The global messaging space is undergoing a sea-change. Going forward, chatbots and artificial intelligence are expected to take centre-stage, while pure-play infrastructure will cease to exist. Aditya Dhruva, Vice President and Head, Messaging and Data Solutions, Mahindra Comviva shares his views on the current trends and likely future roadmap of this space.
1. What trends are likely to emerge in the messaging space over the next few years? Which of these are most pertinent to our business?
Texting is one of the most common activities that is performed on a smart phone. Messaging, as a medium of communication, has evolved rapidly from individuals sharing information with each other to organizations running their businesses over it. From customer engagement to fulfilment to support, a plethora of use-cases are now being significantly served using messaging. People can now chat and exchange messages via messaging applications but also pay their bills online, transfer money, shop online and do many more tasks.
When messaging is discussed, it is no longer limited to just legacy channels like SMS or USSD, but covers also the digital world. This includes over-the-top (OTT) chat applications, online-portal based chatting, push notifications into mobile applications, and many forms of social media. As Mahindra Comviva looks to continue its leadership in mobile messaging, the portfolio evolution has to cater to these rapidly changing trends in the industry today. Pure-play infrastructure in messaging will cease to exist. Vendors will need to look at ways in which they can add business value to the customers through on-top services or business management services.
2. What are the unresolved challenges still (and likely to) facing messaging over the coming years?
As person-to-person (P2P) chatting has significantly shifted to OTT applications like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger etc., the application to person (A2P) traffic has increased at a tremendous pace. Enterprises are finding an increasing number of use-cases that rely on sending messages to their customers either in terms of promotions, or order information, etc. Messaging has become a channel of choice to inform the customer, without unduly interrupting them. The problem that the industry faces is that it will become quite difficult to understand where a particular customer is in real-time and contact him on the most relevant channel. How do the businesses manage all of these from a single place? How do I know the best way to maximize the return on investment (ROI)? What are the customers’ preferences?
All these are questions are yet to be answered in a convincing way and will take a momentous effort over the next couple of years in creating a suitable solution.
3. Is the hype surrounding chatbots, AI, chat commerce and payments justified? Why or why not?
Chatbots are here to stay. Chatbots are a very convenient way to offload frequently asked questions, support requests, etc. It helps bring in a high degree of efficiency, as well as is an always-on assistant for customers. Today, with advances in artificial intelligence (AI), bots are becoming more intelligent and are able to assist customers better and help businesses with a higher return. Chat commerce advances have been pioneered in China with WeChat and SnapChat, and are now percolating to the rest of the world.
One of the key areas that will determine the rise and fall of chatbots is the user-experience. Humans still have an edge over bots in this context. After all, it’s not so easy to replicate the complexity and intelligence of a human brain into an application.
4. In your opinion, what is the outlook for A2P messaging? Is enterprise messaging the way forward for the domain? Why or why not?
As indicated before, A2P is not just about SMS. An increasing number of businesses will rely on messaging to communicate with customers. This may be executed over SMS or IP or even social media. It is important that any solution in this space is able to evolve and adapt to these diverse channels and enable both the telecom companies and enterprises to seamlessly engage customers over new-age channels as well.
5. How can operators and aggregators tap into the A2P market now?
Telecom companies are in an advantageous position to offer omnichannel mobile engagement capabilities to enterprises. With their captive subscriber base, and data on their behavior and consumption trends, they can provide real-time intelligence to enterprises for better targeting and increasing the ROI. Enterprises should have the option for self-service as well. Aggregators should look to evolve from not just being bulk SMS providers, to providing their enterprise customers with a holistic set of capabilities around customer engagement.
6. What do you think of the threat of OTT being a channel for A2P messaging?
While OTT is a clear and present danger to legacy telecom channels as SMS, from an A2P messaging perspective, I would see OTT as a new-age engagement channel.
I see A2P as a means for mobile engagement over messaging, not just on SMS.