Breaking down 10-digit long codes (10DLC), short codes, and toll-free numbers

Margie Kupfer

There has been a lot of change in the US Application to Person (A2P) messaging ecosystem recently as it relates to short codes, toll-free numbers, and 10DLC (10-digit long codes). These long-anticipated changes are a critical milestone the industry has been eagerly awaiting as it will create greater trust in the messaging ecosystem.

However, it can be confusing to know what type of messaging solution is right for your business. You may be wondering what the differences are between the various types of A2P messaging sender IDs, and which work best for your company and use case. Each option has its benefits and limitations, but one of these could be better suited to your business needs than the other, so it’s important to understand the main differences between them.

Key considerations for the messaging solution should include your use case, volume, throughput, delivery tracking, and registration costs, as well as any additional capabilities you may need such as voice or MMS.

What are short codes?

A short code is a phone number, typically between five and six digits, used to send and receive text messages. It allows your customers to receive marketing communications and promotions, as well as interact with your brand by engaging in workflows that handle typical customer use cases.

For example, if you’re a retail pharmacy, your customer can interact with your short code to complete routine tasks such as requesting prescription refills or signing up for pick up reminders (e.g. Text REFILL to 12345 to refill your prescription). Or, if you’re a retailer, you can promote your short code for customers to gain access to exclusive deals (e.g. Text SUMMER to 67890 to receive 40% off your purchase).

What are 10-digit long codes?

A long code, on the other hand, is a phone number with the same length as standard mobile or landline numbers (typically a 10-digit number in many countries). In the past, business messaging traffic over long codes was sent over the carriers’ P2P networks, which limited them to very low throughputs and restrictions on use from the carriers. With the release of 10DLC, carriers in the US have rolled out requirements to register senders and their campaigns, which allows higher messaging throughput on 10DLCs and improves message delivery.

10DLC numbers offer the unique benefit of a localized experience, which can be ideal for local business outreach, as it may be a number your customer already recognizes and engages with over voice. Businesses may be able to enable existing phone numbers for texting programs.

What are toll-free numbers?

Texting over a toll-free number allows businesses to engage with their customers via two-way messaging using an existing business toll-free phone number. With toll-free messaging, your customers will be able to reach out to you by text using the same number they use to call you. By simply adding “Text or Call” next to your marketing materials, you can build awareness and equity in your toll-free numbers ensuring higher customer engagement via texting.

Additionally, toll-free numbers allow vanity codes that will make them easy to remember like 855-IMIMOBL. Although toll-free messaging is generally preferred for customer service and notifications such as account and fraud alerts, it also allows for many other use cases such as marketing and promotional offers and has a better setup time and setup cost compared to short codes.

Benefits and limitations

Now that we’ve covered the basics, what are the limitations and benefits for each of these three messaging solutions? Take a look at the following infographic and compare for yourself.

The bottom line

If your company's campaign requires sending a high volume of messages, it's best to use short codes. However, if you're just looking for a customer support phone number to handle complaints and feedback, it's best to use long codes. Whether you choose to use long code or short code messaging for your business communication, sending a text message is a powerful way of building strong relationships with your customers.

If you would like to learn more about how your business can use 10DLC and short codes to improve customer engagement, leave your details with us via the contact us page and we'll be in touch.