The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has caught everyone by surprise and the pandemic is devastating lives across the world. As more and more countries enter into lockdown, the social and economic impact is become evident. We need to understand how businesses will be able to react. Below we share early learnings from the Italian market and look at the support the business messaging A2P ecosystem can provide as the entire world gets ready to fight back against the virus.
The Italian lesson: lockdown means lower A2P Traffic
On March the 9th, Italy became the first European country to impose a national quarantine, restricting the movement of the population except for necessity, work, and health circumstances.
A week later, some communication service providers have reported to MEF that business SMS weekly traffic has seen a reduction of 40%-50%. Of course, not all traffic has dropped. Retail marketing has suffered in particular with shops closed, while notifications, transactions and alerts traffic have grown as more online commerce is driven by people at home. Some of our respondents shared that they were able to manage the drop-in retail traffic thanks to the increase one-time password, and alerts traffic.
The high value of SMS in emergencies
The business messaging channel is a reliable tool in case of emergencies, and it should be fully utilised in these situations with new use cases made available to governments and agencies fighting the war on Covid-19.
SMS’s efficient and reliable throughput can support at a time when broadband networks are under pressure in Europe. Families self-isolating means that homes use their internet connection for work, home-schooling, information and entertainment. Netflix and Facebook the online video service, have agreed to the request of EU Commissioner Thierry Breton to stream video in standard definition only – in order to save broadband network capacity.
While the broadband networks struggle in some areas, there is plenty of capacity to send business messages and crucially, SMS provides a wider reach than the Internet. Mobile operators usually reach between 95% to 100% of the population with SMS thanks so the combined coverage of 2G, 3G and 4G networks. Crucially, SMS represents a simple way to access information for non-digital savvy users, those that often the most at risk at isolation.
The immediacy of the SMS channel, with 90% of messages read within three minutes, will see new demand as remote support services will increase during the crisis and we expect new use cases to emerge along with P2A traffic as users are quick to read and react to mobile messages. Many A2P players are already helping emergency services across Europe with free access to messaging for alerts, notifications and emergency communications.
The potential of SMS is now also available for communication to employees – A2P tools provide for easier for quick and effective alerting of employees now working in diverse locations. Call centres will need to continue to manage high or increased call volumes with reduced staffing due to Coronavirus, and see the importance of managing flow of communication via SMS. Physical shops are rapidly embracing new models of delivery, demonstrating the value of automatic messages to receive orders, despatch team, alert users of deliveries.
Now is the time for the business messaging ecosystem to support businesses in this crisis and to educate the market of the potential of SMS in case of emergencies.
At MEF we will be discussing as a community and collecting the experiences from Communication Service Providers to share with the broader ecosystem. We start below here messages from members in Italy and beyond, sharing their reflections, actions and promises to the market.
Dario Tumiati, Chief Development Officer, Agile Telecom
“The lower traffic in messaging has been exclusively on Retail marketing, linked to offline shops – and as these were closed they cancelled their campaigns.
However, notifications, transactions and alerts have shown a traffic uplift, that in part has compensated. For now, we can only sustain this situation.
The real challenge will be to understand the future of SMS messaging channel, after the markets will experience .”
Dario Calogero, Chief Executive Officer, Kaleyra
“As a trusted multi-channel CPaaS (Communication Platform as a Service), Kaleyra has always been particularly focused on transactional notifications via APIs. Even if Europe remains an important part of our revenues, thanks to a combined effect of the business verticals of our customers (online banking, healthcare and government more than marketing, retail and transportation) and the kind of services that our platform provides, we didn’t experience a substantial negative effect on our overall business, even if it is a bit early to evaluate all the potential impacts.
In the interim, we foresee an acceleration in the digital transformation of many industries, resulting in a positive impact on CPaaS volumes. Our heart goes out to all the companies and families around the world that are suffering in these difficult times. We are willing to help every institution that can benefit from our services, for free, as we recently did for Croce Rossa Italiana (Italian Red Cross) by enabling an SMS number for doctors and nurses to apply for help.”
Surash Patel, GM Messaging & VP, RealNetworks
“With the advanced analytics capabilities of our Kontxt platform we had the opportunity to observe the effect of the Covid-19 emergency on our partners’ networks and on the mobile messaging industry in general during the last few weeks in the USA.
There has been a clear increase in total volumes with, in some instances, up to 40% increase in various cases throughout March and we observed some interesting trends in terms of the composition of this traffic:
- We have seen the traffic mix shifting from marketing and promotional campaigns toward public health messages and notifications from companies, and health providers to their employees and customers.
- Health providers, religious organisations and companies have boosted their usage of A2P SMS to inform the public about changes in their services.
- Unfortunately, bad actors have been trying to use Covid-19 as a pretext for Fraud and Smishing: Kontxt detected and blocked a growing number of fraud messages promising free devices or subscriptions in order to cope with the Covid-19 lockdowns
Looking forward, we anticipate the potential for further abuse as fraudsters and scammers take advantage of governmental financial aid and deferred tax filings notifications in order to construct new campaigns to exploit the vulnerable and worried population.”
Sonia Sifo Marketing & Communication Solutions Manager, Sparkle
“Sparkle is committed to play its part in fighting the current healthcare crisis: in this context, A2P SMS is also a means to share a wishful “Everything will be alright” with all our partners, customers and suppliers worldwide.
We recommend to use this tool for being closer to all the stakeholders, including employees, remembering that the SMS is able to reach anyone, anywhere.”
Anurag Aggarwal, Director - Messaging Services, Tata Communications Limited
“From an Indian perspective, we’ve started seeing sporadic cases of “struggle for bandwidth” i.e. with families staying indoor mostly, there is a tremendous consumption of existing internet bandwidth. This is leading to slower internet speeds across the country… I’m personally experiencing this and I’m sure it’s a similar situation across other countries as well, especially the developing ones.
Given the lockdown situation in most places, there are cases whereby internet-access has actually got restricted for some, because no service staff from the service-provider is available to fix the optical fibre disruptions etc. in every case that’s occurring.
Given the above two points, services such as SMS which are not data-dependant, at least for last-mile delivery, come into play and are a great support in delivering time-critical traffic to the end recipients. For brands using the MO (P2A) services as well, it’s another low-data-dependency technique to hear back from their customers for critical feedback.”