Do any amount of reading or research into omni channel communications and you’ll find lots of discussions about how mobile users want to pick the channels brands use to engage with them. Not only that, mobile users want to use different channels for different activities. Financial info is mostly dominated by email, but SMS is important for critical updates (fraud alerts, balance alerts, and other time-sensitive information). And emails? They better be mobile friendly because mobile users are checking email on their mobile devices first (or most often). Email, SMS, push, voice, and soon chat, have to be covered if you want to keep mobile customers happy. Which begs the question:
And even more importantly, how do marketers and consumers get on the same communications wavelength? There is disconnect between how customers want to get information and how marketers provide it. Using the right technologies bridges that gap, but you need a good technical foundation to start with.
Getting a handle on the challenges
Before finding a solution to your communications challenges, you need to identify them first. Here are just a few omni channel and mobile communications challenges marketers face today:
- Determining which channels customers are using
- Determining which channels are best for your messages
- Optimizing emails, landing pages, and websites for mobile users
- Segmenting users and maintaining those segments across channels
- Data gathering and analysis (breaking down data silos) to understand if campaigns are effective
These challenges aren’t unique to mobile marketing, or even omni channel communications, but these challenges are more complicated when you’re trying to track the same customer from smartphone to tablet to desktop/laptop. We know consumers already use more than one device for communicating with brands, the imperative is finding holistic solutions to these challenges. The solution is only partly technical. There are process and institutional changes that need to happen as well, but let’s stick with the technical side of things first.
All the tools must be integrated
To come close to addressing the challenges, the communications tools in your set (email, SMS, push, voice, and chat are the core ones) don’t just need to be present but integrated as well. It isn’t good enough to have each tool in its own silo of messaging, data, and lists; you need to be able to create a message, select the segment, then pick all the channels to use. This is a gross oversimplification of the process since emails can be longer and richer than SMS and push messages are tied to apps on devices, but the premise is unified, cohesive messaging. Without integration, what you have are a bunch of applications within a single interface, not an omni channel communications tool.
Flexible omni channel platform
The technical part of the problem requires a single system that unites all the channels and data into one system. The most powerful part of an omni channel communications platform isn’t that the messaging tools are in a single place, it’s that the data and customer profiles are in a single place. Messaging tools alone don’t solve the problem. There are lots of ways to send emails, push notifications, and SMS messages from one place. Even if you have to cobble something together with a tool like Zapier to consolidate message sending, there is still the challenge of managing lists, segments, and preferences. Omni channel communications platforms (often grouped as Communications Platforms as a Service or cPaaS) provide both the messaging capability and a consolidated view of critical customer data.
Omni channel tools get you the insight into which users predominantly use mobile devices and which channel they want to be contacted over. It’s the user data that makes it possible. It’s not the ability to send the message, but rather the ability to send the right kind of message to the right person at the right time.
In the omni channel world, consistent message isn’t just about branding, tone, or product alignment, but consistently sending messages the right way. It’s frustrating to set a preference like send newsletters by email, coupons on SMS, and updates through push notification only to have the system ignore those preferences. What was the point in setting them in the first place then?
Consistent messaging also means ensuring the messages align with that customers place in the product journey. New users need one kind of messaging. Experienced users need something else. Expert users who might have even upgraded to paying for your service (or are at least paying you) are in a different part of the journey. If you send a new user a power user tip, it might be confusing. Showing one of your expert users a very basic feature is almost insulting. Worse is offering upgrades to paying customers, who might see a deal much better than the one they got.
You only get consistent messaging when you have all your customer data in a single place. A single view of a customer’s habits, preferences, and purchasing behavior. With the data in one place you can develop your customer segments based on the criteria that match your business goals.
Data in hand helps you segment your customers. Segmentation is essential to delivering the right, and consistent, message to customers. Customers usually fit into several segments at once, and your segmentation tool must account for that. You could have someone who is a mobile user, prefers SMS coupons, no newsletter, paying subscriber, long-time expert in your segmentation. That person should receive comepletely different sets of messages than a brand new customer. These segmented groups need to not just auto populate with customers as they join the system, but also automatically and dynamically update as customer behavior changes. For example a customer which hasn’t opened an email in three successive weeks is pulled from the main mailing list to a special list that is flagged for re-engaging. Automating as much segmentation as possible based on business rules and algorithms is one of the critical benefits to omni channel communication tools.
Marketers live and die by data and metrics. Open rates, click rates, leads generated, conversions, cart checkouts, all these data are essential…but not just essential, essential to have as near real time as possible. Let’s take a retailer as an example. You’re running a coupon promotion that is going out by email and SMS. You segmented your lists, but decided to do the first round just on a part of your overall list first. You weren’t 100% sure if the SMS group was going to convert as well as the email group. If you have real time data you might be able to see that two hours into the campaign SMS conversions are twice that of email. In fact most of the SMS messages have been opened and only 35% of emails have been opened. Now, instead of sending out a lot more emails, you can send out an SMS to people who have a preference for it (or you know are on their mobile devices most often). Customers who only want to receive emails would still get an email, but those who had no clear preference get SMS.
Only having data real time can let you make these decisions in the same day, just hours after the campaign started. Without real time data you’re waiting until the next day at least before you can make the decision how to send out your campaign the rest of your list. Whether it’s open rates for email vs SMS or A/B testing subject lines, it’s real time metrics and data that makes the difference when working with multiple channels.
Trust a reliable platform
The challenges faced by marketers in an omni channel communications world speak to the complexity of communications today. In the Marketer’s Guide to cPaaS post and the Marketer’s Guide to Omni Channel Communications ebook, this complexity softened by the cPaaS platform itself. A reliable cPaaS Omni Channel Communications platform unravels the challenges without over-simplifying them. Built on a foundation of stable tools, real time data, and centralized customer profiles Infobip’s Omni Channel solution gives you the confidence that the platform you trust to deliver your messages—actually can deliver the messages.