A person texting on a smartphone

When it comes to text marketing, both short codes and toll-free numbers are considered to be highly effective. As a marketer, with both of these options available, you might find yourself wondering which is better—shortcode vs. toll-free?

In this article, we will discuss the potential benefits and drawbacks of both communication methods and show which best adheres to SMS marketing best practices.      

Short Code vs. Toll-Free Texting: The Basics

When deciding whether to use a short code vs. toll-free number for your text marketing campaigns, it is important to understand the key differences between these two channels.

What Is a Short Code?

A shortcode is a 5-6 digit number used to communicate with your audience through SMS and MMS messages. As a business, you can either choose a specific shortcode (vanity shortcode) or get assigned a random one (random shortcode). When customers send a specific keyword to your business’s shortcode, they opt-in to receive brand communications such as marketing messages, time-sensitive alerts, one-to-one verification messages, and transactional messages.   

Short Codes have a high SMS throughput, which historically means that messages sent through registered shortcodes are not filtered by telecom carriers as these shortcodes are approved by the carriers themselves.

The higher SMS throughput of shortcodes requires strict compliance with the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) standards. As a result, shortcodes are often subjected to random audits by the CTIA and telecom carriers to check the intended purposes of their registration by businesses.      

What Is a Toll-Free SMS Number? 

10-digit toll-free numbers are often used as dedicated communication lines for a business’s customer support or sales departments. Basically, your standard phone line. These numbers can prove to be a powerful alternative to shortcodes as they can be used for customer support calls and enabled to send and receive SMS messages. Toll-free numbers are ideal for customer interaction since they can accommodate conversational text and voice calls.  

Unlike traditional 10-digit phone numbers, toll-free numbers support a higher throughput of text messages because they are whitelisted and, therefore, deemed “good”—not spam—until proven otherwise.

Benefits and Drawbacks to Short Code vs. Toll-Free SMS

The table below shows the benefits and drawbacks of these text communication channels, based on certain key features:   

Short CodeToll-Free SMS
Voice capabilityNoYes
Conversational textingNoYes
Carrier filteringNoYes
Shared usageRestricted by carriersYes
Provisioning time8-12 weeksInstant

Comparing these features makes it quite obvious that getting a dedicated short code approved for your business is both a time-intensive and expensive process. It also needs to be mentioned that it is not possible to text conversationally or let customers call your business with a short code and you are not able to create and send text surveys either.

Utilizing a toll-free number for both conversational and mass texting is definitely an easier, cost-effective business solution.

Enabling a Toll-Free Number for Text with an SMS Delivery Platform

If your business already has an existing toll-free number, you can easily text-enable it with the help of the right SMS delivery platform. By deploying the same number for both voice calls and messaging, you can offer a better user experience to your customers and leverage the familiarity and trust of your primary phone number. 

When considering an SMS marketing platform, the following are key aspects you want to look for:

  • Whitelisted toll-free numbers: Toll-free numbers are virtual and can be programmed to block callers from certain area codes. The right text delivery platform should provide you with whitelisted toll-free numbers for voice calls and messages to let your audience connect with you from anywhere in the US, regardless of their area codes.   
  • Text-enabled business landline: By enabling texts on your existing landline, a text delivery platform helps you offer a true omnichannel experience to your customers through the same number. It also saves you from investing in a new number for text communications.     
  • Affordable: Pricing is one major aspect where toll-free numbers trump dedicated shortcodes, as they come without extra carrier surcharges. As a marketer, you need to ensure that an SMS marketing platform offers an affordable pricing model to help you enjoy the benefits of this effective marketing strategy without using your entire marketing budget.   
  • Technical support: You need dedicated backend technical support from an SMS marketing platform for API integration to enable text messaging for your existing toll-free numbers. The right SMS delivery platform should have US-based customer service always ready to help you.  

Leveraging these impressive features from the right SMS delivery platform can allow you to not only add text messaging capabilities to your business’s existing toll-free number but improve the overall reach and marketing success of your business at a price you can afford.        

With NorthText’s robust SMS delivery platform, you can use your current business phone number to receive and send text messages. Learn more about our affordable pricing for landline texting and text-enabling your existing toll-free number, contact us by phone or text at (312) 869-9070