Building Braze

How Braze SMS Link Shortening Deepens Engagement Insights

By Ian Abels and Donnie Kendall Sep 6, 2023

Today’s customer engagement landscape is a challenging one for marketers. Acquisition costs are rising and consumers are cutting their spending. As the number of digital platforms and technologies continues to grow, there's no longer any single channel that brands can use to reach all of their customers. To keep their audience engaged, marketers need to reach each user with engaging content on their customers’ preferred channels.

SMS is a key part of that equation; after all, it's one of the world's most popular messaging channels. Even though SMS is ubiquitous and has strong engagement, it lacks the built-in engagement metrics available on other mobile messaging channels, complicating marketers' ability to assess the impact and performance of their campaigns.

The Benefits of SMS Link Shortening and User-Level Click Tracking

Enter Braze. This leading comprehensive customer engagement platform powers interactions between consumers and brands they love across mobile, email, SMS, and many other channels. That’s thanks in part to a job-queueing service that processes billions of jobs and sent more than 2.2 trillion messages last year—approximately six billion per day. In addition, Braze leverages Amazon Web Services (AWS) to securely collect, process, and analyze more than a trillion pieces of customer data each month to build live-updating audience profiles and personalize messages in real time.

In keeping with this focus on data and digital messaging, Braze recently built an in-house SMS link shortening and click-tracking solution leveraging AWS DynamoDB and DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX) that is designed to handle up to 27 billion redirects per month between the URL contained in the short links and the recipients’ ultimate destinations. Link shortening and user-level level click tracking have two primary benefits for marketers:

  1. The former feature makes it possible for marketers to automatically shorten URLs, which helps them save space within Braze-powered SMS messages.

  2. Marketers can use data associated with the link clicks to understand campaign performance (e.g. total clicks, click-through rate), retarget users based on past interactions with SMS campaigns, and leverage Braze Intelligence Suite tools, which use data—such as clicks—to determine a user’s most engaged channels.

Read on to learn how Braze built its SMS link shortening feature and the impact it’s already having on marketers and consumers alike.

Building a Custom SMS Link Shortening Solution

SMS is critical to many brands' marketing programs—and marketers today need to understand the performance of this important channel. In fact, URL shortening and click tracking is so critical that many Braze SMS customers have historically chosen to leverage third-party link shortening solutions, rather than going without. However, taking this approach wasn't without its issues. Marketers found that using these third-party tools complicated the SMS composition process, creating inefficiencies, and siloed click metrics from the Braze platform's messaging analytics, making it harder to get a holistic picture of how the channel was performing.

To address these issues, Braze considered multiple options to provide our customers with SMS link shortening capabilities, including integrating these services from a third-party vendor; however, we determined that building the feature in-house made the most sense for our organization and our customers. Building a link shortening solution allowed us to tightly integrate the feature into Braze, ensure we had control over roadmap prioritization, and reduce the risks associated with dependency on a third-party provider. It also let us encode additional information into these short links that couldn't be achieved with any existing mainstream offerings, supporting more efficiency and providing a more impactful offering for our customers.

How Braze Supports SMS Link Shortening

Braze today sends about 200 million SMS messages a month with peak speeds of 2,000 messages per second. So, in order to ensure the scalability of the link shortening feature (and to give it room to grow in the future), we had to be thoughtful about how we designed and structured this new feature. Ultimately, the Braze Product and Engineering team made the call to build out the service that supports our SMS link shortening tool on Go, rather than folding it into the Braze platform’s core Ruby service. This allowed the tool to be deployed and scaled independently, something that’s necessary due to the very different access characteristics associated with the different services. The tool leverages Amazon Web Services’ DynamoDB, DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX), Dynamo Time to Live (TTL), and Route 53’s latency-based routing to allow our system to seamlessly identify if a short link has been created, safely redirect users, and track their behavior in connection with that link, providing a smoother experience for marketers and consumers alike.

Since the launch of the Braze platform’s link shortening tool, we’ve been making strategic updates and adjustments to strengthen the feature. The initial version of the tool shortened links under the domain, but now Braze customers can delegate the custom domain of their choice, allowing them to reinforce their brand identity using their SMS links. We also designed the service so that it could be expanded to other Braze-supported messaging channels, providing a more consistent cross-channel experience.

How Braze SMS Link Shortening Drives Value for Brands

Since it launched in the fall of 2022, hundreds of brands have used shortened links in their SMS campaigns. URLs shortened by this service have been included in more than 700 million Braze-powered SMS messages and 50% of the total SMS volume sent via Braze during the 2022 Black Friday period contained a Braze-shortened URL—even though the feature was only a month old.

Our customers have also seen a tangible reduction in the time it takes to build and send SMS campaigns, freeing up their time to focus on more strategic tasks. The Motley Fool, a financial media company, leveraged SMS link shortening to save their marketing team up to four hours of work each month while driving click rates of approximately 15%, allowing them to validate the ROI associated with their SMS strategy. Another brand used Braze MMS support in tandem with link shortening to nudge users during a key campaign by rewarding them with additional store credits. By leveraging the engagement data collected via the link shortening feature, that company was able to reach users who engaged with follow-up MMS messages while retargeting recipients who didn’t engage on other channels.

Final Thoughts

At Braze, we make a point of building a product that’s accessible to brands of all sizes and sophistication levels. At the same time, we’ve designed our platform to help the most advanced marketers push the boundaries of what’s possible when it comes to highly personalized cross-channel customer engagement. Our SMS link shortening feature, supported by AWS, embodies that vision, seamlessly integrating SMS into our robust cross-channel offering while making it easier for marketers to provide an exceptional user experience while saving time and money.

Interested in learning more about Braze SMS link shortening? Check out this article for the AWS Blog on how we leveraged DynamoDB, Route 53, and other AWS tools to make this key new feature possible.

Ian Abels and Donnie Kendall

Ian Abels, Product Manager, Braze

Ian brings a pragmatic approach to product development. He comes from an engineering background and has helped to onboard a number of the largest Braze customers. In his spare time, Ian enjoys reading and playing music.

Donnie Kendall, Sr. Software Engineer, Braze

Donnie has over a decade of experience building highly-scalable software, both in the cloud and on-prem. Outside of work, Donnie enjoys being a father, traveling, and playing the sax.

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