The present economy is both technology-dependent and global. Consumers literally have a world of options at their fingertips when choosing the products and services they require. Typically, there are numerous organizations providing similar offerings. As such, the consumer’s choice often comes down to how successfully a supplier can deliver what they want in a manner that meets with their personal preferences.
Distinguishing and differentiating your brand in this environment requires careful technological and strategic choices. Customer service and customer experience are now key criteria for discerning consumers – so it’s important to get it right.
Effective communication is a key component of the customer service/customer experience mix. Consumers expect to be kept in the loop regarding the status of their accounts and purchases, and they expect brands to offer them deals and commodities that suit their particular needs or deal with their specific pain points. All of this information should come in a timely and engaging fashion, via channels that the customer is comfortable using.
Short message service or SMS text communication fits these criteria. SMS text capability is accessible to anyone with a compatible device (conventional handset or smartphone), and does not require an internet connection. Moreover, it’s a communications channel that is widely accepted by users.
Some 75% of adults text at least once a day, and open rates for text messages received are as high as 98%. Around 95% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes of being sent, which makes SMS an ideal medium for time-sensitive and/or real time communications.
This is good news for brands wishing to use SMS text to interact with consumers. A recent study by Juniper Research indicates that 62% of consumers have subscribed to at least one business to receive text messages in the past year. OpenMarket research confirms that 67% of millennials prefer to communicate with businesses via text message, emphasizing the importance of SMS marketing and communication for businesses looking to connect with younger consumers.
Organizations operating in the globalized economy may need to reach out to very large populations of consumers, and across international boundaries. One effective channel that makes this possible is A2P SMS.
What Is A2P SMS?
A2P SMS or application-to-person (A2P) messaging is a scenario in which an organization uses software to send text messages to people – typically, a set of subscribers to a targeted list. Due to its usage in the commercial sphere for mass communication with large sets of consumers, you’ll often hear A2P SMS referred to as business SMS or enterprise SMS.
A2P SMS sits in contrast to peer-to-peer or person-to-person (P2P) SMS, where a conventional two-way conversation typically takes place between people. P2P messaging isn’t really a viable option for business SMS communication, as it cannot handle large volumes of message recipients or scale up to meet enterprise communication needs.
Many implementations of A2P SMS are one-way communications, which enterprises and institutions can use to disseminate information about special offers and new product or service offerings, event announcements, or reminders. Other uses of one-way A2P SMS include the delivery of security codes and one-time passwords (OTP) for two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA), and the completion of online transactions.
Systems that enable two-way A2P SMS communication help organizations to conduct real-time dialogue with consumers – for example, during information gathering from test populations or technicians in the field, and for conducting customer service interactions. Short message service application programming interfaces (SMS APIs) now make it easier and less expensive for enterprises to integrate SMS capability into their existing business and customer facing platforms for this purpose.
In a typical A2P SMS scenario, an organization will use a dedicated A2P messaging platform to send bulk or individual messages. This A2P messaging platform will use SMS gateway technology to deliver messages through mobile network connections to their designated recipients.
Stakeholders in the A2P SMS Ecosystem
A2P SMS traffic is being driven by sectors such as banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) for use cases like customer authentication and account monitoring. Commercial organizations are using A2P SMS for automated marketing and customer support, while healthcare providers, the hospitality industry, educational institutions and others rely on A2P SMS to deliver time-sensitive communications to their dependents and consumers.
A number of stakeholders contribute to the running of an A2P SMS ecosystem. They include:
- Access Providers: Typically, these are telecommunications service providers, virtual network operators (VNOs) and other service providers, who provide access to their customer base and offer their network services to A2P messaging platforms and other players.
- Telemarketers: These organizations are responsible for collecting SMS and other data, filtering out unwanted information, and distributing tailored content to provide a centralized interface for A2P SMS users.
- Developers and Platform Providers: Responsible for the design of application programming interfaces (APIs) and libraries that ensure seamless integration of SMS, push notifications, and other communications data with enterprise systems.
- Enterprises: The businesses and institutions that use A2P SMS to interact and connect with consumers.
- Regulators: Responsible for ensuring that all stakeholders abide by relevant laws, statutes, and compliance regimes, and that A2P SMS platforms protect consumers from fraud while delivering meaningful content with proper consent.
- Customers: The end recipients of enterprise SMS communications. Their active role in the ecosystem is to set their preferences, provide consent, and communicate these preferences to their access providers.
How A2P SMS Enhances the Customer Experience
For businesses, A2P SMS provides a cost-effective and efficient way to communicate with customers. With A2P SMS, enterprises can automate customer notifications, reducing the need for human intervention at scale, and improving their customer service operations. Critically, A2P SMS can help businesses reach customers in real-time, ensuring that they receive important updates and alerts.
Business SMS messaging gives customers the ability to receive notifications and updates on their mobile devices, for action and/or response at their own convenience. Communicating with brands in this way also reduces the need for customers to make phone calls or visit physical stores for updates and information.
So for example, ecommerce businesses can send SMS notifications to their customers with updates on the status of their orders, keeping customers informed and reducing the need for them to contact customer support for updates.
For time-sensitive events or transactions, healthcare providers, hospitality venues, repair shops, and other service-based organizations can send SMS reminders to customers about upcoming appointments, helping to reduce no-shows and improving the customer experience.
In a two-way A2P SMS exchange, organizations can send surveys and polls to consumers, in order to get feedback about their experience. This kind of information can help businesses identify areas where their product or service delivery needs to improve.
Recommendations for Using A2P SMS to Enhance Customer Interactions
To help optimize the customer experience for your consumers or client base, there are a number of best practices you can adopt, or features you can look for in your A2P SMS solution. They include the following:
Identify and Segment Your Customer Base
Before adopting an A2P SMS solution, you should first gather information about your customer base to identify their needs and preferences, and the most effective communication channels and messaging times to reach them. If you segment your customer population based on specific criteria (age, demographics, income, etc.), this will assist in tailoring your A2P message content to specific customer groups.
Provide Clear Opt-In and Opt-Out Mechanisms
Obtaining customer consent to receive A2P SMS communication is critical for their experience and your own protection as a brand. Message recipient consent is now a legal requirement in many jurisdictions (Europe and the US for example) – and failure to provide clear instructions on how to provide it can have serious consequences for both your business reputation and your bottom line.
The same applies to opting out of receiving A2P SMS communications. One way to ensure this is to provide an opt-out keyword in each message, or a link to a preference center where customers can manage their messaging settings.
Personalize and Enrich Your Messaging
Understanding your buyer personas and segmenting your customer base empowers your marketing or customer service teams to craft more personalized messaging for your recipients. Using multimedia message service (MMS) elements like images or videos, and interactive buttons that allow customers to select options can create further engagement with consumers.
Use Strategic and Careful Message Timing
Monitor your A2P SMS message frequency to avoid overwhelming customers with too many communications. Note that almost all respondents to a recent Gitnux survey (96%) said they would be willing to receive a text message at least once a week. Most shoppers prefer to hear from a brand once a week (40%) or a few times a week (30%), while only 13% of consumers prefer to receive SMS from brands once a day.
Your A2P SMS solution should have message frequency and automation settings that will enable you to optimize your message output in line with customer preferences.
Consider the Privacy and Security Aspects of the Platform
A2P SMS messaging may contain sensitive data that makes it a target for hackers, intellectual property thieves, and other bad actors. The A2P SMS solution that you choose should therefore provide security protections such as data encryption, two-factor authentication (2FA), and secure sockets layer (SSL) communication protocols. On the customer-facing side, your organization should also provide clear communication to message recipients regarding data usage, privacy policies, and opt-out procedures.
Choose a Solution with SMS Integration Capabilities
Integrating your A2P SMS messaging with other line of business systems can help streamline your communication channels and maximize the efficiency of your information distribution and customer service efforts. For example, integrating your A2P SMS platform with your customer relationship management (CRM) system can enable your customer service team to manage customer queries, complaints, and service requests from a centralized location.
An SMS API can help make this happen. An SMS API is a set of protocols and tools that enables software applications to send and receive text messages programmatically. It allows developers to integrate SMS functionality into their own applications, websites, or systems, facilitating the automation of SMS communication.
The IDT Express SMS API enables users to quickly send SMS polls, surveys and request customer feedback with two-way messaging. Our SMS OTP APl provides the swiftest, highly secure, and cost-effective solution for user verification and authentication. IDT Express also offers a secure, highly reliable Wholesale SMS gateway service enabling businesses to provide outbound one-way A2P communications.
To find out more about how IDT Express can assist with your A2P SMS communications, visit our website, or book a demo.