SMS with OneSignal

An introduction to OneSignal's latest and greatest channel, SMS.

OneSignal's Product Marketing Manager, Eva Wei, and OneSignal's Product Manager Sandeep Niwas will be going over OneSignal's latest product launch, SMS! Backed by industry-leading Twilio, OneSignal's SMS enables you to reach a global audience even if you don't have an app. The transcript of the webinar can be found below.



Eva: This meeting will be recorded and you'll be able to access this and share with other people in a couple of days once we have it online. So, start off. Hey everyone. Thanks for joining today. I'm Eva, and I'm the Product Marketing Manager here at OneSignal. With me today, we have our Product Manager Sandeep. I'm really excited to introduce you to OneSignal's SMS product. I'll start off with an overview in SMS. Sandeep we'll do a live demo and then we'll end with a Q and A. So let's dive right in.

OneSignal is a centralized platform for your communication and messaging needs. Now, we're super excited that SMS has joined our suite of products along with mobile and web push, in- app messaging, and email.

Why is SMS Important?

SMS is becoming an increasingly important part of effective multi-channel marketing. As you think about adding SMS to your messaging channels, there are definitely a lot of reasons why you should. First of all, SMS is very effective. It has the highest open engagement rates of all the messaging channels. Consumers who opt in to text messages, they really want to hear from you.

SMS is also direct and immediate. 97% of texts are actually read within 15 minutes. So, that's some crazy high engagement rates. When customers see those texts, they actually act on it as well. We found that customers who get coupons through texts actually redeem coupons 10 times more than other types of other coupons. For example, through email. SMS is a proven channel to drive both sales and revenue. This is especially true for retail and food and beverage companies.

Right now, SMS is also the only way to communicate with your customers in a mobile-first way without an app. If you use mobile push or in-app messaging, you know that both of them require you to have an app. Some companies who don't have an app, they're not really able to engage with their customers in a mobile-first way.

With SMS, you can still be mobile-first when you don't have an app and for those companies where customers haven't downloaded your app. For our customers who have a large international audience, SMS will also reach people who don't have a smartphone, which is still the majority of the world's population.

Another major benefit for SMS that I think is really interesting is it can really help you bridge the gap between the online and the offline, if both are part of your business. An example would be, you can announce a new store opening, you can send a special offer, and then that will really drive in-person visits to your physical location. As you can see, SMS marketing has a lot of potential to increase engagement and drive results for your business.

I'm sure you're all at different points in your decision journey. When you're ready to add SMS to your marketing mix, OneSignal will definitely be the right choice for you. We can solve your messaging needs across multiple products with one powerful platform. We're centralized, so you have your users and your data together across multiple products. It's really powerful to have everything in one place and not have to switch between different providers.

We've also been built with a wide range of users in mind, both technical and non-technical. You can build your texts in a really easy-to-use dashboard and customize your messaging with emojis, images, video, and all without any code required. I want to re-emphasize this benefit because you'll find a delivery provider such as Twilio. They're API only, so you don't even have the option to create a text without going into your code in your backend.

OneSignal also offers pretty easy personalization. You can use data tags to personalize your messaging content. You're really tailoring the right messaging and bringing in information that's specific to your individual customers.

Segments also enable you to create custom audiences. So you're blasting a specific target instead of blasting the same message to everyone. Also, we have a built-in dashboard that will report on delivery statistics.

SMS Use Cases

Here, we'll quickly cover some example use cases. Right now, our SMS product is best suited for broadcast messaging. One main example is a company that wants to send a promotion or an offer. For example, a retailer that wants to send a coupon to be redeemed, or you can link to a private sale. You can use this as an opportunity to really craft these special promotions for your SMS audience specifically.

Another example would be a company that wants to communicate announcements. For example, if you are a media and entertainment company and you want to broadcast that your artist or band is coming to town or a show, it'd be great to blast your engaged email base of people who already have told you that this is their favorite artist.


Another example would be just to broadcast any general reminders and updates. For example, a school that's giving updates on when campus is open. For example, they can say, "We have a snow day. School is close."

These are just some main use case examples, but really any sort of messaging where you're broadcasting announcements for your user base can be served by SMS.

I want to really quickly note. Our pricing, we're currently offering an introductory free trial. Now is the perfect time to explore whether SMS makes sense in your marketing mix. SMS at OneSignal is accessible to everyone, regardless of a plan. I do want to note that you will need to pay Twilio per SMS sent, and that'll depend on who you're actually sending your messages to.

Now, after hearing so much about SMS, I'm sure you're super excited to see how it works and I'll hand it over to Sandeep to demo SMS in action.

Demoing SMS Within the Platform

Sandeep: Cool. Thank you, Eva. Welcome again, everyone. Really thankful that you folks could join us today to understand and learn more about how the OneSignal SMS works. Let me share my screen so that we can directly jump onto a live demo here. I hope you all can see the screen now.

This is what Twilio console looks like. I'll start with what you need from Twilio to actually get those details and set up on OneSignal. And then we'll jump on OneSignal and look into more details on how to set up Twilio, on how to add or import your subscribers, and then how to create and send SMS and look at the delivery statistics as well.

First, looking at Twilio. It's very simple to create an account on Twilio. You just need to provide some very basic details. Twilio offers you some initial balance so that you can try out Twilio as well. Here is the Twilio console, the dashboard. You see over here, we have the Account SID and Auth Token. Both these are required for you to set up Twilio on OneSignal.

Before I jump on to the setup site, let me quickly give you a few more details on what is required on Twilio. One of the important things is that you need to buy phone numbers, the phone numbers that you would use to send SMS. Over here on Twilio, you can click on phone numbers and click on Buy a Number, and select what your preference is based on what the number starts with or ends with and things like that. You have some preferences over there. Twilio charges some very minimal charge on these phone numbers every month.

However, if you have a trial account, if you are not yet ready to upgrade, then you need to use the verified caller IDs. What we mean by that is, on trial account, you can only send SMS to verified numbers. You cannot use a trial Twilio account to broadcast SMS for marketing purposes. All those numbers have to be verified.

The last point that I would like to share before we go to OneSignal is how to send international SMS. Over here on Twilio, go to Programmable Messaging. There we have the Settings and Geo Permissions, and you can select the countries to which you would like to send your international SMS. So this is about Twilio.

Now, going back to the dashboard. As you saw over here, we have an Account SID and Auth Token, and we'll copy these to use on our OneSignal setup. Now, this is the OneSignal dashboard that you must be familiar with, and you can choose an existing application and add SMS to it. For example, I have this test app. You can go to Settings and you can see SMS over here, and you can add those details that we just now copied.

But for the purpose of this particular demo, let's create a new app for SMS. We'll create one demo SMS app. You can add it to your paid organization or that's not required. Under More Options, you will see SMS as an option. Next, configure your platform in the same place where we got earlier from an existing app. You copy the Account SID that we just have copied previously. We copied the Auth Token, and that's it.


Now, whatever phone numbers that you have purchased on Twilio previously will automatically be fetched and shown to you over here in that list. You can choose one default number which will most probably be used by you when you are trying to send an SMS, but you can change that phone number anytime you want.

Next, you click on Test. You can enter your phone number over here just to make sure that the configuration is successful. Just to avoid everyone in the world to see my phone number, I would just enter some dummy number over here and send a test message. Within 10 seconds, you should get a successful message, something like this. If you can see this screen over here, you will be getting this image, the test SMS from OneSignal. If you see this, your setup was successful. We'll see this message once you click on the testing.

Once you're done with that, click on Finish, and you'll come to the SMS dashboard. Now, what we have done is, your setup is successful. The next step is, of course, for you to import your subscribers, phone subscribers, or the users that have provided their phone numbers to you. How do we do that?

Now under Audience, you click on All Users. Under Actions, we have this import or update users. We have added this import phone number CSV over here. Now you can upload that CSV. I'll share how to do that. The one thing that you would need to remember here is that, this particular CSV should only have two columns: phone number exactly in this particular format and external user ID, without the quotes that these are in.

The second thing that you should remember is that the phone numbers should be in E.164 format. It has to have a plus sign, a country code and the phone number. OneSignal and Twilio require you to have phone numbers properly defined.

Now let's jump on to what exactly a CSV looks like. Here is an example. External user ID, as I said, that has to be in one of the columns and other would be phone number. External user ID in OneSignal's world means a unique ID that you have to easily identify your end user. Over here I'm just using Sandeep as my name over here, and a dummy phone number, which I'm not going to use later to send the SMS to show it to you, but just for your reference. You can download that as a comma-separated CSV, and we will upload that CSV now. Excellent.

External user ID and phone number detected, everything looks fine. What you can do now is, if you want, if you prefer, you can create a segment right from this uploaded CSV file. Now, let's say we want to name or create a segment for this particular user and add a tag as well that says 'SMS customers on December 9'. I'll just create this tag and a segment, confirm and import, and I'll get an email confirmation. But we can just check it over here as well. It takes a few seconds. Let me see if we already have it. Excellent.

You see, I added this phone number. I don't see the segment external ID over here. So let's select that. Apply. Here you go. There is a phone number that we just now uploaded with external ID Sandeep and the segment 'SMS customers on December 9' that we added as well while we were uploading.

Personalizing Content within SMS

The next step after importing your basic phone numbers and adding the external ID is that you want to personalize your content. You want to provide or add more details to this particular user. Now for that, what you need to do is go to Actions, Import Update. Over here, we have the Update Users, and you can upload a CSV.

In this particular case, what we are going to do is we'll use the other CSV as an example. You always need to enter either an external user ID or a player ID, that is the unique ID for that particular record. In this case, we know that Sandeep is the external user ID. Let me add a few more details to this user. First name, Sandeep, last name.


Just as an example, I made a purchase. So purchase equals to true, and I want to send, for example, this particular user some discount code for holiday shopping, but which holiday type. So let's add this as Black Friday. I'll again do the same thing. Go to file, download, and comma-separated values as CSV.

I'll go back to my import or upload CSV part. This time, the Update Users because we are updating the user, of course. Upload CSV. This is the new file that we just downloaded. As you see, the external user ID was detected. We did not include any player ID. There were four custom tags: first name, last name, purchase, and holiday type. There's just one row detector. You get a preview of sorts from this CSV.

The same way that we earlier did like added a segment or created a tag, we can do that over here as well. Now what we can do is, let's add a new tag and create a new segment. Let's say, 'Black Friday Discount Code'. This will create a segment, separate segment. Also, we'll add a tag to the record. Again, confirm and import, done. Same thing, we'll wait for a few seconds to see if our tags get updated. It takes a few seconds. Excellent.

Again, so we have the segment created 'Black Friday Discount Code'. We have first name, last name, purchase, holiday type, et cetera, added over there.

The next step that we want to do is, of course, now we want to send the SMS, but to whom exactly? This user is there, but we are not going to, of course, send a message to each and every user. We want to create a segment. In this case, I've already created one, but let's look at the process as well.

Creating Segments for SMS

In the Segments, we will create a new segment. We'll name it, let's say 'Black Friday Discount Code'. Let's do that, 'SMS customers for Black Friday'. We'll create this segment. One thing that you would want to do is, under Device Type, we have added this if device type is SMS. That's how we recognize the phone numbers or the phone records. In this case, we got one record, but again, you will have multiple records.

So now we will use another tag that we just now created, which was 'Black Friday Discount Code'. We created this 'Black Friday Discount Code' tag. We added that to the user. If that says true… oops, zero user this for this one. Or let's say we added the other one. I'll have to check if we name the tag value exactly like this. But you see over here, I think the Total User Estimate, just for the purpose of this demo, we'll get that detail over here like how many users are there in this particular segment that we have created, and we can create this segment that gets created.

The next step that you can do is, at the bottom of this list, you'll see that we have the latest segment that we created with 'SMS customers for Black Friday'. We have the two other segments that we created as part of the import CSV.

I'll stop over here. Just to summarize, what we have seen so far is what Twilio looks like, how to get those details on OneSignal to set up your SMS, and how to import your phone subscribers and add additional data tags and segmentation for those users.

Now, the next quick step is, of course, for us to send SMS. In this case, what we'll do is I'll use this app where I have already added my phone number, and we'll go to Messages tab. If you're familiar with one single dashboard, this is how it looks like. We have added this SMS as a new tab. Click on SMS over here. Because this is the first time you're sending a message, we'll create a new SMS.


Now, Send To Subscribe Users or Send To A Particular Segment. In this case, we'll send to a particular segment that we have added just now, 'SMS customers for Black Friday'. Let's add this.

Next, what we have to do is, again, as I said, previously, we have selected this number as a default number that you have on your Twilio account, but you can choose a different number on your Twilio account if you want to send your SMS from a different number.

Now, the next one, what we can do is sending the SMS. Let's say, "Hi Sandeep, enjoy additional 20% off on your Black Friday shopping with the code Holiday2020. Partyyyyyy!!!!" So this is what you can do. Over here, you can add 10 media files. You can add an image. You can add audio, video as well.

Let's search for something that is relevant. You have this web image you can search and you can upload from your computer, from Facebook, Google Drive, multiple places. Let's search for something that's related to shopping. We'll use this image. Save it. And there you go.

Now, one important thing that I would like to, of course, talk about over here is that, in this case, I've added my name and specific Black Friday shopping, but you can personalize your messages over here. The way you can do that is, in place of my name, what I will do is I'll add liquid templating. If you remember, we added the first name as one of the tags, so I'll use that. And I'll use default. What'll happen now is that, if any particular record has a first name tag already updated, then it will get replaced by that. Otherwise, we'll just replace that by default of their content.

Now, the other thing that we can do is we were using a holiday type as other tags. So let's use that as well. Holiday type, which in this case on our CSV, we had this as Black Friday. This will get replaced. Again, we'll add default as, let's say Holiday. And we are done. You can send it immediately or at a specific time. It's up to you.

But another cool functionality that we have added is send a test SMS. Over here, when you click on this one, you can add again your number, your personal number, and we'll send this content that you are seeing right now on the preview over here to your phone number so that we can quickly verify if everything looks good on your phone. And review and send. Over here is going to be sent to one recipient, send that message.

This is the delivery statistics that we are going to show you. In this case, let's refresh this. This is how many were to Twilio, how many were delivered, et cetera. You must have heard that beep just now. I got that message. I'll show it to you in a minute.

OneSignal Delivery Statistics

OneSignal delivery statistics is what OneSignal tries to send to Twilio and how many of those messages were sent or returned or rejected by Twilio, or how many are still remaining in our queue. On the right-hand side is Twilio delivery statistics, which is Twilio then try to deliver to end-user via various carriers. So where exactly those messages are delivered, was there any unsubscribed user, was there any carrier-related issues, things like that. In this case, this got delivered and you see over here the remaining. Let’s refresh this. And we have delivered over here.

I wasn't sure if I would be able to show it to you or not. If you can see the screen, let me know. Can you folks see the screen? Eva, you tell me. I'm not sure. This is the message that I got just now. No, not yet? Anyways, so that's the reason I actually took a screenshot previously. This is how it looks. "Hi Sandeep, this is the code that you get for your Black Friday shopping, et cetera."


This was the live demo that we had. Let me quickly go over a few things that you need to keep in mind that you need to have a paid Twilio account. For marketing purposes, you need to upload your CSV with your subscribers and with your data tags for personalization. Of course, as I said, previously, you need to have your phone numbers in E.164 format.

Currently, we only support long codes or regular phone numbers. Short codes messaging service, et cetera, the support is coming soon. For multimedia messages, MMS, where you can add images or video and audio, it's only supported in the US and Canada, and Twilio replaces that with a link if it's any other country.

Twilio automatically handles any default opt-outs from your users, if they reply with stop, block, et cetera. Twilio handles that. OneSignal doesn't have that facility right now. The last one is that the current product, the MVP that we have released, only supports one-way messaging. You can only send or broadcast messages. We will not be able to capture the response from the users.

API and SDK support is coming soon. The last one is web prompt where we are making some changes so that on your website, you can actually create or add these prompts to capture your phone number, or user’s phone numbers. They can directly add it over there.

With that, ladies and gentlemen, that was the live demo that we had for you. If you have any questions after this session, please reach out to Also, if you are an existing OneSignal customer, we have the chat option as well at the bottom. We have an excellent support team. They will reply back to you as soon as possible.

With that, I will stop the sharing or let's continue with that. I'll look at what exactly are the questions that folks might have.


Looking at the question, what mobile number collection mechanism do you recommend for pop-ups?

So, first of all, I would like to say that we currently don't have a mobile number collection mechanism, and that's what the web prompts were. Otherwise, pop-ups in today's world seem very, very intrusive and we have a really good slide-down prompt and a category slide-down. We are working on extending that to support SMS as well. You will see that soon.

Next one, are short codes and alpha center ID supported?

We have already answered that. That support is coming soon. We don't have that right now.

Do users have to give you permission to SMS them?

Yes, they do. The responsibility lies with our customers, people like you, to actually get those permissions. OneSignal and Twilio will not be responsible if you misuse the platform in any way. The other way to look at this is that, the end users have a very easy way to actually unsubscribe or stop those messages. Twilio takes care of those, as I said previously.

Does the test SMS have to be truly a verified number?

Yes, if you are on a trial account with Twilio.

We'll take two more questions quickly. Can subscribers opt-out by replying stop?

Already answered that. Yes, they can.

How to access a premium service?

I'm not sure what that question is. If it means like OneSignal SMS is a premium service or not, then as Eva mentioned, we are offering an introductory free trial until February 2021. All our accounts - Free, Pro, Growth - all the accounts get the full functionality, but you need to have a paid Twilio account to do that.

Are custom keywords supported? I guess you are referring to the custom tags or the data tags that we looked at in the demo. But if that's what you meant, then yes, of course, you can upload a CSV with data tags to personalize your content, and then use liquid templating though, the curly basis, and the default content that way we have that.

So those were few questions. We'll stop for the timing for this particular demo. We'll wrap it up over here. As I said previously, feel free to reach out to our support team via our website or from your dashboard, and really, really appreciate you all joining us today. Thanks a lot. Hope to chat with you folks again soon