Enterprise messaging is at a crossroads. Consumers are ready for more engagement, but they want it across many more channels than just SMS. Virginie Debris, VP of global product management at SAP Digital Interconnect, explains why she thinks this is a huge opportunity for the market.

After over a decade of growth, A2P messaging is now ready for its second life.

And the key to this next stage? Conversation.

So says Virginie Debris, VP of global product management at SAP Mobile Services. She has witnessed the market go from nothing to $11.7bn in value last year.

Now, she believes A2P is ready for another growth spurt as it evolves from a channel of communication to one of engagement.

“A2P has changed drastically,” says Debris. “This business has been evolving for 15 years. Initially it was very simple and now it’s about consumer engagement – about how do you engage with your consumer everywhere, and in every different situation.”

In fact, this is pretty logical. SMS is the ultimate two-way medium. Recipients can receive a message and reply to it immediately. And they do – far more willingly than with other media such as email and push messaging.

However, in the first era of A2P the main thrust of the activity was one-way. Enterprises would send marketing alerts or one-time PINs to customers with no real intention of starting a dialogue.

  The workflow really provides true service. This for me is where enterprise messaging should evolve. And on top of that you can see that chat bots and artificial intelligence are really key to being able to engage properly with the feedback.”

Now, as Debris says, that’s changing.

So if customer dialogue is the future of A2P messaging, what is the best way to make it happen? Debris argues the answer lies with workflows.

“What matters is not only the connectivity with the messaging itself, but the application that sits on top of it,” she says. “(You need this) in order to get some kind of workflow implemented, so you can walk the customer though that.”

She gives the example of parcel delivery. In a ‘classic’ A2P process, the sender would tell the recipient the parcel was on the way and give a rough time for delivery.

In the new scenario, the customer is given more options to reply – maybe to change the delivery time or maybe give feedback on the experience. The enterprise can then study these exchanges to improve its services in future.

And Debris adds that, by applying new technologies like machine learning, it can automate these improvements.

She says: “The workflow really provides true service. This for me is where enterprise messaging should evolve. And on top of that you can see that chat bots and artificial intelligence are really key to being able to engage properly with the feedback.”

Of course, another reason for building these workflows is to give enterprises the chance to integrate other communications channels. In other words, to have one dashboard for talking to customers over SMS but also social media, email and push.

“SMS is still the most  simple way to communicate,” says Debris. “But we do see, even in the case of one time PIN, that the banks want to have the option to use other channels. So, believe it or not, they are looking at sending PINs by social media. I thought they would never go there. But they do. Why? Because they want to talk the same language as their customers.”

Clearly, SAP sees immense potential in building towards a new era of conversational enterprise messaging.

However, as a global interconnect vendor with links to 1040 operators, it wants to make sure its partners benefit too. This is why SAP is working hard to help operators create systems that can better understand the traffic they are routing.

 We are working with companies to understand how we can simplify the routing of operators’ messaging and enable all the channels on their behalf – to be their gateway and handle all their messaging.””

“SAP has always been operator centric,” says Debris. “The applications we have will enable them to distinguish between enterprise messaging and peer to peer, and even whether an enterprise message is an alert or a one time PIN or a group message. That way, they can classify them and then set specific rules and even some specific pricing.”

“We are working with companies to understand how we can simplify the routing of operators’ messaging and enable all the channels on their behalf – to be their gateway and handle all their messaging.”

This won’t be easy.

Debris says: “The technical challenge is to have the AI and the natural language and all those algorithms in place inside the hubs and the aggregators and the interconnect vendors.

“The commercial challenge is making sure that each of those messages will be billed differently. This is the complexity in knowing what what you did block as spam is really spam, and what you did define as A2P is really A2P.

“And that for me is the next transformation.”

This Executive Insights Video Series, in association with Kontxt from RealNetworks, takes an in depth look at the next generation of messaging.

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