When it comes to the digitization of business, there is arguably one vertical sector that first led the way: retail.
Online shopping was a thing way before the default deployment of cloud voice functionality or remote workforce collaboration.
Consumers browsing websites via their laptops; clicking and then collecting purchases from their local store; and then, more recently, the Amazon-dominated explosion in lightning-speed home delivery: all possible thanks largely to the power of smart connectivity.
Retail has come a long way since it all began and now, more than ever, clever technology is supporting its continued, voracious evolution.
A cloud communications platform — a.k.a. communications platform as a service (CPaaS) — provides an easy way for retail businesses to add new communication capabilities to existing applications without having to build those capabilities from scratch.
This can save those businesses time and money, while also providing them with more flexibility in how they communicate with customers and employees.
In today’s always-on world, consumers demand simplicity and speed at every stage of their buying journey.
It’s why traditional telephony has been overtaken by messaging – particularly email and SMS – as the most favoured way to interact.
The statistics are compelling.
According to research carried out by TechJury, 66% of Americans check their phones 160 times a day on average; SMS has a 98% open rate; and more than 60% of people read their SMS messages within five minutes.
Retailers must be able to respond to those behaviours – and choosing the right communication platform can be a transformative differentiator.
“If retailers are not already communicating with their customers via their preferred channels, they are doing the relationship a serious dis-service,” says Tony Graham, Head of Product Marketing at leading global provider Plivo, whose CPaaS offering is the perfect case in point.
“Different customer groups favour different ways so it’s important that all the bases are covered. Choosing a communications platform that does that is as important as it gets.”
Last year, Plivo commissioned a survey among more than 2,000 US adults aged 18 and older which found that nearly 9 in 10 (87%) are open to receiving communications from retailers they shop or want to shop with.
Of those adults, 70% preferred email notifications, 53% preferred SMS/text messaging, and 32% preferred direct mail. Only 27% were open to in-app messaging and just 26% were open to receiving phone calls.
Interestingly, the survey revealed that the age of customers adds an extra layer of sophistication.
The vast majority of those over 65 said they preferred to communicate via email (70%) and direct mail (65%), while SMS (19%) and phone calls (7%) were their least preferred.
By contrast, most younger consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 prefer email (65%) and SMS (56%), and least prefer direct mail (24%).
The results show that being able to communicate with customers via every channel available is the only way for retailers to be sure they are maximising investment in their tech stack.
Deploying Plivo’s cloud-powered omnichannel communication platform, for example, enables retailers to use simultaneously cost-effective and customer-friendly automated voice and messaging functionality to send order updates, delivery notifications, and electronic receipts; provide answers to service questions; and ask for valuable customer reviews.
The same functionality enables the targeted delivery of customer coupons, text-to-win contests, flash sale and promotional announcements and text-to-pay links.
“Shoppers look for communications that help them find what they need, at a good price, delivered when they want it,” says Graham.
“While businesses may see the value of adding text messaging to their applications, they may be baffled about where to start. The answer is a cloud-based communications platform that provides a set of APIs that their developers can use to add the ability to send and receive messages to their existing applications.
“They should look for a platform with a reliable network of high-quality carriers, and a presence in every market they serve. Plivo not only provides all that, we also walk our customers through the complex world of regulatory compliance for things like sending rate limits, data privacy, and sender ID regulations. It’s all about delivering the best possible user experience and maximum satisfaction.”
US-based footwear retailer Deckers – a Plivo customer – sends a high volume of messages daily, detailing shipment and delivery status.
“Plivo’s queuing system was a huge selling point,” says ecommerce Project Manager Jacob Martinez.
“The less we have to manage things like rate limits and batch sizes, the less burden gets put on the developers. That’s nice for us. If we have 50,000 text messages to send, we don’t have to worry about how those will get through. We just send them all and Plivo handles it.”
It seems retailers need to buy-in fully to today’s communication trends or risk missing out on opportunity.
Learn more about how Plivo’s retail communications API can help your business.