3 Facts about SMS Messaging in the UK

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How do people really feel about SMS messaging? Do they prefer using apps instead of “regular” text messaging? Thanks to the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF) we can answer those questions, and others too. Their Mobile Messaging Report 2016 surveyed people around the world about their preferences for messaging, and communicating in general.

I’ve pulled out three facts from the UK responses that I thought were instructive for anyone wanting to communicate with consumers within the country.

Apps vs. SMS

There have been so many headlines this year about messaging apps overtaking SMS. And it’s true that the number of messages sent over “OTT”, or over-the-top, apps is more than traditional SMS. But any assessment that SMS is passé based on that fact is incorrect.

As you can see in the chart below, the two most preferred ways to send messages in the UK (and globally) are Facebook and WhatsApp. But SMS comes in a very strong third, and dominates over the remaining choices.

This is particularly good for anyone who uses SMS in the UK. It means that a strong percentage of the population has an affinity for it, even though the other messaging apps are also very popular. In fact, the UK has the second strongest preference for SMS in Europe and North America. Only France is higher, where SMS is the most popular at 70%.

Other countries that are considered “mobile first” also have a strong preference for SMS that is close to the OTT message apps. For example, Nigeria has a 61% preference for SMS, and a 62% for Facebook. [Note: People taking the survey could select more than one messaging service, so the percentages don’t add up to 100].

The main takeaway from this data is that SMS is still popular. Even though it ranks third, it’s still one of the better messaging services to use. The report also argues that people now prefer to use the OTT apps for person-to-person messaging. How they feel about communicating with brands is different though. But that’s the topic of my next blog, so be sure to look for it.

Now, How People REALLY Feel About SMS

So, given the chart from the above section, I’d guess you could think people trust Facebook or WhatsApp. After all, they use them more don’t they?

If you did think that, then you’d be wrong. When people were asked which message service they trusted most, SMS won hands down.

What’s also interesting in this data is that the trust in a company app is so low. I’m not surprised that Facebook trust was low because they’ve had so many privacy issues. Same goes for Yahoo and Skype (being a Microsoft brand now).

Of course, the survey didn’t exactly define the word trust. It could have been interpreted differently by everyone, but the sentiment is clear: SMS is the most trusted messaging channel.

Good News About Spam

In some countries SMS spam is a big problem. It’s bad enough in India and Nigeria that people don’t even bother to read their SMS messages anymore – at least not right when they get them like most everyone else does.

What do people do when they get spam messages? In most countries, most people just delete them or otherwise ignore them. But the UK is different.

The majority of Brits report spam when they get it. The MEF report says it’s because of the “mature regulatory sector”. That might be it. Or perhaps spammers just won’t be tolerated anywhere in the UK. Reporting it is super easy too, which certainly helps.

One could argue that the US regulatory sector is even more “mature” given its rules are much stricter than here. But I know that reporting spam, especially SMS spam, in the US is not as simple as it is in the UK.

But whatever the reason, the practice of reporting is a good thing. We should all hope it continues and our messages remain mostly spam-free.

Considering all these facts, the future certainly looks bright for SMS messaging. Do you agree?

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