This post appeared on the Sinch Blog on April 6, 2021.
If you’re in or you follow the mobile messaging industry, you’ve probably heard of “10DLC.”
And for those of you who are not part of this vast mobile ecosystem, 10DLC is some off-the-wall terminology that doesn’t make much sense.
In the past, only approved short codes (5- or 6-digit numbers) could be used as sender identities for business text messaging. Now, 10DLC is also sanctioned by U.S. mobile carriers. (That said there are still strong cases for short codes, despite the latest volume increases and market visibility on 10DLCs.)
If you have a business, brand, or enterprise, large or small, you’ve probably considered using (or have already used) SMS to reach your customers, partners, or employees. Text messaging has been one of the most utilized communications media ever in terms of reach. The ability to send business text messages using long codes or “regular phone numbers” (e.g., 10DLCs) opens this media up for many, many more businesses and is becoming a new messaging revolution in the United States.
How we got here
Let’s back up a bit and look at some history. 10DLCs for business SMS hasn’t always been the rage – and they were certainly not always sanctioned by the U.S. carriers. Starting in 2008 (and really making an impact in 2009-2010) were a number of new innovative service providers that launched SMS-compatible messaging services using 10-digit phone numbers. These were strictly person-to-person messaging apps, but they still attracted a lot of business attention. They were a disruptive force that became a catalyst for how U.S. business texting evolved.
Between 2010 and 2017, the U.S. CTIA published several revisions that addressed new service providers coming into the U.S. market, using SMS and specifically 10DLCs. For a long time, A2P SMS via 10DLCs was unsanctioned. But on January 19, 2017, the new Messaging Principles and Best Practices was published by the CTIA. 10DLC for business messaging was now officially codified in the official U.S. messaging guidelines. (Since then, the CTIA published a newer revision of Messaging Principles and Best Practices in July 2019.)
Over the next four years, the industry has methodically begun working with U.S. carriers to design business plans to officially launch 10DLC business messaging. In the second half of 2019 and throughout 2020, the potential of 10DLC Business Messaging traffic began to come to fruition at long last.
10DLC business messaging today
If you’ve been frustrated that the U.S. carriers were taking so long to officially approve 10DLC business messaging traffic on their networks, please understand what mobile messaging executive David Diggs made very clear:
“When things go wrong in messaging, people automatically turn to their mobile carrier. It is the carrier who’s on the hook for any bad actors, spam, or other issues a consumer might have, regardless of who is really responsible.” David also noted that “carriers would also hear from policymakers like states attorneys general, regulators and the House and Senate when customers receive unwanted messages.”
Think about that for a second. It’s true: no matter who is at fault, most consumers will turn to their carrier first for remedies. So, the carriers need to be very methodical and careful when dealing with changes to our now more than 20–year–old messaging ecosystem.
Most businesses want to follow the guidelines – to play within the lines, so to speak. Still, there are unfortunately many bad actors who will do everything they can to exploit, hack, or circumvent the industry–standard guidelines and carrier rules. But it’s these policies that keep the billions of messages sent each day virtually spam–free. That’s why the launch of 10DLC sender identifiers in the U.S. market is so groundbreaking. Now all businesses, non-profits, brands, enterprises, schools, governments, churches, and more can use a simple phone number to send non-person-to-person messages.
There are still rules and laws. Don’t forget the TCPA – Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Consumers must opt–in to receive commercial messages and these messages should be wanted. Otherwise, it is spam.
Spam is bad. Spam can ruin a very good medium quickly. These apply to 10DLC messages as much as they apply to short code originated SMS messages.
These policies – from the CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices to carriers’ own rules and even TCPA – are meant to keep mobile messaging clean. They are certainly not in place to undermine usage of 10DLC or prevent businesses from using them. But we need them to keep the ecosystem free from unwanted messaging and bad actors.
To that end, a number of carriers and industry players now support a common registry called The Campaign Registry. The Campaign Registry (TCR) calls itself a reputation authority for business messaging on 10DLC. We should note, as of this writing, not all the major U.S. carriers require registration of brands or service providers in TCR, but this is still fluid. Still, most brands and businesses that send 10DLC traffic today will be registered anyway, as their target consumers are spread among all carriers – not just the ones that reference TCR.
We should also note that toll-free numbers (8xx numbers) are classified as 10DLC numbers as well. The national toll-free registry company Somos is also advancing text-enabling toll-free numbers. Today, there are over 44 million toll-free numbers and at least 10% are already text-enabled. Somos started the Texting & Smart Services (TSS) registry in 2015, after working with CTIA to “find a permanent solution that would be administered by a neutral third party.”
In fact, text-enabled toll-free numbers have been sanctioned and supported by the U.S. carriers for several years – even before carriers started implementing their processes for non-toll-free 10DLCs. They’re a special case, but still part of the 10DLC ecosystem. Adding texting to a business toll-free number opens a number of potential new doors, even above and beyond the ability to “call or text our toll-free number”.
10DLC also enables commercial text messages to/from a business’s own phone number. For example, if a national retail chain has 1,000 locations, each with their own phone number, why not text-enable all of these? That sends a powerful message to consumers. Back to Somos for a moment. They quote some statistics that say 69% of consumers would like the ability to text a business and 39% wished more businesses texted them. And 75% of consumers are frustrated when they can’t reply to business texts.
What might this tell us?
Well, for one: if your business has a phone number, you should look to text–enable it. But more importantly, as firms start to use business texting, they should connect their texting infrastructure to contact centers. Let employees text back – or at least include engagement through a chatbot for common interactions. In other words, make it conversational. With a backend-contact center and possibly a bot ecosystem, you can have so much more interaction and engagement with the customer. That doesn’t happen enough. We as an industry need to work to help that 75% of consumers who can’t reply to a business text.
10DLC is a game-changer for business messaging in the United States – whether it’s existing business numbers (either toll-free or not), or new numbers assigned to them for texting purposes. Today, we see several billion fully approved, sanctioned 10DLC messages flowing through the messaging ecosystem, and we expect that to grow substantially this year and in the foreseeable future.
In that aspect, at least for the United States market, 10DLC business messaging is the first new messaging revolution for this decade.