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Do Texts With Photos Generate a Higher CTR? Here Are the Results From Our A/B Test

We split a subscriber list in two and sent each half an identical campaign—only one had a photo and the other didn't. Here's how each campaign performed.

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Back in 2015, Forrester analyzed more than 2,000 posts and close to 12 million user interactions between social media users and the top 50 global brands. From this data, they concluded that most interactions with brands happen on Instagram. When you look at the chart, you can see that it wasn’t even close.

Fast forward five years, and some things have certainly changed. For one, Google+ was shut down just under a year ago, and #DeleteFacebook became a thing. Amongst the upheaval, the steady growth of Instagram––hitting 1 billion monthly active users last June––has been a constant.

We know what you’re thinking; you clicked into this article wanting to learn whether you should send your audience texts with photos. And we’ll get there. The point we are making here is that the visual nature of Instagram helped it conquer social media. Likewise, clever use of images in texts can help you conquer text marketing.

If you are still not convinced, take a look at the results of an A/B test we ran recently.

A 52% Higher Click-Through-Rate With an MMS Message

Like all marketers, we have a penchant for a good ol’ fashioned A/B test. In this instance, we wanted to see if we could get some real data on whether people were more likely to click a link if the text included a photo (an MMS message).

If you’re a little confused as to what an MMS message is, don’t worry. MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service and was built using the same technology as SMS. It enables you to send multimedia content like images, audio, GIFs, and video files.

(If you want to know more about the difference between MMS and SMS, this article will answer all your questions.)

How We Ran an SMS Versus MMS A/B Test

The Barn Bowl & Bistro use text marketing to respond to downtimes and bring in customers immediately. Mike Sawyer, The Barn’s General Manager, has been a SimpleTexting customer for roughly three years but has never sent an MMS picture message to his audience.

We figured he was a perfect candidate to test our hypothesis, which was quite simple: The same text with an image will generate more engagement. To measure engagement, we planned to look at the click-through rate (CTR) of the messages.

Thankfully Mike was game. He told us he was sending out a campaign to promote his weekly Indian night that he would be happy to A/B test. A/B tests are something that most of our customers associate with email or social media ads, but it’s possible to use them to improve your text messaging strategy too.

To run the A/B test, we took The Barn’s main subscriber list and split it up into two random groups. Then we used the same copy on both messages, only including an image in one of the text messages. We also made sure to use SimpleTexting’s link tracking feature to ensure we could calculate the CTR once the messages sent. 

We then scheduled both texts to go out at the same time. Here are the SMS and MMS side by side.

The Results

Even though we expected the text with the photo to perform better than the SMS, we were surprised by just how significant the increase was. The MMS message had a 5% CTR, 52% higher than the text with no image. It also happened to be the highest CTR on any of The Barn’s campaigns to date.

When Should You Include a Photo With Your Text?

While including images in your text messages can improve CTRs, it might not make sense in all circumstances. For example, if you are reminding someone that their dry cleaning is ready for pick up, you probably don’t need to send them a picture. 

Conversely, certain industries will benefit more from including photos. It’s clear from our A/B test that food is one such industry. The same can be said for e-commerce, tourism, real estate, and any other highly visual vertical. 

If you want to know when you should include a photo with your text, here are some examples to help you understand when it makes a ton of sense. 

1. Show Off Your Product

If you want people to engage with your product, sometimes it can be best to show and not tell. These picture messages should use only the best product photography and include a short call-to-action such as a promo code or free shipping.

Image for sending MMS
Hello Spring! Check out our stunning and stylish new spring dress range

2. Special Announcements and News

If your business has a special announcement or news, then you can generate even more excitement by including visual content. This approach makes a ton of sense if your special announcement revolves around a product or service launch.

Image for sending MMS
We think you deserve a vacation. Get the best deals from our new TravelPlans mobile app for 3 days only:

3. Recovering Abandoned Carts

If you sell online, you could use MMS when sending messages to customers about abandoned shopping cart products. It could include the image of the item and gently remind customers that it’s time to purchase. (We recently wrote about abandoned shopping carts in great detail here.)

Image for sending MMS
Hi: It’s Coffee Roasters ☕ Still want freshly roasted coffee straight to your door? Finish your purchase here

4. Event Invitations

If you’re hosting an event, you can send a visual of what to expect, enticing people to attend. You can even ask recipients to RSVP with a “Yes” or “No.”

Image for sending MMS
You are cordially invited to our March 8th Social Media Lunch and Learn @ 2pm in JTs. It’s a special Afternoon Tea edition! Will you be attending? (yes or no)

5. Running Competitions

Creating good content is one of the most significant challenges for marketers out there. You could run a contest where you give away free products or services in return for user-generated content. 

For example, you could ask customers to text you photos of them using your product. You can share these photos across your marketing channels.

Image for sending MMS
Competition time! Reply with your gnarliest picture of our surfboards in action. We’ll post the best pics to our Instagram @waveriders. Most comments = win a free softech thruster.

6. For a Personal Touch

If you are a realtor, you could send your clients pictures of houses or features that they like. Supporting this kind of personal communication is one thing that picture messages can help you achieve.

Image for sending MMS
As we help you find your dream home, we’ll text you pictures of houses that we think will be right up your alley. Let us know what you think of this 4-bed in a Thousand Oaks.

7. Send Mobile Coupons

MMS coupons have a redemption rate up to eight times higher than coupons attached to emails. Given that 98% of text messages are opened, it’s a recipe for success.

Image for sending MMS
The first 50 people who show this image on their phone at checkout receive 20% off their entire purchase.

The bottom line is that people respond well to images, so it’s not surprising that text messages with pictures drive more engagement. Our A/B test confirmed our hunch. 

The truth about what’s more effective for you will depend on your industry and use-case. We assume that MMS performs better in the vast majority of cases, but we can only recommend that you test it yourself.

And if you do run a test, send us your results (, and we’ll update this blog with more real-world examples!

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson

Drew Wilkinson is the Head of Marketing at SimpleTexting. Drew has more than a decade of experience managing successful integrated marketing programs to build brands, raise awareness, and generate demand.

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