SMS Short Code: Everything You Should Know

Vladyslav Pobyva

According to the statistics, SMS messages have a 45% response rate while emails have only 8%. This communication method is perfect not only for informing clients and offering them new services/products but also for conducting simple marketing research (on average, it takes 90 seconds for customers to send an answer to your question or request). That’s why SMS is so popular even nowadays. Let’s find out how you can improve your marketing campaigns by using shortcut numbers for SMS delivery.

What is an SMS Short Code?

Short code is a number of 5-6 digits, which is widely used in SMS marketing. For a better understanding of what a short code text is, we can mention the Pepsi company. It distributes SMS from the number 73774, which spells “Pepsi” on the numeric keypads of phones.

Such numbers are used to deliver promo codes, passwords, important notifications, and so on. Also, sometimes you may receive messages with a request to send a certain word/digit for activating a subscription or evaluating the company’s services.

Thus, short code is a useful service, which increases users’ trust in the content of sent messages. 

SMS Short Code vs Long Code: What’s the Difference

The main difference lies in the phone number length: a short code includes up to six digits while a trivial one consists of 10 digits. Obviously, it’s noticeable by users, so long numbers aren’t applied for text marketing campaigns. In addition, there is a limit for using a long code: you can send only one message per second. As for short code, the limitation is 100 SMS per second (relevant for the US short codes).

A traditional phone number is suitable for the following purposes:

  • Sharing a one-time password, reset link, reservations, or appointments;
  • Voting on TV shows when users send a certain text;
  • Collecting feedback.

For other use cases, you should consider implementing a short code. It will take you about 3-7 days to set up a shortened number. A long code can be used immediately.

How Can Short Codes Drive Your SMS Marketing Results?

So, let’s take a closer look at the advantages of using short numbers.

  • They are memorable. For users, it’s easier to remember 5-6 digits than ten. Use shortcut numbers in your ads and promotions.
  • They allow tracking the effectiveness of offline marketing campaigns. Just create different phone numbers for each of your outdoor advertisements. However, notice that short code messaging is only about sending or receiving texts. You can’t use it for calling.
  • They increase trust in you. A business, which employs standard phone numbers, isn’t taken seriously. In addition, users know that short codes are usually pre-approved by their providers to avoid SPAM distribution.
  • They offer extended limits. As we have mentioned above, you are able to send 100 SMS per second with a short code. It means it will only take you several minutes to distribute a message to 10 000 people. And it will take a few hours if you use a ten-digit number.
  • They can be used to send both SMS and MMS while certain types of trivial phone numbers don’t support that.
  • They are cost-effective for communication with all your clients.

Also, there is the US short code directory where users can find the necessary codes. It increases the legitimacy of your PR campaigns.

Types of SMS Short Codes

To save money, companies can choose from several types of shortcut numbers.

Shared and Dedicated SMS codes

The shared option means that multiple companies use the same phone number. You get a particular keyword that you will work with. For example, it may be “TICKETS” or “SALES”. Special SMS marketing software defines which brand the user has sent a specific message to.

Often, there are hundreds or even thousands of brands, so you aren’t able to order a common keyword you want because it has been already taken.

Other difficulties you can encounter:

  • SMS about errors when users enter wrong keywords don’t include your brand name. Thus, your clients will receive messages from an unknown sender;
  • Association with your competitors that use the same code. Look at US short code directory to figure out who owns the shortcut number you’re going to order;
  • The possible bans or restrictions if a company that used the same short code is related to fraud;
  • A risk to lose some of your clients. For example, if a user is subscribed to several brands through one short code and decided to opt out of just one of them, he can mistakenly unsubscribe from all companies including yours.   

An important note: some providers don’t support shared codes anymore due to the listed disadvantages.

The dedicated service is about giving you a short number that will allow you to control the entire customer experience from end to end (you are going to be the only user of the code). The main drawback is the cost: you have to pay more. With a dedicated number, you are able to utilize any keywords you want which greatly simplifies the launch of marketing campaigns.

Vanity and Non-Vanity Numbers

There are several options for the dedicated SMS short code service. The vanity phone number means you buy a number you like. Maybe, it will be a code, which is similar to your support number or easy to remember. Moreover, you are able to order a short code text when users see the name of your company instead of the phone number. But this is only suitable for one-way communication.

A randomly selected code is a non-vanity number. Usually, it’s much cheaper.

How to Acquire App Users with SMS Short Codes?

Despite the fact that messengers are displacing traditional communication channels such as SMS and even phone calls, some SMS use cases will be relevant for a long time.

Informing Clients about Changes

Today, sending text messages is the main purpose of ordering special phone numbers. Provide clients with the latest updates regarding their purchases, deliveries, etc. Also, inform them about changes in tariff plans, terms of service use, and so on. Let users be aware of all the occasions that are happening.

Informing Clients about Changes in SMS

Paying for Products or Services

Usually, before using certain features of the online product, people have to link their credit cards. Sometimes, it’s hard due to different bank limitations. So, a good way to start receiving payments is the option via SMS. Users just send a keyword to your short code, and then the money is debited from their account. Such payments are convenient for all segments of your audience.

A perfect example: some carriers allowed passengers to pay for travel by sending SMS.

Paying for Products or Services via SMS
Paying for Products or Services via SMS

Subscribing to Services

In addition to the foregoing thoughts: you can also offer a subscription to your services. Of course, you need an agreement with mobile carriers for debiting money from the clients’ accounts.

Subscribing to Services via SMS

Distributing Discounts

It’s another popular scenario of using shortcut numbers within text marketing campaigns. Companies often share promo codes in SMS as well as information about upcoming sales.

Distributing Discounts in SMS

Communicating with Customers

Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback. By the way, you can make such communication more interactive: create a questionnaire so that users just send a range of digits (from 1 to 5, or the like). This method will allow you to conduct marketing research if necessary.

Communicating with Customers through SMS

How to Get SMS Short Code?

This process depends on your country. Regarding the time you require, it will take about a week.

So, the USA users should address the US Short Code Administration while the Canadian users must apply to lease from the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). If you are from another part of the world, please, google the relevant information.

With high probability, you’ll need to reveal your plans about using the shortened number. Maybe, you are ordering it for customer support, mobile marketing, etc. In addition, you will have to indicate what type of content you’ll be sharing with your audience: bulk SMS messages, images, GIFs, or something else. After approval, your new short code must be registered with all mobile carriers available in your country.

Many prefer to outsource all the processes to their SMS software provider.


SMS marketing services are essential for any business because they allow delivering time-sensitive messages. We hope you’ll adopt the best short code practices listed in this article in order to improve your marketing campaigns. Also, look at our services, which are going to be useful as well. Let’s make your solution popular together!

Kseniia Petrina


August 25, 2022

Vladyslav Pobyva


August 30, 2022

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