The future of omnichannel strategies

Instant messaging, chatbots, and traditional SMS central to omnichannel strategies of the future

The messaging landscape has seen big changes in 2016, and its evolution is set to continue over the next 12 months. Omnichannel has been around for a while but this year, in particular has seen the concept truly take flight and become a key player in the growth of messaging.  With instant messaging apps making more noise, and adding larger enterprises to their commercial list, the developments in chatbots, and ever-expanding IoT, 2017 is set to see more activity in the communications ecosystem than ever before.    

Here are some of the things that will happen over the next 12 months, to shape omnichannel strategies of the future. 

Messaging apps opening to enterprise

Instant messaging apps will muscle into the application-to-person (A2P) messaging space, continuing a trend we’ve seen throughout 2016. Since the first SMS text message was sent in 1992, the mobile messaging space has undergone radical change.  Person-to-person (P2P) communication over the last few years has been dominated by instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Line and Viber. So with consumers already interacting via instant messaging platforms, why not with businesses too?   

In 2017 we’re likely to see moves by large retailers, fashion, and automotive brands to add messaging apps to their marketing mix. For many, this will form part of a wider multichannel or omnichannel strategy with the aim of improving customer experience and driving sales. 

Adding a ‘sexy’ messaging app to their communications suite is an appealing prospect for enterprises. The next step will be for these messaging apps to open up their tools to third party integration or API access. OTT giant WhatsApp has already jumped on the bandwagon this year, announcing its intention to open up A2P communication – potentially giving us a look into what is to come in 2017 as more instant messaging apps take the leap towards A2P. Users of these apps stand to benefit, with use cases including contact from their bank about a potentially fraudulent transaction, or getting notification from an airline about a delayed flight. However, making this a reality might be more of challenge for OTT companies than expected.   

It’s unlikely an instant messaging app will be successful as a standalone tool for business communications. For OTT companies to be most successful in the A2P messaging space they will need to become part of an integrated platform that supports the wider omnichannel experience. This might lead OTT messengers to seeking partnerships with established business messaging providers which will in turn help them put their best foot forward and attract potential enterprise users. 

The rise of omnichannel 

Considering the enterprise potential, businesses of all sizes will embrace the omnichannel opportunity in 2017. Juniper Research has predicted 160 trillion mobile and online messages will be sent each year by 2019, and omnichannel messaging will drive a significant amount of these. Different communications channels will be brought together, with new approaches to managing this technology and more simplified methods of integration introduced.   

Businesses will be beefing up their communication strategies by integrating several messaging platforms – including SMS, voice, email, push notifications and messaging apps. Enterprises will need to put the consumer at the forefront of their omnichannel strategy and consider how they can successfully use the variety of communication options available. Consumers expect on-demand contact and interaction with their friends and colleagues at any time, on whichever platform they choose. Businesses should not forget this, and will increasingly seek to tailor their own communication options to specific consumers, allowing different communication channels to be used depending on the time, location and purpose. 

With the explosion in omnichannel messaging we’ll see in 2017, enterprises will move past thinking about the individual channel that delivers the message and will instead shift their focus to building consumer engagement. Businesses will need to take a holistic approach to understanding consumer communications, and this will require a similarly holistic method for building and delivering the tools for engagement. Without a centralised approach, an omnichannel platform will not allow a business to offer a fully consistent, joined up customer experience. 

Bots will drive business

Customer service taken over by robots? A scenario which may have seemed far-fetched a few years ago will be closer than ever to the reality in 2017.   

Chatbots have been the most talked about area of messaging development in recent months and, while it is unlikely that AI will completely replace human customer support services, developments in the technology will increase markedly next year. Rather than businesses forcing customers to wait to speak to someone in a call-centre, or closing customer support service outside of office hours, bot technology could help drive business efficiency and improve customer satisfaction.   

The bot technology in general has benefited greatly from the advances in machine learning and natural language processing. The adoption at different points in business processes and communications can be expected to accelerate in 2017. Enterprises will likely seek and use a much wider variety of “intelligent” bots and bot logic to improve different aspects of consumer communications, but also other types of automated processes.   

Furthermore, bots can be seen as the next big step in the extension and development of communications platforms, with a potential to have an impact on the entire ecosystem. The potential for platform-agnostic integration of this technology will open up new space for innovation, improvement in user experience and business efficiency through the increasingly intelligent automation. 

Ever-expanding IoT to fuel SMS API integrations 

The excitement surrounding the growth and future potential of IoT has been marred this year by a spate of high profile IoT-related hacks and security breaches. Consumers and businesses alike will become increasingly cautious of the technology unless robust security measures are implemented next year. Yet, nothing can stop the IoT trend, with companies increasingly seeking ways to connect devices in homes, cars, and our pockets. 2017 will see the professional SMS channel become the trusted delivery mechanism for many of these connected devices. Whether supporting mission-critical infrastructure for the industry, driving connected cities, or for IoT applications with a high threat level, such as connected health devices, SMS channel will be essential for prompt and secure message delivery. 

It’s already being used for a variety of consumer- and industry-facing cases in the emerging IoT world. From SMS alerts being sent to alert an owner their car battery is full to technicians being made aware of an equipment malfunction in the field, these examples are already wide ranging. Next year the potential for SMS APIs will grow even further, with the IoT driving demand for the integration of an SMS messaging component at various points in the ecosystem. 

Image Credit: PopTika / Shutterstock

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Silvio Kutic, founder and CEO at Infobip, earned a MSc degree at the University of Zagreb Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing. Silvio took over responsibilities at Infobip as CEO in 2006 and since then, has been the driving force behind the company’s rapid growth and the strategic shift towards enterprise and MNO solutions.