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How Does International SMS Work

How Does International SMS Work?

So with international SMS you just… send a text?

Not quite. But it’s probably a lot less complicated than you think as long as you keep a few things in mind.

Here’s how international SMS works and some best practices to follow so it can help you connect better with customers from all over the world.

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Key Takeaways

  • International SMS enables brands to expand globally with a high delivery rate, reaching a wide audience across different markets.
  • SMS campaigns have to comply with local laws and regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S. and GDPR in the European Union.
  • Localize messages for different regions and manage delivery times across multiple time zones for maximum effectiveness.

What Are the Advantages of International SMS?

Advantages of International SMS

There are a number of reasons why you will want to consider international SMS. here are the top advantages:

  • Global reach – You will be able to reach many people in many different global markets. This allows you to expand your brand to a global scale.
  • High delivery rate – The typical SMS campaign will have a 99% delivery rate. This ensures that your message receives a big audience.
  • Split messaging – You can customize your messages with different languages and messages to make your text campaign more relevant to a more diverse range of people.
  • Ability to reach developing and frontier markets – Many people in developing and frontier markets do not have access to email or landlines. Instead, they mostly communicate via text messaging. This makes international SMS more relevant to different types of markets.
  • Mass scale – You can literally send anywhere from 10 to over 1 million messages at one time. In many respects, SMS campaigns are the most cost-effective way to directly communicate with a larger number of people at one time.

Why Is International SMS Marketing So Effective?

International SMS marketing is so effective because you are able to reach a large group of contacts and make adjustments for language and delivery times.

Also, SMS text messages have an 80% open rate. Finally, many developing markets don’t have email or landline phones and are only reachable by text messaging.

Maintain SMS Compliance and Regulations

You will need to make sure that your SMS international campaign is compliant with local laws and regulations. Here is an overview of top markets that you may be considering for your next international SMS campaign:

    • United States SMS messages will have to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act. This law regulates commercial text messages sent to mobile devices, making sending unwanted text messages to cell phone numbers illegal. The USA also filters gambling and other related content deemed “objectionable.”
    • European Union – Messages sent to EU nations will fall under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Under GDPR, companies must build privacy settings into their digital products and websites – and have them turned on by default.
    • Canada – Canada requires organizations to have valid written consent from an individual before sending them a commercial electronic message (CEM).
    • Australia – In Australia, Users must opt-in to your service via text message. Also, senders must include their identity and must provide a valid opt-out address.
    • China – Messages must be sent with Unicode to avoid content filtering and rejection by the Chinese operators. They also filter out any content that appears to be adult, political, financial, or illegal. Some carriers may also filter messages with keywords related to healthcare, cosmetic surgery and beauty care.
    • Mexico – Mexico allows marketing SMS campaigns, though they do heavily filter content. However, they do not allow SMS messages that contain adult, alcohol-related, or political content, and you should avoid using URLs, brand names, and phone numbers in SMS messages.
    • France – Queues delivery of messages sent at inappropriate times (between 10 pm-8 am, on Sundays, and on public holidays) for later delivery at a better time.
    • India – Queues delivery of messages sent at inappropriate times (between 9 pm-9 am, on Sundays, and on public holidays) for later delivery at a better time.
    • Saudi Arabia – Filters gambling and other related content deemed “objectionable.”
    • Japan – Filters gambling and other related content deemed “objectionable.”

Before setting up an SMS campaign to a particular market, make sure that your delivery and messaging are compliant. If your campaign violates any rules, you could face fines, including civil and criminal liability.

Considerations When Setting Up International SMS Marketing

Considerations When Setting Up International SMS

Here is what you need to determine when setting up your international SMS marketing campaign.

Consumer Attitude Towards SMS

Does your audience open and respond to SMS messages? Chances are that a younger audience will be more receptive to SMS messaging than an older demographic. Be sure to carefully study your audience before determining whether an international SMS campaign is right for your marketing.

Segment Your Audience

You will also want to segment your audience. This can be done in a number of ways. You can segment your audience by age, gender, geographic location, interest, income, and purchasing behavior.

Plan Around Local Events

You will also want to consider local holidays and events. For instance, you may not want to send a message to young people in the UK during an important football match. Be sure to study local events and calendars.

Localize Message Content

Take advantage of the fact that you will be able to customize your messages to any geographic location. For instance, you can change the language and the tone of the message to suit the local audience.

Manage Multiple Time Zones

You will also be able to stagger out your messages, which will give you the highest response rate. For instance, if you are located in Germany – and it is 5 PM local time, then you don’t want to send your SMS messages to your audience in Japan if they are asleep. You can schedule your delivery when the local audience is likely to open it.

It’s a good rule of thumb to send messages only during the recipient's local business hours, typically Monday to Friday, between 8 am and 5 pm.

General Culture and Language

Finally, consider the language and the culture of each local audience. Some locations will respond better to more aggressive messaging, while others will prefer a more subdued message.

How to Set Up International SMS Marketing

1. Choose the Right Provider

The first step is to find the right SMS platform that accommodates your need for international SMS. We love TextMagic (review), Mobile Text Alerts (review), and ClickSend (review), especially for international SMS marketing.

2. Upload International Phone Numbers

Next, carefully upload international phone numbers to your contact list to send messages. Keep in mind the country codes for each country of the contacts you upload.

3. Figure Out Country-Specific Sender Requirements

Your SMS platform hopefully offers different options for sender identification numbers. Select yours carefully, as some countries will block any communication from an unverified sender.

4. Schedule Messages Ahead for Different Timezones

With a good SMS platform, you can schedule out your SMS to send at different times for different timezones, ensuring that your target audience gets your message at the perfect time.

Additional Tips for International SMS

  • Receive explicit permission from your contacts in the form of an “opt-in” feature before sending them text messages
  • Avoid sending messages to numbers listed on any Do Not Contact (DNC) or do-not-disturb registries
  • Craft your messages to include both English and the relevant local language of the destination country, especially for messages like ‘STOP' or ‘HELP' instructions


International SMS marketing is a great way to improve your brand’s reach to different markets, but using it effectively requires special considerations.

To make the most of this marketing avenue, you should manage SMS for different timezones, tailor content based on language and culture, plan around local events, and segment your audience.


Is international SMS marketing worth it?

An international SMS campaign will be worth it if you are looking for a cost-effective way to reach a global audience. You will also have to make sure that your intended audience is reachable via their text numbers.

How do I get started with international SMS marketing?

First, you will want to identify your audience. After that, determine your marketing message., When the message has been crafted, it should be localized to convert audiences in different markets. Finally, messages should be delivered during the appropriate local times.

What platforms offer international SMS?

The following SMS text campaign providers offer international texting: