletters.

Content of your message

Think about the message you wish to convey. Email might be better appropriate if your communication is lengthy, needs visuals or requires extensive explanations. However, SMS might be a better option if your message is brief, direct, and needs immediate attention.


Your choice may also be influenced by your budget. In general, SMS marketing can have greater costs, especially for huge volumes of text messages, whereas email marketing can be less expensive, particularly for large volumes of text messages.  

Regulatory considerations

There are different regulations for email and SMS marketing that need to be taken into account. SMS regulations are generally stricter and penalties for violations can be severe.

Integrated marketing strategy

As part of an integrated marketing strategy, it may be advantageous in many cases to combine SMS and email marketing. Each channel can complement one another and contribute to a more comprehensive and successful marketing strategy. For instance, you could use SMS to send time-sensitive alerts or reminders while using email at the same time to deliver in-depth content and newsletters.

In conclusion, the decision between email and SMS—or both—depends on a variety of factors related to your company, your target audience, and your marketing objectives. Understanding each channel's advantages and disadvantages is crucial, as is figuring out how to use them to best complement your entire marketing plan.

Storyly as an email marketing solution

If you are looking for a way to revolutionize your email marketing, consider using Inbox Stories by Storyly. Inbox Stories allow brands to bring the engaging, dynamic and highly visual Story format directly to their emails without any development effort. Using the Story format in emails offers a friendly and engaging experience that can inspire users and help marketers captivate their audience. Inbox Stories also makes personalization beyond first-name tags possible. Brands can deliver personalized Inbox Stories that offer something personally relevant to the user, such as tailored content, latest offers, and relevant news. Check Inbox Stories in action yourselves or book a call today to learn more about it. 


​​Both email marketing and SMS marketing offer particular advantages that you can leverage to engage your audience and promote your brand. Email marketing succeeds thanks to its wide audience reach, affordability, and capacity for delivering in-depth and visually-rich content. On the other hand, SMS marketing provides immediate delivery, high open rates, and the capacity to send concise, attention-grabbing messages.

Your business's characteristics, your target audience, the content of your messaging, your budget, and any applicable regulations should all be taken into account when deciding which of these two channels to employ—or whether to utilize both. To ensure a thorough and effective reach to your target, a well-integrated marketing plan frequently uses a variety of channels, including both email and SMS.

It's critical to keep up with the most recent innovations and best practices in email and SMS marketing in the always changing digital landscape. As technology progresses and consumer behaviors change, so too will the most effective strategies for engaging your audience and achieving your marketing goals.


İrem Isık

İrem Işık is a Head of Marketing at Storyly. She holds a bachelor degree in business administration from the Middle East Technical University and MSc. degree in marketing & strategy from University of Warwick. As a former brand manager İrem knows/writes about marketing tech stack, brand management, marketing strategies, growth hacking.

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