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MEF Director of Programmes James Williams shares an overview of a recent webinar exploring the changing role of business messaging, in which an all-star panel of experts from across the ecosystem discuss how the business messaging landscape continues to evolve.

It doesn’t seem two minutes ago to me since the sum-total of a typical enterprise’s business messaging related engagement with their clients was some email with a sprinkling of SMS marketing related promotions sent out en masse to clients with little or no customisation – think ‘bulk SMS’. Thankfully the Business Messaging game has moved on in leaps and bounds and continues to develop swiftly.

Watch the Panel in full

There are not too many industries out there right now that can say they are set to double in size over the coming five years but Business Messaging just happens to be one of them. This hypergrowth is being fuelled by SMS and Rich Business Messaging channels such as chat apps (think WhatsApp and others) and RCS.

We all agree that the messaging ecosystem players have made efforts thus far, there is no doubt that there is a lot to work to be done on in order to for us to meet the enterprise customer requirements and expectations. Stakeholders need to collaborate and cooperate right from the MNOs, platform providers, aggregators, security experts and last but not the least, the Regulatory bodies.

The area of Business Messaging is always a very emotive subject and did not disappoint, forming the basis of a very lively discussion. The session was kindly sponsored by Globe Teleservices (GTS) and joining the fray were no less than seven industry heavyweights with a combined total of getting on for 150 years of industry experience – something they might not thank me too kindly for reminding them of!

  • Rajiv Singla, CTO & Business Messaging Head with Globe Teleservices
  • Ashutosh Jha, SVP Global Messaging with Globe Teleservices
  • Shikha Gupta, VP Roaming & Mobile with Airtel Business
  • Nicholas Nikrouyan, VP Voice & Mobile Solutions with Deutsche Telekom
  • Ira Cohen, VP Business Development & Marketing with MMDSmart
  • Nadir Patel, Senior Manager International Roaming with Omantel
  • Noa Bar Shay, Senior Partnerships Account Director with Rakuten Viber

Rather than hearing from me about some of the key takeaways from this lively session, I’ll leave it to the speakers themselves! Needless to say, they had a lot to say during the webinar so pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink and enjoy the read…

Rakuten Viber were the first chat app out of the gate with a business messaging proposition and are also very busy in the areas of SMS and voice and here’s what Noa Bar-Shay had to say: “The Messaging Ecosystem has already made a huge step forward in its development. Business messages have played an important role in this evolution and continue developing the industry.

Despite this, we are all still in a process of self-improvement, the big value being that all the industry players can learn from each other and therefore make the ecosystem bigger and stronger. External circumstances also play a significant role in the evolution of the Messaging Ecosystem. E.g., the pandemic has accelerated the industry to a much higher degree than anyone would have expected – progress that would normally take five or six years was achieved in just five to six months.

Since it works anywhere and everywhere without the need for internet access, SMS technology will keep its important position in the Messaging Ecosystem, however, messaging apps will continue taking over the market share. Especially with the constant growth of conversational commerce since chat apps provide a native environment for rich communication between users and brands. Together with other industry technologies, SMS has to move to transformation in order to be up to date and meet customers and business needs”.

So, there we have it from a chat app company – SMS is a long way from being dead when it comes to Business Messaging!

The variety of speakers gave some great perspective and coming from Nadir Patel who has a lot on his plate at Omantel was: “We all agree that the messaging ecosystem players have made efforts thus far, there is no doubt that there is a lot to work to be done on in order to for us to meet the enterprise customer requirements and expectations. Stakeholders need to collaborate and cooperate right from the MNOs, platform providers, aggregators, security experts and last but not the least, the Regulatory bodies.”

Ira Cohen from MMD Smart is well-known across the industry and shared this with us:  “Business Messaging has been a disruptive force over the past 15 years changing the way that enterprises authenticate customers, send out important notifications and market to their loyal customer base, while becoming a significant revenue source for carriers and service providers.

Peter Thiel one of the most successful investors in disruptive technology has a 10X rule “Technology must be at least 10 times better than its closest substitute in some important dimension…Anything less than an order of magnitude better will probably be perceived as a marginal improvement.” Is A2P SMS 10X better than the next technology? Is RCS 10X better?

Since A2P messaging’s ascendance, the rapid reduction in the cost of software innovation and the emergence of a host of new channels and methods to reach consumers mean that the industry needs to be prepared for even more disruption beyond the existing layers of our industry and current paradigms. We need to lean into the uncertainty and become disruptors ourselves as the best way to fend off disruptors is to become the disruptor. Every current constraint can be a catalyst for adapting new ideas and solutions and not being so stuck in our ways.

Beyond simply communicating with their customers, what other real value can we provide our enterprise clients? If we improve the transparency of our services, its true performance, and real business value, are the channels that we provide enough to keep our trusted service provider position?

It’s not easy to ask these questions when we’ve been so successful, revenues keep increasing and the necessity for change isn’t so obvious.

We may be the smartest people on the planet when it comes to A2P messaging, but we need to listen to our customers, the marketplace, and the world beyond it. What apps are our future customers using to communicate amongst themselves? 5 years from now will enterprises communicate with their customers via text chatting, or streaming video? My Bot to your Avatar? Chatbot Holograms? Transponders?

Beyond simply communicating with their customers, what other real value can we provide our enterprise clients, from global brands to my neighborhood dry cleaner? If we improve the transparency of our services, its true performance, and real business value, are the channels that we provide enough to keep our trusted service provider position?

Is the consolidation we are seeing in the industry between telco companies good for the industry as it creates stronger more versatile CPaaS providers or does it hamper creativity and put more distance between the industry players and the market, especially the SMB market? Or, should we be actively merging with the CRM and engagement platforms to create a new breed of customer engagement solutions for the brands, mid-market and smaller SMEs? We don’t know the answers, but we need to ask these questions. The one constant in life is change.”

Wow! I could not have said that better myself. Indeed, change is constant and it’ll be very interesting to see what the world of Business Messaging has in store for us in the coming years too!

Switching now to Globe Teleservices, their CTO Rajiv Singla had this to say:

“Email has been voted as the most preferred channel for business communication but it has a low read rate and most end up in spam folders. So reliability is an issue. Instant messaging is extremely efficient and delivers as well if not better than an e-mail. But on the flip side it is only available as an APP that needs to be downloaded. So, you can never be sure that the intended recipient has received your message. Since most local governments don’t have regulatory control over these OTT companies, I suspect enterprises will be very wary of adopting them for critical functions. They are of course not available on feature phones.

SMS still remains the mainstream, most reliable and the cheapest means of business communication. With an open rate as high as 98 percent and with close to 50% response rate it has seemed invincible for close to two decades. Lately however, enterprises have begun to resent the fact that it does not support rich media and doesn’t do too well in interactive (2-way) communications.

So, when you put together the above facts, the technology that checks all the right boxes is RCS. RCS is essentially ‘SMS 2.0’ and it would be logical to assume it will be as well received and widely adopted as SMS. RCS will have IM capabilities, will be default with handsets and will deliver rich media and to top it all, will allow 2-way interactive communication.

For operators to remain relevant, they need to win back lost ground. The threat of being relegated to being “just an ISP” is real. RCS is a good start, in my view. At the moment, clearly the ‘winner’ for business messaging is RCS. Unfortunately, progress is too painfully slow.”

Now did you think we’d have a lengthy discussion about Business Messaging without mentioning RCS?! We never want to disappoint here at MEF!

Business Messaging will no doubt me a topic raised during our upcoming MEF CONNECTS LATAM (August 18th and 19th) and Wholesale (September 27th and 28th) events a couple of months later it will be THE topic at our Omnichannel event which (fingers and toes crossed) we hope to run as a hybrid event out of London. As always plenty of opportunities for you members of our Future of Messaging programme to get involved with!

James Williams

Director of Programmes, MEF

  

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