Consumers may be lukewarm about getting promotional messages, but a new study suggests they genuinely welcome more messages if they are useful and timely. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Jeff Hasen, Director of Communications, Sinch, a company providing personalized messaging and other related services, to discuss how messaging — including notifications, rich messaging and chatbots — can fill voids in customer experience. They also explore the “opportunity gap” for conversational messaging and brainstorm how businesses can meet their customers’ unmet need for more (and more personal) messaging while respecting personal privacy concerns.
But all of this starts with your efforts to build trust and that’s a big topic, it’s not just about privacy – it’s all about being appropriate and we’re going to be talking about appropriate messaging and also not just talking about like the warm fuzzy side of things but we have some hard nose data as well and we’re going to have both with Jeff Hasen, he’s been here before but now, Jeff, you’re in a new position, you’re Director of Communications over at Sinch that has brought us this very cool report, Jeff. So, kick off with maybe a few words about what Sinch is.
Yes, first off, hi Peggy, you and I have been talking about engagement through mobile technology for ever, not that we’re that old but some days it feels that way. So, yes, I just in the last – in the autumn, I joined a company called “Sinch” which is a Stockholm-based firm but actually we’re in 30+ offices in 30+ countries and what’s interesting I’m sure to you is so you and I, when we first met, I was in the messaging space, SMS space at Hip Cricket as Chief Marketing Officer, and then one might ask the question, “So what are you doing back in the messaging space and what makes this interesting to me personally and professionally?” and we can get into that but I think the short answer is Sinch is looking at consumer engagement and moving from 160 character SMS to conversational messaging and really becoming a tool globally for some of the largest companies in the world to service their companies, not just in a marketing sense but also to provide vital information in a timely fashion to better serve from a customer care perspective and many other use cases.
And to your point, you know, it’s about the conversation, way back when, when we started talking, I mean, it was about messaging, you know, permission-based marketing, it wasn’t always a given that was privacy was a concern, it wasn’t always a given that opt-in was a must and it evolved and I think also what we’re seeing in what you’ve provided me from Sinch and also this amazing report that we’ll be talking about is the evolution of messaging. I mean, we’re seeing here that people do want to have messaging but it needs to be appropriate, it has to have – it has to be personal, it has to meet their needs. Maybe you can just give me a little bit of a context here for why Sinch is looking into this type of research in the first place. I mean, is it very much being a proponent of more of a fixing messaging because I get the feeling that, you know, way back when, when we were together and talking about it, I think we broke it – we almost blew SMS out of the water by screwing around with it, that was the problem.
Right. Well, Sinch is looking at messaging in a much broader way than I have and we’ve talked about it in the past so in the role that I guess I’m most known for when I was at Hip Cricket, it was all about building loyalty clubs for restaurants, for retailers, and there was value in there for sure but it was all about having somebody respond to a call to action and then giving them some information and then looking to ask them to opt-in for future marketing messages and again that’s really important and there’s a role for loyalty clubs today.
But we at Sinch, we’re much broader as I mentioned, you know, in the intro comments – eight of the top ten tech companies in the world need to reach their end users in the most efficient fashion. So we’re providing not only a vehicle to create marketing messages through marketing automation, APIs and things like that but what we’re also doing is enabling the largest companies that you can think of to reach literally anybody in the world through SMS because of that ubiquity and that reach and in important ways.
You know, an example is if there’s fraud suspected on your credit card, you really don’t want to receive that information by email because – I don’t know about you, Peggy, but I'm never up to date in my emails so that information is mission critical and we’ve talked about forever the open rates of SMS but that is the perfect example, you know. Another examples are clients use a one-time passcode or just the other day on Black Friday, I needed to reset my passcode and I asked a large e-commerce company to respond to me and it allowed me to do that and they chose to send me an email that took 4 minutes to arrive. And you can just think about the business that would be lost or could be lost by somebody who is sitting there tapping their toes, so to speak, waiting for this information so they can log in and make the purchase that they wanted to.
The most efficient channel in that circumstance and in many other circumstances is messaging. Now it’s not sexy, you know, the messaging that you and I have been talking about for over a decade, 160 characters has evolved so the average attention span for 160 character SMS is 3 seconds but when you add rich messaging, so you add video, that elevates the number even further and then it’s actually 40 times the attention rate when you start having conversations with consumers and that could be through RCS or that could be other ways to provide value and to give more of a conversation than a one-way blast out to somebody or even if it’s personal, it’s one-way so we’re evolving into an area where not just marketing uses but uses to reduce time wasted, reducing the overhead that it takes to service a business at a global scale.
The very definition of messaging is much broader and finally happily entities around the world and some of the largest companies you can possibly think of are seeing the value in it.
And talking about the experience here, you know it’s interesting that yes, people do want to have, they want to message companies, they want to have conversations with companies at the same time if it gets to be out of hand, they set up their ways to filter this, even if it’s just sending it to a deliberate email for spam for being annoyed – what it is that you’ve found the most interesting as a takeaway here in your report because it’s full of data but it’s so desperately honest – I mean, it’s 2,000 consumers globally and some of it is really eye-opening about the surprises in this report...
Yes, well first off, I take no credit for this report, it actually was a gift actually that keeps on giving, it was one of the first things that I was handed to get out and tell the world about but this is a report that we’d been working on for several months. Some of the most interesting things that we found and let me preface this by saying we can go back in the archives and neither one of us have ever hyped channels – you and I always talk about the value and we try to get past the empty promises and that something is for every instance – but when it comes to messaging, we actually see a big void in terms of what businesses are doing versus what consumers might want.
So the most striking stat to me was that folks are 35 times more likely to open up a mobile message than an email and a little bit of what I talked about earlier when it came to the right channel with something that is timely, so that’s interesting and some of the best use cases – so 62% of consumers would like to confirm a service appointment via messaging, they don’t want to get a phone call about it, they don’t want to be driven to a website, they don’t want it to be buried in their email box. So 62% want to confirm a service appointment and on any given day, we’re always going to the dentist or getting our hair cut or something like that.
But the flip side of that is only 41% do so today versus the 62% who want to and that use case that I mentioned earlier, 70% want banks to message them about suspicious activity yet only 35% receive those today. I’ve been fortunate and I’ll knock on some wood here – I have never had that happen to me but I’ve had both of my brothers just be in a world of hurt because there was fraud that went on when it came to credit cards. This is information that cannot wait and messaging is the perfect channel to deliver something that somebody needs to act on now. I need to call the bank and say, “No, that’s not my charge, stop my card from being used”.
Well, I'm fascinated by this opportunity gap, it’s almost like I want to take a picture right now, put it up on social media – it’s like the must-read page in the report. There’s so much more that we’re going to get to but we do have to go to a break right now, listeners, so don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we are back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz – we have today Jess Hasen, he is Director of Communications at Sinch. And Jeff, right before the break we were talking about this report, a must-read report, Mobile Consumer Engagement 2020 based on 2,000+ consumers surveyed as well as some other organisations – great idea about the key takeaway but why don’t we just step back a moment and talk about what we’re talking about when we say messaging? For example, I was just in India and messaging there is WhatsApp, that what it is, but we see you’re looking at, you know, rich messaging, chatbots etc – is there a way we can sort of like map messaging to the purpose so, you know, marketers need to use this for that? Is there any way to be more specific?
Yes, I think, Peggy, more than use cases, it’s an understanding about usage and regions and I was just before this call, I was on a call with an industry analyst and we were talking about WhatsApp and it was brought up by our Chief Strategy Officer that WhatsApp is big in certain areas like India, like you mentioned, but not as big in, say, the States. So we’re talking about messaging through a variety of messaging platforms so more and more the chats, the interactions in some areas of the world are happening in non-SMS formats but the principle remains the same in terms of it is this quick, efficient channel, something that lends itself to your use cases and we’ve talked in the past about there’s use cases for every channel – I want to see broad pictures, I’m sure I told you the story, it’s one of my dumb stories I tell all the time, but I made a mistake when I went on my honeymoon and I believed something where it said a luxury hotel and there was shag carpeting there and my new wife said, “You can make this mistake once, you can’t make this mistake twice”.
So I learned that lesson 29 years ago and knew that in that case, 160 characters with no link to rich video where I can take pictures and eyeball it and even get approval from my wife would make no sense but I think to directly answer your question, there’s SMS and there’s extreme value and there always has been because of the ubiquity. My 90-year-old mother-in-law communicates to us via SMS or via messaging more than any other channel so you can reach anybody throughout the world because it’s embedded on phones.
But to your point, there are certain places and certain regions where SMS isn’t the delivery vehicle. I mean, it’s something that might be something, an additional messaging app like a WhatsApp but it’s critical as it always has been to understand your sitting in Germany and I'm sitting in Seattle and the usage and the behaviours are quite different in one part of the world versus another.
But what we seem to have as a commonality running through this is being appropriate. I mean, it’s very clear what’s going to happen if you break “the rules of engagement”. I mean, some people just turn their apps on mute, turn their notifications on mute – what other evidence are you seeing of, you know, filtering, blocking – is that what you feel happens, what triggers that? Is that just because brands and companies are being annoying or do you have some insights into what turns us off?
Sure. Sure, and I think the answer to that question is broader than messaging. You know, it’s about being relevant and in many cases having folks opt-in and right message, right time – sounds like a cliché and when you and I last talked, I was working in the mobile app space and it was about when do you ask somebody to consent for push notifications and when do you ask somebody to consent to give you their location and the answers to both of those questions is not immediately, it’s after you provide some value.
So, I think the idea that folks are all the same is obviously a fallacy, I think the idea that things like apps will go away, I think that’s my personal opinion, I don’t think that’s the case either but things like apps or apps in particular have proven to have certain use cases in a lot of ways is only downloaded, say, by 20% of maybe a customer base and there’s value in reaching a loyal customer but it’s not the broad reach, it’s not the broad way that people might engage with your business and that brings you back to something where you look for – if I want ubiquity and one of the most appealing things to me about Sinch is that we’re not just saying we can reach people in one part of the world, it’s this global reach and also direct binds to the carriers that allow for the most important things like security and quality and lack of latency and in each channel, you know, including messaging, there are expectations that users have.
You know, the expectation is that if I text in, I’m going to get a response back quickly and that’s not going to change except for the fact that people actually have less patience when it comes to waiting.
So, you know, speed, urgency, making sure that somebody’s going to see something sooner rather than later, you know, those are some of the times when messaging is most appropriate.
And just to be clear with Sinch, I mean, because I'm looking here at some of the graphs, worldwide, the messaging landscape, it’s fascinating that Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp dominate – Snapchat is fast advancing which is not my space I have to say but you have to be everywhere. Basically, the marketer doesn’t have a choice, it’s like you need to be where your customers are, they’re using various messaging channels – does Sinch support all of those?
Yes, for sure, so everything in the messaging bucket is supported by our business, some are less advanced than others. WhatsApp gets a lot of attention but at this point, SMS is not just a workhorse but it’s also the key revenue driver. But, you know, we don’t see that as static, you know, and one thing we haven’t mentioned is the vertical interest in using messaging so the banking industry versus healthcare versus retail and for each of those, there are various use cases like somebody wants to get an update about their bank balance – there are a lot of different options, I think the last time you and I talked, we talked about voice and you could ask Alexa “What’s my bank balance?” if you’ve got that skill there, but again that’s not ubiquitous, not everybody has that device, not everybody has their bank set up with that. So SMS is the perfect way for you to get this information that is a very common – I wouldn’t say problem, but very common question that people have, you know, what’s in my checking account and did that, you know, charge clear or appear on my bill, those kinds of things.
Yes, and then to your point, it is kind of interruptive in a way – what I love messaging is it happens, allows me to multitask, it does take my attention but it doesn’t dominate it so if I have to ask Alexa, I need to probably almost remind myself to do that in the moment. It’s a bit of a fiddly thing. I just have a quick one for you to ask you about the chatbots, we might not finish this right before the break but do you also support chatbots because of course that’s sort of slightly along the lines of the next big thing?
No, it totally is so this – we go back to the same principles about the information needs to be relevant and needs to be personal to me. In your, you know, your long expected or traditional SMS, it would be getting information that your gate has changed or that your flight time has moved or your plane is leaving on time if you’re so fortunate, but through chatbots, we’re seeing again more of this conversation so it might be a question of “Where’s my luggage?” and we’re seeing more businesses going down this route to be able to quickly and efficiently respond to somebody and also to give them information that’s exactly what they have on their mind as opposed to something – no disrespect to all those years when we were doing loyalty clubs but it was
“Here’s your meatball sandwich offer – go have a 2 for 1 today” and that might matter to some people, and some people it might not.
Yes, and to your point, you know, it is all about the conversation – we do have to end this for a moment, go last to our last break, I mean, but listeners, don’t go away – as you can see, lots of reasons to come right back so do that and we’ll be here.
Hey, we are back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz – we have Jess Hasen, Director of Communications at Sinch. And Jeff, it’s been a great show, it’s gone way too quickly, by the way, haven’t even touched the surface of what you’ve got in this report but skip past all the data, I’m a little bit of a data nerd so I could go into findings all day long but the top line, you know, takeaway is what do we do based on this? There are some sort of rules of engagement, some codex here that marketers have to follow with messaging – maybe you can sum it up in a couple of quick points.
Sure. I hope to. You know, the first one is this has never been about a quantity game from either a marketer or a business perspective, it’s never been about how many messages can one send and how many messages can a consumer reach or read before there’s this pushback that you’re communicating to me too much. I think the advancement to me is this clichéd term of value exchange – I think the use cases to me in the last few years have become more crystalised and back to what I said earlier, marketing messages are important, you know, through Black Friday we saw record numbers of messages, SMS messages being sent and also dollars being spent in the mobile channel so that’s awesome.
But now we’ve gotten to the point where it’s not just about, “Hey, there’s a toy or a dress or a consumer good that’s on sale” but it’s about things like “Is it available for me to pick up?”, “Where is the driver?”, “Was it delivered?” It really rounds out the equation and it’s not just the drive demand, it is about taking this throughout the entire customer journey where somebody might have made a purchase but that’s just the first part of the interaction with a business, the whole fulfilment and the whole getting in somebody’s hands – it doesn’t really end until that point.
You’ve got a great point there as well because I know a lot of people who, you know, they stay with Amazon maybe not for the reasons you would think, not about price but it’s simply because, you know, you ordered it, it’s been ordered, it’s on its way – you know every step of the way, there’s nothing left to chance, there’s nothing where you’re wondering, “Where is it, what’s going on?” and you want to have that level of certainty at some level in other aspects of your life because we’re all time-crunched, wouldn’t it be great to know, “Yes, I do have an appointment right now”, or “Yes, this is going on at the bank”. You know, whatever, it’s sorted, it’s taken care of – and that goes back, doesn’t it a bit actually, Jeff, to that whole idea of the electronic concierge – remember that one?
Here we are again but messaging is going to do that, we thought it was going to be search, remember?
Yes, here’s an example – I had installation of internet into my house a couple of weeks ago and they started out by giving me a ten hour window of when they were going to... so I had to sit in my house, if I didn’t deal with this, mitigate this, I would have had to sit in my house... so we got the window down smaller, hopefully, and it actually was not a good experience because it was a lot of IVR and then finally getting to a human person and actually I had to escalate it to a supervisor which is a terrible experience but ultimately on the day, I had a message that said the driver was on his way, had a message that said, you know, a little while earlier that you can expect this person within a much tighter window – this is all the kind of information that is useful and it’s what we call “transactional” but it’s extremely important for businesses to differentiate in these regards.
Yes, and going back to the roots of where we all started, I remember that it was important to offer utility, that that was a value proposition, so if you are useful and you are helpful, that was a plus for your brand.
We’re running out of time but I would like, in a nutshell, in a sentence, what you think about the future of messaging, so maybe say something now and we’ll test it, we’ll have you back at the end of 2020 and we can see where we landed but I’d love to hear from you because you have that expertise, Jeff – where are we going in messaging, what’s the next big thing?
Yes, you know, and I mention this continuing from traditional SMS to rich messaging, so we’re in that place where we’re delivering effectively videos and other images that make information more valuable and more compelling. I think this conversational messaging journey that we’re on, so to speak, it’s not going to happen all in 2020 but the businesses that get closer to this whole – what we just talked about, you know, how do we drive demand, how do we get somebody to consider, to make a purchase but also this all the way through and then if somebody has a question about it – I think that’s what I'm looking for in 2020, it’s not going to be instant and it’s not going to be everywhere but it’s the thing that is most interesting in the evolution of a space that some thought was dated and you know was going to be passed by.
And we’ll check that out as I said a little bit later on in the year, where you’ve landed with that one. In the meantime, you know, you have this report, you obviously have other insights to offer both as just Jeff Hasen, expert that you are, but also over at
Sinch – so what’s the best way for our listeners to stay in touch with you?
Yes, well, the first thing I’ll say is to flesh out what we talked about from this consumer survey, it’s very easy to get a copy, just go to sinch.com, you’ll see an ability to download it and obviously any questions that you have, there’s some contact information there. You know, on the side, so I continue to blog, my podcast has been put on hiatus but I hope to bring that back but jeffhasen.com and then, you know, I’m a pretty proficient Tweeter and what I promise to do is to talk about what something means to a marketer or a business as opposed to just being an RSS feed and just give you a link of some news release. That doesn’t give any value. So I continue to have conversations and learn a ton from social channels and also if anybody wants to reach to me via LinkedIn, I’m happy to engage that way and answer any questions on messaging or some of the broader things that businesses are facing.
Absolutely, and we’ll have of course all of that in the show notes and listeners, that’s Sinch – again, all of that in the show notes as always.
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