SMS messages, more commonly referred to as text messages, are typically sent from one person to another person. They can also be sent from a business to a person. When a business sends a message to a person, there tends to be one-way communication—from the business to the individual. However, businesses can also engage in SMS conversations where they both send and receive messages. This capability is known as two-way SMS.

Sending two-way SMS messages

In order to engage in two-way SMS conversations with your customers, you must obtain a phone number that’s dedicated to your exclusive use. This number can be a long code or a short code. Your messaging provider can provide you with phone numbers that you can use for sending two-way SMS messages. In the United States, for example, long codes are available for a nominal charge (or no charge), while short codes require both upfront and monthly charges. These fees vary depending on the country or region where you send messages.

Additionally, in some jurisdictions, you might be required to use a short code if you're sending messages from an application to an individual. Refer to the telecommunications laws for your area to determine whether you need a short code or a long code.

Two-way SMS use cases

Businesses in a wide variety of industries can use two-way SMS to keep their customers informed and engaged.

For example, medical practices can send messages to their patients asking them to confirm their appointments. Patients can respond, indicating whether they're able to keep their appointments. Patients who respond that they can't keep their appointments are sent a list of available times, and can reply to the message to reschedule. This use case can be applied to several other types of businesses, such as restaurants or salons.

Another use case for two-way SMS is the verification of certain real-world actions. For example, banks or credit card providers can send a verification message when they notice unusual charges on a customer's account. The customer can respond to the message authorizing the charge. When the provider receives the authorization, they can allow the transaction to proceed.

Two-way SMS limitations

In some countries and regions, businesses are required to use a sender ID (a unique alphabetic, numeric, or alphanumeric identifier) when they send messages to individual users. In these areas, senders must pre-register their sender IDs with regulatory agencies before they can start using their sender IDs.

If your customers are in a country or region where pre-registered sender IDs are required, you might not be able to engage in two-way SMS conversations. Check with your SMS messaging provider for more information.

Two-way SMS and AWS

You can send and receive SMS messages—as well as emails and push notifications—by using Amazon Pinpoint. With Amazon Pinpoint, you can integrate message-sending capabilities directly into your apps. You can also use the Amazon Pinpoint management console or REST API to create customer segments, send messages, and view response data.

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