Any successful business will have multiple ways of communicating with its customers. You may find yourself wondering how chat and text message options differ and which is best for your interactions with customers.

Both of these will play a role in your communication and marketing strategies for most businesses. You may just use them in slightly different ways or to varying extents. Take a closer look at the differences between messaging over text versus chat to understand better how you can use each. 

What are chat messages?

Chat messages are messages that are sent over the internet. Examples include live chat, webchat, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.

One important characteristic is that you do not need a cellphone plan for chats. Using live chats only requires an internet connection, whether that is Wi-Fi, ethernet, or data. 

What is text messaging?

The most significant difference between texting and messaging apps is that texting takes place with a mobile application on your smartphone. It does require a cellphone plan, but it does not require an internet connection.

You can easily use SMS messaging for both transactional messages and promotional messages. Examples of transactional messages would be payment requests, answering questions, and payment reminders. Examples of promotional messages would be SMS marketing, such as announcing sales or sharing discounts.

Notably, text messaging and chats are different. That being said, some of the best live chat software will let you transfer chat conversations from your website to text messages. Podium is one of these tools. This may seem like a minor ability, but it offers significant benefits, as clients often prefer to communicate over text. 

Chat message vs. text message

Because both chat and text messages are means of communicating with your current and potential clients, they have some overlap in terms of their advantages. At the same time, they use very different modes of communication, which means that the pros of one overlap with the cons of the other.

chat message vs text message infographic

Pros of chat message

One of the biggest advantages of chat messages is that you do not need a cellular plan to use them. Because they rely on the internet instead of the cellular network, your customers also have no cost. This is helpful if your clients don’t have a phone that supports texting, even if that is rare in today’s world.

You can automate them if you want to, integrating chat with analytics platforms to get data and reports.

You can use them similarly to SMS marketing, and there is no limit to the length of the message.

You can include multimedia in the message, including images, videos, audio, and gifs. Your marketing team can even create content for these messages. 

Most people will prefer chats over talking on the phone.

Clients can use a chat from any device, including smartphones, tablets, or computers. Also, messaging allows for group conversations, even with a large group. 

Your business can use software to manage it from your computer. The various platforms are available across devices, allowing Apple or Android users to send messages to your company with ease. 

Some messaging app options also support video chat. 

This type of messaging commonly includes read receipts, so you know the customer received the message from your sales reps. Similarly, the common typing indicators on these apps let your sales rep see if clients are typing or are done explaining their concerns. 

Webchat is a simple way to convert website visitors. 

Finally, chat messages are sent internationally without any difference to local ones. This lets your company operate on a global scale. 

Cons of chat message

Not all of your customers have access to an internet connection, especially via their phones. Some people may not have smartphones or a good data plan.

Texting tends to be the preferred communication method.

Depending on the type of chat, you may not be able to contact the customer afterward without gathering more information from them. For example, a live chat or web chat will not give you a means of contacting them unless you get their phone number or email address. (Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp will automatically give you the ability to reach them in the future.)

Depending on the type of chat, your customers may need to download or use a chat program, such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

You cannot typically send bulk messages.

Pros of text message

Because text messaging uses the cellular network, your customers don’t need an internet connection to take advantage of it. This means they don’t have to worry about wasting data when they are not close to Wi-Fi.

They can be automated and are essential for SMS marketing. Your company can also use software to manage text messages from your computer.

Customers regularly confirm that texting is their preferred method of communication.

You can use the same number for business texts as you do for phone calls. This makes it easier for your customers to identify you and increases confidence.

At the very least, you get your customers’ phone numbers from a text conversation. This gives you a starting point to turn conversations into conversions.

You can frequently integrate text with analytics platforms to get data and reports.

Your customers already have the native application for texting on their phones, so they don’t have to download anything. This is either the native Android Messages app or iMessage on iPhones. 

You can send bulk texts.

Cons of text message

Traditional messages, or SMS, are limited to 160 characters. This requires you to use short and concise messages. They also cannot include multimedia. MMS (multimedia messaging service) messages, however, overcome these issues.

The TCPA regulates texting, so you must get opt-ins for any promotional messages. However, this is very easy to do. You can quickly get the opt-in while you collect the texting number.

Most texting can only be done from the customers’ phones, although there are some workarounds. These workarounds, however, require your customers to download software onto their computers.

Texting only allows for one-on-one conversations. You will not find an SMS group messaging system. 

two people sitting down. one sending chat message. the other sending text message

What about chatbots and chatbot marketing?

Whether you decide to use text messaging or chat messaging, you may wonder whether you should use chatbots.

The potential benefits of chatbots seem apparent. They save you time and are highly affordable. Customers can get an instant response, even if they send you a message in the middle of the night or on a holiday. You can also weed out uninterested customers, so your team only spends time with those who are likely to convert. These reasons mean that chatbot marketing remains popular.

But there are some significant downsides to chatbots that make using them a poor decision for most companies. If you are considering a chatbot marketing strategy, you may want to rethink that. Instead, consider outsourcing for a managed chat that uses real people. 

People know when they are talking to a robot

The biggest issue with using a chatbot is that people know. Your customers will recognize that they are talking to a robot and not a real person. This is bad for several reasons. Most importantly, your customers want to speak with an actual person, not a bot. In other words, using chatbots hurts the customer experience.

People associate chatbots with a lower quality of service. This is important because it hurts your reputation as a company. People are more likely to choose your competitor if they aren’t happy with your customer service. They are also less likely to refer new customers to you.

Chatbots don’t have personalization or emotion

Part of the difference that your customers will notice is the lack of personality and emotion with your bot. This impedes your ability to make personal connections with customers.

Those personal connections are important, as they improve the customer experience and increase conversions as well as customer loyalty.

Chatbots have limitations

Chatbots can only understand what they are programmed to deal with. If a customer has an unusual question, they won’t be able to answer it. If the customer phrases something oddly, the chatbot may not understand them, even if a person would.

This may change in the future as artificial intelligence advances. However, even the advanced bots will negatively affect the customer journey. This can turn away potential customers. 

You need to spend a lot to get reasonable features

While you may think that chatbots will save you money by freeing up your team’s time, there is another side to consider. That is the cost of installing and maintaining chatbots. Yes, cheap options are available, but they tend to have minimal features. Choosing a low-cost chatbot will usually reduce the quality of their customer service and their ability to help with a range of situations.

To get the features that help make chatbots worthwhile to consider, you will need to spend more money. At that point, you may not save anything. 

Conclusion: What should your business choose?

Ideally, your business will use a combination of text messaging and chat messaging. This will help you appeal to all of your customers, as some will prefer one over the other. Chat messaging tends to have more features, but many people prefer texting, including business marketing and conversations. To make it even easier to let customers choose their preferred communication method, consider a service like Podium that lets you continue webchat conversations via text. 

Isaiah Rendorio
Isaiah Rendorio Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns

Isaiah Rendorio is the Product Marketing Manager for Podium Campaigns—helping local businesses tap into the power of SMS marketing to strengthen customer relationships, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue.

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