App communication experienceAs we use apps to do more, the role of communications — both in enabling a good app experience and in encouraging lasting engagement — has never been more important. Add to that a raft of recent research that shows our requirement for customer service and support via mobile apps is also on the rise, and it is difficult to find a more compelling case to integrate communications capabilities in your app.

Lynda Smith, CMO of Twilio, is my guest at Mobile Presence on the WebmasterRadio.FM network, where she talks about how platfroms like Twilio are effectively disrupting the ‘old telecom’ space (where communications was enabled by telcos, not the cloud), thus making business communications easier (and more accessible) than ever before. As Lynda puts it: “We’re seeing that communications is being used as a way of getting retention within the experience of the mobile app itself.” In practice, all organizations, of all sizes, can deliver huge benefit to their customers. “It all starts with a mobile app where communications has been integrated as part of the experience.”

Lynda provides examples of maverick companies that have embraced apps as a key component of their outbound digital communications and are thriving thanks to cloud communications.  To achieve this success they have replaced their outdated hardware-centric solutions with flexible cloud and software-based communications to “enable communications wherever the customer can imagine.”

Uber and Pay-By-Phone

During this episode Lynda cites examples including Uber, the on-demand car service that connects drivers with riders, thus allowing people to request private drivers through their smartphone app. This service, which has  disrupted the transportation and taxi industry, owes its success to seamless communications. It provides a customer experience that is connected, personal, and extremely easy — benefits that have driven Uber’s rapid and global expansion.

PayByPhone is another example we discuss. This app streamlines the process around paying for parking. Users receive a text from the service when their meter time is running out and — more importantly — can pay their meter from within the app. This allows users to continue on with what they are doing without having to stop and pay a meter or worry about getting a ticket.

We also learn how using platforms like Twilio effectively equips companies (startup and enterprise) to capture the ‘mobile moments’ — times when we are on our devices and eager to get stuff done.

To make the most of this important opportunity companies (through the communications capabilities they have baked into their app and the experience it delivers) can send out timely alerts and notifications to enhance or activate interactions with the app. Others are using picture messaging to take commerce to a new (and more interactive) level. Deliver pictures of items on offer directly to a mobile shopping app? Some established retailers are using Twilio to do just that.

We wrap up the show, as always with actionable insights you can follow to drive real results for your app business. I won’t give away the do’s and don’ts of integrating communications into your apps, but let’s just say a big part of achieving amazing results is the ability to re-imagine the customer experience and the role of communications to enable conversations, facilitate customer service and — ultimately— increase engagement.

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My take:

This was a great interview and the discussion dovetails well with all my ongoing work around the pivotal role of messaging (communications) as a key component of app engagement. My soon-to-be released report for Gigaom Research, titled Building Brand Engagement through In-App Communication, examines the role of messaging (push notifications and in-app messaging and chat) in an effective and comprehensive outbound communications strategy. I invite you to find out more about this upcoming report and my other reports for Gigaom here.

About Mobile Presence:

Every week Mobile Presence, which I co-host together with Shahab Zagari, brings you the people and the companies that matter most in mobile. Episodes air Wednesdays @ 3pm EST and are archived on the WebmasterRadio.FM website. The podcasts are also distributed via iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and Zune Marketplace, as well as the WMR mobile app for iPhone and Android. WMR has also sealed a syndication deal with iHeartRadio, a popular talk radio platform that counts 7 million active daily users.