If knowing your customer is the first step in running a successful enterprise, then know this: Whatever business you are in, your customer is mobile and chatting with friends and colleagues all day using messaging applications. Over time, your customer will expect to find out about deals and make purchases without having to leave those apps.
Business-to-consumer communications are in a period of upheaval, as businesses scramble to reach customers where they are, rather than making the customer go out of their way to seek out the products and services they want. Mobile messaging apps are where the customer is today. And while some businesses have found success engaging their customers through chat apps, others are still struggling.
This is because consumers are flocking to all kinds of new communications channels, and each channel not only offers its own features and services, but also has its own unique style. Businesses have been lacking a single platform that brings all of these channels together, with analytics that can shed light on how consumers use chat applications and what approaches are likely to be successful.
App-to-consumer communication is still a fragmented landscape for businesses, and it’s easier than you might think to end up annoying the consumers you are trying to engage. However, there are certain approaches that make the world of A2P (application-to-person) customer engagement easier for businesses to navigate, regardless of the channel—messaging app or SMS messaging.
Start by looking within
Consumers have a short attention span when it comes to interacting with brands, so it is important to know as much as possible about the customers you want to reach before approaching them in any channel.
Take a close look at your first-party data and get a sense of how your business already engages consumers. How does your business first touch the consumer? How do you learn more about their individual preferences? What style of communication do your customers seem to prefer: messaging apps, SMS, email or voice calling?
These are important issues to sort out before launching a new engagement initiative. The answers to questions like these inform the decision about which chat apps your business might want to target and what the best technique might be to get the consumer’s attention.
But the same kind of analysis must be done on which channels your customers use and how they use them. As new channels continue to proliferate and attract more users, it becomes more difficult for businesses to keep track of them all and to learn how their customers interact with each other and with brands in each individual channel.
This is why, over time, the need for a channel-agnostic platform with comprehensive analytics will only grow.
Look at what others get wrong
Before diving in, it’s also helpful to look at what has worked well for other businesses and what has not worked. Many failures come from not understanding the customer’s preferences clearly enough.
Retailers, for example, have spent millions of dollars developing mobile apps that link consumers to deals, but the usage rates among the people who download these apps drop below 20 percent over several months. This would suggest that retailers should be using SMS, push notifications or other means to reach their customers, as consumers are showing that mobile apps of this kind do not appeal to them.
Using the wrong communication style for various types of messages is the type of misstep that annoys consumers.
For example, a retailer who has made a sale by successfully touching a consumer via a messaging app can still irritate a customer if they use the wrong type of communication. When the customer’s package arrives, this is time-sensitive information that is best delivered with SMS. The receipt for the purchase, which is less time-sensitive, is probably best sent by email, so the customer is not distracted by a sudden text message on a matter that does not need immediate attention.
This is a matter of using the right style of communication for the right circumstances—something that can only be accomplished by understanding the customer as he or she moves from one situation or context to another.
Taking a look at missteps others have made can be instructive, and the key to avoiding such mistakes is analytics programs that are the underpinning of any customer engagement initiative.
How to move forward
Knowing what your customer wants and in what form they want it is the crucial differentiator between irritating customers and engaging with them and building their loyalty as you stake out a presence in various communications channels. The only way to learn about the customer is to look at the data your company has collected, and then analyze the way consumers behave when they use messaging apps.
It’s difficult to track hundreds or thousands of consumers over dozens of messaging apps that use push notifications, email, SMS, chat bots and other applications. Consumer demand, however, will not slow down.
This is why enterprises are increasingly turning to communications platform as a service (CPaaS), an integration model that unifies multiple communication options. This is a solution meant to bring together the many chat and messaging apps consumers use, which are siloed today, and a solution that helps brands deliver seamless communication through a single hub. Using this model, businesses do not need to spend time and resources building their own back-end infrastructure and interfaces.
CPaaS, which is the future of omnichannel marketing, enables businesses to manage all communications channels in a single, one-stop shop that handles the messaging, the reporting and the integration of new services as they appear. This means tracking and analyzing consumer behavior does not need to be a major drain on time or resources. And when a new messaging or communications service launches and catches on—which happens constantly—this new service can be integrated into the omnichannel quickly and easily.
Whatever size your business is, a one-stop-shop that is easy to implement and unifies the many messaging apps consumers use is likely the best option.
Smaller businesses do not have the resources to track consumer behavior from one messaging app to the next, so a single interface that gives the small business a window into all messaging apps is an attractive option.
Major brands send out tens of millions of customer communications across multiple channels every day. An omnichannel solution is likely the only option for handling communications on this scale and for reaching consumers via messaging apps across the globe.
Knowing your customer is a fundamental principle of business. Today, your customer is spending hours each day on their mobile device, so it is crucial to understand which communications channels to engage them on, and how to engage them. Consumers expect to find out about deals in these channels, and they expect to make purchases without having to leave them.
In such a complicated landscape, businesses will be best off if they keep things as simple as possible. Letting a CPaaS provider do the hard work is about as simple as it gets.
Silvio Kutić is founder and CEO of CPaaS provider Infobip.