SMS sweepstakes – most important pros and cons

Pros and cons: Should you run SMS sweepstakes?

Last week I was visiting my in-laws and while the coffee was brewing, I was flipping through the articles of a TV magazine, lost in thought. In addition to delicious recipes (simple oven vegetables – perfect for fall), my eyes lingered on a sweepstakes. I already forgot what the prize was, but I remember HOW I could have participated: 

“Send a postcard with your answer to address XY”. 

“Might be  appropriate for the target group” I thought and imagined dozens of colorful postcards with various designs being delivered to the organizers, some poor (or fortunate?) soul who needs to sort them all – but I digress. 

The more important question I asked myself was: Shouldn’t the organizers have offered readers to take part via SMS? 

Therefore, here are our pros and cons on the subject of SMS sweepstakes – and some tips for implementation.

Pro: Why use SMS sweepstakes?

We never tire of telling you how easy it is to reach almost everyone via SMS. No app downloading, no GDPR concerns (if you do it right), just send it – done.

But being able to receive SMS as a business is even better. That goes for SMS sweepstakes, too.

Why? There are a few reasons:

  • All people who use SMS capable cell phones (in Germany) can send you a message just like that. That’s more than 97% of all private households (source: Statista)
  •  …and they don’t even have to go to the mailbox to do it.
  •  SMS are cheaper than postcards
  • …and do not waste paper.
  • SMS are fast, easy and reliable.

And in this particular case, the most important thing:

  • Incoming SMS allow you to make contact with (potential) customers.
SMS sweepstakes can help expand your recipient list

Why is this point so important? Interested parties contact you on their own. In the confirmation SMS, you can ask if you are allowed to send other SMS as well.

Don’t be pushy: it’s a privilege for companies to be able to send SMS to private cell phones. If your potential recipients are interested, they will be happy to comply. Stay transparent and tell your recipients what they can expect.

For more details on how to grow your SMS recipient list, see the How to Grow Your Recipient List with SMS Sweepstakes section.

Con: Where would SMS sweepstakes not make sense?

Although SMS penetrate a large market, it is also clear that the use of cell phones in the older generations is decreasing. In addition, there are people who can read and respond to SMS, but cannot “just send an SMS by themselves” with a very specific content to a number they have not saved as a contact.

About 41% of people older than 65 even own a smartphone. But we all know that having a smartphone and being able to use it extensively is not necessarily the same thing. It’s just something else to have grown up with this kind of technology and communication – or at least to have learned it when it was still important for your job, for example.

Long story short, if your target audience is largely made up of people older than 65, it may not be worth it to enable participation via SMS. Unless you’re launching a tech magazine for an older demographic? There are always exceptions!

If you try it anyway, feel free to let us know how it’s received!

Good to know

The reachability via SMS of people in Germany who are older than 65 is lower than the reachability of 16-64 year olds, but is still around 74%.

Source: Statista

What is necessary to enable sweepstakes participation via SMS?

Of course, there is one requirement if you want to host SMS sweepstakes: You need to be able to receive SMS. And because we want to keep it nice and efficient, you should be able to receive SMS online. This simplifies general communication and makes sure that you always have an overview.

If you want to use our service, you can book an inbound number with us. This number will belong to you, exclusively, and you can use it to send and receive SMS. Received SMS can be found in your journal in the webapp. You can also integrate incoming SMS into other systems via integrations (or directly via our API).

Enter your number as an entry option in your sweepstakes and manage the incoming SMS in a breeze.

How to grow your recipient list with SMS sweepstakes

Let’s be honest here: Usually, companies don’t just want to be nice by hosting sweepstakes – they either generate attention, followers, newsletter subscribers or other desirable events and interactions. SMS sweepstakes are no exception, of course.

So, if you want to increase your list of recipients with the help of SMS sweepstakes, you should pay attention to some details.


This article is for informational purposes only, we cannot and do not provide legal advice.

Please discuss your individual situation with your legal counsel.

What’s best practice? Do not link the opt-in for receiving SMS to conditions, but to offer it in a separate step, as already briefly mentioned above.

In doing so, give your future recipients a brief overview of what they can expect. Do you send 2 SMS/month with exclusive offers and news? One SMS a week with discount codes? Be as transparent as possible. This includes telling your future recipients that they can unsubscribe at any time and showing them where they can do so. Make sure you also repeat this information in your text messages from time to time.

Allowing your customers to choose which type of messaging they opt-in to will not only improve retention rates, but also customer satisfaction. In short, the quality of your recipient list will be much better.

Conclusion: Are SMS sweepstakes useful?

Organizing SMS sweepstakes can make a lot of sense, especially if you want to expand your list of recipients for your SMS newsletter.
But also in “regular” sweepstakes you can offer participation via SMS to enable as many people as possible to participate in a straightforward way. Especially if you place sweepstakes in print media, it makes sense to offer an SMS option.

If you pay attention to some basic rules, it is easy to set up and make the most of sending and receiving SMS.

Do you have any questions or suggestions? We are looking forward to your message.

All the best
Your sms77 team

Header picture by Todor Tsvetkov via iStock

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