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What is the Difference Between Push Notifications and SMS?

Selecting between push notifications and SMS involves a lot of confusion and head-scratching because of the similarities they carry. Many online businesses ask us the same question which one among the two is better and effective and what is the difference between the two.

Table of contents:

  • Introduction to SMS and Push Notification.
  • When to use SMS and Push Notification 
  • When not to use SMS and Push Notification 
  • Benefits of SMS and Push Notification 
  • Limitations of SMS and Push Notification.
  • Conclusion.

To this question, we always have one answer- use a medium that suits your users or the one that fits best for your business.

Choosing between push notifications and SMS is complicated, to select either it is very important to know what is the difference between them and what role do each of them play.


What is SMS?

SMS is an acronym for Short Messaging Service, it is one of the oldest texting technology that has a wider range. It is also the most widespread and frequently used channel of communication. SMS relies on network towers, mobile devices and Cellular connection to send and receive messages, though it ages back to the 1980s it is still the powerhouse of transmission. It has a huge response rate compared to phone calls, e-mails and other social media channels.

SMSs are anticipated as trustworthy and personalised. Also, there is a huge crowd of people who believe SMSs to be safer and more secure than mails. They are more direct and personal in approach. This mode of communication is mostly used to deliver time-sensitive information immediately.

SMSs are trusted worldwide and it is clearly reflected in their opening rates which are more than 95% compared to emails.

What is push notification?

Push notifications are actionable pop-up messages that users receive on their screens from various websites for promotional purposes. They nudge users to somehow click on the message, they are mostly used to deliver information regarding the latest updates and recent announcements. They are mostly personalised and tailor-made according to the user’s interest and page activities. Studies conducted in 2018 show that personalised push notifications have 9.06% higher open rates than non-personalised or generic push notifications.

Push notification is the latest in-trend method of advertising one’s enterprise or blog or app when used wisely. Senders have to make sure that they do not annoy their users by hoarding them with too much information that they eventually opt-out of.


When to use SMS?

  • SMSs can be used to deliver urgent information like bank alerts or parcel delivery information.
  • Eg: You have booked a cab and waiting for it, you will receive information regarding cab No. Or an OTP and driver information through SMS.
  • Time-sensitive information- any information that requires immediate action like appointment alerts, event cancellation can be conveyed through SMS.
  • Eg: if by chance any occasion has been cancelled then it is better to send information through SMS as it runs on cellular mode and does not depend on Wi-Fi connectivity.
  • SMSs are mostly reliable because they require a cellular connection and to receive information the person does not have to be constrained to a Wi-Fi zone.
  • SMSs can be wielded to send transaction alerts as well, these types of notifications are extremely urgent thus, You need to send information in real-time.

When to use push notifications?

  • Push notifications can be used to send promotion alerts to users, particularly if you are running an e-commerce site. You need to send promotional messages to encourage them to purchase a product from your website.
  • You can use push notifications to send information about the latest offers, sales, stock availability and much more.
  • Push notifications have been proven excessively beneficial for shopping websites that can use them to send delivery updates, stock updates etc.
  • You can also use push notifications to propose or recommend something, maybe a new movie, a book or an article that suits the user’s interest.
  • You can leverage push notifications to send reminders to your users about any upcoming event or something which users have already signed up for, maybe a seminar or seasonal sale, reminders for renewal of subscription or cart abandonment reminders are other best options.
  • The best way to send breaking news or any other update that has hit the market recently is through push notifications.
  •  Any new feature on your app or any other change you made on your website can be conveyed to users using push notifications.



 When should you not use SMSs?

  • It is better to not send referral information to users through SMS. Especially when there is a long time gap.
  • Referral SMSs tend to get lost in the long list of messages and will become hard to locate.
  • It is always preferable to send short messages through SMS. If you have a longer message to send to your user it is better not to use SMS.


When you should not use push notifications?

  • It is advised to not to use lengthy messages in push notifications, not even as much characters used in SMS.

An effective push notification is not more than one or two catchy phrases.

  • Do not send users just a plain message to remind them to visit a website or app. You must add value- something like an offer or discount to re-engage customers.
  • You should never use push notifications to send referral material as they disappear after a click or swipe.  



Benefits of SMS 

  • SMS is universal

It has a wider reach and does not require any external software or app to receive or send messages

  • SMS are reliable

They are trustful and reliable and effectively reach the user.

  • SMS offers more privacy

It respects your client’s privacy, it is one of the most reliable platforms that is used to send confidential data like OTP.

  • SMS helps in the retention of users

You can send updates to your users to keep them engaged with your site.

Benefits of Push notification 

  • Boosts user retention to an increasingly high level.
  • Push notifications are extremely effective in procuring good conversion and engagement rates.
  • You can track user metrics, their preferences, interest and leverage push notifications to send messages. Or you can read their interests and send them notifications accordingly.
  • Push notifications are attractive as attractive fonts, phrases, emoticons and images are used. They at times become irresistible to avoid for customers because of their appealing approach.


What are the limitations of SMSs?

  • Messages cannot be sent or received in areas with no or low cellular connectivity.
  • They have to be short, thus information that requires longer messages cannot be conveyed in one go.
  • Most people consider SMS annoying and thus do not open them regularly.
  • DND subscribers cannot receive messages.
  • It is not possible to know the response of the user through SMS.
  • SMS many times fail to get delivered to the target destination because of memory issues or invalid destination.

What are the limitations of Push notification?

  • Content is limited, if you wish to articulate a longer message then push notifications is not the platform for it.
  • They can be invasive, if not properly organized, they can spam users leading them to opt-out.



Both SMS and Push notification are a great way of generating an organic crowd for websites or sending important information to users. They might appear similar at some point but have different purposes to serve. SMSs are more convenient for sending immediate updates whereas push notifications are best to send promotional and re-engaging messages. In a nutshell, it is better to conclude that to leverage either of these platforms you should have an idea about what type of audience you want to address, what services you cater and in particular what your users are looking for. 

If you are looking for the best and affordable push notifications service especially if you have a startup idea in mind then EngageAsap is the best solution for you.

Contact us for a free trial: 9013478089


Rupinder Kaur works as SEO Analyst and passionate writer. She is currently all in works writing about marketting, technology and trends in accounting and tax.

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