UK rail passengers will now have the opportunity to access personalised, real-time travel information for their journeys through SMS with Zipabout, as well as on WhatsApp and Messenger.
Following our launch on WhatsApp in 2021, this is another huge step for our personalisation and prediction technology – delivering personalised journey updates to improve the passenger experience and make reliable travel information more accessible for everyone.
So, why have we introduced an SMS option?
If you think SMS is dead in the water, think again. Although many phone users are utilising messaging apps to keep in touch with friends, SMS remains an essential tool in the communications universe. The main reason for this is that SMS is still the most omnipresent channel available.
But what other advantages are there to SMS that messaging apps don’t have?
The majority of messaging apps out there are largely based on social media networks, and social media accounts can naturally be a cause for concern when it comes to protecting your privacy. With SMS, you’re in a private relationship with your operator, so any personal data you provide – like a phone number – is kept secure and totally separate from any social media networks.
SMS is crucial in providing full inclusivity to all. Many people often run out of data or don’t have effective Wi-Fi connections, but an SMS messages are usually unlimited and require none of these things to work. It’s fast and efficient, with messages delivered in a matter of seconds. Not only that, but over 90% of SMS notifications are read within three minutes of being received, making it one of the most direct channels available.
Something else that’s vital to both us as a business and passengers themselves is how secure SMS is. Phones don’t need to be within range of a strong signal to receive a text, so messages will always be delivered safely and quickly. This is hugely important in ensuring people can communicate in any situation, with many new services being introduced that allow people to send and receive SMS messages with no signal or data. Our new safety messaging features, including our Buddy Alert, will be delivered in Spring 2022 by SMS.
An upgraded future version of SMS, RCS lets users send text messages with the same functionality that platforms such as Messenger offer. With it, users can create group chats, share images and videos and see if recipients have read their messages. While RCS is set to replace SMS, large corporations are obstructing it from being available to all phones and networks. Ultimately, RCS should create a richer, more accessible environment to messaging features without the financial pressures of owning an iPhone.
It’s clear that SMS is the preferred method of contact for a large proportion of users, particularly older or more vulnerable people. Due to its simplicity and reach, everyone knows how to open, read and send an SMS message. And SMS messages are often concise and straight to the point – without the influx of notifications or interactions that often come with messaging apps.
Different abilities can lead to different channels being appropriate. Much of our research up to now has shown that many users struggle to use smart phones or rely on 3rd party devices to read and dictate messages, often using special handsets. SMS is a necessary lifeline for these people, offering a user-friendly tool that comes with zero complications or frequent updates.
For the most part, 4G or 5G is now a basic requirement in running mobile apps and messaging platforms. But SMS can still be used when these aren’t available. This is particularly important in rural areas and for much of the rail network where data isn’t always within easy reach. SMS provides a much-needed fallback.
There are many instances in which an anonymous profile is crucial. If someone is fleeing from a dangerous situation or needs to speak to someone in confidence, SMS messaging is much more discreet than social media. This is because SMS requires less sensitive data and movements can’t be tracked or monitored – unlike the majority of social media accounts that personal details are linked to.
In short, SMS is reliable, user-friendly and seamless – and with 65 million mobile phone users in the UK, that’s nearly 96% of the population with the same go-to tool at their fingertips.
Most businesses will choose apps to interact with their customers as opposed to SMS. And while apps can be useful, there’s a variety of problems with them that can not only confuse or test customers but deter them all together. Apps need to be downloaded, interpreted, updated and signed up to. But what do all phones automatically come built with? SMS.
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With its messaging numbers now soaring into the millions each month, UK rail has fundamentally changed the way transport operators engage with passengers, to the benefit of all.