The heart of every robust omnichannel strategy revolves around finding your customers where they are. Generally, this includes leveraging multiple channels based on your specific need and the location and demographics of your user base. For example, a company targeting young people in Eastern Europe might want to send promotional materials via Viber, a popular channel in the region. Conversely, a brand targeting users in India might want to leverage WhatsApp, where the service enjoys more than 390 million monthly users. WhatsApp has a staggering 2 billion users worldwide, and users send more than 100 billion messages every day, making it the most used mobile messenger app in the world.

WhatsApp also has excellent open rates. Almost 80% of WhatsApp messages are read in the first five minutes. Additionally, WhatsApp messages have 98% open rates and 45 to 60% click rates.

However, just because it is the most used messaging app in the world doesn’t mean that everybody uses it or uses it regularly. After all, only 86% of cell phone users have a smartphone (which is required for WhatsApp), and 2 billion only make up a fraction of the global populace. So what should a brand do when they reach out to a customer on WhatsApp and receive an ‘undelivered’ notification? A savvy brand would fail over to SMS as a backup.

SMS: King of mobile communication

While SMS is one of the older technologies we leverage for communication, it has a staggering penetration rate. 5 billion people regularly send and receive SMS, which equates to about 2/3 of Earth’s population. So while SMS may not enjoy rich text and some of the features of modern chat apps, it is still the best way to reliably communicate with someone. If a brand needs to get critical information to a user – such as shipping data – SMS is a perfect fallback if a user can’t be reached on WhatsApp.

What’s more, SMS doesn’t require a data connection like a chat app, which means users in more remote areas without access to 4G and 5G can still receive your messages over traditional telco networks. Additionally, SMS has higher adoption rates than chat apps with specific demographic groups like Baby Boomers and Gen X; if your brand is targeting an older audience, it’s paramount that you leverage SMS as a backup for your WhatsApp outreach.

Demographic breakdown

Targeting the differences in WhatsApp adoption when we screen for age, we can look at the data regarding the apps usage in the United State. A consumer poll from 2022 revealed that 30% of respondents between 18 and 34 have a WhatsApp account. The app was also registered by 27% of respondents between the ages of 35 and 44. With just 20% of respondents between the ages of 45 and 64 and 11% of respondents 65 and above reporting having a WhatsApp account, registered users looked to be declining among older age groups.

While those numbers might not be too alarming, it demonstrates a trend that as a user’s age goes up, the likelihood that they use WhatsApp goes down, again a perfect rationale to use SMS as a fallback to undelivered WhatsApp messages.

The bottom line

A robust omnichannel strategy needs to be nimble. You find your users where they are based on the data that is available to you. This means relying on a multitude of channels to provide a consistent experience for your customers. WhatsApp is a great way to give a rich customer experience, but when you can’t leverage this channel, classic and reliable SMS is a perfect backup plan. With 98% open rates, SMS will always be the surest bet to reach your customers.

With Mitto Conversations, anyone can deliver unified, two-way communications across all digital channels, including WhatsApp and SMS.

You can add these channels to your communications strategies with a partner like Mitto. Provide immediate support and resolutions, send personalized deals, and keep travelers in the know with alerts and reminders. Contact Mitto today to learn how our solutions can help you reach all your customers, no matter which channel they prefer.