MEF Connects Nordics - Trust and Conversational Commerce
I’ve been reflecting on the Mobile Ecosystem Forum Connects Nordics event last week, hosted by Telia and moderated from start to finish by James Williams… That guy is just an event running machine. Here are my key takeaways from the event.
The key themes were around reducing fraud, increasing trust and making conversational commerce a reality in Sweden and the surrounding regions.
🤝 Cooperation is key
The highlight of the opening panel for me was the clear cooperation between mobile operators in Sweden (Telia, Tele2, Telenor and 3 Scandinavia). They are working together to make messaging safer and ensure brands and consumers alike can trust the messages they receive. A key part of this is rolling out RCS (Rich Communication Services) to add brand verification and make it easier for consumers to identify valid messages. I’m fortunate to be involved with the roll out of RCS in a number of countries through my work with the MEF and close cooperation really is the only way to make RCS a reality
A big challenge in Sweden, in fact the whole of the Nordics region, is the high penetration of iOS (Apple Phone) devices. However, even in regions with a relatively high iOS penetration, overall RCS delivers a far higher engagement and Return on Investment (ROI) than SMS.
A statistic from Stuart Mitchell, Sinch, from one of their recent campaigns was that even with RCS only accounting for 30% of the messages sent, it still netted 10% more revenue overall than the text only SMS! 😯
Have you ever heard of Stir/Shaken? I hadn’t before Eli Katz talked about it and how the industry runs the risk of unrealistic regulations being forced on it if we don’t clean up the bad actors and work with the regulators to implement viable solutions.
I’m all for regulation to make the world safer for consumers and brands, however they do need to be realistic and implemented in the right way.
🤖 One Time Passcodes and Artificially Inflated Traffic
Igor Skutsenya talked about how AIT (Artificially Inflated Traffic) is being used to abuse One Time Passcodes. Brands are considering alternatives including WhatsApp, Apps and Email. However, none are as effective as SMS and its integration with mobile operating systems.
Brands such as American Express are using SMS based OTPs every time you access the app, which is fantastic for consumers, but expensive for AmEx if it’s not real.
Meta Authentication pricing came into effect yesterday (June 1st) making it cheaper to use WhatsApp in circa 80% of markets, but it will still suffer from AIT so isn’t any better for businesses using OTP. Consider the user experience, do consumers really want their friends and family channels such as WhatsApp filled with OTPs?
🤯 Super Sophisticated Fraud
Next up was one of the best and most scary presentations I’ve seen in a long time delivered by Simeon Coney. Talking about voice and messaging fraud in graphic detail, particularly the sophistication of iSpoof beggars belief. Were it legal software, it would be winning awards.
Fortunately iSpoof has been taken down and the creator jailed, but it just shows how important it is for the voice and messaging industry to lock down technical loopholes and educate consumers about the social engineering tricks the fraudsters use. With the advent of AI being able to replicate loved ones’ voices and faces (deep faking) this is an area we need to get on top of fast!
🕵️ Consumer Verification
Roberto Peretto and Catalin Badea of #netnumber Global Data Services talked about their platform to validate consumer numbers. This can help prevent fraud such as “Sim Swap” which is a technique fraudsters use to steal your mobile phone number. Once they have it, they are able to break into your bank accounts and other services which require One Time Passcodes.
Validating consumer numbers is particularly interesting to me as we roll out Aablar to make P2A (Person To Application or Consumer Initiated) messaging a reality. It will become increasingly important for brands to know they are talking to who they think they are talking to. The trust in messaging needs to go both ways.
📈 Monetising Conversational Commerce
Tim Atkinson from Google illustrated how operators can quickly and easily monetise RCS to upgrade brands from basic 160 character SMS to branded, verified and rich messaging via RCS. This is critical to enabling more advanced conversational experiences.
“Operators can be up and running with RBM (RCS Business Messaging) within a week. It really is that easy!” - Tim Atkinson, Google
We discussed the key rich messaging features which are unlocking new revenue opportunities for brands, messaging providers AND importantly, improving the consumer experience at the same time:
Rich Cards - Turn every notification into a high impact and engaging rich card with images, text and Call To Action (CTA) buttons
Carousels - Allow consumers to engage by sending multiple Rich Cards at once to promote up-sell and cross-sell opportunities
P2A (Person To Application or Consumer Initiated) - Allows the consumer to contact businesses when it is most convenient for them. This is the game changer for businesses. With 24/7 customer service comes the chance to turn each interaction into a sales opportunity. This requires an ROI/solution sales approach which few SMS sales teams are familiar with. But get it right, it’s essentially a blank cheque use case where businesses know they are making more money than the messages cost.
“How often do you get a customer to give you a blank cheque and thank you at the same time?” - Michael Power, Engage Mobile
🔤 Making CPaaS Relevant to SMBs
The last panel of the day (shout out to the particularly ‘on brand’ Mila Budylo) was about how we can make Communication Platform as a Service (CPaaS) relevant to small and medium sized businesses. The overwhelming conclusion was we need to stop using marketing jargon when talking to business. We need to educate our industry on how to understand the challenges their target customers face and sell products which directly solve their problems.
At Engage Mobile, we specialise in taking the “how many do you want” wholesale business model and turning it into an enterprise facing, ROI based, solution sales machine.
🎁 Wrapping it all up
Finally an excellent ’fireside chat’ between Thomas Boesen and Micaela Magnertoft Lagerbäck, discussing the part operators have to play. Mobile Operators are well known and trusted by businesses of all scales, so why shouldn’t they sell CPaaS and associated services directly to them?
With the White Label platforms available today, all Mobile Operators should be looking into this but there are pros and cons to each platform.
What channels do they need to support in their region? Do they plan to offer a SaaS solution, or a managed service, or both? Do they want complete custom branding? What commercial models do they need to support (transactional, sessions, rich message, etc)? And most importantly, how much assistance is required to create, train and support the enterprise facing sales team?
Engage Mobile can help identify the key requirements, put this out to tender and assist with selecting the right CPaaS platform.
Overall it was a great event, run by the fantastic team at Telia at their stunning offices in Stockholm. Sweden is somewhere I always enjoy going to (the weather always seems to be sunny!) and I look forward to returning with my family one day to properly explore the city, see the Vasa and travel to historical places such as the mystical Gamla Uppsala and the Viking Age trading centre, Birka.