December 16, 2021
4 mins read

What is Programmable SMS and Why Businesses Should Care

December 16, 2021
4 mins read
Vidhi Agarwal Vidhi Agarwal
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Programmable SMS solutions allow developers to embed SMS functionality into their applications and business operations, in order to programmatically send and receive a high volume of text messages.    

The goal is simple: to leverage SMS and build a more engaging customer experience by taking advantage of this fast-growing consumer communications channel that is flexible enough to accommodate both simple and complex messaging needs. SMS might appear to be an old-school technology about to be phased out, but the reality is entire swathes of the population, businesses, and government agencies still rely on SMS to enable One-Time Passwords (OTP) Verification for user registration and transaction confirmation.   

And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to SMS use cases in business.   

The case for SMS messaging 

SMS is a rapid, reliable, and effective way to reach out to and connect with your customers.   

Reports also estimate that SMS messages have a 98% open rate.  Email, on the other hand, comes in at a distant 20% open rate. By combining SMS with the power of automation – i.e. automatically triggered SMS responses and campaigns – it’s possible to create a highly interactive, and more engaging customer experience for customer support as well as marketing.    

And the building blocks that make up programmable SMS solutions?  

We call them SMS APIs.  

Think of an API as a software middleman enabling two different applications to talk to each other. In the case of the SMS API, it allows developers to directly plug their applications into existing SMS networks.    

Some common functions that SMS APIs can embed into business apps include:   

  • Two-Way SMS  
  • Bulk Messaging  
  • Scheduling and automating communications  
  • Verification and authentication  
  • Appointment reminders  
  • Text to speech conversion  
  • Contextual communications with customers  
  • Marketing Communications 

Let’s walk you through how APIs enable these complex functionalities in your platforms.  

How communication APIs can embed the SMS channel in your platform 

Because APIs act like digital middlemen between different platforms, apps and processes, they are the fundamental glue that make digital experiences appear almost effortless for end users.    

One of the aspects that make them so versatile is their “embeddability.”    

The point is that because communication APIs are so easily customised and embeddable in your platforms, the possibilities to extend the use cases of your product are virtually limitless – almost like opening the gates to a new multiverse of communication opportunities.    

In the case of  Gojek for example, they were able to embed Toku’s voice API to extend the functionality of their app. This improved customer experience by enabling phone calls within their existing app, whilst keeping both driver and customer phone numbers private. More importantly, the plug-and-play nature of APIs ensures enterprises like Gojek don’t need to rebuild their platforms from scratch just to add new functions.     

Now that we know how easy it is to embed a new communication channel in your app with APIs, let’s look at some use cases where programmable SMS API functionality can benefit businesses.  

Boost engagement with programmable messaging  

Many businesses get caught up in a never-ending race to acquire more followers on social media or grow their email-list, only to promote an offer to a grand symphony of crickets.   

However, according to SMS marketing statistics, nearly 50% of potential clients would choose a product or brand after receiving an SMS.  

This offers a tantalising opportunity for marketers to build automated SMS campaigns using programmable SMS APIs and leverage a marketing channel that too many businesses ignore.  

Quick tip: A common tactic in email marketing is to send a coupon with a discount. Try complementing this by sending the coupon to your users via SMS. The results might surprise you! 

Improve productivity with SMS notification reminders 

If you run a business that relies heavily on scheduled appointments with customers, you’ll know what it feels like to prepare in advance for days, only to have the customer cancel the appointment at the last minute or forget to attend.  

It feels like all the prep-work went to waste. And because there’s now an empty slot on your schedule, it feels like you’ve lost out on potential business (that slot could have been filled with a paying customer).  

Here’s where automated SMS appointment reminders can help you out.   

We know that people tend to open their SMS more than emails. So why not send them a friendly reminder or two – or more – via SMS to reduce the chance of no-shows?  

Remember, it’s all programmable with SMS APIs, so you can easily change the frequency and timing of the SMS notification depending on your needs.   

Quick tip: Here’s another use case for SMS to improve productivity. Logistics companies constantly face the problem of delivering packages to a customer only to find they are not at home to answer the door. The problem gets worse especially for cash-on-delivery orders where the company must re-arrange delivery on another day. With an SMS API, logistics companies can send automated reminders with options to reschedule package delivery ahead of time. 

Broadcast high volume of messages for critical scenarios  

When it comes to communicating important updates to customers and other stakeholders on a massive scale, and ensuring the message is delivered in regions where data connectivity is lacking, SMS continues to be the most reliable method as it doesn’t rely on data to go through.   

For some organisations such as government agencies, conveying critical updates to the population such as stormy weather alerts, and doing it on a high-volume basis using other communication channels can be costly, and ineffective.   

With programmable SMS, it’s possible to broadcast multiple outbound messages in real-time to all your users with a single API request.  

Ready to create better customer journeys with programmable SMS?

Take your customer engagement to the next level today with Toku’s SMS APIs.