What Is a Non-Vanity Short Code?
A non-vanity short code, or as referred to by the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) as a random short code, is a 5-6 digit phone number that is randomly selected by the CSCA, rather than specifically select by a brand. These non-vanity short codes cost $500/month to lease, while a dedicated short code costs $1,000/month to lease.
It's very common for newcomers to SMS marketing to confuse the difference between vanity and non-vanity short codes, with dedicated short codes and shared short codes. To be clear, when starting an SMS marketing campaign, the first choice you have to make is whether you're going to use a dedicated short code, or a shared short code. For more information on the difference between these two short codes, click here.
Once you've decided between a dedicated short code or a shared short code, you'll then need to decide on whether that short code will be a vanity short code, or a non-vanity short code. If you're going to use a shared short code, the choice between a vanity or non-vanity short code will already have been made for you, as the owner of the short code would have previously made this decision when purchasing the short code. If you decide to use a dedicated short code, meaning it's your own short code, you'll get the option between selecting a vanity or non-vanity short code.
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If you've decided to use a dedicated short code, and you want to select a non-vanity, or random short code, you'll first have to apply to lease a non-vanity short code. Once the application has been approved, you'll then have to pay the $500/month required to lease the non-vanity short code. Once the short code lease payment has been received, the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) will randomly select a 5 or 6 digit short code for you to use.
This short code selection process done by the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) is a completely random process. This means you can't request a 5-digit short code over a 6-digit short code, and you can't request that your short code start with a certain number, or contain certain numbers. This is why the CSCA calls it a "random short code", as the short code number is truly random.
Non-Vanity Short Code Misconception
One common misconception about non-vanity short codes is that all non-vanity short codes are numbers that look like they've been randomly selected. While this is usually the case, sometimes what look to be a completely random set of numbers, actually spells out a word or phrase on a phone's dialpad. One example of this is Arby's SMS short code - 27297 (see below), which when first looking at the short code, it definitely looks like a non-vanity, or random short code.
Looks are deceiving though, as the short code 27297 actually spells the word "ARBYS" on a phone's dialpad. Because Arby's specifically selected this short code, this short code would be considered a vanity short code, not a non-vanity short code.
Non-Vanity Short Code Marketshare
It's been reported by the CTIA that the majority of short codes in the United States are random short codes. According to the CTIA, 60% of all active short codes are a random set of numbers, where only 40% are vanity short codes.
Non-Vanity Short Code Advantages
Why do brands select non-vanity short codes over vanity short codes? As discussed above, there is a significant price difference between leasing a vanity short code, and a non-vanity short code. A vanity short code lease will cost you $1,000/month, and non-vanity short code lease will cost you only $500/month.
Vanity short codes are usually preferred over non-vanity short codes for use in marketing campaigns, because they're easier for consumers to remember.
An easy to remember short code is critical when you're asking consumers to text an SMS keyword to your SMS short code. A vanity short code like 727272 (see above RedBox example) will be much easier for consumers to remember, compared to a non-vanity short code like 150842. In the majority of marketing campaigns, the higher cost of a vanity short code lease, compared to a non-vanity short code lease, is usually money well spent, as it increases the amount of consumers interacting with the campaign, as it's just easier for consumers.
That being said, if the short code is not being used in a marketing campaign, where a consumer has to remember both an SMS keyword and short code, a non-vanity short code may work just fine.
For example, if you're sending messages like appointment reminders, fraud alerts, or even shipping notices (like in the example above), it really doesn't matter how easy the short code is to remember, as it's really a one-way communication.
For more information on non-vanity short code pricing, click here.
Top 10 Non-Vanity Short Codes
See the top 10 non-vanity short codes in the United States.