The text message invasion dates as far back as the 90’s and has completely revolutionized the way people communicate. From emoticons to emojis; from GIFS to stickers; from LOL to TLDR it is one of the most widely consumed and fastest-growing channels not only for personal use but also in business communication. Once considered a low-tech medium because of its limitations of individual usage it has morphed its value as a key method to boost loyalty, increase satisfaction rates, streamline services, and enhance customer experiences. “I think we basically saw that the messaging space is bigger than we’d initially realized and that the use cases that WhatsApp and Messenger have are more different than we had thought originally,” says Mark Zuckerberg, confirming the importance of textual communications and hinting at future technologies that would pave the path for use case expansion. Unsurprisingly Mark Zuckerberg’s statement proved to be true, and several new use cases emerged, largely enabled by the cloud-based platform CPaaS. With a read rate of 98% (compared to 20% of emails) and an average response time of 90 seconds, texting is now regarded as one of the most preferred channels among organizations and consumers worldwide.
The Evolution of Text-ing
Person to Person (P2P)
Back in 1992, an engineer by the name of Neil Papworth sent the world’s first text message to the director of Vodafone, Richard Jarvis. This paved the way for Short Message Service (SMS) intended for telecommunications enabled communication with friends and family. In 2002, SMS entered mass media and the next five years saw an average annual growth rate of almost 30%. By 2007, texting hit 1 billion messages per day globally and replaced phone calls (landline and mobile) as the most widely used mode of communication. However, the usage stayed limited to person-to-person messaging (messages which are sent from one mobile phone to another via a valid mobile network). And like any mode of fast communication, marketers were quick to pick up on this trend, and soon organizations, large and small were promoting their products by text.
Application to Person (A2P)
A2P messaging happens between an application (usually a web-based platform) and a mobile user. Unlike P2P, these messages do not originate from mobile phones with SIM cards but from software applications as one-sided messages (with no possibility to reply). This method is popular for alerts, promotional messages, and announcements. A2P appeared in the early 2000s through which businesses were able to launch targeted SMS campaigns. It grew so fast that in 2012, they reaching a staggering 8 trillion in number and paved the way for multiple advancements in the mobile messaging space and paved the way for many including OTT.
Over the Top (OTT)
With consumers demanding faster and richer forms of communication an enhanced version of P2P messaging was introduced to the world known as Over the Top messaging. Most of us have already heard of or used OTT apps such as WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger. Their functionality and low-cost service made them an appealing option for users and they continued to offer several features for rich communication across the board. Some features like video/image sharing and emojis can be found in SMS and MMS, however, OTT apps added read receipts and delivery reports, a unique rendition not available in traditional SMS. WhatsApp blue/grey ticks (one or two) signify whether the message has been sent, delivered, and read by the recipient. With the higher number of consumers using OTT apps, organizations started to realize the value of this medium and began using them for more targeted. KLM Airlines use WhatsApp to send booking confirmation messages and updates on customers’ flights and findings from Juniper Research suggest that by 2021 there will be 4.2 billion OTT messaging users globally. Given Corona, our take is that the number may have been reached already in 2020.
Rich Communications Service (RCS)
Being a MaaP (Messaging as a Platform) technology, RCS works like traditional text messaging but provides the added advantage of an app-like experience with features enabled through cloud application servers. This intelligent platform is a step up from In-app messaging as it has software built-in which eliminates the need for external downloads or accounts or passwords for access. 70% of users claim that RCS makes them want to communicate more with a brand according to a GSMA study. A very encouraging sign indicative of high consumer readiness for the technology and with CPaaS at the helm, more success can be achieved given there is no need to implement complex backend infrastructure anymore.
CPaaS – An Enabler for Text
CPaaS is short for Communication Platform as a Service which is built using (but not limited to) voice, chat, and video APIs that act as messengers relaying input from one cloud-connected device to another. The ability to integrate Information systems like AI, IoT, and Big Data with cloud services is an added bonus as it helps expand the platform’s resourcefulness. As Siow Meng Soh a Technology Analyst at GlobalData expertly commented: “Going forward, CPaaS vendors are also adding AI/chatbot capabilities and we should also expect to see CPaaS extending from application-to-person use cases to the Internet of Things /machine-to-machine use cases.” According to Apigee research, approximately 85% of the world’s top-performing organizations believe that APIs are crucial for them to grow. This means that as part of their larger digital transformation project or vision, organizations can now deploy communication services as per their needs with the help of CPaaS. It provides the scalability and agility organizations need to stay relevant and competitive in today’s smart, digital world. In short, CPaaS has the ability to carry out omnichannel communication and address a larger market with a broad set of communication use cases that keeps on growing. The demand for such flexibility amongst organizations has increased which is why CPaaS is promptly replacing traditional messaging technology as the industry standard.
Types of Text Messaging
Before an organization deploys text messaging services, they must design an approach to interact with customers. Each service has a different purpose which compensates for each other’s limitations. That is why some organizations tend to go for platforms or vendors that give them a hybrid option.
One-way messaging allows organizations to send messages in bulk (SMS to a select number of recipients) and text blasts (similar to bulk but automated) to potential and existing customers. It is considered to be a very effective way to share news and important information. Enhanced forms of one-way messaging have even allowed organizations to incorporate mobile landing page links when sending an SMS. These are perfect for generating leads and serve as effective call to actions as they don’t require any app downloads and can be personalized for each recipient. Overall, one-way messaging organizations are able to send:
- Order confirmation messages
- Discount Coupons or Vouchers
- Appointment Reminders
- Automated Alerts
- Account Verification Codes
- Status updates regarding flights and delivery packages
- Sales promotion
- Link to mobile surveys and sales
Two-way messaging is used by organizations when they want some form response by customers. Usually though, the responses are limited to specific keywords that the organization can track to understand a customer’s intention. For example, a clinic could send a message regarding appointment timings asking the patient to reply with ‘CONFIRM’, ‘CANCEL’ or ‘RESCHEDULE’. Even though it doesn’t allow for much conversation, these messages are easy to follow with guided responses and clear call to actions. Moreover, with automation, two-way messaging can be enhanced by setting certain action triggers upon which a customer can receive and send a response in real time. Different messages could be sent using this service, including but not limited to:
- Subscription messages
- Appointment scheduling
- Confirming or Cancelling Reservations
- Rating a service
- Billing Payments
While two-way messaging definitely has its benefits, sometimes organizations have to send messages that require more detailed responses. However, these prove to be too complicated for automation. In these cases conversation messaging is deployed where a back and forth is initiated between the organization’s representative and customer, leading to better and clearer discussions regarding all queries or questions about the organization and its products. With conversational messages organizations can:
- Offer Customer Support
- Send Quotations and Estimates
- Reach out to prospective clients
However, as technology advances the need for human interaction is becoming less and less important, which leads us to the next section.
Messaging through chatbots is another way of interacting with customers. It is a modified version of conversational SMS except this time, the interaction happens between an intelligent bot and consumer. With this the need for human resource is significantly reduced as chatbots can handle basic queries or questions immediately without making the customer wait. The bots can read text, view images and understand context from certain clues in speech which allows them to interact seamlessly. Within the realm of customer service chat bots can help with:
- Answering questions and inquiries
- Booking tickets to shows and events
- Finding products and checking recommended items
- Confirming orders and tracking shipping
- Efficiently collect customer feedback
- Assign customer requests/queries to relevant support staff
Text Messaging Services
Bulk and Personalized Messaging
With 45% of recipients replying to branded text blasts, SMS bulk messaging is a good way to reach out to existing or potential customers. But with cloud-based messaging, businesses can bring their A-game by making these messages more personalized thus increasing chances of customer conversion. In 2019 a consumer report by SmarterHQ found that 72% of them only engage with marketing messages that are personalized and tailored to their interests. Therefore, by integrating Big Data analytics with the cloud platform, messages can be easily customized based on factors like buying history. Retail brands, for example, can send messages to subscribed customers about new catalogues, loyalty programs, releases, sales or exclusive promotions. The quality of message is not limited to words either. Brands can make them more engaging through images, calendars or even polls.
Text messages are essentially digital information that can be stored and tracked using analytics. Many CPaaS applications allows organizations to gauge the success of a campaign by tracking key KPIs such as delivery, conversion, opt-on and click through rates. Marketers can gain valuable insights from these which they can use to improve and adapt their messaging campaigns. Businesses this way can test, learn, and improve their understanding on how to send exactly the right message at the right time. By visualizing data they can also get useful insights regarding customers. SMS platforms like CommBox provide such tools that give a clearer picture of how effective SMS deliveries are, thus allowing businesses to determine what works and what doesn’t.
The benefit of using CPaaS is that businesses can now connect with their customers on their preferred social media platforms including Whatsapp, Facebook and Messenger without the hassle of controlling several inboxes. Harris Poll conducted a survey with over 2000 respondents and 64% of these said they would recommend companies that use text because its shows they value their time and are progressive. Through a unified inbox not only do organizations ensure maximum reach and engagement but the messaging process is greatly simplified. Softwares like Zingle and Amio allow organizations to consolidate messages from different platforms into one space. ClickSend is another provider that utilizes CPaaS for multi-channel business communication.
Text message alerts are perfect for bringing immediate attention towards a critical incident. The aim is to effectively transmit the right information at the right time to an appropriate stakeholder. It takes the average person 90 seconds to respond to a text message. This is why messaging for alerts can be very helpful in certain situations. If there’s a breach in the company’s firewall, automated messages can be sent out to ensure action is taken. Educational institutes also use this to communicate important announcements or deadlines to students. Similarly, in health facilities when a patient is under duress or needs immediate attention automated alerts considerably reduce response time of a doctor. An example of this is Insulin Angel, a startup that uses IoT to connect a patient’s device to the cloud server. This way the patient’s conditions are monitored in real time and the embedded message API will send alerts if there are triggers in temperature or other vital signs.
Scheduling and Reminders
Appointment no-shows are becoming increasingly prevalent. This poses a problem for several service-based businesses like salons, clinics, hotels, restaurants and many other service-based businesses. Calling or emailing customers is definitely an option but this process is time consuming and doing it manually increases risk of error. However, by sending automated messages organizations and professionals can easily schedule, cancel and confirm appointments. Not only does this help free up resources but also reduces the loss incurred because of missed appointments. 75% of millennials believe that text messages are helpful for appointment reminders. Swift and direct communication with a high likelihood of response makes SMS a very appealing alternative for both the business and customer.
Information and Updates
According to a Mobile Behavior Report by Salesforce, 31% of consumers opted in to a brand’s text messages so that they wouldn’t need to visit a website, physical location or app for information. This shows a preference amongst consumers for a fast and reliable channel through which they can receive extra information. Many airlines, for instance, send timely updates, notifications about gate changes or flight information to travelers through SMS. Similarly, important links to test results or reports are messaged to patients, and pharmacies update them regarding prescription refills. Insurance agents were also quick to join the bandwagon. A whopping 67% stated they use MMS to send or receive quotes and claims their customers respond to text messages within ‘minutes’.
Ratings and Surveys
75% of millennials already prefer SMS for promotion, deliveries and surveys. Many hotels and restaurants are capitalizing on this by sending automated surveys or rating questions after the customer has utilized a certain service. Action-based triggers can be set up by businesses so that surveys can be sent after a specific action like paying the bill or checking out of a hotel. Two-way messaging then enables them to respond to these survey questions. Since these are sent as text messages, the likelihood of customers looking and responding is high too. Research suggests that 31% of consumers reply to surveys in SMS with an average response time being close to 5 minutes. By receiving such feedback businesses can learn about their customers easily.
Tracking goods and sending location updates allow organizations to keep their customers up to date in real time regarding deliveries or the driver. Online shoppers expect clear communication from brands and courier companies. If this expectation is not met, it leads to an increase in customer inquiries and low satisfaction. Instead of keeping customers uninformed or having them continuously visit the website, text messages can be sent which would relay shipment status and even confirm which delivery time slot is convenient for the customer. A 2016 millennial survey by OpenMarket indicated that for individuals in the 18-34 age group, text is the preferred channel for notifications from businesses. Players should take note of this and instead of forcing users to check the website or download apps, they can use SMS to send geolocations of delivery packages. This significantly helps courier companies improve the quality of their service and manage delivery flow.
To create an omnichannel experience, customer support centers have also started using messages to converse with customers. A study by eWeeK found that if given the option 52% of respondents would likely text a customer representative about their problems. Not only is this cost efficient but it allows agents to connect with their customers in a more personal way. Businesses can also use AI-driven chatbots to solve problems like roadside assistance, that don’t require agent intervention. Most of us have already experienced such context-relevant interactions with cloud-based intelligent bots like Siri and Google Assistant. Call centers are now also leveraging this technology to communicate more effectively and enhance customer engagement. It is a proactive step taken by call centers to reduce administration costs and lower the demand for voice calling which helps in managing enquiries.
Deploy cloud-enabled Messaging; The TransformX Way
The TransformX approach enables organizations to rethink and redefine their business communications stack. Our signature Cloud Communications offering helps clients carefully select new CPaaS solutions (or replace existing ones) as a result of a deep study of organizational, functional and and technical dynamics. A comprehensive review of the merits and demerits of the existing CPaaS solution(s) is also offered along with CPaaS program oversight initiatives. We look forward to assisting you in your digital and customer transformation journey by combining elements of the above mentioned Cloud Communications sub offerings — New CpaaS Acquisition, Existing CPaaS Review, and CPaaS Program Oversight. We help you boost revenue and build relationships with enterprises who want to expand beyond traditional telephony applications. Step into the world of convenient and contextual communication and stand out from your competitors, we will hold your hand along the way. Connect now!