Exploring text message marketing but lost in a sea of acronyms? Feel empowered with this handy intro (or refresher) to the world of SMS marketing.
SMS marketing has its own language (and we don’t mean the LOL, TTYL type). Between the industry jargon and hundreds of acronyms, we created this go-to resource to define 48 of the most common terms you’ll see along your SMS marketing journey.
Browse our easy-to-follow text message marketing definitions (in alphabetical order) so you’ll always be the expert in the room. And be sure to bookmark this post, so you can reference the list later.
Don't forget to check out our roundup of the 9 resources you'll want to bookmark as you start your SMS journey!
A - C
A randomized experiment that sends multiple versions of a text message to find what variables resonate best with the audience—like images, length, and send time. Enabling “auto-winner” on tests automatically sends the highest performing message variant to a remaining percentage of your subscriber list, so you don’t miss out on those extra clicks and conversions.
Occurs when high-intent visitors add items to their cart but exit the site before checking out. Adding automation to your SMS program can remind subscribers of items they’ve left in their digital shopping cart by sending a triggered abandoned cart text message. This type of automated reminder helps recover otherwise lost revenue.
An automated message that helps move customers through the final stage of the purchase funnel quickly and confidently. If a user abandons their cart during the checkout process, all information the user entered before leaving the site will be stored in the abandoned checkout link and delivered with the text message, allowing them to pick up right where they left off.
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
A civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against, and requires reasonable accommodations for, individuals with disabilities in places of public accommodation.
Automated text messages triggered by non-keyword responses from SMS subscribers. For example, when a subscriber replies with an unexpected text like “HELP,” you can automatically redirect them to a customer support resource.
When an item that a subscriber has browsed or shown interest in is back-in-stock, these triggered reminders give them a heads-up to shop the product they’ve been waiting for, reducing friction and encouraging faster purchases.
Occurs when shoppers have looked at a product detail page but haven’t added the item to their online shopping cart. The triggered reminders usually include a link directly back to the item the subscriber was browsing to make it as easy as possible for them to add it to their cart.
Call to action (CTA)
The desired action you want your SMS subscribers to take—like shopping on your website, viewing non-promotional content, or replying to your text. Be clear in the action you'd like them to take, and consider adding an incentive to increase conversions (e.g., "Shop now with code GET20").
Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)
A mobile industry association that publishes a list of requirements for short code programs, and audits program operators against these requirements on behalf of mobile carriers. It’s important to partner with an SMS provider that build solutions with CTIA and other compliance requirements in mind.
Click-through rate (CTR)
Metric to measure a message’s effectiveness at driving subscribers to click a link within your message. CTR is the percentage of total recipients who clicked on a link within the text message. Including a clear CTA and direct link makes it easy for subscribers to take action, increasing this key success metric.
Following a set of rules and requirements (such as the TCPA and CTIA). Learn more about the requirements of SMS Compliance.
An individual’s agreement to receive text messages. At a high level, subscribers must explicitly opt in to SMS marketing before sending them text messages (e.g., legal disclosure in the sign-up unit).
Interactive, people-driven experiences that support the entire customer buying experience through text messaging. These conversations work towards a point of conversion or commerce—from awareness and product discovery to consideration and asking questions, to customer service and post-purchase.
Conversion rate (CVR)
The percentage of SMS recipients who completed a purchase after receiving a text message. You can find the CVR by dividing the number of subscriber purchases on the website by the total number of clicks.
A sum of the interactions a customer has with a brand over their entire customer journey. Customer experience considers touchpoints across all digital and in-person channels. Customers want to be more in control of their experience, with personalized and relevant engagement through direct channels like SMS.
D - G
The collection of customer information through first-, second-, third-, and zero-party data—like subscriber’s name, location, engagement on other channels, and products they have browsed or purchased. This information helps brands build more personalized customer experiences through descriptive tags and custom segments.
The percentage of text messages that were successfully delivered to the target audience. This metric can help “clean” your subscriber list by identifying which numbers are undeliverable.
Custom rules and parameters around when, where, and to whom sign-up units are displayed on your website. You can set up “exit intent” display rules to show visitors a final reminder and incentive when they’re about to leave the site, giving them one more chance to opt in.
An automated series of text messages, very similar to Journeys by Attentive but sent on a schedule. These multi-step campaigns can be used to retarget subscribers based on engagement, building a cohesive customer experience.
Small digital images that help break up a text while adding an element of interest that further engages subscribers. The images generally use two characters and should fit your campaign and brand tone. Emojis are a great element to A/B test to see what resonates with your audience.
A strategy that incorporates gaming aspects in a promotional context—like loyalty programs, interactive sign-up units, and two-way text messaging. Gamified marketing is at the intersection of entertainment, commerce, and content, creating the personalized (and fun) shopping experiences that consumers want.
Segmenting subscribers based on location to share relevant offers or services available in their local areas. For instance, using geographic data can help reach subscribers at their optimal times by taking into account customers’ time zone.
H - N
Specific words sent by an SMS subscriber that trigger an automated response or action. For example, brands can use Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys™ to build a personalized back-and-forth flow based on certain subscriber responses. This interactive experience allows brands to customize future interactions with a better understanding of subscribers’ preferences.
The term for standard, 10-digit phone numbers (also known as P2P 10-digit phone numbers) used to differentiate from SMS short codes. Your SMS provider should help you determine the right phone number for your business, whether that’s a dedicated short code, toll-free number, or A2P 10-digit long code (10DLC). Avoid any platform that’s using standard P2P 10-digit phone numbers as they’re no longer permitted for sending marketing messages, according to US cellular carriers.
Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS)
A type of SMS marketing that engages mobile audiences with multimedia like video, images, audio, and GIFs within the text message. While MMS messages with images tend to see better performance than those without, try A/B testing campaigns to find the approach that works best for your brand.
O - R
Incentives that help grow your SMS list by encouraging customers to opt in to text messaging. Try experimenting with different offers in your sign-up units—like dollar-off discounts, free shipping, and surprise gifts—to see which is the most appealing to your target audience.
The integration and collaboration of multiple marketing channels to create a single, seamless customer experience.
A text channel sign-up step that helps confirm a subscriber’s consent to receive text messages. Attentive’s Two-Tap sign-up technology creates a pre-populated confirmation text message for subscribers to send, allowing mobile users to simply click send to join the SMS channel.
Strategies that use data and real-time behavior to build relevant, customized experiences for each subscriber. Brands can use macros that include dynamic variables in the text message, such as the subscriber’s name. They can also identify subscribers’ wants and preferences using features like Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys™, and create personalized moments with segmentation and conversational commerce.
Text messages sent by a brand with the intention to drive revenue. These can be one-time SMS campaigns like product launch announcements, or ongoing triggered messages that target specific subscribers at critical touchpoints of the customer lifecycle—like opting in to SMS, browsing particular products, leaving items in a cart, and more.
Multimedia elements like photos, GIFs, videos, and audio that can be sent out via MMS. This helps elevate campaigns to stand out and engage your mobile audience.
Return on investment (ROI)
Key performance metric to measure the monetary success of campaigns and investments. The ROI formula divides the revenue driven from a campaign or strategy by its cost. So if an SMS campaign sees a 25x ROI, for every dollar spent, the campaign is driving $25 in return.
S - U
SMS campaigns that are scheduled in advance to send at a specific time or day. Scheduling text messages allows you to prepare in advance for opportune marketing moments, like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and test which send times work best for your audience.
Lists of subscribers grouped by common attributes and behaviors like location, loyalty status, engagement level, and past purchases. Couple your campaign ideas with a creative segmentation strategy to send highly targeted messages to unique groups of subscribers and boost message performance.
5- or 6-digit phone numbers used for sending SMS and MMS messages. Short codes are easier to read and remember than a 10-digit phone number, making it easy for subscribers to engage with their favorite brands.
Short Message Service (SMS)
Commonly known as texting, SMS is a way to send and receive text messages over cellular networks. Unlike Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), SMS includes messages with only text or symbols like emojis (meaning no rich media).
A form that pops up on a brand’s website where visitors can compliantly opt in to SMS. Test different types of sign-up units to see what engages potential subscribers and drives the highest opt-in rates—like 2-in-1 sign-up units to simultaneously scale your email and SMS lists, and interactive Spin-to-Win sign-up units.
Subscriber growth rate
The rate of new subscribers signing up for text messages. This formula for subscriber growth rate divides the increase of subscribers over the number of subscribers at the start of the period. You can increase this key metric by experimenting with new sign-up incentives and strategies.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
A federal statute with related FCC regulations that require marketers to obtain prior express written consent from mobile subscribers before sending them text messages (e.g., legal disclosure in the sign-up unit).
Text message examples that you can instantly send or use as a starting point for crafting your own SMS strategies. These templates should already be optimized to perform well—and were created with best practices in mind—for common message types like product launches, abandoned cart reminders, and VIP promotions.
Text channel sign-ups (or opt-ins)
Subscribers who’ve opted-in to receive text messages from a brand. There’s a range of opportunities to scale your subscriber list with sign-up units on your website, in-store signage, and social media.
A sign-up strategy that allows customers to join the SMS channel by texting a keyword to your brand’s phone number. You can drive subscriber growth by promoting your Text-to-Join keyword across different customer touchpoints (e.g., in-store signage, social media, blog content). Be sure your TTJ promotion includes the legal disclaimer to obtain subscribers’ prior express consent to receive messages.
Automated text messages triggered by transactional activity—like order confirmations, shipping updates, and delivery notifications. These personalized touchpoints help subscribers feel informed and engaged, improving the overall customer experience.
Text messages that automatically send after specific subscriber actions—like joining the text channel, abandoning a shopping cart, or responding with a keyword. You can create a series of triggered messages one SMS flow, automatically driving incremental revenue at critical points in the customer journey.
A form of SMS messaging that allows subscribers to interact with brands by responding directly to their text messages. You can create a more 1:1 experience with this form of conversational commerce by leveraging features like Attentive Concierge™ and Two-Way Journeys™.
The action of opting out of a brand’s text messages. By viewing the number of unsubscribers for each campaign, you can identify the exact touchpoint where the customer opted out.
Uniform Resource Locator (URL)
The web address or link that directs users to a webpage. While the elements of the web address help describe the webpage, you can always save text characters with a URL shortener, which Attentive includes in the message drafting and sending flow. Including URLs in text messages makes it easy (and more likely) for subscribers to immediately take action.
Urchin Tracking Module (UTM)
A unique code attached to any URL that identifies which marketing channels are directing traffic to a brand’s website and digital campaigns. By adding a UTM code to the end of a direct link in a text message, you can differentiate the web traffic coming from that link and track the text messaging campaign’s performance.
Explore more SMS 101 resources—like SMS best practices and tips for choosing your SMS provider—to help make the most of this key marketing channel and engage your mobile audience.
Disclaimer: the materials in this article are for informational purposes only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your legal counsel to obtain advice with respect to any particular issues or problems.