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.
OPEC+ to weigh modest oil output boost at meeting – sources
By Ahmad Ghaddar, Alex Lawler and Olesya Astakhova
LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – OPEC+ oil producers will discuss a modest easing of oil supply curbs from April given a recovery in prices, OPEC+ sources said, although some suggest holding steady for now given the risk of new setbacks in the battle against the pandemic.
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, cut output by a record 9.7 million bpd last year as demand collapsed due to the pandemic. As of February, it is still withholding 7.125 million bpd, about 7% of world demand.
In January OPEC+ slowed the pace of a planned output increase to match weaker-than-expected demand due to continued coronavirus lockdowns. Saudi Arabia made extra voluntary cuts for February and March.
Three OPEC+ sources said an output increase of 500,000 barrels per day from April looked possible without building up inventories, although updated supply and demand balances that ministers will consider at their March 4 meeting will determine their decision.
“The oil price is definitely high and the market needs more oil to cool the prices down,” one of the OPEC+ sources said. “A 500,000 bpd increase from April is an option – looks like a good one.”
A rally in prices towards $67 a barrel, the highest since January 2020, the rollout of vaccines and economic recovery hopes have boosted confidence the market could take more oil. India, the world’s third biggest oil importer, has urged OPEC+ to ease production cuts.
Saudi Arabia’s voluntary cut of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) ends next month. While Riyadh hasn’t shared its plans beyond March, expectations in the group are growing that Saudi Arabia will bring back the supply from April, perhaps gradually.
Some OPEC+ members also anticipate that the Saudis will be willing to ease cuts further, but it was not clear if they had had direct communication with Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has warned producers to be “extremely cautious” and some OPEC members are wary of renewed demand setbacks. One OPEC country source said a full return of the Saudi barrels in April would mean the rest of OPEC+ should not pump more yet.
“The Saudi voluntary cut will be back to the market,” the source said. “I’m personally with no more relaxation, not until June.”
Russia, one of the OPEC+ countries which was allowed to boost output in February, is keen to raise supply and a source last week said Moscow would propose adding more oil if nothing changed before the March 4 virtual meeting.
(Additional reporting by Rania El Gamal and Nidhi Verma; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)
UK’s Sunak to build bridge to recovery with more spending
By William Schomberg
LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak will next week promise yet more spending to prop up the economy during what he hopes will be the last phase of lockdown, but he will also probably signal tax rises ahead to plug the huge hole in the public finances.
Sunak, who is due to announce a new budget plan on March 3, has already racked up more than 280 billion pounds ($397 billion) in coronavirus spending and tax cuts, pushing Britain’s borrowing to a peacetime record.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to lift England’s current lockdown entirely only in late June so Sunak is expected to rely heavily on the debt markets again.
His job retention scheme, paying 80% of employees’ wages, will probably be extended beyond a scheduled April 30 expiry date, further inflating its estimated cost of 70 billion pounds. Support for the self-employed looks set to stay too.
Businesses are demanding Sunak keep other lifelines, such as exempting the firms hardest hit by the lockdown from property taxes and giving them a value-added tax cut.
And calls are growing for an extension of a 20 pounds-a-week emergency welfare increase due to expire in April.
The Times newspaper said Sunak would prolong his stamp duty property tax break for three months until the end of June.
Sunak hopes that by then Britain will be emerging from its deep freeze thanks to Europe’s fastest vaccination programme.
Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane likens the economy to a “coiled spring” primed with the savings that households have built up after being stuck at home.
A strong recovery would mean a jump in tax revenues, doing some of the Treasury’s job of fixing the public finances.
Rupert Harrison, an aide to former finance minister George Osborne, said Sunak should not try to slash Britain’s 2.1 trillion-pound debt mountain, equivalent to 98% of GDP – a ratio unthinkable for decades.
Instead he should write new budget rules tied to the cost of debt servicing, which is close to record lows.
“We can safely carry higher levels of debt than before,” Harrison told a webinar organised by Onward, a think-tank.
But the scale of Britain’s borrowing is raising questions about how long Sunak and Johnson can stick to their promises not to raise key taxes, made to voters before the 2019 election.
The huge costs of tackling the worst of the coronavirus pandemic are likely to ease in the months ahead, meaning this year’s 400 billion pound budget deficit should narrow.
But Britain is probably on course to be stuck with a gap of 60 billion pounds between revenues and day-to-day spending by the mid-2020s, the Institute for Fiscal Studies think-tank says.
In a nod to that, Sunak is expected to start raising Britain’s low corporation tax rate.
The Sunday Times said the rate would rise steadily to bring in an extra 12 billion pounds a year by the time of the next election, due in 2024.
Other options include ending a freeze on fuel duty increases which has been in place since 2012 and looks at odds with Britain’s plans to be carbon net zero by 2050.
But higher fuel prices now would hurt the haulage industry, already struggling with Brexit-related disruption, and could alienate working-class voters who backed Johnson in 2019.
Higher capital gains tax or lower pension incentives would anger lawmakers in Johnson’s Conservative Party.
David Gauke, a former deputy finance minister, said the only big revenue-raising options were the ones that Johnson has promised not to touch – income tax, VAT and national insurance contributions.
“In the end, they are going to have to say, sorry we just can’t responsibly maintain that manifesto commitment,” Gauke told the Onward webinar.
($1 = 0.7046 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Catherine Evans)
Women inch towards equal legal rights despite COVID-19 risks, World Bank says
By Sonia Elks
(Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Women gained legal rights in nearly 30 countries last year despite disruption due to COVID-19, but governments must do more to ease the disproportionate burden shouldered by women during the pandemic, the World Bank said on Tuesday.
Nations should prioritise gender equality in economic recovery efforts, the bank said, warning that progress on equal rights was threatened by heavier job losses in female-dominated sectors, increased childcare and a surge in domestic violence.
“This pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities that disadvantage girls and women,” David Malpass, World Bank Group president, said in a statement accompanying the annual “Women, Business and the Law” report.
“Women should have the same access to finance and the same rights to inheritance as men and must be at the centre of our efforts toward an inclusive and resilient recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A total of 27 countries reformed laws or regulations to give women more economic equality with men in 2019-20, said the report, which grades 190 nations on laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunities.
While countries in all of the world’s regions made improvements in the new index – with most reforms addressing pay and parenthood, women on average still have only about three quarters of the rights granted to men, the report found.
Notably, nearly 40 countries brought in extra benefit or leave policies to help employees balance their jobs with the extra childcare needs created by coronavirus restrictions.
But such measures were “few and far between” worldwide and will probably not go far enough to tackle the “motherhood penalty” many women face in the workplace, it said.
The report also noted separate data from a United Nations tool tracking gender-sensitive pandemic responses which found 70% of such measures addressed violence, with just 10% targeting women’s economic security.
The pandemic could result in “a backslide on various hard-won advances in women’s rights achieved in recent years”, said Antonia Kirkland, the global lead on legal equality at women’s rights organisation Equality Now.
“This disruption is a unique opportunity for countries to rebuild more resilient, inclusive and prosperous economies,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.
“But this can only be achieved alongside the removal of sex discriminatory laws that prevent women from participating fully and equally in economic, social and family life.”
(Reporting by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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