Communications Platform-as-a-Service: What's in It for Retailers?

Retailers know a lot about their customers, such as where they're from, what they bought, and even what they considered buying. Forget Big Brother — these days, many corporations have more intel on people than the government does.

It would be creepy, except most consumers are cool with it. However, they expect something in return: that brands will use that data to deliver seamless, personalized communications across channels.

Communications platform-as-a-service (CPaaS) helps with the seamless part by integrating an enterprise's business communication tools. And because all the data from those tools lives in the same place, retailers get contextual information that helps personalize marketing and customer service.

Woman typing on a laptop computer.
Retailers can use communications platform-as-a-service to provide seamless customer engagement.

How Communications Platform-as-a-Service Works

CPaaS lets businesses synchronize real-time communications (RTC) features, such as voice, video, text, and instant messaging. Traditionally, RTC platforms have depended on dedicated apps built for just one function. Integrating them was too costly and complicated for most businesses to bother doing. Now there's no need.

CPaaS provides a cloud-based development framework for RTC. Retailers don't have to build their own back-end infrastructures. They simply use developer-friendly APIs to add RTC features to their websites, mobile apps, and social media — and to combine customer data from all those channels into one place.

Easier Communication, Richer Insights

There are now many ways to communicate, but it takes a lot of different apps.

Imagine you're traveling for business. You're getting homesick in your hotel room, so you text your spouse to say hi. On second thought, you miss the sounds of home, so you close the text app and open your phone app. A few minutes into your call, the kids want to video chat, so you open another app. Before you hang up, you agree to meet your spouse later on your favorite instant messenger.

You may not mind the inconvenience of switching between apps to talk to your family, or even when you're reaching out to customers. However, don't you want it to be easy when they reach out to you?

Your customers certainly want that. They also want everyone with whom they interact to know who they are and be able to answer their questions. That's why CPaaS has become such a fast-growing business trend. As one of the largest and most competitive consumer-facing markets in the CPaaS industry, retail will certainly have a big slice of the pie. After all, what's more important than communication when you're trying to engage customers?

What's the value of CPaaS for retailers? Consider the following three examples:

1. Seamless Communication Across Channels

Retailers understand the importance of omnichannel retail communication, and most brands already broadcast content via social media, brand websites, mobile apps, and other digital channels. Some even offer two-way communication, letting customers contact the company using different channels.

CPaaS lets retailers take the next step: integrating these channels. For example, using a developer API, retailers can enable mobile app users to call customer service, send a query via instant messenger, or video chat with a representative within the brand's app, rather than having to log in to a separate messaging or video app.

You may not mind the inconvenience of switching between apps to talk to your family, or even when you're reaching out to customers. However, don't you want it to be easy when they reach out to you?

2. Streamlined Customer Support

Think about the last time you called a customer support hotline. Did you go through multiple transfers — and repeat yourself each time — before you finally got an answer to your question? That kind of experience can make you want to Hulk out and smash something.

Thanks to CPaaS APIs, retailers can capture data about the context of customers' inquiries and then use those insights to intelligently channel that data to the appropriate agents or automated response flows.

For example, say a customer asks a question via a business's chatbot but doesn't get a satisfactory answer. The chatbot connects the customer with a live agent in the appropriate department. If the agent can't provide an answer via chat, she offers the customer a click-to-call option to speak with a supervisor.

At the same time, an AI integration streams the conversation to a sentiment analysis engine, which detects the customer's growing frustration and alerts a specialist, who intervenes to resolve the issue. The customer doesn't need to continually repeat himself, and the technology brings people with answers to him, rather than making him seek out someone who can help. So, he doesn't get angry — which is good, because you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

3. More Contextual Communications

Digital marketing these days is all about contextual communications — delivering relevant, personalized communication via the right channel at the right time. CPaaS enables customer interactions to happen where customers want them to happen. For example, by integrating chat APIs into social media content, brands enable customers to initiate conversations with company representatives in just one click, without ever leaving the social network.

CPaaS also helps brands earn and keep customers' trust by keeping them in the loop. Automated, personalized SMS communications can be triggered based on customers' recent interactions with the brand. So, if the e-commerce site anticipates shipping delays due to bad weather in certain areas, it can preemptively alert affected customers. They don't have to call the company or track their packages. They already know what's up before the missed delivery date. Nothing says, "We value your business" like seamless, customized, stress-free customer communications. So, do your customers feel valued?

To learn how communications platform-as-a-service can improve the customer experience for your business, speak to a Vonage Business consultant.

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