Talk to an Expert

2021 Guide to Business Messaging Number Types

2021 Guide to Business Messaging Number Types

2021 Guide to Business Messaging Number Types

A key part of your business messaging strategy is choosing the right number type. The new A2P 10DLC registrations add nuance to the selection process.

 

Our 2021 Guide to Business Messaging Number Types provides insights to the strengths of each number type, and the best number type for different use cases whether you’re an ISV looking to provide messaging as a feature for your customers or a business looking to drive consumer engagement through SMS and MMS.

INSIDE THE WHITEPAPER

Table of Contents

Chapter 1
US Messaging Landscape & Your Number Selection Strategy
Chapter 1
US Messaging Landscape & Your Number Selection Strategy
Chapter 2
Number Comparison
Chapter 2
Number Comparison
Chapter 3
Additional Considerations for Resellers and Global Business
Chapter 3
Additional Considerations for Resellers and Global Business
Chapter 4
Building with Twilio
Chapter 4
Building with Twilio

Chapter 1

1

1

US Messaging Landscape & Your Number Selection Strategy

SMS is uniquely positioned as a customer engagement channel. It has the highest engagement rates with 98 percent of messages opened and a 45 percent response rate. It also has global reach. Unlike many customer channels, SMS doesn’t require internet, data, or even a smartphone. Furthermore, consumers actively want businesses to message with them. Over 40 percent of customers prefer SMS for urgent communications.

 

However, understanding which number works best for your business model can be complicated and nuanced. Within the US alone, there are three types of numbers: short codes, toll-free numbers, and 10-digit long codes (10DLC). Depending on how you plan on using SMS in your business strategy, you will need a specific number type. 

 

The first step in determining the best number type for your business is identifying your use case(s). For your business messaging strategy evaluate:

 

  • The throughput and volume: How many messages do you need to send at once? How many messages do you need to send daily?
  • Branding and Localization: Do you want one brand identity, or local identities?
  • Voice enablement: What should happen when consumers try to call the number?
  • Use cases: Do you plan on using the same number for market, one-time passwords, notifications, and more?
  • Geography: Where are your customers? What countries do you need to send messages too?

Chapter 2

2

Number Comparison

Short Codes

Short codes, typically 5-6 digits compared to the 10 digits in other types, are special telephone numbers designed for high-throughput messaging. Short codes come with guaranteed high throughput, starting at 100 messages per second (MPS), unlimited message volume, and the lowest amount of carrier filtering. Because of this, short codes are best suited for high volume, critical messages. 

 

This unparalleled throughput and delivery does come at a cost. Number leasing fees for short codes are significantly higher than its two counterparts, Toll-Free and 10DLC numbers. Short codes were built for large-scale messages, and do not support voice functionality. Furthermore, in order to preserve a trusted channel and a low filter rate, short-codes require an application process that takes 6-10 weeks to approve. 

When to Use a Short Code

Short codes are best for high volume notifications such as letting customers know that a bill is ready, or an order was accepted. Because short codes have the highest delivery, and highest throughput they are best for urgent, large-scale alerts, such as account verification (one-time passwords), fraud alerts, and emergency notifications. In these use cases, messages are often mission critical. The failure to deliver a message can result in lost revenue to your business, so the additional costs are worth the increased deliverability.

 

Outside of alerts and notifications, short codes are commonly used for promotional messaging. Businesses are able to send high volumes in short timeframes with high deliverability, making a short code a great option for limited time discounts or flash alerts to consumers.

A2P 10DLC

Application-to-person 10-digit long codes, or A2P 10DLC, are the newest number type to be offered by messaging providers. A2P 10DLC numbers offer high throughput and high delivery rates while providing your brand with a local identity. With A2P 10DLC you can leverage local numbers with recognized area codes (geomatching) to increase trust and engagement with your customers. A2P 10DLC can also be voice-enabled.

 

Similar to short codes, A2P 10DLC numbers also have a registration process. Unlike short codes, this process is approved almost instantly and is significantly cheaper. The catch? Throughput on A2P 10DLC is variable. The registration process results in a Trust Score, which dictates maximum throughput allocation and volume of messages. Depending on your brand and use case you could receive anywhere between 3 and 180 mps. 

When to use A2P 10DLC

The strongest attribute of 10DLC is it is the only number type to provide you with a local identity. It is a great number for use cases where localized, personalized communication is valued. This includes scenarios like providing a messaging platform to realtors where a local area code brings trust and credibility into their transactions, and franchises that want local numbers for each of their offices.

 

It is also the best number for proxy conversations, allowing you to provide anonymity to members of the service industry in scenarios like last-mile delivery conversations or ride-share applications. A2P 10DLC numbers allow consumers to communicate with service industry members to identify lost items or provide additional delivery items over voice and messaging platforms, providing a better customer experience.

Toll-free

The last US messaging number type is toll-free, the most flexible number type. Toll-free numbers are capable of sending SMS, MMS, and are capable of being voice enabled.  Because they can be used across use cases and communication channels, they provide your company with a singular number for all your communication needs, creating a brand identity. 

 

Toll-free numbers give you optionality, so if you are unsure of your use cases they can be a great starting point. Although Toll-Free numbers start at 3 MPS, you have the option to enable higher throughput (also referred to asHigh Throughput Toll-Free). There are no limits on the total volume of messages you can send. 

 

Toll-Free numbers can be provisioned instantly and have the lowest friction onboarding process. They have an optional verification process to improve trust and decrease filtering which takes ~5-7 days for approval. Verifying your number is a good option if you see higher filtering even when you are applying best practices around opt-in and message content. 

When to use toll-free

Toll free numbers provide your company with a universal brand identity. This, combined with their flexible nature makes toll free numbers particularly suited to support/sales lines where customers can call in or text in to get the support they need. Having the same brand identity lends itself to being a great number for sending out customer satisfaction surveys (e.g. How would you rate your experience today?). 

 

In practice, toll free numbers are used for a variety of use cases including marketing messages and notifications for more cost-conscious customers. Although toll-free numbers do not offer the same levels of throughput or deliverability as a short code, they can provide you with guaranteed higher throughput at a lower rate than a short code. 

Number comparison table

1 Over 200k messages can be sent daily with a Special Business Review
2 Deliverability improves with Toll-Free verification
3 Carrier fees are live on all major US carriers starting July 1, 2021
Detailed A2P 10DLC campaign information

Number comparison table
    
Short Code
A2P 10DLC
Toll-Free
Identity
Brand
Local
Brand
MPS
 

100+ guaranteed

3-180 based on Trust Score
3+ guaranteed 

Message volume

Unlimited

200K daily 1
Unlimited
Deliverability
Best
Better
Good 2
Supports multiple messaging campaigns
Yes

 
Yes 3

 
Yes
Voice
No
Yes
Yes
DLRs
Handset
Carrier
Handset
Provisioning time
6-10 weeks
Minutes
Instant
Recurring fees
 
$3000/quarter + set up costs 
$2-10/month/ campaign
 
Depends on throughput
Carrier fees
Yes
Yes
Yes 4

1 Over 200k messages can be sent daily with a Special Business Review

2 Deliverability improves with Toll-Free verification

3 Carrier fees are live on all major US carriers starting July 1, 2021

4 Detailed A2P 10DLC campaign information

Chapter 3

3

3

Additional Considerations for Resellers and Global Business

 

Independent Software Vendors (ISVs)


Independent software vendors or ISVs offer messaging as part of their services. If you are an ISV this means you are most likely providing numbers on behalf of your customers, adding complexity to the number selection process. 

 

 

Content Control


The first question that is unique to ISVs is who controls the content of the message––you or the brands or individuals you are servicing? Controlling the content means that you are providing a templated message, such as an appointment reminder, receipt, or order confirmation. Your platform does not allow customers to customize or change the majority of the message.


For example, restaurant reservation management software may offer SMS alerts for reservations. Controlled content would look something like:

 

You have a reservation at $restaurant_name at $time.
Please enter “confirm” to confirm and “cancel” to cancel. 


If your customers control the content, we recommend approaching number selection using the criteria outlined above on behalf of your customers. However, if you control the message content there are alternative options. You can send templated messages from one High Throughput toll-free number, which can simplify your registration and number selection processes. If you are sending out templated Two Factor Authentication (2FA) or One Time Passwords (OTP) on behalf of your customers, you may also be able to use a short code. 

 

 

Customer Needs


As an ISV, you are not just asking questions about throughput, identity, and voice on behalf of your business, but on behalf of your customers. Depending on your service and customer size, you may even want to offer multiple number types. 

 

 

Operational Requirements

 

In addition to per phone number and per message costs, an important thing to factor in is operational costs and your customer onboarding experience. A2P 10DLC does require brand registration for your customers. This means that there are associated applications and information needed from your customers in addition to registration fees. Similarly, many toll-free customers may need to be verified to reduce filtering of compliant messages. Short code has these registration requirements on top of a 6-10 week waiting period. Depending on the volume/throughput required by your customers you may even consider starting with one number type for a trial and migrating to a short code longer term.

ISV number comparison table 

(Additional considerations for ISVs)

1 Subject to change pending carrier requirements. For more detail about the specific registration requirements for your company connect with your Twilio Account Team. 
2 Verification is a recommended process for customers experiencing filtering with compliant messages
3 May be additional costs depending on throughput requirements
4 T-Mobile’s $50 activation fee is currently waived

 

Chapter 4

4

4

Building with Twilio

Navigating the complexities of SMS communications can be challenging. Twilio is your partner to ensure your customers receive the messages they want, when they want, where they want. 


Build your ideal customer experience, anywhere in the world. 
Twilio offers over 200 phone number types and over 65,000+ local prefixes reaching consumers in 180+ countries to ensure you can deliver compliant messages, no matter where your customers are. 


Build lasting relationships.
Trust is at the core of any long term relationship with your customers. Twilio is here to help you build that trusted relationship. Streamline all know-your-customer (KYC) initiatives through Twilio’s Trust Hub and supporting APIs, whether you are looking to verify your business on 10DLC to SHAKEN/STIR. We make it easy to protect your customers through a variety of tools from privacy offerings to Advance Opt-Out flows. 
 
Build on a platform that will scale reliably with you.
Reliability is key to any customer engagement strategy. Twilio Super Network provides access to 1500+ tier 1 carriers with an average route depth of 4+ carriers. On top of our connections we leverage over 900 million data points to optimize and rebalance traffic every 75 seconds. This means that Twilio routes around 98 percent of outages and latency before our customers ever notice an impact.

Are you ready to build?

Get started with Twilio’s programmable messaging and conversations API. Talk to a Twilio expert to find the right tools for you. 

Talk to an Expert