Blog / WhatsApp vs. SMS vs. Email: Comparing Conversational Marketing Strategies

WhatsApp vs. SMS vs. Email: Comparing Conversational Marketing Strategies

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By Johannes Mansbart

CEO & Co-Founder,

Last updated at: June 13, 2024

WhatsApp Market Comparison

☝️ The most important facts in brief

  • WhatsApp revolutionizes customer engagement with its interactive features like rich media content (images, videos, GIFs).
  • WhatsApp offers unparalleled personalization and integration capabilities, enhancing customer journey continuity.
  • WhatsApp boasts high engagement metrics and superior ROI compared to traditional channels like email and SMS.
  • WhatsApp's global popularity (over 2 billion users) makes it a prime platform for businesses aiming to reach diverse audiences effectively.

In today's digital landscape, conversational channels have become a vital part of customer engagement strategies. Brands now have the opportunity to connect with their customers at every stage of the customer lifecycle, from customer journey steps like awareness, interest, desire action, to pre-sales support, ask&order curation during purchase decision making processes, and post-purchase care.

The broad spectrum of use cases for each and every communications channel not only allows companies to optimize customer engagement activities but also enhances the overall shopping experience for consumers.

In this article, we will explore three popular conversational channels for marketing: WhatsApp, SMS, and email. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each channel, businesses can make informed decisions about which one(s) to incorporate into their marketing strategies.

Deciding on your communicational marketing mix: It all starts with Email

Adding a second communications channel - or multiple channels - to your retention strategy will pay off sooner or later. Depending on facts such as user demography, geographical location of your business and clients, as well as budget thresholds and channel concepts, you will decide on one - or multiple - of the following:

  • SMS/iMessage/MMS
  • Mobile App
  • Direct Mailings
  • WhatsApp
  • Other Messengers

All of those have multiple up- and downsides, as can be seen in the following graphic, created and provided by our Chatarmin founders team: provides your overview over all the most popular communications channels


Email Marketing: An Ever-Present Channel

Despite numerous predictions about its demise, email remains a highly active and effective marketing channel. However, it's important to note that different age cohorts have varying preferences and behaviors when it comes to email. According to a study, 74% of Baby Boomers, 72% of Generation X, 64% of Millennials, and 60% of Zoomers believe that email is the best channel to receive information from brands. Therefore, understanding the age demographics of your target audience is crucial in determining which channels to prioritize.

Email Statistics: Insights and Benchmarks

Let's delve into some interesting email statistics:

  • Approximately 8 out of 10 people open a welcome email from a brand, generating 4 times more opens and 10 times more clicks than other types of emails.
  • Open and click rates are typically higher when brands send less. We have witnessed brands sending the mandatory newsletter, multiple newsletters and only segmented hyper-personalized email campaigns. Needless to tell you which concepts work better in terms of email marketing KPI's.
  • The average email click-rate across all industries worldwide is 1.3%, and the average bounce rate is 10.1%.
  • Mobile optimization is of utmost importance, as 59% of Millennials and 67% of Zoomers primarily check emails using their smartphones. It's worth noting that around 73% of businesses are already optimizing their emails for mobile devices.

With these statistics in mind, it's clear that email marketing continues to be a powerful tool for customer engagement and should not be overlooked in your marketing efforts.

Whilst email is the core channel of most retention strategies, it is worth noting that many young people don’t even use email anymore, despite some not even owning an email account.

Moreover, it is safe to say your email marketing KPI’s will suffer, the bigger your audience gets, and the more email marketing you do.

Make sure you don’t miss out on marketing through Email to your customers on revenue-critical campaigning days such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Mothers’ Day, and so on. Reaching only 25-30% of your audience - a totally reasonable Email Marketing Opening Rate - will have you lose out on a bunch of revenue, exactly, when you need it the most.”

SMS Marketing: Global Reach and Direct Connection

SMS marketing offers several advantages, primarily its extensive global reach and the ability to send messages without relying on internet connectivity. This makes SMS an invaluable channel for businesses looking to connect with customers in areas where mobile data may not always be available or affordable.

If you contemplate adding SMS to your communicational strategy, make sure though that SMS is not a heavily outdated communications channel per se already, at least in the markets you are operating your business in.

Whilst iMessage is huge in the US, SMS is still very commonly used in Scandinavian countries. In the DACH region though, SMS has a spammy taste and no one is using it for its daily communications, anymore.

Certainly, an empty - or spammy - environment is not where you want to drop your messages when trying to reach your customers in a favourable and professional way.

SMS Statistics: Breaking Through the Noise

Let's take a look at some insightful SMS statistics:

  • A US survey found that 58% of consumers believe that texting is the best way for businesses to reach them quickly. Here, keep in mind iMessage!
  • SMS messages have a significantly higher open rate compared to emails, providing a direct and efficient means of communication.
  • SMS marketing is highly effective in increasing customer engagement and revenue due to its ability to break through the noise and capture attention.

With its high open rates and direct connection to customers, SMS marketing is a valuable addition to any conversational marketing strategy.

Keep in mind in the DACH region for example, SMS is literally not used at all by consumers, thus, as a business you are landing in an abandoned communicational environment, mostly used by shady businesses such as casinos, or for transactional use cases such as boarding pass or contract extension notifications by your mobile provider.

WhatsApp Marketing: The Power of Interactive Conversations

WhatsApp has emerged as one of the most popular messaging apps worldwide, with over 2 billion users. It offers three different versions: the standard app, the Business App for small companies, and the Business API for large businesses. One of WhatsApp's key advantages is its support for various types of rich media, including images, videos, and gifs. This makes it easier than ever for businesses to engage customers with eye-catching and interactive content.

In the end, it is worth noting, that WhatsApp offers a broad variety of use cases, which you simply cannot cover through other marketing channels such as Email or SMS.

WhatsApp allows you to personalize your flows even after the absolute first touchpoint you have with your customer. This works since you simply fetch your clients’ WhatsApp user name upon chatstart.

Also, creating dedicated flows and user journeys, all whilst integrating those with your native techstack, is not possible through SMS. The conversational pricing as well as the chance to add multimedia assets to the conversational mix, is another favourable aspect of WhatsApp.

Integrating your native techstack into - which is built upon the WhatsApp Business API - creates a seamless data-transfer throughout all your operations. This fact alone makes WhatsApp stand out heavily as opposed to SMS.

Ultimately, WhatsApp’s KPI’s outweigh Email by a factor of three to eight, all whilst having a way faster opening rate than Email does. So, if you want to push urgent notifications, or drop important news, to your audience, you should definitely consider adding WhatsApp to your marketing mix.

Understand the differences between WhatsApp and SMS in this "WhatsApp vs. SMS" table:

voice memos
native user environment
interaction & engagement
lead enrichment
send messages

WhatsApp Statistics: Growing Opportunities for Marketers

Consider the following statistics on WhatsApp:

  • WhatsApp is the most widely used messaging app globally, making it a prime channel for customer engagement.
  • Adoption of WhatsApp as an engagement channel continues to grow, particularly in countries like Indonesia, the United States, South America, and parts of Europe.

These statistics highlight the immense opportunities for marketers to leverage WhatsApp as a powerful conversational marketing tool.

Choosing the Right Channel: Factors to Consider

Now that we have explored the advantages and statistics of each channel, how do you determine which one(s) to use for your marketing strategy? The answer lies in understanding your business goals and target audience. By getting to know your customers, you can identify the most effective channels for reaching and engaging them.

To ensure comprehensive coverage and maximize the benefits of each channel, many businesses choose a combination of email, SMS, and WhatsApp. For instance, you might use email for newsletters, SMS for urgent notifications, and WhatsApp for promotional campaigns. This multi-channel approach allows you to tailor your messages to different stages of the customer lifecycle and capture the attention of a broader audience.

Make sure you enrich your customer profiles with as much information as possible, already early on in your businesses' or your customers' journeys. Having a complete data set of email addresses, names, phone numbers and addresses of residence will turn out to be a huge asset down the road when expansion and retention revenue turns out to become more and more critical for the health of your business.

How Can Help: Powering Conversational Messaging

If you're ready to strengthen customer relationships, drive revenue, and create exceptional customer experiences through conversations, is here to assist you. As an industry leader in conversational messaging and customer engagement solutions, offers expertise in email, SMS, WhatsApp, and many other customer communication channels. With, you can effectively implement your multi-channel marketing strategy and optimize customer engagement.

In this 8min-video I explain how WhatsApp Marketing Software Chatarmin works:

Loom Video Thumbnail

Source: Chatarmin, Q2, 2024

For more information and guidance on leveraging conversational messaging channels, check out our ultimate guide to conversational messaging channels.

Conclusion: Harnessing the Power of Conversational Marketing

In today's digital landscape, conversational channels play a pivotal role in customer engagement. By carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of each channel, businesses can tailor their marketing strategies to reach their target audience effectively. Whether it's through email, SMS, or WhatsApp, the goal is to create personalized and interactive experiences that drive customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue. Embrace the power of conversational marketing and leverage these channels to build stronger connections with your customers.

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