Over the past few years we have seen consumers behaviours, expectations and overall perceptions of messaging evolve, with mobile users now looking for a richer messaging experience to communicate and connect. This evolution has been backed up by results of Acision’s latest mobile messaging research, which clearly demonstrates that consumers are opting to use an ever-increasing range of services to communicate. Launched today, the global messaging leader reveals that 80% of UK Smartphone owners are now using Over-the-Top (OTT) or Instant Messaging (IM) services, with 76% of these using both SMS and OTT/IM messaging services together. This indicates a nation of ‘eclectic communicators’ with 76% of Smartphone owners using multiple messaging services simultaneously each day, and 40% using them all the time.
The second edition of Acision’s annual research, which analyses messaging behaviours and requirements of Smartphone users in the UK, also confirmed that text messaging is still the superior messaging service, with 96% using SMS today. In fact, dependence on SMS is extremely high, with 76% stating they cannot do without SMS, and 41% stating they would be lost without it. However, while SMS is clearly needed for the majority of mobile users, IM/OTT apps are gaining ground, generating 61% of messaging traffic across the numerous apps. With over half of survey respondents stating they don’t mind using multiple messaging services as they represent communities they have signed up for, 60% also claimed they cannot do without OTT/IM messaging.
So, why are Smartphone owners using multiple messaging apps and what more can be done to ensure consumers remain loyal to one service? Acision’s research shows that consumers set a combination of requirements across cost, rich features and service quality; with the added assurance for all that they can reach anyone at any time. Today, no single service on the market can provide this, so using SMS with OTT/IM services simultaneously is the best way to cover all bases.
With the proven high dependency on SMS as the only universal service that will work instantly across all phones at any time, the respondents claimed reliability (36%) and reach (34%) as key service qualities which made it their preferred reason to use it. However, reasons to use OTT/IM included speed (53%) and cost 47%. Furthermore, over one third enjoy the rich features associated with IM, including ‘sent/received’ notifications (39%), seeing a reply being written (34%) and sharing rich content, such as videos and pictures (29%).
JF Sullivan, Chief Marketing Officer at Acision, commented: “We are seeing a trend where today’s consumers are messaging more over a number of different platforms and via multiple devices. This proves consumers want something ‘extra’ – a combination of universal reach, uncompromised reliability and enriched features – which can only be fulfilled today by using multiple services concurrently. This so-called “schizophrenic” messaging, shows consumer’s hop from one service to another, depending on shifting trends and usage of contacts, instigating a fragmented market. While text has been king for over 20 years, the difference between service usage is beginning to even out. However, while the market is moving rapidly, there is a huge untapped opportunity for operators to launch one consolidated messaging platform which combines all consumer requirements and can take the messaging land grab.”
Since the launch of the GSMA’s consumer brand for its family of Rich Communications Suite standards (RCS-e, RCS5), ‘joyn™’, significant steps have been made by industry players to formally bring a more robust messaging service to market which addresses all these areas. While this is rapidly gaining the attention and investment of operators worldwide, only 6% of users polled in the UK had ever heard of the ‘joyn™’ initiative. However, when described the service, 78% said they would try ‘joyn™’ with the right pricing, with only 5% saying they would not use it at all.
To understand the opportunity for operators to offer richer features as part of their rich messaging or RCS, ‘joyn™’ service, Acision asked the attractiveness of the following features. When introduced to a service which can reach anyone on any application, 64% stated that they would find it attractive. 62% also stated a service where they received the message on all their smart devices, so followed them as they moved from one device to another, would also be valuable. SMS fall back, which guarantees immediate delivery of a message via SMS when other applications are not available due to the broadband connection was also deemed as very attractive by 59%. Additionally, consumers stated that a service which reaches everyone from a single application (58%), as well as provided a single conversation trail (52%) from all apps in a single view would be an attractive service if it was available. “The requirement for SMS fall back demonstrates that users want to continue interaction when offline or to reach users that are not part of their communities. For this, the unique capability is SMS and MMS interworking which can only be offered by mobile operators and can be a silver bullet their service offering,” stated Sullivan.
Because the vast majority of UK mobile subscribers are still reliant on SMS, Acision also questioned interest in rich messaging features, which enhance the traditional SMS experience and brings it more in line with the OTT user experience. Highly appealing features included SMS notifications (59%), the ability to black- or white list contacts (58%), to see a contacts presence (43%), and SMS forwarding (39%). This shows a clear opportunity to improve the SMS user experience and bring rich features to non IM users, especially feature phone owners.
“Operators have the power to enhance and enrich traditional messaging and improve perception of speed by introducing notifications and presence, making content sharing more attractive by interworking with MMS, as well as providing more contact control with black and white listing. This combined with fast-tracking RCS based services, means operators can create a new ecosystem where all users, whether on feature phone or Smartphone, get a rich, ubiquitous experience breaking the fragmentation barrier and enabling monetisation of services with new commercial models. The positive response to joyn™ and enriched features, is a good gauge that Smartphone users want a single service at the right cost, which provides reach, reliability, and richness. If operators act now, they can carve out a niche service experience which improves user satisfaction and stickiness while leading the IP messaging revolution,” concluded Sullivan.