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Facebook Messenger vs SMS for Ecommerce Marketing

A visual representation contrasting Facebook Messenger and SMS for Ecommerce Marketing.

SMS and Facebook Messenger are two of the most engaging marketing channels available to ecommerce businesses.

Email has long been the primary channel for merchants, however, in the past decade, the open and click rates achievable with email campaigns have been getting lower and lower. SMS and Facebook Messenger, on the other hand prove that it is still possible to send marketing campaigns with massive engagement rates.

In this article, we will review how the two channels differ, what the similarities are, and how businesses can leverage both channels for maximum profit.

Cost per message

Sending marketing text messages is very straightforward when calculating costs: There is a single upfront charge for sending messages, set by your SMS provider. However, the price of sending messages will vary between regions: text messages sent to North American phone numbers will usually cost between $0.015-0.05, while sending messages to European phone numbers will cost up to twelve times as much. This wide gap in the price range makes it uneconomical for most businesses to send SMS promotions to customers outside of North America.

In addition, there is no guarantee that sent messages will be seen by the recipients. In fact, it’s not even possible to measure the open rate of SMS marketing campaigns. Luckily, click-through rates can be measured, and they usually show that SMS campaigns are highly engaging, which is enough to prove that sending SMS promotions is profitable for most businesses.

Sending promotions in Facebook Messenger is possible by creating sponsored message campaigns. Since sponsored message campaigns use the Facebook advertising platform, technically speaking, the exact cost of a single message is impossible to calculate. Nevertheless, sponsored message campaigns proved to be very predictable cost-wise.

Paid sponsored messages are guaranteed to be seen by the recipient: Facebook will not charge for sending messages that are never seen by the customer. Furthermore, delivering sponsored messages usually costs between $0.010-0.015, which makes it very economical, especially considering the fact that you only have to pay for the messages that are seen by the recipient.


In terms of availability, Facebook Messenger is hard to beat. It is available globally, and has an extremely high penetration in western regions, making it highly lucrative for most ecommerce brands. The cost of sending Facebook sponsored messages is almost exactly the same in all regions, therefore it is suitable to cover a large, global userbase without accumulating an excessive cost.

Facebook Messenger users by country in whole population

data source: World Population Review

At first glance, SMS looks similar to Facebook Messenger in terms of regional availability: chances are, almost every one of your customers uses a mobile phone to send and receive text messages regularly. However, the pricing of SMS messages makes it difficult to maintain profitability outside the North American region, which makes it practically limited to the United States and Canada.

Marketing restrictions

All marketing channels have some form of rules that control what kind of marketing messages can be sent and how frequently a business can send promotions to customers. Regarding the limitations email is the most lenient, as there is no strict limit on sending promotional emails, however, popular providers like Gmail and Outlook do control the practical reality of sending marketing messages with their spam filtering policies and thoughtful interface arrangements like the infamous Gmail marketing tab.

SMS campaigns must adhere to regional regulations and policies set by telecom providers. There are multiple forces that control how and when businesses can send promotional messages to their SMS subscribers, which makes it complicated to fully leverage the platform while still adhering to all policies.

Recently, we have also seen that major service providers, like T-mobile and Sprint started to roll out new policies that result in blocking certain promotional messages.

Facebook Messenger is, although heavily controlled, run by a single company, meaning that merchants only need to adhere to a single set of Facebook policies, there is no difference in the rules between providers or regions. Facebook has also shown that they care about customer engagement: If a customer responds to your marketing message, you will be able to send them promotional follow-ups without any limits for the upcoming 24 hours. This makes it much more worth it to run sponsored message campaigns, as engaging messages will lead to several follow-ups sent at no additional cost.

This way, Facebook policies incentivize businesses to care about customer experience and only send promotions that will actually interest customers, instead of blasting them with unfiltered, spammy messages. This attitude guarantees that Facebook Messenger will stay a relevant, highly popular marketing channel with an extremely high engagement rate.

Messaging based on customer actions

Inevitably, it is most effective to reach out to customers when they are at an appropriate stage in their customer journey. Both SMS and Facebook Messenger apps allow merchants to send browse abandonment and cart abandonment notifications, which are vastly profitable on both platforms.

However, it is worth noting that Facebook messages sent within 24 hours after a customer interaction are absolutely free, even if they contain promotional content. For that reason, in a typical ecommerce use case, all Facebook messages that are triggered by customer events, including receipts and cart abandonment campaigns, can be sent at no extra cost.


For the same reasons, Facebook puts a lot of effort into making their platform suitable for personalized, interactive experiences. Whereas text messages are usually meant for one-way communication, Facebook Messenger apps like Recart allow merchants to create experiences that will make customers feel special and resonate with them on a personal level.

Brands can use Facebook Messenger to send high quality videos, GIFs, audio recordings, cards and more, to show off their products and brand personality. To make the experience truly conversational, business can use buttons with multiple possible actions, quick replies, and even natural language processing to make the conversation more friendly and custom-tailored to each and every customer.

Combining SMS and Facebook Messenger

Clearly, both SMS and Facebook Messenger have their place in the modern ecommerce marketer’s toolset. Luckily, there is no need to pick just one, in fact, the two platforms can very well work together and amplify the other’s effectiveness.

With the Save user input feature in Recart, merchants can subscribe their customers to marketing SMS lists very effectively, right within the Facebook Messenger conversation. Therefore, you don’t need to decide if you want people to subscribe via Facebook Messenger or SMS, you can have both.

Similarly, SMS messages can include links that will open a specific Conversation Flow within Facebook Messenger. This way, you can also subscribe existing SMS subscribers to your Facebook Messenger bot.

Alternatively, you can follow-up on Facebook Messenger conversations via text message, in case Facebook policies would not allow sending a promotional message. When customers click the special link in the text message, Facebook will reopen the 24-hour window when you can send promotional follow-up to the customer via Facebook Messenger.


All things considered, both SMS and Facebook Messenger are indispensible marketing channels for brands looking to maintain their growth. Facebook Messenger is free for messages that are triggered by customer actions, including browse and cart abandonment campaigns.

Sending text messages is never free, but it will still give you one of the highest ROI, so no merchants should dismiss it.

Using both Facebook Messenger and SMS is becoming the norm, since the engagement rate on these platforms is extremely high compared to email.

If you are just starting off with Facebook Messenger marketing, you can get started for free by installing Recart in the Shopify App Store.

This article originally appeared in the Recart blog and has been published here with permission.

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