Open Rates and Response Rates for Messaging

The most quotable stat is that 99% of text messages are read and the average text is read in 90 seconds. When a campaign sends a text it’s going to be seen and it’s going to be seen quickly. 

Now, like the Simpsons said, there’s the truth and there is the truth.

The fact is that open rates are probably unknowable and definitely not known. In the early teens (2010 or 2011) there were a few studies published about SMS. The most widely recognized study from PEW showed that almost everyone was texting and they did a lot of it. It seems like, this question was answered and the researchers moved on. There are more recent stats out there, but no study is as comprehensive as the PEW study. Why would there need to be another study when the popularity was already documented?

But back to open rates - around the same time as the PEW study, the CTIA (Cellular Telephone Industry Association) shared the stat that 99% of texts were read and the average open happened in 90 seconds. This stat is quoted everywhere, but the original source seems to be lost to history. Given the nature of how texts appear on the phone, the vast majority of texts are read. 

Even if this open rate stat isn’t accurate it’s correct directionally - almost every text is read and that usually happens quickly

As for response rates, the obvious answer is that response rates vary. But they are generally very high compared to other channels. The more interesting point, in my opinion, is that messaging campaigns actually drive response. No one writes back to email campaigns or writes a letter back when they get a company’s snail mail. In messaging, people will respond. 

Ideally, campaigns should be seeing response rates of 25-35% if the list is truly opted-in and engaged. If the user starts a conversation by texting in, from a call to action for instance, response rates can be much higher. I’ve seen 90% of the people that text in respond with their email for instance.

Response is great, but most organizations doing text are looking for conversions or actions. A rule of thumb is that the mobile list is going to convert at 3-5x that of the email list. So often email and SMS are done in concert. It’s easier to then compare conversion rates for a specific ask at the same time. I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m used to the numbers, but 3-5x is incredible. That’s 300% - 500% better than email! Where else can you find anything close to that??