Scrub customer databases and make SMS more effective

Margus Sütt

31 Oct 2017 -

5 min read

Margus Sütt

31 Oct 2017


2 min read

It’s often that we are asked, “what is your average delivery rate in (fill in the blank) country?” People usually expect an answer like, “98%.” Yet cost efficiency and SMS conversion is more important than a percentage number; without context it doesn’t mean anything.

The more important question pertains to how delivery rates are calculated. Let’s point out that there are mobile operators in some countries that do not send delivery reports, or if they do, they are unreliable. Is the delivery rate statistic based on messages sent and the number of messages that received a “delivered" status? That is the most common and brutally simplified way to calculate delivery rate. First of all, in fact, it is best practice to start with clarifying whether or not the mobile number databases contain phone numbers that are deliverable.

True delivery rate (stage 1)

Those that understand true delivery rates know that there are two stages of quality. The first stage is the quality of the mobile number database and the second is routing quality. We covered routing quality in a previous post, so we will move on to phone number databases. 

To be frank, mobile number database quality is quite uncontrollable in terms of default quality. The databases are compiled through people providing their phone numbers and the numbers are never checked. At no fault of their own, businesses that get phone numbers from their clients have no practical means to clean up their mobile number databases that are then given to SMS service providers. Thus, we work with what we’re given, and do our best to route messages to deliver each one, even if the quality of the database is poor.

What affects the mobile number database quality?

Several factors affect the quality of mobile number databases. A great indicator is the industry in which the organization (i.e., our customer) is in. For example, there are obviously more invalid numbers in the fast loan business (like payday loan companies.) Also, SMS marketing databases typically have significantly more invalid mobile numbers. On the flipside, other industries have a very low amount of invalid phone numbers –like finance, where users are highly motivated to receive verification PIN codes, so they provide correct information. Overall, it’s in Messente’s and our clients’ best interest to know which numbers can be reached before sending the message (mobile operators charge us regardless.)

The solution

We recently launched a new feature: The Number Lookup API. It’s a simple tool that pings mobile numbers without sending an SMS with content. The ping checks if 1) the number is valid, 2) if it is roaming, 3) which operator it belongs to, and 4) if it has been ported from another operator. Looking up mobile numbers through our Number Lookup API is usually much less expensive per request than sending a actual SMS and hoping to get a delivery report (in most countries.)

Timely maintenance is key

If it’s not yet clear why a tool like the Number Lookup API helps organizations using SMS, let’s narrow it down to cost efficiency. Occasionally running mobile numbers through the API significantly reduces the cost of sending SMS messages. Money is not spent sending messages to phone numbers that are invalid. Based on our experience, approximately 5% of mobile numbers are invalid in the average database. If 5% of 100,000 mobile numbers are invalid, sending messages that never reach anyone costs 300 euros (Estonia.) Now if 10 campaigns are executed, that’s a total 3,000 euros. The sunk costs add up and it quickly makes sense to scrub databases. 

To get more specific details about how this would work for your organization, feel free to contact us.

What's SMS service quality?

Margus Sütt

Key account manager

Margus works as a business analyst at Messente. Identifying new opportunities and going deep into industries Margus consults Messente's key customers to help their businesses to advance.

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