What is the open rate of SMS text messaging?

Friend of SHIFT and professional marketing BS detector Scott Stratten asked recently:

Doing some talk research, and I just saw a post that said “SMS (text messages) have an open rate of 95%.
WTF, how do you come up with that?
Someone please back me up or prove me wrong. Either way I’m happy.

I don’t know where the original citation came from, but as data-driven PR professionals, we’d like the data too. Fortunately, getting the data is easier than ever. We commissioned a survey of US smartphone owners and asked them if they read every SMS text message sent to them:


82%, or 4 out of 5, said yes. When broken down, the only significant difference was by gender:


Above, women read fewer text messages from anyone than men.

Is the open rate 95%? No. Is it still high? Yes; 4 out of 5 of anything is a significant majority. Does this mean you should switch your marketing and communications strategy to immediately begin texting your audience? Of course not. Like any other marketing channel, don’t abuse the privilege and trust that your audience has given you.

There’s also a significantly higher cost-per-message fee with SMS messaging compared to email, so use it judiciously for the activities that generate the highest return on investment.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Disclosure Statement

SHIFT commissioned Google Consumer Surveys to collect responses from a representative sample of 1,000 respondents who answered the question “Do you read every SMS text message sent to you?”. This survey collected 1,907 impressions and 1,030 responses for a 54% response rate with an RMSE score of 1.8%. SHIFT Communications was the sole investor in the study. The survey population was the adult Internet user population of the United States who are active smartphone owners, ascertained by survey deployment in in-app advertising. The date of the survey period was 9/26/15 – 9/28/15. Raw data is available upon request.


Posted on September 29, 2015 in Advertising, Marketing, Mobile, Research

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About the Author

Christopher S. Penn is an authority on digital marketing and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, author, and speaker, he has shaped three key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, and email marketing. Known for his high-octane, here’s how to get it done approach, his expertise benefits companies such as Citrix Systems, McDonald’s, GoDaddy, McKesson, and many others. His latest work, Leading Innovation, teaches organizations how to implement and scale innovative practices to direct change. Christopher is a highly-sought keynote speaker thanks to his energetic, informative talks. In 2015, he delivered insightful, innovative talks on all aspects of marketing and analytics at over 30 events to critical acclaim. He is a founding member of IBM’s Watson Analytics Predictioneers, co-founder of the groundbreaking PodCamp Conference, and co-host of the Marketing Over Coffee marketing podcast. Christopher is a Google Analytics Certified Professional and a Google AdWords Certified Professional. He is the author of over two dozen marketing books including bestsellers such as Marketing White Belt: Basics for the Digital Marketer, Marketing Red Belt: Connecting With Your Creative Mind, and Marketing Blue Belt: From Data Zero to Marketing Hero.
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