In recent years we’ve experienced a great shift in the way in which businesses are engaging with their customers. Giants of the gig economy, like Airbnb and Uber, have created highly potent customer engagement mechanisms right at the very heart of their operations. Today, because of this, UK consumers have come to expect contextualised, seamless and highly relevant communications.
Whether ordering food, looking for transport, or getting an update on a delivery, consumers today are demanding the sort of flexible and personalised customer experience that they have enjoyed from these companies. The modern consumer sees no reason why engaging with a business shouldn’t be as easy as talking to their friends and family – in other words, a conversation which can be easily picked up any time, via a range of channels.
The rules of engagement as we once knew them have changed, and organisations are taking action. Take the contact centre space as an example. The traditional model is slowly subsiding and, in its place, cloud-based contact centres are coming to the fore. This enables businesses not only to provide more personalised communications, but also future-proof for the emergence of new channels, technologies and user preferences.
Underpinning these cloud-based contact centers is the fact that customers expect choice in how to engage with a company and not have that engagement limited by channel, platform or device.
We’re seeing this reimaging happen in other areas too, with traditional communications channels like voice, SMS and email. When we consider recent research by Twilio, which revealed that 83% of global consumers say they prefer email when receiving non-urgent communications from businesses (the highest of any channel), it is clear that email will continue to play a vital role in customer engagement.
But email also serves another function. It’s the most basic and foundational identifier on the internet, because its reach connects today’s users, and will connect tomorrow’s users as more of the world comes online.
Safe and secure?
However, with the internet itself set to welcome over one billion new internet users by as soon as 2022, there’s a target-rich environment for cyber criminals, who will use every means at their disposal to compromise personal identifiable information (PII) for the purposes of fraud.
With this in mind, it is vital that businesses using this channel are able to validate any communications sent, so their customers are confident in the reliability and robustness of this channel.
The inbox revolution
Email authentication will therefore become increasingly more important in maintaining the health of the inbox ecosystem, protecting brands from spoofing and phishing and preventing phishing attacks.
On the plus side, the need to enable and align email authentication will present new branding opportunities for legitimate senders. One way in which this will happen is through the eventual general availability of BIMI — Brand Indicators for Message Identification — which will mean that mailbox providers supporting the standard, such as Gmail and Yahoo!, will display brand logos next to emails they receive that have been properly authenticated, to prove their legitimacy. This will have the dual outcome of preventing fraud and reinforcing brands’ identity.
An effective interactive inbox will only be possible for brands that authenticate their email. As businesses move towards more two-way experiences, using tools such as Schema and Amp for Email, senders will have to differentiate their mail traffic from spammers. Since brands will want to take advantage of increased visibility in the inbox through BIMI, they will then be one step closer to taking full advantage of the capability to embed interactive elements like purchase buttons directly into emails through Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for email.
With the popularity of email showing no signs of subsiding, it is vital that businesses take steps to ensure they can easily signal the validity of messages sent, so their customers can be confident in engaging with them. In 2020 we hope and expect to see businesses take steps to ensure this confidence and by doing so make the internet a bit safer.
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