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Retailers set to drive boom in business messaging on SMS, WhatsApp and RCS

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The rise in ecommerce over lockdown is set to see more retailers than ever using mobile messaging to engage consumers – and it will not be limited to text and email.

Research by Juniper Research finds that mobile business messaging traffic has grown 10% so far in 2020, with 2.7 trillion messages being sent by business to consumers.

Much of this is coming from retailers as they scrabble to drive traffic to their ecommerce sites over lockdown, with retailers and brands using mobile business messaging to issue order confirmations, dispatch notifications, tracking information and delivery updates.

The report found that SMS has proven resilient during the pandemic; owing to the messaging format’s ubiquitous nature; estimating that SMS will comprise 98% of all mobile business messaging traffic in 2020.

However, the research noted that investment into alternative protocols, including RCS (Rich Communications Service), Google’s attempt to make SMS more exciting and functional, and OTT messaging such as WhatsApp, has slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and anticipated further economic downturn.

The report forecasts that mobile business messaging traffic attributable to the retail sector will grow by 20% this year, with volume increasing from 336 billion in 2019 to 408 billion in 2020. Consumers’ increased reliance on online retail service has been the primary cause of growth this year.

Additionally, it predicts that retailers will be early adopters of media-rich messaging services, with brands embracing rich media to provide interactive elements, such as real-time order tracking, to its users.

This is backed up by research from Mobilesquared earlier this summer, which suggests that there is set to be unprecedented growth of more than 5,400% among medium and large businesses looking to use WhatsApp from just 992 at the end of 2019 to almost 55,000 by 2024. 

Mobilesquared predicts the majority of the business messaging traffic generated over WhatsApp will be inbound traffic (also referred to as P2A or person-2-application), making WhatsApp Business the go-to messaging channel for customer care.

Indeed, WhatsApp is also proving popular with some demographics, with Adidas, Zara and Agent Provocateur all using WhatsApp business to engage consumers.

RCS is slowly gaining ground with some brands, especially in the US, and the addition of a transactional element by UK mobile payment company mGage – thought to be a world first – could see RCS start to look more enticing to retailers as it would allow them to actually sell directly from their RCS marketing messages.

Juniper Research author Scarlett Woodford notes: “The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly accelerated digital transformation in the retail sector, as footfall in physical locations is predicted to remain stunted by public concern. To fully capitalise on this, brands must create personalised retail experiences through rich media content, subsequently driving consumer loyalty and increasing profits.”

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