Twilio: The ‘age of the customer’ emphasises why brands need APIs

James is editor in chief of TechForge Media, with a passion for how technologies influence business and several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

The issue of why brands should have APIs is not a new one, with articles as far back as 2011 espousing this notion. For Twilio, a provider of cloud-based APIs and a leader in the market, it’s about what CMO Lynda Smith calls “building great customer experiences.”

“What we’ve started to see as we looked across the customer base that we have, and all the interesting ways that we’re using communications, it’s really fundamentally about not picking up a phone anymore, but about creating experiences,” she tells MarketingTech.

“Companies now can’t simply rest on their laurels, but they really have to start thinking about how they differentiate themselves,” she adds. “How do they create customer loyalty?”

Take Airbnb as an example – one of the most disruptive companies in the tech industry today, and a customer of Twilio’s. Anyone who’s used Airbnb will appreciate how reassuring it is when they get an SMS message notifying them their potential host has replied, or vice versa.

This functionality is vital in what Forrester Research calls the ‘age of the customer’, according to Smith.

“The reality is customers have a really big voice,” she explains. “No matter where they are, they can really affect your business, affect your brand, and that’s why we’re finding customers, companies, are thinking so much more about how they ensure they get that loyalty.”

Sometimes, automation can go too far, as Ross Sheingold, of social media agency Laundry Service, pointed out when American Airlines responded positively to a customer’s tweet even after it had been called “the largest, shittiest airline in the world.”

Despite this, if a brand doesn’t utilise an API it’s clearly missing out. As Smith explains, brands need APIs ‘to expose themselves.’

“It gives a company an opportunity to very quickly and easily create unique solutions for their customers,” she explains.

“Loyalty essentially directly impacts customer retention, it impacts the revenue, it impacts shareholders value, and the customer experience again is at the core of that.”

As a former Microsoft CEO once famously cried, for Twilio’s customers it’s all about developers. “They’re companies [that] are built by developers themselves, and Twilio is very well known within the developer community as a leading API,” Smith says. “The developers found us. They were looking for a unique way to solve a problem in a language they understood, which was APIs and developer platforms, and they’re all very important to us.”

With this in mind, the overall message for marketers is about not being left behind.

“Communications is no longer that old-school way that you think about it,” Smith argues. “Because communications has now been moved into the realm of software, and the realm of the cloud, it actually gets very accessible to anyone that wants to create something new.

“You need to think about the customer experience,” she adds. “That is going to be what drives customer loyalty; that is what going to be what drives your business forward.”

With global brands such as Coca-Cola, Airbnb and Salesforce in its roster, there’s no excuse not to get on board.

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