Think twice about Alpha Headers

November 29, 2020

Alpha's are OK for Transactional Messaging. However, as you start to look at Text Message Marketing -

The more you know about send text using  Alpha headers,  the less likely you will want to risk your brand and brand future opportunity by using them .

Increasingly SMS and MMS are being used as marketing and CX tools. Texts long history has been as transactional messaging such as appointment reminders, delivery advice or two factor authentication.  As Text Message Marketing (TMM) develops as a major channel for marketers,  conversational commerce using the 2WAY capability  of the SMS and MMS channel will develop as another key differentiation feature the channel brings.  Before Covid we were seeing an acceleration in adoption of SMS and MMS for customer engagement as a marketing tool, not just as a platform/channel for delivering transactional messaging.  Growth  has continued as the usage and acceptance of SMS and MMS has taken off  during Covid.  Over 93% of consumers perfer a text conversation with a business than a phone call or an email.  Already we are talking to clients about text based conceirge. The direct to inbox messaging channel is forecast to grow rapidly as its acceptance increases.  All of these pictures  are examples SPAM –  the Auspost one very  scary – as it has come in on the back of the genuine Alphaheader message from Auspost.  If you want your SMS and MMS  communications to be trusted – PLEASE DON’T USE ALPHA HEADERS – as SPAMMERS can use your brand to build false trust with your customers, to extract information and commit fraud – and in the process tarnish your brand.  If you respect your customers and want to have a trust and respect based relationship – ONLY send from verifiable dedicated numbers.

This JBHiFi example is very scary in it is so plausible. The receiver did actually register with JB HiFi the week before to get an electronic copy of a receipt.  However, they knew there was no package waiting.   How scary is this – one click to a bad link that could have sucked all the personal  data off their phone and -  BINGO - exposure.  No organisation is exempt from SPAMMERS pretending to be your brand – unless you make a commitment to a dedicated mobile number that can be tracked and replied to for all marketing correspondence.  

Number 1.

Alpha headers can be copied. Example that will give you chills:  A product was  purchased from JBHiFi the other day and the person at the checkout asked if the preferred was aa paper receipt or delivered to my phone.  We asked for the phone - I asked would they be using the number for any other purpose - the person said I don't know. I still gave it.  It was our founder that  received the receipt, and JBHiFi had gone to all the trouble to send me an SMS from the alpha header JBHiFi telling me that if I pushed this link, they would send me a code to get my receipt. Which I did, the code arrived, I entered it on the JBHiFi site and I received my receipt.  However, then, days later, from the same Alpha Header, I received this clear phishing attempt, which is SPAM, and The SPAMMER/PHISHING attempt was clear to me a scam, because it didn't have an OPT OUT REPLY STOP. So I didn't open it.....BUT what if I had..... ? I could have had their crap installed on my phone, lost all my data, or worse had them troll my phone for personals. I am not over reacting here folks - 50% of all malware on phones comes from attacks like this.

Number Two.

The client can't reply to an alpha header - the number is not traceable. If you send from your dedicated number - the client knows its you, and will trust the messages that come from you in the future into their text inbox. Build your firms true identity in the phones of your clients. Build your brand in their hand.

Number Three: -

A phone number gives you a chance at two way conversational commerce, and if they could reply to you, and involve you in a conversation - its cheaper than a phone call, and it is the way they want to be communicated with.

Number Four.

Not all networks guarantee to deliver ALPHA headers for larger messages like MMS. You can still be charged by your TXT supplier - but some networks will not guarantee delivery of MMS if an alpha header is sent not a number

Number Five:

2018 will be a BIG year for instant messaging your clients - make sure you set yourself up with the right foundations - and don't create phishing holes for spammers who want to use your brand to SPAM.

As further support:

  1. Alpha's can't be replied to, so are viewed as higher risk by receivers
  3. Alpha's can't be replied killing 2way responses, text commerce and low friction acivity
  5. Alpha's are being phased out in USA
  7. Alpha's are the target of all SPAM and Phishing attacks
  9. Better to build the brand under a recognised send number, using SMS doubles, MMS and VCARD - and build your brand property in your clients phone

In the eyes of the customer, anything you can't reply to has a stigma and  can be viewed as potentially  "a bit smelly"

There is massive brand exposure to phishing as per the examples  -  and it takes about 6 lines of code to be able to send from a fake ID as an  auth'd message.

To be brutally frank - MobileDigital  have lost sales because we refused to offer  Alpha headers, as we believe it puts the sellers brand at risk, and for the benefit -  its just not worth iot.

As a very painful example -  Tiffany & Co, asked for it and we refused and told them to go somewhere else - that is how strongly we feel.

  • The biggest risk with using Alpha's is identity / brand fraud risk  - it only takes a few lines of code to pretend to be an alpha message from Country Road
  • Many countries have banned using Alpha's for that reason and it will come here, Canada and USA rules prevent alpha, UK still allows.
  • Using Alpha's means you can't reply, this is an issue when you are trying to build to 1:1 relationship
  • If  your clients cant reply direct to the SMS or MMS, the there is a trust diminishing factor,
  • Your brand cuts itself off from 2WAY  - conversational commerce.
  • Going forward we believe 2WAY text selling will be a huge opportunity as digital engagement becomes the norm for many - with 2WAY  SMS and MMS selling through dedicated personal shopper's exchanging chat with clients, sending pics opf products, making pricing offers and sending them a link to click to make the purchase
  • There are some brands who choose to make opt out hard by using Alpha, this also we see as short sighted, when the mobile client wants trust and honesty

We are very strong in our belief in building the brand relationship in the clients phone, through trusted sends and always a  2way response path for the receiver  is more trusted and superior.

We hold the proposition  that  once an authentic MMS has been received in the mobile users phone, from a  dedicated number, identity and trust have been established  and all messages either SMS MMS or push will be recognised as legitimate and valued and calls to action trusted.

As we experience the  increased adoption and growth in this channel as a customer engagement and  marketing tool,  marketers will need to consider if their transactional messaging partner has the platform that can support the shift from simple one way  transactional SMS  messaging to offer a rich function  inhouse  platform for mobile customer engagement.

Organisations  will need to consider the  difference between  a simple SMS one directional send mailbox,  and the importance of working with a messaging partner with a full featured platform that supports data management, both SMS and MMS,  integrations to CRM's,  provides a dedicated send and receive 2way messaging,  as well as ongoing  number validity checks and provides delivery receipts.

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