Email and text messages are both powerful means of communication, but they’re not created equally. What might be an effective text might not be a good email and vice versa. Texting tends to be high-priority, concise, fast and conversational whereas email tends to be low-priority and long-form.
Below, we cover email vs. text and identify the key differences between text and email so that you can determine the right medium for your intended message.
Texting pros and cons
The pros and cons of text messaging communication can be narrowed down to a few points. The advantages of texting can be seen in the medium’s conciseness and reputation as high priority (meaning messages are likely to be read and replied to right away). The disadvantages of text messaging are brought about by the medium’s limitations: texting doesn’t work as long-form communication, it’s not great for exchanging large files, and it can sometimes be difficult to discern emotions in a conversation. Let’s break down SMS pros and cons a little further.
Pros: The benefits of texting
1. Texting conveys messages fast
One of the biggest benefits of texting is its immediacy. Composing and sending a text is quick and replying to a text is just as fast. Unlike email, texting doesn’t require a formal greeting or signature—a simple “yes” or “no” will suffice. And with the rollout of Rich Communication Services (RCS), responses will be even faster; recipients won’t even need to type because they’ll be able to just tap a button.
Texting is also a great way to get a conversation started quickly and segue into a phone call if needed. In a text communication, if either party realizes that a conversation is better suited for a phone call, they don’t have to go digging through their contact list to find the number. They can navigate seamlessly from text to voice call without missing a beat.
2. Texting is accessible
Another of the many advantages of texting is its accessibility. Everyone has access to a text messaging app if they own a mobile phone; it comes pre-built into our devices. And texting is available without a WIFI connection, making it a more available medium than email no matter where someone may be.
Texting’s accessibility leads to the medium’s heavy usage. It’s worth noting that if you’re trying to get a hold of someone, a text may be the most effective way to get their attention, especially during the COVID-19 era. According to Zipwhip’s State of Texting report, 64% of consumers have spent more time on their personal cell each day during the pandemic and 50% say they’re sending more texts than they normally would.
3. A text is high priority and gets read
Unlike emails, text messages are read almost right away. While email open rates are roughly 20%, text messages have an open rate of 98%.
Our email inboxes are inundated with messages, and we don’t consider many of them to be important. The high volume of email have conditioned us to treat the medium as low-priority: We don’t have an urge to answer an email right away and many of us don’t have notifications turned on for new messages. SMS is viewed as a high priority medium; we grab our phones almost as soon as we hear our text notification. And our texting inbox is much more manageable; recent text conversations always float to the top of our texting inbox, so it’s easy to find what we’re looking for.
If you’re communicating with customers, texting is your best bet for a timely response. Nearly 60% of consumers say that texting is the fastest way to reach them, and 83% of consumers will reply to a business text within 30 minutes.
4. Texting is concise
SMS has a text character limit of 160, so it forces us to say more with less room. The lack of space isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Communicating with fewer words can help get your message across more clearly and efficiently. This is especially beneficial with customers – a shorter message not only gets your point across faster, but it shows you respect their time.
5. Everyone texts
Texting isn’t a medium reserved for a younger crowd. People of all ages—even grandparents—use text messaging to communicate with friends and family.
What about your customers? Does the preference for texting apply to your audience? A Zipwhip text generation survey found that no matter the age group, everyone uses texting with businesses. In fact, from baby boomers to Generation Z, 73% of all respondents said they wish more businesses would text them.
6. Texting is conversational
Where email tends to be formal, texting is more personal and conversational. The back-and-forth nature of the medium feels like a real-time conversation and allows us to communicate just like we would in person or on the phone. Texting also has a reputation for being more fun than email: we can use emojis, GIFs, stickers and other elements to make our messages stand out.
7. Texting is a trusted medium
Due to the saturation of spam messages in our email inboxes, texting has remained a standout medium among consumers. Only 7% of consumers say they receive spam texts. The low volume of spam is likely why consumers regard texting as a reliable communication tool: over half (51%) say they trust texts over emails when it comes to receiving important messages.
Cons: The disadvantages of texting
1. It’s not meant for long-form communication
One of the disadvantages of texting communication is that it’s not meant to convey long messages. Its nature for concise communication is even in its name: SMS stands for short message service. Consider your first reaction when you receive a long iMessage or receive multiple texts that are part of the same message. You may initially be a little thrown off when you’re faced with a wall of text.
If you find yourself writing a long text message, it might be a signal that the message would be a better fit for an email (or even a phone call).
2. It can be hard to discern emotions in a text
One of the common disadvantages of text messaging in communication is that it’s not always easy to discern emotions in a conversation. While texting is a conversational and personal medium, it can be hard to determine the context of a message without seeing the other person’s facial expressions or hearing the tone of their voice. It’s much easier to have misunderstandings over text message without these important cues.
3. Some may feel pressure to read and reply to a text right away.
One of the benefits of text messaging can also be a disadvantage. Texts are read and replied to almost right away because we’ve come to associate SMS as a high-priority medium. But for some people, it may be overwhelming or too much pressure to keep up with texts and reply to them right away.
When it comes to customer communication, an easy way to prevent your recipient from feeling like they have to reply right away is to only text during normal business hours and to be clear in your message about what you need from them and when.
Pros and cons of using email
The pros and cons of email communication can be easily separated. As an advantage, email offers a lot of room to convey a message. As a disadvantage, email is perceived as a cluttered, spam-filled medium so it’s not given the same immediate attention as a text message. We dive deeper into the pros and cons of email below.
Pros of email communication
1. Email is long form
Conveying complex information is commonplace in business communication. Among the pros of email communication, the medium’s allotment for lengthy writing is a top benefit. Although there’s immense value in concise communication, long-form emails are sometimes necessary.
2. Email allows attachments
There are workarounds when you want to attach a PDF to SMS texts (or other forms of attachments), but it can be easier and more practical to send multi-page documents through email. Sending attachments through email can also simplify things for your recipient if they want to save the attachment directly on their desktop.
3. Email lets you reach many people at once
Email mass marketing is an effective way to reach many people at once with the same message, and it’s common practice in business communication. In contrast, mass text messages aren’t always regarded favorably. They can be mistaken as spam or feel impersonal. Email is the best vehicle for this type of communication.
Cons of email
1. Most emails go unread
If you’re trying to get someone’s attention right away, email is not the best medium to accomplish this. According to a Zipwhip survey, 39% of consumers have more than 100 unread emails in their personal inbox, and 20% of them say they have over 1,000. With so many messages heading to our inbox every day, it’s easy for us to overlook a single email.
2. Email is a cluttered medium
We all receive so many emails that our inboxes have become a cluttered mess. Fifty-six percent of consumers estimate they receive anywhere from 25 to over 100 emails per day, yet nearly half report reading between zero to five emails a day.
3. Email is associated with spam
Email spam is now the norm for most people: 70% of consumers say they receive email spam often. Although certain regulations and filters are in place to protect consumers from spam, these unwanted messages still get through. Most consumers are used to tuning out emails from brands or people they don’t know because they’ve been conditioned to assume they’re advertisements or junk. The increase of spam email has likely contributed to email’s low open rates.
4. Email is more formal
We often feel compelled to insert a formal greeting or signature when writing an email. Email by nature isn’t conducive to quick conversations. It’s often used to convey information rather than create dialogue. And it doesn’t foster back-and-forth banter the same way texting or phone calls do because it’s not as immediate. Unfortunately, this means you often lose that personal touch.
5. Email often requires extra resources
When companies send emails—especially as marketing tools—they usually need to be branded and designed, which requires resources like designers and/or HTML coders. Although it provides an opportunity to tell a visual story, it also means it will take longer and cost more to get your message out.
Text, email, phone: The mighty trio of customer communication
Want more details about SMS pros and cons and the pros and cons of email? We have a recorded webinar that goes over how text, email, and phone can be used together with customers.
Want to learn more about business texting with Zipwhip? Check out how our messaging platform uses your existing landline, VoIP, or toll-free phone number to help you connect with customers better than with email and phone calls alone.