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SMS vs. WhatsApp Marketing: Unveiling the Powerhouse of 2024

SMS vs. WhatsApp Marketing: Unveiling the Powerhouse of 2024

Ty Morse is the CEO of Songwhale, an interactive technology company focusing on enterprise SMS solutions and Direct Response campaigns.

In your search for the perfect marketing channel, you might encounter SMS marketing and WhatsApp marketing, and choosing between the two can feel like navigating a maze.

Both platforms offer direct, time-sensitive communication, boast high open rates, and allow marketers to measure results with laser precision. This sounds like a marketer’s dream come true!

But beneath the surface, these seemingly similar channels have subtle nuances that might tip the scales in favor of one over the other in 2024. 

This article compares SMS and WhatsApp marketing, ultimately helping you identify the true powerhouse for your specific business needs.

Comparing SMS and WhatsApp Marketing

I’ll assess SMS and WhatsApp on four key battlegrounds: reach, effectiveness, pricing, and ease of use. Ultimately, we'll unveil the true champion for your specific marketing needs.


SMS, the origin of mobile communication, is one of the basic functionalities of any mobile phone. Pre-loaded on virtually every phone, even older models, it grants access to a massive audience.

In fact, over 2/3rds of the world’s population (~5.3B people) use SMS regularly, the most for any form of digital communication. SMS delivery also doesn’t require an internet connection, making it particularly useful for reaching out to users in rural or internet-deprived areas and for flash updates, time-sensitive offers, urgent updates, etc.

WhatsApp is one of the most widely used communication platforms, with over 2B monthly active users and 100B+ daily messages. Apart from personal chats, it has also transformed into a hub for business-to-consumer interactions post WhatsApp Business. 

However, it requires an internet connection, and you must install it separately, potentially restricting access to people without the app.

Winner: SMS takes the crown for its unparalleled reach and universal accessibility.


In this round, let’s analyze each platform's effectiveness based on its open rates and features.

SMS reigns supreme in the open rate arena, boasting a staggering 98% compared to email’s 28% and WhatsApp's baseline open rate of 58%. With personalization and well-timed messages, WhatsApp can reach a 70% open rate but still falls short of SMS’s dominance.

However, WhatsApp boasts a higher click-through rate of 15%, compared to 10.66% for SMS and 1.89% for email.

When it comes to engagement, WhatsApp emerges as the undisputed champion. Its arsenal of features is unmatched by SMS. 

From sending rich media like images and videos alongside text to crafting captivating business profiles, automating two-way interactions, and labeling customers for targeted communication, WhatsApp offers a multi-dimensional experience beyond SMS' capabilities. 

Furthermore, while SMS allows up to 160 characters per message, WhatsApp Business messages offer a 1000-character limit. This provides ample space for richer communication, although the concise nature of SMS can have its advantages for clear and direct messages.

A different form of SMS–MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service)–allows rich media to be sent with text, but it’s not widely used and has fewer features than WhatsApp.

Winner: WhatsApp for its comprehensive feature set and potential for deeper engagement.


The pricing for SMS and WhatsApp marketing depends on your vendor. For SMS marketing, vendors often charge a monthly subscription fee that allows sending a specific number of messages. Some vendors may offer benefits like no carrier fees, free number rental, free incoming SMS, free unlimited contacts, etc.

Depending upon the package the messaging cost falls in the range of $0.0079-$0.05/sms, with MMS costing slightly higher.

WhatsApp marketing’s pricing is a bit more complex. It costs $0.025 per marketing conversation–24-hour message threads with your customers–and a vendor-dependent per-message fee on top of it, usually around $0.005/message. So, 2,000 conversations per month with five messages each, i.e., 10,000 messages per month, would cost you $100/month. 

Winner: WhatsApp, as it suffices for most small businesses and offers a free tier, albeit not for marketing conversations.

Ease of Use

This final round examines the ease of use for both platforms, considering setup, maintenance, and regulatory compliance.

SMS marketing is incredibly straightforward. To get started, you simply need a reliable SMS marketing provider and a list of phone numbers. Sending messages is quick and requires minimal technical knowledge.

On the other hand, WhatsApp marketing requires setting up a WhatsApp Business account, creating engaging content, and managing two-way communication with your audience. This can be more time-consuming and requires familiarity with the platform's features.

While data security is crucial for both platforms, SMS messages are more straightforward, typically containing only text. This could reduce the risk of data breaches compared to WhatsApp, where you might share richer content like images or documents.

Regulatory compliance for both platforms includes adhering to the same general marketing and data protection laws. Still, there is one key difference: while SMS has more established and straightforward regulatory requirements, such as the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) in the US, WhatsApp doesn’t. 

You must follow the existing laws and adhere to their constantly evolving policies and terms of service, making compliance harder for businesses. 

Winner: SMS’s simplicity and established guidelines give it the edge in this round.


While both SMS and WhatsApp offer distinct advantages, neither dominates entirely. Choose SMS for universal reach, reliability, and clear regulations. If rich media, engagement, and personalization are critical, consider WhatsApp. 

SMS is superb for specific use cases like time-sensitive campaigns (flash sales, appointment reminders, and more), simple customer support, and reaching areas with limited internet. On the other hand, WhatsApp fits the bill for enhanced post-sales engagement, community building, and personalized marketing.

Ultimately, the best approach often combines both, leveraging their strengths to create a well-rounded communication strategy that resonates with your target audience.

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