Enabling text messaging as part of a cross channel application is the smart move.
In a recent Wall Street Journal article dated Thursday, March 28, 2013, they talked about the rise of Messaging apps and contrasted this with SMS text messaging. See the picture below for background information.
Let’s clear up a couple points of possible confusion for business readers.
1. What are messaging apps and why are consumers downloading them?
Messaging apps are mobile apps (usually requiring a smartphone) that enable consumers to send the equivalent of what look like text messages to other consumers who have also downloaded the same mobile app. Okay, so why would a consumer want to do this since they could just send a text message to their friend? Cost savings. If consumers are paying their wireless phone carrier for receiving or sending text messages, then they could avoid paying for those text messages or reaching their monthly limit of text messages in order to save money on their monthly mobile phone bill. Downloading and using a mobile app to send the equivalent of text messages substitutes the cost of paying for these texts with the cost of paying for your phone’s data plan since these mobile apps are simply passing small data messages over the wireless carrier’s network. Since some wireless phone carriers may charge more for text messaging than they do for data plans, the wireless carriers have created an incentive for cost-conscious consumers to use these messaging apps instead of continuing to use their text messaging plans.
2. Why are these apps getting so much traction outside of the US but not within the US?
In most of the world, wireless phone carriers still charge consumers for text messages, thus you see large growth rates of these Messaging Apps by consumers in places like Brazil (see chart). However, in the US, the major wireless carriers have effectively preempted the significant growth of messaging apps by eliminating the financial incentive for consumers to download them. US wireless carriers have been actively converting consumers over to plans that give unlimited voice and texting and have tiered data plans. Therefore, consumers don’t need to limit the number of text messages they are sending from smartphones in an attempt to save on their monthly mobile phone bill so they have no real incentive to download these types of apps. US wireless carriers know that video and online games and richer websites are going to fuel consumer’s utilization of their networks. Since this is where the real data growth of consumer smartphone utilization lies; this is what they are driving consumers to pay for. US wireless carriers would be on the losing end of a battle with consumers over charging separately for text messaging when consumers could use a messaging app to achieve the same thing at a lower cost. Since carriers want consumers to buy more smartphones as well which are capable of using more of their data network, it makes business sense for the carriers to offer unlimited voice and texting which barely utilize their built out network and charge consumers to more consumers based on using their mobile data plan.
3. Can’t my business bypass text messaging like these messaging apps do?
By now you are probably asking yourself, why can’t I use Varolii to send messages like these messaging apps are doing and avoid paying for text messages? Well, to begin with, you or Varolii would need to create a messaging app and get your consumers to download it. Frankly, consumers are more likely to download your primary mobile app and receive push notifications in it.
If you want two-way texting functionality like these messaging apps provide, it can be build into your mobile app as a form of instant messaging like chat with your contact center so again, no reason to create a separate messaging app.
Alternatively, you might be thinking, can’t Varolii just leverage existing messaging apps such as WhatsApp? The issue there is that most of these messaging apps are closed systems that only allow for consumer-to-consumer messaging rather than business-to-consumer text messaging.
In conclusion, text messaging is still your best bet for reaching your consumers and adding text messaging as part of your cross channel engagement strategy. Messaging Apps for business use are no more than a bad April Fool’s joke.