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What is MMS messaging? And how is it different from SMS?

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Text messaging has evolved a lot since the first one was sent 30 years ago. Mobile users in the United States sent 2.2 trillion text messages in 2020. On a global scale, mobile messaging traffic from businesses reached 2.7 trillion that same year — a 10% growth over the previous year’s total. All of those messages were sent via MMS or SMS. But what exactly is an SMS or MMS message? And do you know the difference? Let us clear up any confusion.

MMS and SMS are texting technologies that are quite similar at first glance. But they have some key differences that set them apart. Here we will compare the two, detail the ways MMS messaging can support your business goals, and show you some examples of popular use cases.

Image shows how many text messages were sent in the United States and worldwide in 2020

What does MMS mean?

MMS is an abbreviation for Multimedia Messaging Service. As you may have guessed from the word “multimedia,” MMS messages are capable of incorporating images, video, and audio files. That includes all of the texts we send or receive that contain emojis and website links. 

Considering that 90% of people open a text message within three minutes of receiving it, this media-rich form of communication creates great opportunities for businesses to reach and engage both existing and potential customers.

Comparing MMS vs. SMS

Image shows the differences between MMS and SMS messaging features

SMS is the common acronym for Short Messaging Service – it’s the most widely used (and one of the oldest) texting technologies in the world. In contrast to MMS, communication through SMS is more limited and consists of simple text only.

Differences between MMS and SMS

The biggest difference between MMS and SMS is the capability to include rich media files such as images, GIFs, and videos. MMS can send up to 500 KB of data (up to 5,000 characters) and up to 30 seconds of video or audio. Depending on your messaging provider, MMS messages typically cost more to send than SMS messages.

SMS messages are restricted to text (which includes links), and are further limited to just 160 characters. Because of their simplicity, they are generally cheaper to send than MMS. Rates for sending bulk messages of either type vary by provider, as do capabilities and rates for sending MMS and SMS messages internationally.

Similarities between MMS and SMS

MMS and SMS do have some things in common, which leads many people to mistakenly use the acronyms interchangeably. They were built using the same base technology – MMS was initially created so SMS users could send multimedia files. And both MMS and SMS are delivered over a cellular network which means recipients need a mobile device with a text messaging plan to receive them.

5 Business benefits of MMS messaging

Illustration shows five ways businesses can benefit from using MMS messaging

Research shows the engagement rate for text messages is 20 times higher than for emails, making MMS messaging a powerful tool for connecting with customers. Communicating through mobile phones is a fast, easy, and effective way to earn points with customers. According to PCMag, 85% of smartphone users prefer receiving text messages over emails or calls. 

If you’re trying to meet customers where they’re at, you can’t ignore mobile messaging! Both SMS and MMS allow you to reach customers instantly on the devices that are probably already in their hands. Of course, MMS specifically offers some advantages worth considering depending on the campaign or marketing strategy you plan to use. 

From higher open rates to personalized experiences that maximize conversions and sales, we explore the many benefits of MMS messaging below.

1. Your messages will be hard to forget

Images add color and depth to the messaging you share with customers. The option to use images, videos, and GIFs can make your MMS message more visually exciting compared to a simple SMS text. 

In fact, scientists have found that when people hear information, they will most likely only retain about 10% of that information three days later. But when a relevant image is paired with that same messaging, recipients remembered 65% of the information after three days.

2. The space to build relationships that last

The stark limitation of SMS texts to a measly 160 characters creates challenges for developing a message that actually connects with your audience. MMS messages provide an opportunity to craft more detailed messages of up to 5,000 characters. And adding images, videos, or audio files gives you even greater capacity to inform and engage. 

Support for two-way messaging means MMS isn’t simply the equivalent of a personalized pocket billboard – it can help you reduce friction in the customer experience and improve overall customer satisfaction. 

Say you text picture proof of a delivery to a customer and they don’t recognize the location. They can immediately text back to tell the driver it looks like the wrong address. The driver then corrects the error while he’s nearby. Problem avoided and your company earned the trust of a now fiercely loyal customer.

3. Subject them to all the feels 

MMS messages can also include subject lines, which not only creates a unique opportunity to spark an emotional connection with the consumer but also makes them more likely to open your text. Higher open rates for the win!

4. No MMS? No problem 

You may have a mobile number to text, but there’s no way to tell if the person’s device is MMS-enabled ahead of time. But don’t worry. If an MMS message can’t be delivered, they’ll still get an SMS fallback message. This fallback message has a dynamic URL to the original multimedia message you sent and ensures your communications are always received as you intended.

5. Personalize all the things 

Google’s data scientists report that 90% of leading marketers say personalization is a major contributor to building a profitable business. With the option to add images and short videos, you can get hyper creative with sending personalized MMS.

How businesses use MMS messaging

It’s hard to imagine all the possible ways companies could be using MMS to grow their businesses. Retail, travel and hospitality, financial services, healthcare, real estate, media and entertainment, telecommunications – there are applications in every industry and there’s certainly no shortage of innovative ideas out there!

Let’s take a look at some of today’s most common use cases for MMS messaging.

MMS messaging examples

Tired of getting lost in the inbox? Give MMS a try! Marketers lead the way in using MMS to increase reach, conversions, and sales with their captivating multimedia campaigns that feature powerful calls-to-action, and they’ve got the ROI to show it.

It's not just for marketing, though. For the customer-obsessed leader in any business, two-way multimedia messaging can offer simple solutions for reducing churn and improving customer loyalty.

Here are just a few use case examples of how businesses are using MMS messaging:

  • Marketing and promotions

  • Sending picture proof for insurance claims

  • Coupons, tickets, and passes

  • Event brochures

  • Short video tutorials

  • Picture proof of package delivery

  • Digital receipts and payment confirmations

  • Shopping cart reminders

  • Back-in-stock notifications

  • New customer onboarding

  • Sharing images and videos with customer support

  • Customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys

You can clearly see that MMS messaging isn’t just for creative marketing campaigns – it’s an essential channel for customer engagement that can help transform your entire customer experience. Understanding what MMS messaging is and how useful it can be for marketing and customer experience is critical to success in the modern business world. Learn how powerful personalized MMS messaging can be for keeping your customers informed and engaged in our two-part Brand Personalization How-To.