David Murphy talks intelligent interconnectivity with Rohit Tripathi, general manager and head of products at SAP Digital Interconnect.
You don’t need to look very far around you to see the extent to which the modern consumer lives their life on their mobile phone. It’s no surprise: the capabilities of today’s smartphones are such that they are akin to a digital Swiss Army knife.
But if you analyse what people are actually doing on their phones, the vast majority of their time is spent in some form of messaging or communications app, from SMS or OTT services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, to email. And while these channels were traditionally built around peer-to-peer communications, they are now emerging as significant channels for brands to engage with consumers. Rohit Tripathi, general manager and head of products at SAP Digital Interconnect, formerly SAP Mobile Services, believes this has significant implications for enterprise businesses.
“Every business in the digital economy needs to start looking at itself as a data company,” he says. “They need to get smart about how they use customer data and build value-added capabilities on top of that.”
And he’s not just talking about companies that have traditionally been in the data business. “Look at Kraft,” he says. “They are in the business of making and distributing food, cheese, dairy products, so are they a data company? Until a few years ago you might have said not, but now they are sitting on millions of online subscribers tapping into their recipe databases.”
So there’s an opportunity for companies sitting on hordes of customer data to use that to engage with them, but there’s a problem too. The explosion of digital communication channels means that if you focus on any one or two, you miss out on all the others.
“The challenge is to engage with customers and prospects in whatever channels they prefer to use,” says Tripathi. “Gone are the days where a business could mandate whatever channel suits them best for customer engagement.”
Part and parcel of this challenge is the need to tailor communications so that they are appropriate for each channel. For example, most people would be happy to receive large amounts of information on an email to help them research a high-value purchase such as a car. “People see SMS as a more pristine channel that is meant for more urgent situations, and that’s reflected in how we respond to an SMS compared to an email,” says Tripathi. “More than 90 per cent of us open an SMS, compared to 10 per cent for email, and once opened, 97 per cent react to the content of the SMS, compared to 3–4 per cent for email.”
This trick of hitting people with the right message at the right time in the right channel at scale, anywhere in the world, while staying on the right side of local data privacy regulations, is a good one if you know how to do it, but many businesses don’t. Tripathi argues that this is where SAP Digital Interconnect’s background and experience come to the fore.
“Our heritage is in providing the connections between mobile operators, more than 1,000 carriers in 220 countries,” he explains. “To do that, we had to have the best technology and the best knowledge about local privacy regulations. Nine years ago, we evolved this model towards the enterprise space, enabling them to use our intelligent notification network and decision engines to reach their customers in a timely, relevant, meaningful manner, via whatever channel or channels the customer wishes to engage in at different times of the day or points in the purchase process. We do this by providing simple, configurable developer tools for each of these messaging channels, enabling our clients to go to work in them in a consistent, programmatic way.”
The move proved a popular one, with over 500 enterprise companies now on board with SAP Digital Interconnect. The use cases are many and varied, and not all concerned with sales. While airlines, hotels and retailers use it to promote special offers in real time to their opted-in customer base, delivery companies use the platform to keep customers informed of when their parcel will arrive. Banks use it to inform customers that a payment they made has been received, or that their balance is getting low.
Two-factor authentication using SMS or other messaging channels is another key use case. In a survey conducted by SAP Digital Interconnect, more than 50 per cent of respondents said they considered conventional user name and password security schemes to be inadequate, and more than two thirds said they had forgotten the answer to a secret question required to validate their identity or access a secured account.
And in a world where messaging apps are becoming more than just messaging apps, enabling consumers to book flights and hotels, or buy physical products direct from the app, often via a chatbot interface, more research shows that they like this kind of interaction. According to Ovum, more than 70 per cent of consumers plan to use SMS as much as, or more than, they currently do. And from the business perspective, 83 per cent of enterprises surveyed said that they would consider using chatbots, chat apps or IP messaging to engage with customers.
Ultimately, Tripathi believes, the winners in this brave new, always-on, always-connected world will be the companies that make the investments needed to leverage its potential. “The technology is important, crucial in fact,” he says. “But there’s more to it than that. I think if you spoke to our enterprise clients, they would tell you that our local knowledge around compliance and regulatory requirements, and the advice we can offer here, is just as important. With GDPR coming into force in a couple of months, many companies will find out the hard way that the lowest price is not always the best decision. There’s a fine line between delighting the customer and annoying them; it’s one we’re helping our enterprise clients stay on the right side of.”
CLIENT FOCUS: INFOWAYS
Infoways plays a vital role in helping schools, enterprises and emergency services in Australia keep in constant contact with their stakeholders, whether that’s parents, employees or first responders at the scene of an accident. The company provides its clients with a seamless communications environment for sending and receiving intelligent notifications from any location, and via multiple channels, at any time.
For years, it has relied on SAP Intelligent Notification 365 mobile service to do so. It’s a cloud-based offering, which means that Infoways can get new customers up and running quickly, without waiting for hardware deployment, or for operators to configure new infrastructure.
Once connected, they can communicate through a secure, carrier-grade infrastructure that interconnects with more than 1,000 operator networks in more than 220 countries and territories.
Applications range from the mundane to the extraordinary. If a child is absent from school, the parents are automatically notified via SMS. The police, ambulance and air departments in Queensland use it to request support, and send out workforce scheduling notifications and operational updates. When a cyclone ravaged the north-east coast of Australia, SAP Intelligent Notification 365 kept on working when other communications platforms fell over, handling a huge spike in messages, from 50,000 a day to more than 550,000, without a hitch.
After working with SAP Digital Interconnect, Infoways tripled its client base within three months, and Infoways director Brent Welch says the company is delighted with the platform. “SAP Digital Interconnect is always adding features and services that make our offering better for our customers,” he says. “SAP Intelligent Notification 365 ensures we can provide our customers with the superior communications services they expect.”