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Messaging applications continue to infiltrate the B2C communications market. This trend spotlights omnichannel APIs for communications platform as a service, or CPaaS, which integrates cloud-based communications with business workflows.
As consumers and businesses rely more on SMS and other text-based messaging, organizations need to decide whether to add APIs for each new messaging service or investigate omnichannel options. Omnichannel messaging APIs enable businesses to communicate with customers across multiple messaging apps, such as Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, using a single integrated interface.
A single interface that can manage multiple messaging applications might be the answer to corral all the communications. However, omnichannel messaging APIs have some hurdles to overcome.
Omnichannel messaging still more dream than reality
"We are still early on in the march toward omnichannel," said Tsahi Levent-Levi, analyst and founder of BlogGeek. "Early adopters are developing omnichannel capabilities in-house or acquiring capabilities, like Zendesk did with Smooch."
In some markets, omnichannel messaging APIs have flourished. East Asian markets, for example, have moved toward replacing most communications with messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp. The move toward messaging as a central form of communication has sparked interest in omnichannel messaging APIs from vendors such as Gupshup that provide a single interface that manages multiple messaging applications.
North American and European markets have not been as quick to replace other forms of communication, such as calling and email. For these markets, email and calling are still primary methods of communication, and messaging is seen as an additional communication mode rather than a replacement, Levent-Levi said. However, younger workers are gravitating toward messaging as their preferred communication method.
"Messaging for Generation Z is the native communication," said Robert Chen, CEO of Brightlink, a cloud communications provider based in Atlanta. "Many customers and consumers want to interact with businesses, and they want to use text to do it."
Adding more APIs to CPaaS each time a new messaging app surfaces can quickly become cumbersome. Simple navigation and management within the CPaaS environment are two of the benefits of an omnichannel interface, and over time, more organizations could opt for omnichannel APIs, Levent-Levi said.
In-house developed tools vs. prebuilt tools
One struggle for organizations looking for omnichannel messaging is the limited offerings from CPaaS providers. A lack of availability means organizations that have specific needs for omnichannel messaging may need a developer to build an API with the desired functionality.
However, as more organizations adopt CPaaS, fewer organizations are looking to develop tools in-house. Instead, many are looking for prebuilt tools and APIs, Chen said.
"Everyone seems to be moving away from using only APIs, and more noncoders are getting involved. So, we're seeing vendors offering prebuilt tools," Chen said.
The desire for prebuilt tools and the lack of options for omnichannel tools mean it will likely be a while before omnichannel APIs are the go-to option for CPaaS platform messaging application integrations.
APIs deliver more than just integrated messaging for CPaaS. In some ways, APIs and CPaaS broaden the scope of what is possible for communications. Organizations can use CPaaS capabilities to reach out to customers and users in their preferred communication channel.
The trend is toward multiple points of engagement. As a result, CPaaS providers offer tools that enable SMS for any number -- landline or mobile -- giving users more control over how they wish to interact with businesses.