A Necessary Paradigm Shift: How Conversation APIs will Deliver True Two-Way Omnichannel Messaging
Traditional assumptions about omnichannel messaging don’t cut it in today’s increasingly dispersed and digital world. Omnichannel messaging was originally premised on the question, “Where are my customers?” Now, with customers using such a variety of messaging platforms – text, RCS, social/chat apps etc, brands need to re-orient to answering the question “How do I effectively communicate with each customer — no matter the channel or channels— in an engaging, continuous and personalized way?” But with so many mobile channels, it can be daunting to know where to start and how to be successful.
Just as technology has evolved since the 1990s (have our younger generations even heard a dial-up sound before?), so too has customer behavior. Email, for example, still has its place but only has an average open rate of 25%. SMS, on the other hand, has consistent open rates of 95% or more, thanks in part to its ubiquity. But what if your customer has a preferred messaging app — over 1.3 billion use Facebook Messenger, and 2 billion use WhatsApp? You should find a way to meet them there, rather than wasting time and dollars on lesser used channels such as branded apps which lose 77% of users within three days of being installed.
The onus is on brands to realize this shift in communication preferences and evolve strategically. Traditional omnichannel messaging is a good start — but it often fails to effectively meet customers where they are, with contextualized messaging for each channel, and can often be a one-way conversation.
In 2021, omnichannel conversational messaging introduces an enormous paradigm shift for the ways that brands and consumers communicate. Gartner predicts that by 2021, half of all businesses will be spending more on conversational AI (such as chatbots) than on mobile apps, a testament to the momentum for conversational messaging.
This next generation of omnichannel messaging will usher in true two-way conversations between customers and brands. For so long, proactive messages from brands to customers have gone in one direction: make an offer, and wait to see if the customer takes it. With two-way messaging, brands can foster more personalized, mutually beneficial conversations by encouraging customers to respond with questions, selections and the like. By driving engagement, two-way messaging strengthens customer experience – and therefore customer loyalty.
The challenge? It can be incredibly complex to develop, integrate and orchestrate two-way interactions over so many different kinds of channels. Fortunately, this can be substantially streamlined through the use of APIs.
Harnessing the Power of Conversation APIs
Mobile is how people experience, consume, and engage with businesses online. Wherever your customers are, you have to be there too, ready to converse – whether it’s via SMS or RCS, on a social media or chat app, or with a chatbot. As such, it’s crucial for mobile to be the centerpiece of brands’ CX in today’s world. But where do you start? And how can you engage with customers in a personalized, relevant way amid a vast and expanding mobile landscape?
Top customer engagement vendors have developed specialized APIs to address the lack of context and consumer history that limits traditional omnichannel messaging. Often, these APIs offer a single endpoint for sending and receiving messages across a variety of popular channels, all while using a unified format. With these solutions, businesses can offer customers a personalized chat experience on their preferred channel, whether it’s marketing-, service- or operations-driven, and facilitate a true two-way conversation with their customers.
A good omnichannel conversational API approach allows brands and their developers to implement just one Messaging API, while still having the power of conversations across all supported channels and channel-specific features if required. This gives companies the power to interact with customers anywhere — no matter the channel, and even allows for seamless transitions across channels, as customer data and history is easily transferable from channel to channel. That way, a customer can, say, start a conversation in Facebook Messenger and transition to SMS without the brand losing any conversational context.
Companies that adopt omnichannel conversational messaging, the next generation of omnichannel messaging, are well-equipped to meet today’s realities and thrive amid tomorrow’s challenges. The benefits of this transition include:
The modern, digital-first consumer has access to mobile nearly all the time. Each mobile channel has its own functionalities and limitations, and each consumer uses different apps for different reasons. With Conversation APIs, brands can streamline their development, applications, and customer support processes by providing a unified approach to customer communications.
The Four C’s
A true omnichannel approach allows for the four c’s — consistency, cross-channel conversation, compliance, and customer support. Starting with cross-channel conversation, this relationship relies on history and context. Tomorrow’s brand relationships will rely on reaching customers on their priority channels — all the while maintaining a consistent brand persona across every message and channel — to create seamless and beneficial customer experiences and support. With omnichannel messaging through conversation APIs, companies can integrate a chatbot like Sinch’s Chatlayer with natural language abilities, enabling it to converse with customers on pre-trained topics and conduct a “warm handover,” including customer context and conversation history, to a contact center when necessary.
Development teams no longer need to become compliance experts across every channel, if they have a conversation API pre-equipped to keep companies compliant wherever they are.
Transitioning conversations to omnichannel shouldn’t mean doing new things with old tools. As messaging options expand, an omnichannel approach will allow brands to integrate new channels alongside existing ones. Conversation APIs give companies the flexibility to scale up, with the ease of just one messaging API gateway and one vendor supplier to integrate with.
The rapidly changing messaging landscape represents a major opportunity for brands that are ready to offer customers a true omnichannel experience. In order to maintain connections with customers in today and tomorrow’s digital world, brands must incorporate next-gen omnichannel messaging into their planning as we enter the new year.