“As consumers turn to interactive apps such as SnapChat, WhatsApp and WeChat to stay connected, are native messaging applications losing their relevance? How can businesses respond?”
With so many devices and apps available in the market, it can be daunting to decide the important features from the bells and whistles. One feature, however, has become critical and expected, something that nearly every U.S. consumer considers vital to their mobile phone’s functionality – messaging.
Up until recently, consumers only needed to make sure they could send and receive text messages through the device’s native messaging app, and their main concern for messaging was texting their friends and family, or how many messages they could send per month. But times are changing, and not only is unlimited messaging readily available from traditional carriers, but consumers are increasingly turning to Over The Top (OTT) applications and services to communicate for free over Wi-Fi. They’re also not limiting their communication to friends and family anymore, turning to messaging services for online dating, shopping communities, support forums, and increasingly any situation where two-way communication is necessary.
What does this mean for traditional messaging? For consumers, it means that they have a new sea of options to communicate, and that communication is often siloed from app to app. It also means more innovation and opportunities to connect in new and exciting ways.
For businesses, it means it’s time to get on board and communicate with consumers the way they prefer – through messaging. Research shows that 98 percent of text messages are read and responded to within 90 seconds, which means this is nearly a guaranteed way to immediately and effectively engage with your audience. But what are the avenues for engaging with consumers through this channel, and how can companies implement these capabilities effectively?
Messaging for Customer Service
One area of business that can really benefit from messaging’s new future is customer service. Very few businesses are currently engaging with their audience on this channel, but there is incredible, untapped potential for the customer experience. In fact, with more than 40 million toll-free numbers in existence today, up to 80 percent of consumers demand the ability to send SMS messages for a greater degree of interaction with businesses.
Consumers love text messaging and want to do more than make calls to toll-free phone numbers. From responding to advertisements, scheduling appointments or talking to customer support, the convenience and simplicity of text messaging is often preferred by consumers. The end result for companies is greater customer service, longer brand conversations and a new degree of two-way communication between consumer and company.
Unlocking Shortcode Messages
Beyond texting to a live person for customer service issues, there is additional opportunity for businesses to efficiently engage with consumers through their preferred messaging channel and in a way that is automated for the business. Specifically, short codes have been used for weather updates, airline flight information, and automatic carrier updates for years. But, as more consumers are turning to OTT applications to communicate, often over Wi-Fi to avoid data overages, businesses have struggled to enable automated messages to OTT applications, as it was typically only available through native apps. Today, however, capabilities exist that enable shortcode correspondence with OTT apps. Consumers can sign up for shortcode subscriptions with their favorite businesses, regardless of what their preferred messaging app is, enabling a new communication channel to engage users.
Since this is the preferred way for consumer to communicate, businesses shouldn’t wait for consumers to come to them with customer service issues. Telemarketing surveys are a thing of the past, but what about text messaging surveys? While customers aren’t likely to spend 5-10 minutes on the phone answering questions, they may be willing to answer 2-3 quick questions through text messaging. This is just one way that businesses can take advantage of the changing messaging landscape.
Simple SMS is a thing of the past. Today’s businesses would do well to take note, and begin engaging with their customers where and when they are most likely to respond – through messaging applications. The issue that most OTT companies face, however, is not the demand for this service. It’s limited resources, capabilities and the infrastructure to enable messaging features in this highly engaging way. They will never be able to supplant traditional telecommunications providers if they do not have the right infrastructure in place. This is where traditional telecom meets new telecom – emerging companies need to partner with companies that have the network, platform and infrastructure to enable an OTT message experience similar to native carrier experiences.
Nearly every American today is accustomed to the simplicity and ease of text-based communicating, whether it’s on their native message application or through OTT apps. Consumers are more open to engaging with businesses through this channel. The question is – are businesses ready to text with their customers?
Brent Mello, Vice President of Origination and Messaging Products at Bandwidth, is responsible for the strategy, growth, P&L management, and execution for these product lines. Mello brings more than 15 years of industry experience and has held leadership positions at both Level 3 and IntelePeer (News – Alert), leading strategy, business development, voice peering, direct interconnection, and special access cost management