Push and SMS Should Be Short and Sweet

Converting users and subscribers to loyal and happy customers is critical to any business’s growth. Today, we’re highlighting helpful tips and important considerations for your marketing strategy.

An obvious best practice is to maximize engagement with your audience wherever they prefer to spend time. As consumers, we know that’s not just one channel or device. Increasingly, mobile is where your users engage, so part of your growth marketing program should include omni-channel campaigns that feature mobile push notifications and SMS.

While there are plenty of best practices for content personalization, deep linking and send times, today we’re going to focus on message length and size.

Push Notifications

A push notification is sent by an application to encourage the user to engage with that app. Mobile operating systems prompt your users to opt into these messages, so put a little bit of thought into how you can maximize the opt-in percentage and prime your users correctly.

Push notifications typically include the brand name (who the message is from) and the message itself with a call-to-action link or button. These days, push notifications can also include rich media like emojis and dynamic content using merge parameters.

For example, Sephora sends great promotional emails, but they emails get lost in their users’ Gmail Promotions tab. An occasional push notification might remind users to shop.

Just like with email, there are best practices for the size of your push notifications to ensure deliverability and high engagement rates.

Here are some key numbers to keep in mind:

  • 2KB: While the maximum size is 4KB, both Google and Apple recommend capping messages at 2KB. Keep in mind that this includes the entire message, code and all.
  • 4–8 lines or 140–280 characters: Depending on what language your team is using, you might be able to deliver a 2,000 character message, however, remember that your message may be truncated after 4–8 lines.

Short and sweet is best. Plus, since we know they are on mobile, some users may be using expensive cellular data to engage with you instead of wi-fi, so be kind and shrink those message sizes.


SMS (Short Message Service, or simply a text) is best used for more time-sensitive messages or those that need extra attention. For example, if a user just ordered tickets for an event later tonight, Eventbrite could send an email and an SMS to ensure the user gets the ticket information immediately. In contrast to push notifications, which disappear after the first viewing, texts are easy to refer back to if users need a quick look a few hours later.

Remember that for SMS (just like with email), it’s important for your users to explicitly opt in and you need to give them an option to unsubscribe.

SMS can include: text, links, photos, emojis, etc. However, an SMS can only contain 160 characters for the whole message (or 1120 bits) — consider it the same length as a tweet. If you must send a message with more than 160 characters, it will be sent in more than one message.

As with anything, we think you’ll find through testing that shorter messages earn higher engagement.

The Iterable Growth Marketing Platform makes it easy for marketers to achieve omni-channel relevance that will accelerate your business’s growth. Interested in a demo? We’d love to show you how simple it is.

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