AT&T, T-Mobile Ban Shared Short Codes: What That Means for SMS Marketers

SMS marketing had a pandemic growth spurt.
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Soon, your favorite DTC candle brand will no longer text you 10x a day about the $72 candle you left in your cart—well, at least not from the same number. A change meant to reduce text spam is coming, but it’s a bit of a headache for SMS marketers.

An AT&T and T-Mobile ban on using shared short codes to message consumers was initially supposed to go into effect 3/1, but eMarketer principal analyst Jeremy Goldman told us the telcos have since pushed it back to 6/1.

  • Shared short codes = those five- or six-digit sending numbers used by many businesses, including that cursed candle company, for commercial messaging.

Worth noting: Goldman also said “just because AT&T and T-Mobile have issued a reprieve, that doesn’t mean that some of these texting providers need to support shared codes until the last second.”

Omnisend CEO Rytis Lauris says it’s good news for marketers, despite the tedium of changing numbers.

  • “We see it as a huge leap forward to ensure SMS and MMS remain trusted growth channels for brands. A dedicated unique number for each brand is the only way to develop trust and reduce confusion with consumer SMS opt-ins,” Lauris told Marketing Brew.

Big picture: It’s a timely update as the pandemic accelerates SMS marketing growth. Cloud communications provider Infobip saw “8.5% and 20% growth in SMS marketing messages in March and April 2020, respectively, compared with February,” Goldman wrote for eMarketer in February.

Correction: As a few readers who work in the space helpfully pointed out, the original version of this story got some important details wrong. We wrote that shared short codes would be banned by AT&T and T-Mobile as of 3/1, but several sources have told us that date has actually been pushed back to 6/1. We’ve updated the piece accordingly—apologies for the error!

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