Let’s dispel the myth that in the past it was simpler and easier to communicate with consumers than it is today. It’s never been easy. There have always been complications, nuances, and best practices. Today, the challenges are less in finding what to say to whom, but in finding out which channels best fit your target audience(s). Once you determine the right channels (there’s no magic bullet here), how do you manage and coordinate all your messages? How do you manage segments, buying stages, and life cycle nurturing?
Until recently, marketers have been left to cobble together separate solutions for email, push, SMS, voice, chat, and all other channels they use. Sometimes you could put a couple together, but rarely all of them. A single solution that seamlessly combined them all, which you didn’t have to build and host yourself, was like catching a unicorn. And let’s not forget managing your lead lists, customer's lists, and segments. You want to have a clear overview of all your recipients, segmented as they are, in one place. Have you been able to pull that off successfully?
Didn’t think so.
We know that an integrated approach to communications and messaging works best, but finding that solution has been near impossible. This is precisely why the Communications Platform as a Service (cPaaS) idea emerged; to finally have a hosted, multi-service solution that integrates messaging, user segments, and reporting into a single web portal to handle all campaign needs.
As a term, and industry sector, cPaaS is still new and the market is still trying to understand how it fits into communications in general. Gartner defines cPaaS as:
“When PaaS offers are specifically oriented toward supporting communication functionality, these are called communications PaaS, or cPaaS. In several cases, these platforms are integrated with special purpose communications infrastructure, while in other cases these operate on public IaaS offers. Increasingly, business application developers want to extend their applications with SMS, MMS, speech recognition, mobile browsing, two-factor authentication, intelligent assistants and other emerging options for fixed and mobile interactions. Additionally, enterprises are rethinking how they offer services, developing highly interactive automated customer and service experiences that allow them to compete in the emerging digital business and digital customer service and digital workplace. Today, cPaaS platforms are evolving to address this new class of enterprise communication requirements.”
Gartner’s definition helps put cPaaS in context with other solutions and deals with its unique value to marketers: cPaaS is the one stop shop for communications that go beyond just sending messages. The power of cPaaS is connecting mobile, communications, web, email, payments, and security into a powerful tool marketers can leverage to engage with customers.
Omni channel communications and cPaaS are intertwined
It’s no accident that omni channel communications and cPaaS have evolved together. To achieve the promise of omni channel communications and messaging you need a platform to run it on. Trying to build an omni channel platform on your own is almost out of the question. Marketing automation tools cover some facets of omni (usually just push and email) while lacking the ability to include SMS, voice, and OTT chat into their workflows. Marketing automation tools are still essential, but we need to expand their scope to include more messaging platforms, more data, and better segmentation than before. The promise of marketing automation gave marketers a taste of coordinated messaging, but once marketing programs got more complicated, marketing automation tools needed to be augmented with something bigger.
That something bigger is cPaaS.
What cPaaS looks like from the inside
The best part of cPaaS isn’t how many tools it integrates, but how familiar it is to any marketer who has used integrated marketing automation in the past. Top tier cPaaS systems have web-based user portals so users can manage all their communications channels in one place. CPaaS portals give you the tools to create, manage, and measure campaigns in one place. Here’s an example:
Anyone who has used SaaS tools in the past will be familiar with the layout and operation of a cPaaS portal. From your single portal view you can manage, and measure, all of your campaigns. cPaaS is the tool that makes omni channel communications come alive and serve as an essential tool for marketers.
cPaaS brings integrated communications to life
The key part of cPaaS isn’t communication or being part of a service, it’s the platform that makes it powerful. There are lots of separate tools for all the functions contained within a robust cPaaS system, but if you use one service for SMS another for email and another for 2-Factor Authentication (yes, security needs to be part of your cPaaS too) you have to integrate them together. *You *need to figure out how to keep a single master list of customers, segments, and communications preferences. *You *have to manage who has opted out of email, but still wants SMS messages. *You *have to manage who is in your “just starting out” segment versus a “power user who pays” segment on each of the disparate systems.
Every time you have to integrate a new system into your marketing communications mix, you not only make your job more complex, you increase costs, and increase the chance of making a mistake. With separate systems it’s all too easy for marketing to send an email newsletter to a group of power users who just got a special message from customer success. Maybe two emails in a day isn’t too much, but what if the newsletter was actually meant for new users and somehow your power users were included? That’s not the kind of coordinated messaging that wins people over. Those mistakes are what makes companies look disorganized and careless.
The future is single messaging to your segmented groups
We know that people are different, but we also know that groups of people behave in similar ways. An essential part of omni channel communications, as powered by modern cPaaS tools, is segmenting your users into groups who can receive a single message. But even more than a single message, a single personalized message that could highlight what they browsed or bought, what they read and clicked, or what they shared or loved. Those segments of people can be treated as a single group for messaging, but still personalized for maximum engagement. Within a cPaaS system it’s simple to say “Thank you Bill for being such a great customer, here’s 50% off your next purchase of fly fishing accessories” and also say “Thank you Sue for being such a great customer, here’s 50% off your next purchase of mysteries” for customers with similar buying profiles, even though they buy completely different things. And if Bill likes email and Sue likes SMS, each of them get the message how they want to receive it. If one segment does better with push message alerts or over chat, then that’s how you reach those sub-segments of each larger segment.
Messages to nurture potential customers through the lead funnel and completely different messages for customers at each stage their own lifecycle. Then you take all of those messages and all of those segments and analyze them so you can understand which messages help you the most, and which don’t. Segmentation combined with metrics and measurement is the only way to truly understand what’s working and what isn’t. And only a fully capable omni channel communications cPaaS system can do that for you.
Coming back full circle
We started this series talking about the big picture—omni channel communications—then talked about each component part (APIs, SMS technically, SMS best practices, email, and push). Now we come back to omni channel as the reason that cPaaS exists in the first place. Our first post talked about how consumer preferences were changing. How people want to receive different kinds of messages on different media and devices. After going through each piece of the puzzle, you see how they all fit in together to make the cohesive whole—and cPaaS makes this a reality.
The reason why we started with omni channel communications first was to help you understand the direction modern communications are moving. We’re ending with cPaaS, giving you the vehicle to get there. Marketing communications are complicated enough without needing to worry about how to juggle all the parts together. How to keep one segmented customer list. How to manage communications with people who like SMS versus email. Which of your users has enabled 2-Factor Authentication and who hasn’t. Who reacts to push messaging offers and who turned off their notifications altogether.
This is the world of omni channel communications. This is the world of cPaaS. This is the world that Infobip is creating. If you’d like to learn more about our omni channel communications powered by a robust cPaaS engine come talk to us.
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Read the entire series:
- Marketer's Guide to Omni Channel Communications
- Marketer's Guide to Messaging APIs
- Marketer's Guide to SMS Part 1: Technical Details
- Marketer's Guide to SMS Part 2: Best Practices and Tips
- Marketer's Guide to Email and Omni Channel Marketing
- Marketer's Guide to Push: Tapping Into Better Customer Engagement