Getting the Message about Messaging – New Research from Twilio

Getting the Message about Messaging – New Research from Twilio

By Jon Arnold October 25, 2016 Leave a Comment
Jon Arnold 2014
Getting the Message about Messaging – New Research from Twilio by Jon Arnold

We’ve been hearing a lot about messaging lately, and at the recent MoNage event in Boston, my comment that “messaging is the new voice” really seemed to resonate. There’s certainly a Wild West element to this space, and that opens the door for new players to make their marks, and bring even more disruption to the cadre of UC players we’re so familiar with.

Twilio is one of those players, and enterprise collaboration is a big part of their game plan. To whatever extent you think they are – or can be – a credible UC&C provider, it’s fair to say they are messaging-centric in the same way that so many UC vendors are still voice-centric. Things are changing fast, and it’s clear to me that the messaging opportunity needs to be better understood to have long-term success in this space.

Along those lines, Twilio is doing its part by producing some timely research, and I’m going to share some takeaways here that any UC&C provider – and channel partner – should pay heed to. Titled the “Global Mobile Messaging Consumer Report 2016,” Twilio’s research does more than validate what you already know with metrics. While that’s important, there are some interesting subtleties, especially for businesses with global workforces, which I’ll get to shortly.

In terms of substance, the research covered 6,000 people across seven countries, with the focus being on how they engage with businesses. The sample had a 50/50 split by gender, and covered the spectrum age-wise, ranging from 18 to 55+. If you’re looking for buying criteria to support IT decision-making for UC, this study won’t help you. While Twilio has largely been consumer-focused, this research is still highly relevant for those decision-makers, simply because these respondents are engaging with your business regularly now. If you don’t understand the role that messaging is playing here, then your decisions about UC are going to miss the mark. Here’s what you need to know.

Takeaway #1 – The Messaging Disconnect

Twilio’s research found that 89% of consumers want to use messaging when communicating with businesses. Being a market researcher by trade, I can’t help but wonder if they probed that sentiment further, and can think of several add-on questions. However, just taking this finding at face value, it’s clear that messaging is a desirable channel for consumers – no surprise there.

Things get more interesting when the report pairs this up with a finding from Dimension Data’s latest contact center benchmarking report, namely that only 48% of businesses are up to the task of using messaging to engage with customers. Again, by taking that at face value, the combined data points indicate that almost half of all customers who are willing to communicate this way, are not able to do so.

While old school market research practitioners like myself will contend it’s bad form to mix data from other studies with your own, this basic conclusion is pretty reasonable. There’s no way to tell if DiData’s research is really valid to apply against Twilio’s research, but I believe the implied disconnect relays a strong message – enterprises are badly lagging in supporting this desire to use messaging, and had better close the gap if they want to stay close to their customers.

Takeaway #2 – Mobile Phones are the Endpoint of Choice

Definitely no surprise here, but messaging is very much a global trend, and American companies tend to think in U.S.-centric terms. I can say that straight up being an expat American, but living in Canada, will add that I’m too polite to complain that the research didn’t include Canada in its scope of seven countries. Perhaps our messaging preference is really no different from Americans, but then again, Twilio is U.S-based, and perhaps didn’t think we’d be offended by not being included in the research. Or maybe it never crossed their minds, but let’s move on from this story-within-a-story. It’s not easy being a bi-national!

The more important message here is to understand how the incidence of mobile usage varies by region. Overall, the research found that 66% of consumers use mobile phones to message both their friends and businesses. If you’re keeping score, here’s how the rest of the data breaks out: 15% for laptops, 11% for desktops, and 8% for tablets.

These data points alone are worth citing for anyone looking to quantify the mobile messaging opportunity. While the research doesn’t segment personal usage versus business usage, the primacy of mobility shouldn’t be in doubt – when customers are trying to message your business, they’re likely doing so from a mobile phone. That said, the incidence does vary by region, and here’s how it breaks out in terms of the mobile phone being the primary endpoint for messaging:

South Korea74%
U.S. 69%
U.K. 65%

Cultural differences matter, and when thinking about how to support messaging on a global basis, the research indicates that not all customers will be equally attached to their mobile phones. Not surprisingly, the Southeast Asia countries lead the way, followed by the major English-speaking countries. India may surprise you, but with a middle class larger than the entire U.S. population, you’d better pay attention to their preferences. Japan seems like the outlier here, and data elsewhere in the research indicates a majority preference for email, more so than any of these countries. As such, if most of your customers are in Japan, the urgency for becoming more messaging-centric won’t be as strong as in these other countries.

Takeaway #3 – Messaging is a Two-Way Street

While it’s easy to dismiss messaging as a light modality best suited for fleeting chit chat or one-off missives, the research shows that consumers use it for specific reasons. Not only that, but for many use cases, it’s a dialog where a reply is expected. Below are the top use cases, and what’s really interesting is the diversity of applications for messaging.

Reply to order confirmations60%
Reply to appointment reminders55%
Give product or service feedback49%
Reply to delivery status47%
Learn about new products46%
Rate or respond to a survey45%
Receive coupons or promotions42%

Not only is messaging a two-way street for consumers, but there’s utility beyond being a new channel for the contact center. That’s definitely one application, but just from this list, it should be clear that consumers are looking for other things as well when engaging with businesses. As the report goes on to discuss, there are opportunities here for marketing initiatives, sales promotions, notifications to drive e-commerce, and proactive messaging to keep customers updated for appointments, renewals, maintenance, etc.

In my view, this leads to the strongest conclusion of the research, namely that the applications for messaging really are unlimited, not just to enable better one-to-one communication, but to enrich the value proposition for UC&C platforms. This research tells us a lot about why messaging matters, but the real message is that UC&C providers – and channels – have a great opportunity here to provide enterprises with new ways to engage with customers, and to do so with the tools that they use today rather than the tools they stopped using yesterday.



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