Giovanni Benini is currently the Director of Product Management for Global SMS at OpenMarket, based in London and kindly offered to share his thoughts on the SMS market today. Us: Giovanni, you are a well-renowned figure in the A2P SMS industry through your various product management roles in the industry. What does success look like for you in that role?
My belief is that SMS is an ideal communication tool for any business. It’s been around for decades, and it’s a proven and effective means of interacting. It’s not particularly trendy like you see with some of the messaging apps, but it consistently works across devices. At OpenMarket, we are seeing more organizations incorporate mobile messaging into many aspects of their internal operations, as well as customer and employee communications and engagement. As SMS product manager, creating a service that helps customers transform their business, is very satisfying.
What in your opinion are the biggest challenges you see in the A2P SMS market today? We are currently in a transition phase. While person-to-person (p2p) SMS is significantly being replaced by Instant Messaging apps, more and more enterprises are discovering the value of SMS for their business ,hence, application-to-person (a2p) SMS being on the rise. This goes hand in hand with another transition: mobile operators are managing and controlling their networks better and effectively leading the SMS industry away from so-called ‘grey routes’ towards direct connections with the mobile carriers. This is a significant challenge.
…with that in mind, how could MNO’s differentiate their services (to compete with lower-priced routes in the market)? The big advantage of the carriers is their full control over their own networks which allows for a consistently high message delivery quality and feature set. However, the key here is to find the right balance in terms of price point. Of course the MNO should recognize a2p SMS as a positive revenue source, but it should also be sufficiently low to allow a large variety of use cases. For example, using SMS would often become cost prohibitive if the p2p interworking fee that is still high in many countries was to be directly applied to a2p.
What advice would you give to prospective aggregators hoping to do business with you? Transparency. I need to know what happens with my messaging traffic – how is the quality assured?
Looking at the A2P industry as a whole today; if you were to open your own aggregation company tomorrow, what action(s) would you take to stabilize and grow the market? I can answer your hypothetical question easily. While it is not my own company, I am pretty much doing it in my job at OpenMarket. We focus on enterprise customers only – offering a high quality one-way and two-way SMS service that is enriched by our Mobile Engagement Platform that makes it really easy to integrate SMS into any business process or use case.
What is the most innovative use for A2P SMS you’ve seen recently? There are many innovative uses of a2p SMS, but I’ll pick this one: A big retail company is using SMS for managing their online grocery shopping delivery service. In this case, they are using text messaging alerts to notify customers when their groceries will be delivered or communicate if anything is no longer in stock and if a substitute brand might be acceptable. That way, you’re milk delivery won’t be left on your porch or at the neighbour’s if you are not home to accept the package and you get shipped what you wanted.
How do you see other messaging technologies like USSD fitting into the global messaging industry – complimentary or competition? If we find the right price point for a2p SMS, I don’t see advantages of USSD compared to SMS, which today is already a true global cross-operator and cross-country service.
Do you see any big opportunities for crossover where SMS can add value to other emerging digital areas (such as the Internet of Things/Smart Cities/Big Data)? Yes, however, the federation between SMS and other technologies is a precondition. We are supporting an open source approach called matrix.org.
How important do you think it is to educate end users of A2P SMS and its value? That is my daily bread – not only in business, but even privately I’m constantly asked the question, “Isn’t SMS dead?” Check out my blog post, “The future of SMS and what we can learn from the Romans” for more information. The bottom line is that SMS is a hugely commonly used and understood communications channel, worldwide. No matter what vertical market or industry a business is in, SMS can give companies a path to enhance the customer experience, improve employee relations, and drive operational efficiencies.