In today’s increasingly connected world, businesses no longer have the luxury of dictating to consumers how they interact, says Shaun Van Rooyen, Strategic Accounts and Partnerships Manager, Africa at Infobip. Instead we have entered the ‘experience economy’ where it is all about Customer Experience (CX) and meeting their ever more demanding 21st Century expectations.

Some would say, it has become a case of the tail wagging the dog, as consumers hold significantly more power than ever before and are very particular about how they communicate with businesses and vice versa.

Consumers now have greater choice and flexibility to move from one product or service to another – almost instantly. Coupled with increasing expectations from millennials, communicating through a preferred channel – voice, email, social media, SMS, and chat apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger – are all becoming an imperative for businesses to retain existing customers and attract new ones.

Therefore, delivering a n omnichannel experience that is tailored and personalised to the customer has become critical to enhancing CX, as businesses need to offer contextual communications to their end user customers via the channels of their choice.

At the same time, some businesses are growing increasingly frustrated with their communication channels, acknowledging that their outbound or push activities – such as SMS or email – are not necessarily delivering the required or expected results not least because in today’s connected era there are so many more touchpoints that need consideration.

Many enterprises are realising that using other channels such as chat apps in addition to SMS or email to communicate with their customers gives them a much better line of sight from a marketing perspective.

When and how the customer wants to communicate…

Arguably, the push strategy to communicate with customers is over.  With the balance of power having shifted in favour of the end-user, it is the consumer who whose when and how to communicate with a business or brand, and today there are diverse age groups driving the digital space and communication choices.

We can’t talk about 21st Century communications without referencing the WhatsApp Business API. A fast, secure, and reliable way for businesses to reach their customers all over the world using WhatsApp as a channel has seen an astounding uptake among ends-users. This is due to the fact that it is cost effective and allows end user customers to communicate with a business at a time that suits them. Unlike email and SMS messages that are sent during business hours and often go unread or appeal more to the older age groups, when we talk about millennials, messages sent by chat app have a much higher chance of success.

Currently, we are seeing more traction on WhatsApp Business API than on any other channel, but it is important to realise that different age groups are driving specific chat app preferences – not everyone wants to use the same channels. Subsequently, enterprises in South Africa face a dilemma. How do we understand our customer and satisfy everybody, because not everybody wants to be reached via the same channel?

The landscape is becoming more complex for enterprises that aim to understand and know their customer, and this is where adopting a multi-channel communication platform can be of great benefit.

A multi-channel communications platform allows businesses to segment their customer base by their communication preferences and root different channels through a single platform. They can then craft customer journeys and design broadcasts that include all these digital channels and communication can be personalised.

However, uptake of multi-channel communications in South Africa is not as fast when compared to other countries across the globe at this stage. Yet enterprises are beginning to see the advantage of keeping all their customer data on a single platform and are starting to consolidate their channels onto a single platform service provider.

Price is not the driver

Interestingly, price is not necessarily the driver for this shift; it is the ability to get a single customer view and extract actionable insights through your portal via live logs.  In this sense, analytics have become vitally important. By far the biggest benefit of a multi-channel communications platform is enabling businesses to create exciting customer journeys and flows, while engaging with customers through multiple touchpoints, across numerous channels.

Organisations therefore need a user-friendly visual tool that enables them to craft communications for each step of buyer journey in addition to tailoring automated omni-channel scenarios via simple codeless interface creating two-way communication flows. Here, each flow should be steered in the desired direction depending on inbound messages, customer behaviour, and profile characteristics.

Moreover, organisations should also be able to view all this information in one portal, track performance and costs, optimise campaigns, track real-time results and user behaviour, while keeping an eye on the budget consumption – making it easy to manage and optimise.

By adopting omnichannel under one service provider, enterprises can satisfy customer expectations and meet their demands for specific communication preferences. Ultimately this is what differentiates businesses in a digital era.

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