New API Connects Brands, Chat Applications and Service Platforms to Reinvent Customer Engagement
Nexmo, the leading cloud communications company announced the world’s first API that allows brands to engage consumers one-on-one on their preferred chat application. The Nexmo Chat App API adds to Nexmo’s cloud communication portfolio of innovative communication APIs and services that enable companies to engage with mobile consumers via their preferred channel, be it voice, SMS or now, chat applications. Brands can immediately sign up for beta access to begin engaging with their customers via WeChat and Line through one easy-to-use cloud API.
“Chat applications present a new opportunity for brands to instantly and genuinely engage with their customers via their preferred communications channel, said Chris Moore, VP of Chat App Hub Business at Nexmo. “We’re coming to an age where companies are beginning to focus their brand less on individual apps and, instead, reach customers in chat applications. We will help those brands realise this future by helping them connect with customers however and wherever they are in the world.”
Mobile Messaging Evolution
SMS text and voice are currently the dominant form of mobile communication and will continue to be a significant marketing opportunity for years to come. According to industry analyst firm Transparency Research, the global application-to-person (A2P) SMS market is expected to grow from $53.07 billion in 2013 to $70.32 billion by 2020.
At the same time, chat apps are surging with popularity and will be extremely important for brands as they continue to evolve beyond instant messaging platforms and add features like voice, video and commerce. Adoption is already very high in Asia: according to Forrester, there are currently more than one billion users combined on WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk, Viber and WhatsApp, and mobile customer experience will fuel this digital transformation. Pricing, privacy, sociability and rich media features are driving world adoption rates to grow more than 300%, while IDC says chat applications are the future of social networking.
“Chat applications present a massive opportunity for brands to have a presence on highly trafficked platforms and engage with consumers one-on-one on their preferred communications channel,” said Mark Winther, Group Vice President and Consulting Partner of Worldwide Telecommunications at IDC. “As brands rush to these communication channels, those who will win will figure out how to hold genuine, one-to-one communications on as many platforms as possible.”
Each chat app is used differently and has unique features, creating a barrier for many brands who would have to build and maintain dozens of APIs for each application. Additionally, making sure these APIs comply with marketing, sales and service platforms is cost prohibitive. Nexmo’s Chat App API solves this problem by automatically and seamlessly connecting chat applications to brand marketers via their preferred service platform.
Helping Brands Navigate the Future of Communications
Chat applications have massive online presence but change drastically from one another in terms of features, technical requirements and cultural uses. While one application may communicate only with images, another may have rich features like video support or in-app payments. Every chat application is also geographically and culturally defined – for example, Kakao Talk has 93 percent market share in South Korea but is not dominant in other regions while WeChat has been incredibly popular in China and is just beginning to gain a presence elsewhere. Regional restrictions also dictate how brands can communicate with consumers, impacting chat applications in many different ways. All of these hurdles are changing on a week-to-week basis as the chat app market matures at an incredible pace, making it nearly impossible for brands to tackle them on their own.
The Nexmo Chat App API solves these problems and helps brands consolidate all chat messages into their existing communication platforms, eliminating the need to manually manage communications over individual chat applications. The Chat App API will do this by automatically detecting and connecting brand messages with the appropriate chat application in real time. This lets marketing, sales or customer support professionals send one message and have it appear on all relevant chat applications at once. Nexmo is also working directly with each chat application to ensure messages appear correctly on all platforms, and inform brands which features are available on each chat application. And through Nexmo’s existing carrier relations, Nexmo already knows the cultural restrictions in play and will make it clear to brands when those restrictions are in play.
Only Nexmo has the expertise to help brands navigate these technical, legal and cultural obstacles that prevent brands from easily engaging consumers on all chat applications. Through its four year old voice and SMS business, Nexmo is already working with over 80 percent of all chat apps, connected with over 1,700 wireless carriers and scales to serve over 9 billion API calls per year.
“We live in an always-on world, where customers expect to be engaged anytime, anywhere and on their preferred channels,” said Nexmo CEO and co-founder, Tony Jamous. “This means the bar for customer engagement has risen dramatically. At the same time, solutions that are put in place need to be scalable, near real time and cost efficient, and that’s where we see the tremendous opportunity for the Chat App API. Adding the Chat App API to our portfolio of industry-leading messaging and voice APIs transforms Nexmo from a company helping brands navigate the current landscape of mobile communications to a resource that brands can come to as customer communications dynamically changes shape.”
The Nexmo Chat App API currently supports messaging on WeChat and Line. Nexmo will be adding support for additional chat apps, service platforms and new features in the coming months.
2020: The paradoxical year that has reshaped the future of motor insurance and related sectors
By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder
There’s no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as the year that changed the world. Whether that overall change was for the better or for the worse is a matter of perspective. One thing is for certain, 2020 has been the year of immense innovation and adaptability in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this piece, I’ll touch on some of the greatest challenges that could have had a potentially crippling effect on the economy but instead were overcome and ultimately paved the way for increased resilience and innovation.
Public transport shunned in favour of private vehicles, but driving patterns dramatically shift
With ten months of varying national and regional lockdown restrictions, passenger numbers on public transport have plummeted as many people continue to work remotely, and with most opting for the safety of travelling by private vehicle when they do need to get out and about. But because of restrictive travel measures, motorists have been using their vehicles far less frequently.
This posed a major challenge for traditional motor insurers that were not able to swiftly adapt to this change, with many coming under fire for failing to adjust annual premiums in line with new driver trends. As motorists became increasingly frustrated having to pay the same premiums or sometimes even more despite their vehicle usage being substantially minimised, the relatively new and still largely unfamiliar InsurTech industry was able to rise to the occasion.
In short, InsurTech involves the utilisation of the latest technological innovations such as data analysis, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable insurance products to become more agile and flexible in line with modern consumer demand – all while remaining price competitive.
Being fully-digital and technology-driven, InsurTechs demonstrated the flexibility and agility that enabled them to adapt to the huge shift in customer demand and step change in how insurance is purchased and consumed. They did this by offering an entirely digital user experience in near real-time, with temporary policies tailored to the time actually needed – anywhere from 1 hour to 28 days.
In a time of furlough and economic uncertainty, this meant that many motorists who were not using their vehicles regularly did not have to take drastic action like declaring their vehicle SORN to achieve short-term financial relief. Nor did they have to risk driving uninsured or committing to an annual policy that they could ill afford at the time.
The rise of the digital dealership offering temporary insurance as part of the purchase journey
In the automotive retail market, dealerships were forced to make drastic changes to their operating models to comply with social distancing guidelines. Showroom footfall and subsequent sales initially plummeted. But in the face of this immense adversity, we witnessed the rise of the digital dealership, a concept that would have been unfathomable even just a year ago.
Cazoo was the first fully-digital platform to enter the vehicle dealership market in late 2019, and there has also been significant investment this year in new entrants such as Cinch and Carwow. Traditional dealerships such as Arnold Clark, Cargiant and Motorpoint have extended the digital aspects of their purchase journeys with services including home delivery and Click and Collect as alternative options to the full show room experience.
InsurTech has been instrumental in ensuring that car insurance supports this shift to digital, as several national blue-chip dealerships, with both physical and digital showroom floors, now offer temporary driveaway insurance policies that cover the vehicle for a fixed-term, usually between five to seven days.
The entirely online one-step user experience is the first of its kind in the traditionally outdated and inflexible driveaway insurance industry and it is dramatically simplifying the process of how insurance is purchased and consumed. Due to the flexibility and agility of the digital solution, each retailer has its own unique URL, where the customer can obtain a simple single-cost policy in just 90 seconds through an entirely digital process, which fits in line with the evolving consumer purchase trends.
This takes the stress out of searching for annual insurance on the spot and provides the driver with near instant cover so that they can immediately drive their new car while giving them the opportunity to thoroughly research the best annual policy to suit their needs. It’s also an ideal solution while the car is under its money-back warranty, as the driver does not have to commit to an annual policy on a car that might be returned. Another benefit is there’s no risk to any existing No Claims Discount, as it’s a separate and standalone policy.
Declining brand loyalty and a demand for a more personalised and convenient user experience
Insurance has an unenviable reputation for being inflexible and even unwilling to adapt to shifting consumer trends – making it confusing for most customers. Even pre-COVID, there was a clear trend that brand loyalty was in decline, as modern day consumers are no longer prepared to remain blindly loyal to any company for a long-term period. Instead, they will reward businesses that offer a simple and convenient user experience at best value. COVID accelerated this trend and many large insurers have struggled to adapt accordingly.
Conversely, this has enabled InsurTech to thrive, as the products and user journeys are developed with direct input from customers to ensure that they are receiving a straightforward and fit-for-purpose solution that best fits their needs and requirements. Just some examples of this are simplified terms and conditions, near-instant and paperless policy documentation via the web or dedicated app, and data-driven customer engagement initiatives that offer personalised discounts and communication via email and text messaging. The end result is a user experience that is easier, more convenient and better value for potential consumers in the market.
Cautiously optimistic (if somewhat uncertain) future
Even in the most stable periods, it’s a challenge to accurately predict future market trends. And with 2020 completely rewriting the rulebook on how business is conducted, it would be remiss of me to make outright predictions. One thing is for certain, the days of slow, inflexible and costly motor insurance are numbered. It is important to note that this doesn’t mean that InsurTech is gaining the upper hand at the expense of the traditional insurers in a bid to replace them.
Instead it is there to fill a gap and act as a complementary add-on to provide the best possible value to the consumer. Industry players that enter new collaborative partnerships will dramatically improve the consumer experience, leading to new business wins and return custom, which ultimately impacts positively on the bottom line. But those that fail to adapt will be left behind.
I believe that we can look forward to a futuristic economy in 2021, where ground breaking technology continues to advance at an unprecedented rate to adapt to rapidly evolving consumer lifestyles and subsequent purchasing habits. The real winner will be the consumer and that is in everyone’s best interest.
Leadership and management in a WFH world
By Carolyn Moore, SVP of People at Auth0
Although many of us will have settled into some kind of groove, having worked away from the office for the best part of a year, there are still numerous challenges that businesses and their workforces face in this new reality.
One particularly pertinent challenge is the one faced by people managers, especially those managing virtually for the first time. How can you ensure productivity from those in your charge when you don’t have direct oversight? How do you have those more difficult conversations over a video call? Some of your team may be handling remote working better than others, so how differently should you be handling them day-to-day?
For the majority of businesses these will be questions they’re still grappling with. When the pandemic hit, we happened to be in the fortunate position of being a remote-first business, where 60% of our nearly 700 employees were already working from home. As a result, the uptick to 100% was far less taxing for us. In seven years of working from home, we’ve learned a lot about managing teams remotely, a few of which may help leaders who are still navigating the transition.
Keeping communication channels open to build trust
Leading a remote team is wholly different to the usual, in-office set up. Strict hierarchy, and any notion of presenteeism do not translate well into the remote working environment. You have to accept that your employees’ domestic life will necessarily overlap with their professional one.
Leading a virtual team requires trust and a philosophy of work based on results, and managers need to learn to give them more freedom to do work on their own terms, as long as they produce the intended results.
Building trust is best managed with regular communication. Frequent written communications from leaders regarding strategy, objectives, and organisational learning is crucial. It’s natural when working remotely for team members to isolate themselves and get wrapped up in their own workload. Managers need to help their teams understand how their work impacts on the broader corporate objectives. At Auth0, we adopted and adapted a technique created by Google called ‘Objectives and Key Results’ (OKRs) to enable this.
Now more than ever, make it a priority to regularly check in with your employees and always be up to date and aware of what their needs are. One of the first initiatives we kicked off in an effort to do so was our Slack ‘Coronabot’. This is a tool we integrated with our main form of communication that allows employees to self-identify if their work capacity was impacted by the pandemic. Another way that we tried to better understand the concerns and needs of our employees was holding listening sessions. From these listening sessions, we’ve rolled out a couple of initiatives to combat burnout, including Slack-free weekends and no internal meeting Fridays.
Make flexibility a priority
As the worlds of home life and work life collide, the traditional ‘9 to 5’ workday needs to evolve. Leaders need to encourage their team to devise their own schedules and complete work at those times when they’re most productive.
If in doubt, ask your employees how best you can help and trust that their answers will be honest. In our own experience we saw a need for a different approach when it came to supporting our employees who are caregivers. With childcare much less accessible, caregivers are doing double duty. We rolled out a survey to these individuals to hear directly how best we could support them and used the feedback to plan future programmes and supports.
We have encouraged these employees to take advantage of flexible working hours, should they need to adjust due to the pandemic, and are using tools like Clockwise or Slack that allow our employees to set their working hours and snooze notifications when they’re offline. This alleviates the pressure to respond, and we’ve found employees are actually happier and more productive this way, especially if you have a team spread across several time zones.
Put your culture front and centre
When you work remotely interactions between management and staff become increasingly transactional. Leaders need to avoid making decrees without explaining the reasoning behind them, and the thought process that led to them. Failure to do so can create a secondary culture within the workforce composed of rumours and hearsay, which can lead to mistrust.
Leaders therefore need to firstly be clear in the reasoning for their decisions, but also explicit about the culture they want to create. Your corporate culture must be written down and communicated frequently so employees can use them to guide their everyday work.
This is particularly beneficial for multinational companies spread across geographies and timezones and encompassing multiple cultures. Whether your teams are based in Singapore or San Francisco, they all have a code of conduct to adhere to This is crucial for dealing with conflict in a productive way and creating teams that collaborate and respect each other.
Create virtual spaces to socialise
Leaders mustn’t forget the more pastoral benefits of the workspace. Spontaneous water-cooler chats may seem trite, but they’re an essential means of colleagues building rapport and learning about one another’s lives outside of work.
Socialising should not disappear when you transition to remote work. That would be bad for business, productivity, and employee wellbeing. Instead, I would encourage you to get creative and use different functionalities of the collaboration tools you’re probably using daily. We use Donut within our Slack channels, that randomly pairs three employees together and schedules them for a meeting. The intention is to bring employees together that otherwise may never interact and have them connect on topics beyond the workplace, such as life, family, etc. Donut has been a fantastic aid in keeping our distributed workforce feeling connected. We’ve also utilised the results of both our semi-annual engagement survey and more frequent pulse surveys to give us insight into how effective these engagement programmes have been and where we could tweak them to make them even better.
Don’t neglect security
Security should always be a top priority, especially especially as people are logging into more services remotely. Your business’ IT and Security teams should have set up multi-factor authentication as the minimum standard. As new apps are connected to better enable any of the measures described above, your IT teams and managers should also be educating their teams about the access third-party providers have to their data.
Managers have a crucial role to play as evangelists of security best practice. They should be monitoring whether their teams are completing their security awareness training and, if new apps or technology are being introduced, ensuring that the appropriate channels are open for them to ask questions. The pandemic has been a lucrative time for cybercriminals, who have taken advantage of some lapses in security best practice. Ensuring security is everyone’s business, but it starts from the top.
Building for the future
For many businesses the move to remote working will have been, and is continuing to be, a difficult transition. Admittedly, remote work is not a perfect substitute for personal communication. When circumstances allow, we would recommend managers meet with their teams in-person at least once a year. managers meet with their teams at least once a year.
However, even whilst the pandemic still hampers our ability to travel and meet face to face, it is still possible to have a distributed team that is productive, collaborative, and happy. If leaders take the time and make the effort to foster a culture built on trust, it will open up opportunities for you in the long-term, no matter what that future may be.
Taking the temperature of residential real estate
By Tom Brown, Managing Director of Real Estate at Ingenious
Savills currently forecast a 4%1 growth in UK house prices in 2020 and the latest data from Nationwide shows that they grew at an annual rate of 6.5%2 in November, the fastest rate since January 2015. As the sector seems to be shrugging off the lockdown conditions, we are often being asked if we believe the market is overheated and we are in for a torrid 2021.
Ordinarily, economic downturn and spikes in unemployment, would drive house price falls, but the impacts of this pandemic are more complex. They are expected to be relatively short term and not structural in the way the Global Financial Crisis was, for instance. In addition, huge numbers have been motivated to consider their living conditions and move up the ladder or locations. The house price data therefore takes into account areas where price growth has been higher, for instance family housing outside city centres, as well as where prices have fallen, such as Prime Central London.
Earlier in the year, the Government was swift to act to support the housing market through the pandemic. Construction work continued through both lockdowns, SDLT has been suspended on the first £500k for owner occupiers and a short extension to Help to Buy has been introduced to sustain the market, in addition to further reductions in Base Rate. This stimulus, combined with pent up demand from the first lockdown has played through to rapidly recovering transaction volumes throughout the second half of 2020. Latest data shows that sales agreed were only down 8%3 on last year in September underlining the resilience of the market.
Of course, history has shown us that as unemployment increases, house price growth is negatively impacted4 on account of affordability. To date, the Furlough scheme has enabled many millions of workers to remain in employment despite the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. In addition, the housing market has not been so heavily impacted by unemployment, perhaps because the most pronounced job losses have been in the young5, who are generally renters, not homeowners.
Whilst house price rises are unlikely to be sustained throughout 2021 and some heat is likely to come out of the market, data does not point to a crash or correction. Knight Frank (KF) forecast a 1%6 national increase and Savills forecast prices to flatten across 2021. Only 8%7 of surveyors anticipate any price rise next year. Looking further ahead though, KF and Savills anticipate a cumulative increase of 15% and 20.4% for the 5-year period from 2020-2024.
Crucially for us as lenders to the development market, a national average can mask underlying trends, and geography and price point will show variations in performance. However, the UK’s structural shortage of housing at the affordable end of the market remains. Through active management, to an extent, we can manage economic risks. We are avoiding certain areas of the market and diversifying investments to maintain a balanced portfolio, including developments that are intended for long-term rental and locations where there is a balanced economy.
3Savills, November 2020
The Bank of England partners with Appvia to assist in the design, construction and assurance of a new cloud environment
The Bank of England has appointed self-service cloud-native delivery platform Appvia to support the creation of a new cloud environment....
2020: The paradoxical year that has reshaped the future of motor insurance and related sectors
By Alan Inskip, Tempcover CEO & Founder There’s no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as the year that changed...
Leadership and management in a WFH world
By Carolyn Moore, SVP of People at Auth0 Although many of us will have settled into some kind of groove,...
Swedish Bank Stress Tests in Line with Recent Rating Actions
The Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority’s (FSA) latest stress test results show major Swedish banks’ robust ability to absorb credit losses....
Taking the temperature of residential real estate
By Tom Brown, Managing Director of Real Estate at Ingenious Savills currently forecast a 4%1 growth in UK house prices in...
Solving the Challenges of the Modern Retail Industry with SD-WAN
Three key benefits of SD-WAN can help retailers solve new and old challenges and prepare for an uncertain future By...
Future success for banks will be driven by balancing physical and digital services
Digital acceleration due to COVID-19 has not eliminated the need for bank branches Faster service (23%), smaller queues (26%) and...
Subscription boom: Lockdown subscribers to boost long-term customer retention, new study reveals
37% British adults signed up to at least one new subscription service in lockdown 3 out of 4 consumers intend...
Now’s the time to get a UK-EU trade deal over the line
After four years, two General Elections, two Prime Ministers and a seemingly endless number of setbacks, the negotiations over the...
Accurate forecasting is vital for supply chains in the COVID-19 era and beyond
By Andrew Butt, co-founder and CEO of Enable, a modern, cloud-based software solution for B2B rebate management. All companies have...