Sending SMS (Text Messages) with AWS (Amazon Web Services) — Why don’t more businesses use AWS SMS?

One of the least known services among the AWS portfolio is the ability to send SMS (Text Messages). SMS is tucked away as a ‘sub-service’ within the broader SNS (Simple Notification Service) feature — which is probably why it is so often overlooked.

Oct 24 · 4 min read

Why SMS?

The engagement rates for SMS are phenomenal. SMS open rates are 98% compared to 20% for Email. SMS response rates are 45% while it’s a measly 6% for Email. SMS is probably the most effective, yet underutilized marketing tool.

Why don’t more businesses use SMS?

SMS is significantly more expensive than Email. With Twilio, it costs $0.0075 to send an SMS to a US mobile number ($0.00645 with AWS SMS). These prices are lower than what they were a couple of years ago and the prices keep falling. As a result more businesses are starting to use SMS for communicating with their customers.

Why don’t more businesses use AWS SMS?

When it comes to SMS, Twilio appears to be the ‘top-of-mind’ recall for a developer or marketeer who wants to integrate SMS into their product or service. AWS SMS is as reliable as Twilio SMS and is also cheaper. Yet many businesses/developers/marketeers don’t even seem to know that it is possible to send SMS via AWS. Like i mentioned earlier, AWS SMS is tucked away as a ‘sub-service’ within the broader SNS (Simple Notification Service) feature — not very encouraging for a potential user.

AWS SMS Features.

AWS SMS is as reliable as the alternatives but costs lesser. Here are some features of AWS SMS.

  • Global Coverage: You can send SMS messages to recipients in over 200 countries and regions.
  • Message Types: You can send the following types of SMS messages. Promotional — Noncritical messages, such as marketing messages Transactional — Critical messages that support customer transactions, such as one-time passcodes (OTP).
  • Sender ID Support: Sender ID is a name that appears as the message sender on recipients’ devices. Sender IDs are a useful way to identify yourself to the recipients of your messages. For countries and regions that support Sender IDs, see Supported Regions and Countries. You need to request AWS to allot a Sender ID to you. More details here.
  • SMS Pricing: AWS SMS pricing is probably the lowest you can get. Pricing varies from country to country. See pricing information here.

Integrating AWS SMS into your product/service — Yeah, it’s difficult.

AWS does not have a straight forward way to send SMS and track deliveries. You will have to deal with multiple services within AWS and wrangle with their API’s. In the case of SMS, you have send SMS through their SNS service and track deliveries via CloudWatch or CSV log files written to S3. Eww. Unfortunately that’s the way most AWS products and services are built. They are not ‘directly consumable’.

Introducing AWS Pinpoint.

AWS seems to have recognized that ‘messaging’ is as important a service as any other. They have launched a service called AWS Pinpoint which allows you to send Emails, SMS, and Push Notifications to your customers. Before Pinpoint you had to achieve this by integrating your app with multiple AWS services like SES, SNS, SMS, S3, SQS, CloudWatch, etc.

Sadly, AWS has rolled out Pinpoint with an altogether different set of monsters to deal with. First, Pinpoint can get needlessly expensive as it charges $0.0012 per customer tracked. Second, the Pinpoint Delivery Dashboard (a sort of UI to see things like delivery metrics, bounce notifications, etc.) costs $1,250 per month — SERIOUSLY — a huge charge for something that should have been a basic requirement. This rules out Pinpoint for Small and Medium Businesses (SMB’s).

Send With SES — AWS Pinpoint Alternative.

Fortunately services like Send With SES are springing up which do all the grunt work of integrating with various AWS services to get you seamless message (Emails, SMS, Push Notifications) delivery. Send With SES reduces everything to a simple API call. So if you wish to send an Email or SMS, you just make an API call to the respective URLs;

The Send With SES dashboard comes with a full fledged Contacts management module. You can add a Contact manually or via the API. You can attach ‘tags’ to Contacts and filter Contacts using these tags to send targeted messages. Every message (Emails, SMS, Push Notification) is tracked to give you individual message level statistics as well as aggregate campaign level metrics (sent, delivered, opened, clicked, spam, etc.).

Send With SES has a free plan. Pricing details are available here.