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EDITORIAL The new unified communications paradigm is here

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Over the pandemic we have seen surges is all forms of communications: SMS and OTT messaging boomed, video exploded and even traditional voice calls have grown after years of decline.

However, when it comes to interactions between consumers and businesses, SMS may well have peaked – and is perhaps starting to lose standing as these other messaging types start to dominate.

While this may be good news for RCS – and it needs some – it more reflects just how changed the world is becoming as coronavirus continues to reshape human culture.

Why do I say that? Because according to research by Vonage, use of video to communicate with brands has risen by 43% – total use of video calling among the population has grown 14-fold since January – while there has been a 25% rise in voice calls to business. SMS, however, has dropped, in a B2C context, by 23%.

A need to monetise

While that looks like bad news for messaging, what it actually means is that SMS is still pretty static across all channels of communication, it is just slipping down the list of preferences for communicating with businesses.

Instead, consumers are turning to the things that they use in their everyday lives to contact businesses – and as we all now know, that means video first, social second and possibly voice third.

What it does mean for the telemedia industry is that it needs to look at new ways to monetise these channels. We all want free video calling and no one wants their virtual parents evening to be interrupted by adverts.

The trick is how do the models that exist around traditional comms adapt to these markets?

Where telemedia services have always blossomed has been in value-added services around existing processes: now we need to find what the VAS is around video calling, OTT messaging and social media.

The obvious place to start is with monetising messaging. SMS has it built in, but if it is being usurped by other messaging types, now is the time to look at how to add telemedia services to those new messages.

RCS is the obvious – if least popular – of those on offer. We have already talked about adding DCB to RCS to make it rich, interactive and monetizable. But what of WhatsApp and iMessage and even Facebook Messenger? These platforms are starting to become the de facto places for messaging.

WhatsApp is on to something

But there is a really big snake in the grass: WhatsApp. With WhatsApp rumoured to be poised for a massive upgrade to offer all that it has right now along with Zoom-like video conferencing, we could be on the brink of seeing it become the dominant player.

The combination of a video-calling-conferencing-hybrid platform with rich messaging is a strong proposition. If it can have payments added – and it is conceivable that DCB could play a role here, WhatsApp is mobile number-based after all – then it is the full package.

The combining of video and messaging and voice into one service – something WhatsApp is cleverly looking to do – could well be what the concept if unified messaging (remember that from 2001?) is really all about.

New player Signal already realises this and is, despite being the minnow in the messaging pool, starting to look like the real threat to WhatsApp, iMessage, RCS and even SMS.

Platforms that allow comms between people, businesses, chatbots and more through all the comms channels available – voice, message, video – and which can then be monetised by content, advertising and value-added services – creates a whole new paradigm in communications and media.

This is what the future looks like and it isn’t far off. Time to get on board with the new unified communications of 2021.

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