This article was published on May 14, 2015

The biggest trends in the future of communications

The biggest trends in the future of communications
Jamie Tolentino
Story by

Jamie Tolentino

Jamie Tolentino is currently working as a Digital Marketer at a Global Asset Management firm. She was previously an Innovation Strategist at Jamie Tolentino is currently working as a Digital Marketer at a Global Asset Management firm. She was previously an Innovation Strategist at Quirk London. Aside from writing for TNW, she also blogs on the Huffington Post UK.

Over the past three months, we have been exploring the future of communications. We’ve looked at everything from what types of companies are using SMS to asking how safe are your Bitcoins. We collected the biggest trends together to give you an overview on where communications will be going in the next few years, and how you can capitalize on it right now.

SMS, Push and Email notifications have their own use cases

Email, push notifications and SMS are all popular methods of communicating with customers. While there are different advantages and disadvantages to using each messaging channel, timing plays the largest role in choosing between the three channels.

If you are trying to send information to existing customers about your product, push notifications and email are the ways to go. However, for larger audience reach, timeliness and important information delivery, SMS provides the urgency and flexibility to give customers valuable content at the most precise time.

People are still using SMS in 2015

Whilst SMS may be viewed as antiquated technology, SMS still plays a key role in connecting most modern technologies. This is partly because of its high engagement rate, with a 90 percent read rate in minutes, as well as its large reach due to no pre-existing connections or high speed internet connection required.

There is also a new breed of cloud communications platforms who are able to let businesses easily deploy SMS to customers with faster delivery times, less initial cost, while delivering a more reliable service. Finally, more and more companies are using SMS as a step in two-factor authentication (2FA).


SMS has challenges on a global scale

Sending SMS on a global level can be challenging due to various local regulations, inefficient performing routes, untrustworthy aggregators. Every country has different regulations and every carrier has their own requirements for SMS messaging.

Keeping up with best practices in each country require a lot of time and effort, making SMS hard to scale globally. Also, when SMS is sent internationally, it will have to travel along predetermined routes and sometimes transferred five to six times to get to its final destination. The huge amount of transfers may possibly result in delay or cancellation of delivery.

Finally, when sending SMS, a business will typically go through an aggregator. Since the business has no visibility of the SMS after delivery, there is a risk that the aggregator they use might be using a ‘grey’ or unofficial route of delivery that carriers might then block.

More companies than you think send SMS too

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter send SMS as part of its 2FA process to increase security for its users and provide a method of authenticating a user’s identity. Consumer web properties such as WordPress and gaming companies such as Blizzard also send SMS as part of 2FA.

The travel and transportation as well as e-commerce industry on the other hand, have time-sensitive contextual information that would be beneficial for customers, so they deliver these via SMS. Payment services like Paypal increase accessibility to the platform by allowing users to send and receive money via SMS.

Phone number verification is a great method to secure transactions

Phone number verification involves sending a one-time password (OTP) to a user over a separate communication channel (SMS or voice) than the IP channel (internet) used by the application. This provides security in case the IP channel is compromised.

By using SMS, only the owner of that phone number gets access to the password, allowing them to log into the application and verify their identity with a PIN code. Since phone numbers are globally available and no further hardware is required, phone number verification makes for a globally accessible and relatively inexpensive solution.

You can re-authenticate users with phone number verification post sign-up stage

Aside from authentication during the login or signup stage, it would be useful to re-authenticate users when they reset their passwords, make an upgrade or account change, login from a new device, location or IP, and engage in unusual activity such as making huge transactions.

Video thumbnail for youtube video Twitter unveils a login verification, a form of two-factor authentication to better protect accounts

Online identity theft is growing and user information is constantly faked or stolen

Email is a popular and relatively traditional form of online identity, but they are very easy to fake since there are no identity verification processes required before creating a free email account with popular services like Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook. It is also fairly easy to create email accounts in bulk for spamming purposes.

These can then be used to create corresponding social accounts. Stealing another person’s identity is also relatively simple through acquisition of the right username and password combination. Attackers can find out one’s username/password combination by using an ‘account checker’ tool which tests different username and password combinations on e-commerce sites.

Phone number verification can prevent fake or stolen online identities

Using phone numbers as a unique identifier may be a more robust way of verifying authenticity as phone numbers are harder to fake since one has to obtain a physical SIM card or a real phone number issued by a carrier. Virtual numbers can be determined by an application and blocked. Using email verification is vulnerable as fake emails are easy to create in bulk.

There’s also a trend for call number masking that’s begun to emerge. Companies such as Uber rely on such systems to allow users and drivers to communicate with each other without revealing phone numbers, ensuring security for both parties. Finally, account recovery questions are insecure as they can either be too complex for the user to remember or too easy for others to guess.

Password only verification is also vulnerable to ‘account checker’ tools. Finally, account recovery questions are insecure as they can either be too complex for the user to remember or too easy for others to guess.

Prevention of fake online identities can decrease spam

Spam on social applications are disruptive to the user experience. No one welcomes irrelevant or unsolicited messages, which are done through fake accounts. To gain credibility, these fake accounts will try to become ‘friends’ or follow verified accounts, e.g., celebrities and public figures with the hope that these accounts befriend or follow them back.

When genuine accounts befriend or follow back fake accounts, it legitimizes the account and enables it to carry out spam activities. Another way for spammers to attack is to hack into and take over a user’s account, spreading fake messages to the user’s authentic followers. By preventing the proliferation of fake online identities, you can cut off the communication channel used for spam.

Bitcoins are not safe from theft

Credit: Julia Tsokur / Shutterstock

Bitcoin doesn’t rely on financial institutions, users have complete responsibility including security over their money. It also differs from traditional modes of payment in that once a payment is sent, it is irreversible and can only be refunded by the person who received the funds.This makes the currency a bit more vulnerable to theft as there is no central clearing house who can take responsibility and refund or guarantee against fraudulent charges. Therefore, it would be recommended to implement two-factor authentication on your Bitcoin platform and wallet.

Using interactive voice response (IVR) can extend your reach beyond SMS

Voice can bypass certain restrictions placed on SMS. These would include the typical 160 character limit per message as well as country restrictions, such as the inability to deliver promotional messages during certain times in India or use as a URL within a message. It can also reach numbers where SMS cannot be delivered, i.e. landline numbers.

Interactive voice responses can increase engagement and decrease cost to your business

IVR can be used to get feedback for a certain event as it is happening, or right after it happened or used as pre-communication for a direct marketing campaign to increase engagement. Barclays increased its conversion rate for a direct mail Barclaycard campaign by 21 percent by using premail voice broadcast.

IVR can decrease cost to your business by automating outbound telesales calls and only connecting to a salesperson when a customer picks up, thereby reducing waiting time for salespeople on calls and becoming a virtual switchboard where menus can guide customers to relevant products or information that they want, thereby saving call center staff time.

Read Next: 5 types of social spam (and how to prevent them)

Image credit: Shutterstock

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