January 6, 2021
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Short codes are the five or six-digit phone numbers used for commercial texting purposes. They make it easy for people to opt-in to your SMS list and provide the highest and most reliable throughput of messages per second.
Up until now, it was common for short codes to be shared among multiple brands. Though our Operator system prevents crosstalk from different brands on a single short code, that setup still technically qualifies as Shared Short Codes. Major mobile carriers, including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, are moving away from this practice. In 2021, shared short codes will no longer be supported by the carriers and all brands will be required to use a dedicated phone number for SMS marketing.
This article covers what your options will be when that change comes and how to make the best decision for your brand.
Ultimately, we believe this industry change is for the better because it will lead to a better consumer experience and opens up key feature opportunities that were not available with shared phone numbers.
Some Background on Shared Short Codes
Since their inception, brands had the choice of using their own short code or sharing it with other brands. For example, two small businesses using the same SMS software might notify you for food delivery and an upcoming haircut appointment. Short codes were shared because while they are the gold standard for deliverability and sending speed, they also added extra expense to an SMS program if you bought your own. Since brands were not using SMS extensively, it made sense to share the cost under one software provider, and carriers were ok with it.
As SMS marketing grew dramatically over the last few years, sharing short codes became a problem when illegitimate companies began exploiting SMS for phishing attempts. When carriers detected fraudulent activity on a short code, they responded by disabling the short code altogether, impacting every brand sharing it.
Even when used responsibly, shared short codes could result in customers receiving messages from multiple companies all within the same text message thread. Postscript’s infrastructure was built to avoid this situation by ensuring consumers are only receiving texts on a 1:1 basis from a brand and phone number, but this isn’t the experience across all SMS platforms.
What does this change mean for your brand?
This year, every brand doing SMS marketing will be on their own phone number, regardless of what platform they are using to send texts.
Starting in February and through the next few months, Postscript will be migrating customers to their own numbers. Short code messages will continue to be delivered until all Postscript customers have been migrated (estimated by June 1st, 2021) and we do not expect any interruption in our service during the transition.
Here are the options for moving to a dedicate phone number on Postscript:
1. Lease a dedicated short code
Short codes will remain the gold standard for SMS messaging. They are easy to remember and provide the highest deliverability and throughput of around 1500 MPS (messages per second). An SMS campaign of 100,000 messages would deliver within 5 minutes compared to an hour with TFN or 10DLC. For brands with large subscriber or customer lists, leasing your own short code is a worthwhile investment. Since it can take 4-8 weeks to procure a short code, we recommend getting in touch with our team as soon as possible for this option.
For our high volume senders, and brands who want quick deliverability, this is our strongly recommended solution.
Our promise to you: When you buy a short code through Postscript, you’re getting it at the lowest industry rate. We negotiate the best possible rates with carriers. The more we grow our customer base, the better rates we can negotiate and pass on to you.
2. Use a toll-free number (TFN)
Toll-free numbers include a 3-digit code that allows consumers to reach brands without being charged a long-distance fee. Typically, these are 800 or 888 numbers (e.g 1 (888) 123-4566). The benefits of using a TFN is that they’re available now (unlike 10DLC which is being released in the coming months) and there’s no added monthly cost to you (Postscript has you covered). TFNs also need to go through a verification process so that messages don't get blocked by the carriers. Postscript takes care of the verification process for you, but not all SMS platforms do this. The downside is that they have lower throughput compared to short codes, especially for MMS (picture and GIF messages). An SMS campaign of 100,000 MMS messages could take up to an hour to deliver. This might be the right choice for your brand if you’re just starting out with SMS or if you don’t have a very large list.
Comparing Short Codes vs Toll-Free Numbers:
How Will This Change Benefit Your SMS Program?
Postscript has consistently paved the way in establishing SMS best practices — above and beyond the regulatory requirements.
When shared short codes were the industry standard, we built an infrastructure that allowed our brands to share short codes without the risk of cross-talk. The industry is evolving again, and as such Postscript is transitioning to a new format. Rest assured, this change is a major upgrade and will leave all Postscript customers supported with premium deliverability at any scale.
The benefits of this change include:
An opportunity to have your own number – whether you choose 10DLC or a dedicated short code.
Opportunity for your subscribers to save a contact card with your information in it for a more personal experience.
There will be zero risk of cross-talk with other brands.
With a dedicated short code, you have unlimited keywords.
“At Postscript, we welcome industry regulations that help preserve the SMS channel and keep it spam-free. We’re excited to usher our customers through to a new era of personalized messaging. Our team is eager to help brands make this transition easy, and in line with what you expect from Postscript:: simple, fast, honest, and informed by best industry practices.”
- Alex Beller, Co-Founder and President at Postscript.
To purchase a dedicated short code, contact your Postscript account manager or email email@example.com ASAP. The process of leasing a short code can be lengthy and we want to help get you setup as quickly as possible.
Brands who don't apply for a dedicated short code by April 1st will automatically be migrated to a verified toll-free number.
If you’re unsure which is the best option for your brand, get in touch with us via live chat or firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be happy to help you make the right decision.
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