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Mobile Marketing vs Email Marketing

What is the best way to reach customers? Is engaging customers on mobile channels such as WhatsApp the best way or is email marketing more effective to engage and convert customers? Wonder no more as we break down Mobile marketing vs email marketing:

WhatsApp Marketing

The benefits of WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the most used messaging app in the world

The numbers speak for themselves: There are 2 billion active users in over 180+ countries who send 100 billion messages per day via WhatsApp. People are using WhatsApp to engage with their peers and they’re open to engaging with their favourite businesses too.

*WhatsApp for Business app vs. WhatsApp Business API*
When we discuss WhatsApp Business, It’s important to clarify the difference between the WhatsApp Business app created for small to medium-size businesses versus the WhatsApp Business API. The latter is software provided by companies like ourselves that enable businesses to establish official WhatsApp-verified profiles with rich live chat and chatbot capabilities.

WhatsApp Business API has high open and click-through rates

Messages sent using the WhatsApp Business API possess a 99% open rate. That statistic is far better than email. Mailchimp reports that the average email open rate for all industries is 21.33% while the average click-through rate is 2.62%.

Engaging customers on WhatsApp ensures that they not only see your message but it also increases the chances of a customer clicking on a link in your message. 

The only marketing channel that allows instant 2-way communication

One of the most unique features of WhatsApp marketing is the ability for customers to directly respond to marketing messages. Users can ask follow-up questions from chatbots or live chat agents about the marketing collateral they just saw. Customers can also speak with sales support to take advantage of an offer in the message.

The cons of WhatsApp

WhatsApp allows conversation archiving

Customers can archive a WhatsApp chat when they no longer wish to engage in a specific conversation. This relegates the conversation to an archive section that no longer alerts users to new messages. The service inbox acts as a spam inbox.

Customers archiving your chat are defeating the very purpose of engaging on WhatsApp because it means businesses pay for messages that aren’t being opened. To remedy this, businesses should incentivise their marketing communication. Ensure that marketing messages are accurate and provide real value to users.

Meta doesn’t allow all industries

WhatsApp Business doesn’t allow all industries to advertise the sale of their products and services. A few examples of industries barred from using WhatsApp Business are illegal goods and services, alcohol & tobacco-related products, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and various other consumer-focused industries

The inability for businesses to market and advertise on WhatsApp Business is a permanent barrier to entry for some. 

SMS Marketing

The benefits of SMS

Text-based SMS is cost-effective

Sending SMS can be cost-effective for businesses of all sizes. Thanks to its long and trusted history, short message service pricing has developed in ways that allow businesses to track and control their spending.

Pricing varies but it will generally cost a few cents to send an SMS which is still affordable at scale.

SMS Open Rates

SMS boast a 98% open rate which means that nearly every SMS is opened and read. Just like email and WhatsApp, it’s important to know how many people actually open your marketing message. Measurement and evaluation are critical to achieving marketing success.

SMS is tried and trusted

It’s important to use marketing channels that prioritise the safety of your sensitive customer data. SMS service providers are also very strict when it comes to the creation and storage of customer databases.

The inherent nature of customer database practices allows banks and healthcare providers to comfortably use SMS to reach their customers and patients. 

Compatible on all mobile devices

Because SMS doesn’t require an internet connection like WhatsApp and Email, it works on any mobile device with a GSM connection. Mobile data costs remain high in South Africa. While the government has released more broadband spectrum to mobile operators to increase competition and reduce costs, there have been delays which have prevented this price drop from coming to fruition.

The cons of SMS

SMS doesn’t support allow 2-way communication 

While peer-to-peer SMS is conversational, it becomes very difficult to enable two-way communication between businesses and customers. Just like email, SMS acts more like a broadcaster of information. This is impractical but also expensive in the long run.

Sending images in SMS is expensive

SMS wasn’t created with the intention of attaching media such as images and video.  While SMS does support media, including attachments can be expensive. 

Email Marketing

The benefits of Email

Personalisation at scale is easy

One of the best benefits of email marketing is that it makes slight work of personalising each and every email at scale. Personalisation increases open rates and drives revenue by as much as 760%.

A common practice in email marketing is to use a customer’s first name in the opening line. personalisation goes much further than a simple inclusion of a first name. Email marketers use data points such as name, gender, clothing size, birthdays, or even the date when the customer purchased their first product or subscribed to the newsletter. 

It’s cost-effective

Email marketing is cheap and doesn’t require a lot of content creation. There are a plethora of email marketing providers such as Mailchimp and Hubspot that offer free and cheap pricing tiers. This makes email an attractive solution for reaching and converting opted-in subscribers. 

Email drives site traffic and lead generation

In recent years, email has become a staple for any inbound marketer. Database contacts collected through inbound ad traffic or social media are segmented into different groups. This ensures that customers are receiving relevant email communication.

Emails inform subscribers about new products or features, alert them of timed promotions, or encourage clicks to the site.

The cons of Email

Low open and click-through rates

Mailchimp found that the average email open rate for all industries is 21.33%. This pales in comparison to the 98% and 99% open rates for SMS and WhatsApp respectively. If most emails are ignored or sent to the spam inbox then marketers aren’t getting the proverbial bang for their buck.

It’s not enough that a subscriber or customer merely opens an email. The objective is to get them to click on a button or link that takes them to your website. From there, they can add the promotional product or service to their cart, book a demo with your sales team, or take any custom action you require of them. Email possesses an average clickthrough rate of 2-5% while WhatsApp boasts a 45-60% average.

A graph comparing sales conversion rates on WhatsApp, Email, and SMS

Rarely allows 2-way communication

2-way communication isn’t possible because email isn’t chat-based marketing is done at scale. This means that a customer will have to find the correct email address or contact form on your site. They have left your email and are now having a non-linear experience.  The customer is very unlikely to now take the action you require.

Emails are not optimised for mobile devices

More than 60% of emails are being opened on mobile devices and these mobile emails have a 65% higher likelihood of bringing customers to your website. It’s critical that email marketers send mobile-optimised emails in their attempt to convert and retain more customers.


A lot of marketing emails go to spam folders

Nearly 75% of all emails are spam while marketing and advertising emails make up over 36% of all spam emails. This does not bode well for email marketers who are already fighting low open and click rates. Marketers should make sure that their emails are relevant, informative, and enticing enough to take action.

Mobile and email marketing possess their own unique pros and cons that make each suitable for different purposes and audiences. Mobile marketing is by far the most popular form of marketing on the African continent. However, consumer markets in the United States and Europe use both email and mobile marketing. 

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