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EDITORIAL Social media, messaging and payments combine to create a heady CPaaS brew

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The news that 58% of the world’s population now regularly uses social media comes as no surprise: the rise in online use across the pandemic was always going to lead to more social media use. What is surprising are the knock on effects that this is having.

Research by Hootsuite and We Are Social in their jointly-produced  Digital 2022 report, finds that 4.62bn people worldwide use social media, spending on average some two and half hours a day using these sites.

While this chimes with last week’s figures from App Annie, the Hootsuite/We Are Social report throws up some interesting facts about what this increasing use of social means for interaction, advertising and commerce. It also throws up something very interesting for messaging players.

According to the study, WhatsApp is the most popular ‘social’ site globally, with 15.7% of working age internet users saying its where they go for social interaction. This is potentially very interesting for telemedia, as it shows that the OTT messaging service is starting to outstrip all others and, while still has some way to go, is going to give SMS a run for its money. It also makes one wonder what it will do to the nascent RCS market: is there any point if they are all using WhatsApp?

Many CPaaS providers in the telemedia space have already cottoned on to the role WhatsApp has to play in engagement and messaging and have sought to build it in to their platforms. Many corporates are increasingly turning to it as a comms channel with customers – not least seeing a potential 330% ROI on implementing such platforms. This social report only cements that growing use case.

So what of other social sites and what does this increasing use of social mean then for the wider industry?

Behind WhatsApp, with 14.8% of users claiming it as their favourite, is Instagram – pushing Facebook into third place for the first time. Tik Tok, meanwhile, has seen the most rapid growth and, globally, is the social platform of choice for 7.3% of people. Tik Tok’s reach among users aged 18+ now stands at 885 million.

All this interest in social media is having a profound impact on both ecommerce and advertising.

Social commerce continues to manifest its importance in Meta’s advertising data. The company’s latest numbers reveal that more than 560 million Facebook users now see ads in Marketplace each month, and 187 million Instagram users see ads in Instagram’s Shop tab.

The report also highlights the role of social media advertising in the marketing mix, with more than 1 in 4 internet users aged 16 to 64 (27.6%) saying that they discover new brands, products, and services via social media ads.

This comes with a caveat, however. Barely 1 in 6 working-age internet users (17.3%) say that they feel represented in the ads that they see, regardless of the medium. Older users feel particularly detached from advertising, with just 1 in 9 global internet users aged 55 to 64 saying that they recognise themselves in advertising.

This shift in use of social for marketing that drives messaging and ecommerce is also starting to feed into how people pay. Separate research by Juniper Research finds that ecommerce payments in 2021 topped $4.9trn and are set to hit $7.5trn by 2026 as ecommerce plays an increasing role in the whole retail experience – both online and the use of online while in stores.

Interestingly, according to Juniper, much of this will be driven by new payment tools, including Open Banking-facilitated payments and digital wallet one-click checkout buttons. Accordingly, it recommends that merchants ensure payment options match changing user expectations, or they will be rapidly left behind.

One such payment tool that is already garnering much interest is the putative direct bank transfer – or Pay-by-bank – payment scheme, where consumers use a direct bank transfer to pay for their online goods.

Already in Europe, pay-by-bank is gaining ground, with DIMOCO and SignD teaming up in Germany to offer the service and and BR-DGE and Moneyhub partnering to offer similar services to merchants. Now UK tool retailers Toolstation has also added it to its roster of payments.

This makes for an interesting shift in how retailers view payments for online and omni-channel sales. It also presents something of a challenge in some putative markets for DCB. Pay-by-bank is almost as frictionless and easy as DCB and comes with some inherent security that DCB can’t match.

Ultimately, it will be horses for courses – different payment tools will suit different applications – and many retailers and brands will start offer as many as they can to make it as easy as possible for consumers to actually purchase.

Coupling this with the rising use of social media marketing and, especially, the rise of use of WhatsApp presents a massive opportunity to engage consumers worldwide on the channel of their choice and instigate simple, frictionless payments. This is where the real opportunity for telemedia companies lies in 2022: blending messaging, marketing and payments into one offering across all manner of channels – including social media.

Issues with IBAN discrimination may yet make that harder to do across borders, but the ideal of getting this up and running and out to corporates worldwide should be priority number one for the industry for 2022.

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