The 5 top SMS marketing platforms—and why they might be right for your business

Profile photo of author Jax Connelly
Jax Connelly
22min read
SMS marketing
May 9, 2023
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Every company that offers SMS marketing capabilities boasts dozens of features for brands.

But not all SMS marketing platforms are created equal, and that makes choosing the best SMS marketing automation platform for your business a complicated challenge.

SMS marketing automation, or text message marketing automation, refers to the ability to create, send, and deliver SMS communications at scale. Vendors make promises ranging from sophisticated personalization and segmentation to A/B testing, artificial intelligence-led analytics, and more.

But what’s the best SMS marketing platform for your specific business needs? Which one will best help you meet your goals, appropriately track SMS attribution as part of your holistic marketing funnel, segment your audiences based on zero- and first-party data, and use that data to personalize your text messages for higher, long-term customer engagement?

3 common types of SMS marketing software

In general, you have 3 options when it comes to SMS marketing software:

1. Complex text message service providers or legacy platforms

Complex or legacy solutions are often incredibly powerful, but they can be too expensive and time-intensive for even large brands to maintain.

Marketing team members can find these kinds of SMS marketing tools difficult to use and make sense of, which slows down your ability to execute strategies. Plus, legacy solutions often require months of implementation that stall important launches—which means you risk missing big revenue opportunities, such as BFCM.

Finally, legacy solutions also have limited data storage and computing capacity, which means they run slowly and take more time out of your team’s busy day. And, of course, maintenance and customization on these platforms are costly.

2. Point SMS solutions

In general, a point solution is a technology that has only one specific function. An SMS point solution is a platform that only provides SMS marketing services—not SMS marketing in addition to email marketing, push notifications, etc.

Point solutions are often the first SMS tools brands use as they explore this new marketing channel. Marketers choose point solutions because they believe they are focused on a specific problem and thus provide a best-in-class solution.

But point solutions present a few key problems:

  • They don’t connect to key components of your marketing funnel.
  • They have limited integrations with the rest of your tech stack.
  • They offer only basic data gathering and cross-channel reporting.

These tools also tend to over-attribute their impact on your bottom line—similar to how, before Apple’s iOS update, Facebook ads used to over-report revenue generated from ads.

This led many brands—and arguably the entire direct-to-consumer industry—to over-invest in performance marketing. In the wake of privacy-first changes, many of those brands have struggled to correct their marketing activities to balance paid and owned marketing channels.

A similar reckoning may be coming with SMS point solutions that have long attribution windows associated with SMS marketing, rather than a cooperative model that more accurately shows how SMS is contributing to your bottom line.

3. Unified marketing platforms for SMS + email

Finally, a unified marketing platform, which pulls email,SMS, and other marketing services under the same roof, helps you more effectively automate your text message communications and more accurately measure the performance of your marketing efforts.

“My No. 1 piece of advice for brands launching their SMS marketing programs is to go for an all-in-one platform like Klaviyo,” says Loretta Doria, head of strategy at full-service digital agency Ragnarok. “I just really believe that fewer tools is better in almost all scenarios.”

Here are 3 key reasons to choose a unified marketing automation platform for SMS:

1. It improves the customer experience

Blair Peterson, VP of strategy at Dana Rebecca Designs, says the best thing about using Klaviyo for both email and SMS is “centralized segmenting.”

The ethical jewelry brand has some customers that subscribe to email only, some that subscribe to both email and SMS, and some that subscribe to SMS only. Using a marketing platform that handles contact management for both channels under one roof helps Peterson’s team ensure they’re delivering marketing experiences that align with customer preferences.

“That’s one of the best reasons to have email and SMS in the same platform—the ability to house all your customer journey data in one place,” Peterson explains. “You’re not having to segment in one place and then segment in another, and worry about whether there could be overlap or not.”

That’s one of the best reasons to have email and SMS in the same platform—the ability to house all your customer journey data in one place.
Blair Peterson, VP of strategy, Dana Rebecca Designs

With a unified platform like Klaviyo, real-time data determines which experience each customer receives—which means you never send a text message about the same deal someone already shopped over email.

2. It saves your team time and effort

If you’re like most ecommerce businesses, your marketing team is lean—and all of you are constantly “being pulled into all these different things in the business,” points out Jacob Sappington, head of email at ecommerce growth marketing agency Homestead Studio.

And because email marketing has been around longer than SMS, “email takes up a lot of the focus” on most ecommerce marketing teams, Sappington observes: “There’s a larger list and there’s a larger payout from it, so it is really, really easy to ignore SMS if you have to go to another platform to manage it. Those effects compound over time.”

That’s why, “if a brand is self-managing, they should probably be on a unified platform like Klaviyo for email and SMS,” Sappington believes. “When it’s all in the same platform, it makes it so much easier to use, especially for a lean team.”

3. It gives you better visibility into what’s actually driving revenue

When you have email and SMS “all under one umbrella, attribution is aligned,” says Elliot Scott, founder and CEO of London-based retention agency ElliotDigital. “You don’t get a distorted view of things. You can look at performance on both channels combined, but you can also look separately.”

Klaviyo, for example, uses a cooperative last-touch marketing attribution model, which more accurately measures email and SMS ROI and doesn’t overprescribe revenue to your SMS efforts. The platform also allows users to customize their attribution windows based on what makes the most sense for their business.

The 5 best SMS marketing platforms

Below is our list of the top 5 SMS marketing tools for delivering the kind of customer experience today’s consumers demand. It’s not a comprehensive list, and of course we’re a little biased. But we’ve tried to select a list of marketing platforms that encompasses a wide range of different business sizes and use cases.

Here, we break down why you might want to use each SMS platform—and why you might not.

1. Klaviyo

When asked for his No. 1 piece of advice to share with brands launching an SMS marketing program, Ben Zettler, owner of Ben Zettler Digital, says, “Do it on Klaviyo.”

Founded in 2012, Klaviyo launched SMS in 2019 and now offers a unified email and SMS marketing solution for any growing business, from solopreneurs to small businesses to large enterprise companies.

“There’s no sense in having two owned marketing channels live in separate places when Klaviyo can beat competitors on price and is on par with most functionality,” Zettler explains.

Why you might want to use Klaviyo for SMS

  • All-in-one intuitive platform for:
  • Fast, user-friendly set-up, including a variety of sending options:
    • Toll-free number
    • Short code
    • Vanity code
    • Branded sender ID
  • Best-in-class SMS marketing compliance features
    • Automatic consent management
    • Wide array of compliant, powerful list growth tools, including multi-step sign-up forms and SMS consent at check-out
    • Customer profiles that show exactly when and how each subscriber provided consent
    • Adherence to all industry and regional compliance rules through memberships like the CTIA and CWTA
    • Conservative approach to SHAFT to keep all customers safe
    • Built-in SMS compliance tools, including:
      • Quiet hours
      • Terms of service (TOS) builder
      • Smart sending
  • Deep ecommerce focus
    • Pre-built use cases for brands using Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Wix, or custom ecommerce platforms via APIs
    • 300+ integrations with leading ecommerce tech platforms
  • Advanced options for SMS communications
    • Bulk SMS or mass text options
    • Best-in-class segmentation allows you to segment based on real-time data from your entire tech stack, including factors like:
      • Purchase history
      • Discount code usage
      • Predicted customer lifetime value
    • SMS campaigns
    • Multi-channel ecommerce marketing automations or flows (also known as drip campaigns), with workflows that include both email and SMS
    • Guidance on when to use email vs. SMS
    • Two-way SMS conversations
    • Two-click SMS text personalization
  • Sophisticated SMS reporting and optimization functionality
    • A/B testing
    • Single- and multi-channel revenue attribution options
    • Customizable attribution windows
    • Email and SMS messaging revenue and ROI tracking
  • Complete control over your account and data
    • Unlimited data storage
    • Easy-download contact lists
    • Customer-first contracts and flexible commitments
    • Ability to migrate or port your own SMS marketing phone number
  • Self-serve platform with SMS training, education, and support
    • Wide array of free live trainings and on-demand learning
    • SMS assistant helps you write texts that are engaging, compliant, and backed by data science

Why you might not want to use Klaviyo for SMS

  • You need fully managed, high-touch professional services and support. Klaviyo is primarily a self-serve SMS platform, with a wide array of training and educational resources to empower marketers to grow their SMS business on their own terms. (One of our SMS-certified agencies can help, too.)
  • You’re looking for a more ad-hoc pricing model, rather than one that’s inclusive of carrier and platform fees. Klaviyo offers transparent month-to-month plans and annual contracts with no additional fees, so you can choose whatever path makes the most sense for your business.
  • You need to send SMS outside of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Scott calls Klaviyo “the only platform for email and SMS” and “the leader of the industry”—and his agency doesn’t work with any other email or SMS solutions.

“It’s just the place to be,” Scott says. “It’s clear Klaviyo is going to become, if it’s not already in certain parts of the world, the biggest player in SMS. You want to bet on a company that’s progressing and is innovative, and that’s Klaviyo at the end of the day.”

You want to bet on a company that’s progressing and is innovative, and that’s Klaviyo at the end of the day.
Elliot Scott, founder and CEO, ElliotDigital

2. Postscript

Founded in 2018, PostScript is a point solution that calls itself “the SMS marketing platform built for Shopify brands.”

Why you might want to use Postscript for SMS

  • SMS available in the US and Canada
  • Exclusive focus on SMS marketing for Shopify stores
  • Strong deliverability and compliance features, including automated compliance language on sign-up forms
  • SMS list growth tools, including:
    • Desktop and mobile phone pop-ups
    • Unlimited keywords
    • QR codes
    • Phone number collection at check-out
  • SMS segmentation capabilities for personalized messages, including factors like:
    • Shopify purchase history
    • Customer demographic information
    • SMS engagement and activity
  • Focus on non-promotional SMS marketing, including two-way messaging, for maximum customer support, retention, and engagement
  • Analytics and reporting features
    • Exportable subscriber and revenue reports
    • Dashboard analytics for high-level overviews
    • Message analytics for more granular performance comparisons
  • Complete control over your account and data
  • Self-serve platform with SMS training, education, and support
    • Wide array of learning resources, including SMS certification program
    • Access to Fantastic Texts, a collection of high-performing SMS campaigns and flows from real-life Postscript users
    • Access to automation template library
  • Fully managed, high-touch professional services and support available for an additional cost

Why you might not want to use Postscript for SMS

  • You need a unified platform for email and SMS marketing. Postscript is a point solution for SMS only.
  • You need visibility into multi-channel attribution and reporting. Postscript only reports attribution for SMS.
  • You want to A/B test the effectiveness of email vs. SMS.
  • You use an ecommerce platform other than Shopify, such as BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Wix, or Adobe Commerce. Postscript is focused exclusively on Shopify.
  • You want access to a broader array of built-in ecommerce integrations. Postscript offers around 40; Klaviyo, for example, offers over 300.
  • You’re looking for a simple pricing structure. Postscript’s pricing plan is complex, with additional platform and carrier fees. SMS API access, too, comes at a cost.
  • You need to send SMS outside of the US and Canada.

3. SMS Bump (Yotpo)

Founded in 2011, Yotpo launched SMS Bump in 2018 to round out its suite of offerings for loyalty and referrals, subscriptions, reviews, and visual user-generated content. The company’s mission is to help ecommerce brands “create better shopper experiences in every way imaginable” across the entire customer journey.

Why you might want to use SMS Bump for SMS

  • Combined platform for:
    • SMS marketing (in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France)
    • Reviews
    • Loyalty
    • Subscriptions
  • Strong deliverability and compliance features
  • Mobile-optimized list growth tools that go beyond adding an SMS field to an email sign-up form, for capturing SMS subscribers beyond your website
  • SMS segmentation capabilities for personalized communications, based on cross-product data from integrated Yotpo products
  • Advanced SMS features, including:
    • Click to buy to direct shoppers back to their cart
    • Conversational flows
    • AI-powered product recommendations
  • Detailed SMS performance tracking and reporting, including:
    • Cost per message
    • ROI per message
    • Customizable attribution and UTM settings
  • Dedicated SMS strategists and ecommerce experts for:
    • Guidance on SMS best practices
    • White-glove service and support

Why you might not want to use SMS Bump for SMS

  • You want access to a broader array of built-in ecommerce integrations. SMS Bump offers around 30; Klaviyo, for example, offers over 300.
  • You’re already using point solutions for reviews, loyalty, or subscriptions. SMS Bump pricing is often bundled with other Yotpo products. Additional features are available only at an additional cost, including:
    • A/B testing
    • Time zone-based messages
    • Custom reporting
  • You need visibility into multi-channel attribution and reporting. SMS Bump only reports attribution for SMS.
  • You want to A/B test the effectiveness of email vs. SMS.
  • You need to send SMS outside of the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France.

4. Emotive

Since 2018, Emotive has been an SMS marketing point solution for ecommerce brands in industries ranging from fashion and beauty to fitness and household goods. The company’s mission, according to their LinkedIn page, is to “humanize the internet.”

Why you might want to use Emotive for SMS

  • SMS available in the US and Canada
  • Built for two-way texting, including:
    • Managed human responses, even after hours
    • Smart Reply AI autoresponders for automation of common responses
  • Only platform to offer conversational ads, a fully managed ad solution with higher opt-in and lower opt-out counts than traditional pop-ups
  • Customizable SMS templates
  • SMS segmentation capabilities for personalized communications
  • Fully managed, high-touch professional services and support, including:
    • Dedicated onboarding, copywriting, and design experts
    • Exclusive advice on strategy, best practices, and trends
    • Access to SMS template guides and libraries

Why you might not want to use Emotive for SMS

  • You need a unified platform for email and SMS marketing. Emotive is a point solution for SMS only.
  • You need visibility into multi-channel attribution and reporting. Emotive only reports attribution for SMS.
  • You want to A/B test the effectiveness of email vs. SMS.
  • You want access to a broader array of built-in ecommerce integrations. Emotive offers around 20; Klaviyo, for example, offers over 300.
  • You’re looking for a cost-effective SMS marketing solution. Emotive’s pricing is nearly double the industry average for SMS.
  • You need the ability to track and store basic activities from your ecommerce site, like “viewed product” or “browse abandonment.” Emotive does not provide visibility into this kind of visitor behavior.
  • You need to send SMS outside of the US and Canada.

5. Attentive

Attentive was launched in 2018 as a point solution providing SMS marketing services for midsize to enterprise online retailers. As of 2022, Attentive is also experimenting with email marketing functionality.

Why you might want to use Attentive for SMS

  • SMS available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia, with 7 new countries coming soon
  • Strong deliverability and compliance features
  • Full suite of list growth tools
  • SMS segmentation capabilities for personalized communications, based on data captured in a single, comprehensive profile view for each customer
  • Fast, flexible, and shareable SMS reporting options
  • Fully managed, high-touch professional services and support

Why you might not want to use Attentive for SMS

  • You want access to a broader array of built-in ecommerce integrations. Attentive offers around 50; Klaviyo, for example, offers over 300.
  • You need a self-serve platform. Interaction with Attentive’s fully managed professional services team is required to accomplish even basic tasks, such as running an A/B test on an SMS messaging campaign.
  • You require sophisticated segmentation capabilities. Attentive’s segment builder only supports a few segment conditions, which limits your ability to reach the right people with the right messages.
  • You’re not ready to commit to a long-term contract. Month-to-month services are available, but long-term contracts are the default with Attentive, and they often include hidden carrier fees, platform fees, and fees for MMS and professional services.
  • You want to pick the attribution model that makes most sense for your specific business. Attentive’s default SMS attribution model is aggressive: 1-day view, 30-day click.
  • You need a single platform to manage customer data and consent. The Attentive integration with Klaviyo, for example, is inconsistent and reduces your ability to track on-site behavior, segment by email and SMS engagement, and manage multi-channel consent.

The cost of SMS marketing: 3 ways to maximize your SMS ROI

One of the biggest SMS marketing myths that prevents ecommerce brands from investing in an SMS marketing platform is that it’s too expensive. And it’s true that “SMS is more expensive than email,” Sappington says.

But it’s also true that SMS marketing can pay for itself—and then some. “If your goal is net dollars added to the bank account,” Sappington says, “then the dollars generated by SMS need to beat out the extra cost.”

So how do you, as Sappington puts it, “optimize in a way that leads to the most dollars”? There are plenty of smart SMS plays for keeping your SMS marketing program cost-effective and maximizing your return on investment (ROI). Here are the top 3.

1. Use SMS automations and flows

When Dana Rebecca Designs first launched their SMS program, Peterson expected SMS campaigns to drive most of the program’s traffic—and revenue. “And we’re still doing campaigns when we have a new launch or Monday motivation,” she says, “but where we’re really seeing more of a lift for the business side is through flows.”

Scott says this is because the shoppers on the receiving end of flows “have really high intent. These are people who’ve not only signed up for SMS, but they’ve also got a product and they come back again and again and again.

“More often than not, in my experience, flows generate more sales than campaigns,” Scott adds.

Sappington has observed the same: “Automations tend to pull in a significant portion of SMS revenue. The efficiency there is just much higher than the efficiency on campaigns.”

With that in mind, Scott and Sappington recommend starting with the highest-intent SMS flows:

  • Welcome series
  • Browse abandonment
  • Abandoned cart
  • Abandoned check-out

“These are the flows you need to be leveraging and testing again and again and again, because they’re the core flows of your entire account that are bringing the most money,” Scott explains. “Instead of sending 10 texts a month through campaigns, which is super high, to have SMS taking over in flows is a really important way to utilize SMS as a whole for an account.”

2. Don’t be afraid to experiment

That said, you don’t want to halt SMS campaigns altogether. It’s the same as email: “You don’t just send campaigns through email, and you don’t just set up flows for email,” Scott points out. “‘That’s only half the work.”

This is the biggest SMS mistake Scott sees brands making, he says: “They’ve not got it in flows—they’re just using it in campaigns, or the other way around. If you want SMS to be a core marketing channel, you need to do it properly. You need to be smart about it. You can’t do it halfheartedly. That’s the main thing.”

If you want SMS to be a core marketing channel, you need to do it properly. You need to be smart about it. You can’t do it halfheartedly. That’s the main thing.
Elliot Scott, Elliot Scott, founder and CEO, ElliotDigital

In other words, in order to make your SMS program as cost-efficient as possible, use it consistently—but strategically.

“You need to keep the strategy really clear for SMS—when you’re using it, why you’re using it, the messaging you’re using—and you need to test all possible avenues to see what moves the needle the most,” Scott says. “If you don’t, then in 3 months when you’ve hardly used it, you’ll turn around and say, ‘It’s not working.’ Well, it won’t work if you don’t use it.”

“It’s not sending one text every two months. It’s not adding it to one flow. It’s campaigns alongside flows, multiple campaigns, multiple flows, different angles, because people will respond in different ways,” Scott adds. “You have to try it all, otherwise you’re hardly trying.”

Klaviyo recommends starting with these SMS strategies:

  • Offer early access or exclusive mobile-only discounts via text.
  • Drive more conversions by incorporating SMS into your cart abandonment flows.
  • Provide the VIP treatment by including a text in back-in-stock or price drop alert flows.
  • Make your subscribers feel special with a happy birthday text and offer.
  • Close out a sale strong with a text to subscribers who still haven’t purchased.

3. Be diligent with your SMS credits

If you’re worried about the cost of SMS, “the most efficient thing,” Sappington says, “would be to limit your use of MMS, and to utilize only one credit per send.”

This one is pretty simple: MMS costs more than SMS, and in Sappington’s experience, it’s usually not worth the extra money. “You really have to understand how each different vendor treats emojis and MMS,” Sappington says. On certain SMS marketing platforms, “if you’re using emojis and images, the cost can balloon. It can just go through the roof.”

MMS messages also take a longer time to send, especially to big lists—and, there’s no real evidence that people engage with them more. In an analysis of A/B tests conducted in Klaviyo between SMS marketing messages and MMS marketing messages, 79% of tests showed that SMS had a statistically significant higher number of clicks than MMS, whereas MMS outperformed SMS in only 6% of tests.

Paying close attention to the character counts on your SMS messages, meanwhile, can make sure you don’t exceed your credits threshold—and end up paying significantly more for an extra word or couple of letters. “If you’re allotted so many characters per message, don’t send a text if you can’t get the copy trimmed down to a single credit,” Sappington recommends.

This is particularly important for brands with large SMS lists. “If you have a list of 300K subscribers and you add an extra 2-3 words and you don’t trim it down, you’re effectively doubling the cost,” Sappington points out.

How to choose the right SMS marketing solution for your business

Keep in mind that when it comes to maximizing your SMS ROI, each text message marketing platform has its own strengths and weaknesses. Selecting the one that’s best for your brand is a daunting process, and a lot of it comes down to asking the right questions.

Choosing the best SMS marketing software for your business depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with your SMS marketing strategy. For example:

  • Are you more focused on engaging customers and potential customers, driving revenue, or both?
  • Does your SMS program cater to specific segments such as VIPs and loyal customers, or does it need to have broader appeal?
  • Where does SMS fit in relation to your email marketing program? For example, do you need the ability to launch hybrid flows that involve both emails and text messages?
  • What kind of SMS marketing attribution model makes the most sense to you?

Before you make your final decision, there are a few text marketing features no business should compromise on. At a minimum, your text messaging platform should:

  • Provide built-in SMS marketing compliance globally.
  • Offer short code and toll free numbers.
  • Offer options for multi-step sign-up forms, click-to-text forms, and consent forms at check-out.
  • Integrate seamlessly with third-party technology.
  • Allow for A/B testing of text campaigns.
  • Allow for two-way conversations with customers.
  • Provide sophisticated metrics, data and predictive analysis functionality.
  • Enable data capture through actions like browse abandonment and personalization through MMS, dynamic images, coupon codes, and more.

In an economically challenged, post-iOS 14.5 world, where paid targeting is getting less precise and consumers are getting more selective about which brands they deem worthy of their money, SMS marketing is one of the best ways to connect with your audience.

Your SMS marketing platform is what powers it all.

Choose wisely.

Want to go beyond the basics? We cover everything you need to know to make sure you start from a place of value and end with loyal, lifelong customer relationships in this ecommerce SMS marketing series. Check out:

FAQs about best SMS marketing platforms

Is SMS marketing effective?

Yes, SMS marketing is effective. As part of an overarching omnichannel marketing strategy, SMS marketing is one of the essential touchpoints along the customer journey.

Here’s proof from Klaviyo’s SMS consumer sentiment report:

  • More than twice as many shoppers would rather hear from you via text message than over social media.
  • 73% of consumers have made a purchase based on receiving a text message from a brand—and over half of them have done so 2-3x.
  • 95% of consumers subscribe to less than 7 brands via SMS—if you have their number, they really want to hear from you.

Is SMS marketing good for a large contact list?

Yes, SMS marketing is good for contact lists of all sizes. Because bulk text messages are fast and cost-effective, SMS marketing is a great way to market to customers and send reminders at scale.

What is the best way to make my SMS marketing campaign more effective?

Personalization, quick, catchy phrases, and incorporating SMS messages into your larger marketing strategy are just a few ways to make your SMS marketing campaigns more effective.

Learn why Klaviyo is the top SMS marketing platform on this list.
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Jax Connelly
Jax Connelly
Lead editor
Jax Connelly (they/she), lead editor at Klaviyo, started their career doing SEO at a small digital ad agency and spent most of their twenties managing a financial magazine for a trade association based in Washington, DC. Most recently, she studied and taught writing at Columbia College Chicago during the peak years of the pandemic. Outside of their day job, Jax is an award-winning creative writer who has received honors including 4 Notables in the Best American Essays series, contest awards from publications like Nowhere Magazine and Prairie Schooner, and a residency from the Ragdale Foundation. Jax lives in Chicago a block away from Lake Michigan with her elderly Jack Russell Terrier, Cloo.