The sharing economy industry will grow from $15 billion in 2014 to $335 billion in 2025 according to PwC.
And with such huge growth, it’s no wonder companies are attempting to find the best ways to navigate the potentially complex system of communications that arises between consumer, supplier, and platform.
Why Use In-app Communications?
If you take a look at some of the biggest sharing economy platforms right now, not only have they made big changes to the market, but many are using communications as a way to capitalize on their offering. Here’s why:
Real-time communication is still critical to transactional business. Emails and IM are great for simple or non-time-critical queries, but for more complex things or time-critical customers want to be able to speak to someone properly.
It’s true. Even though a lot of platforms use channels other than voice, the humble phone call remains the channel of choice in the US (for customer service at least), ahead of bricks and mortar, email, SMS, live chat, social media, community forums, and chatbots.
In fact, 74% of customers have contacted customer service by phone, according to Microsoft’s 2017 State of Global Customer Service Report compared to 62% for email.
Because of this, platform owners shouldn’t be trying to move past voice to chase ‘newer’ digital channels, but identifying new opportunities to supplement core voice services only when it is appropriate and effective to do so.
In other words, the focus should be on bringing the comms of your platform into the digital age, and the best way to do this is by embedding comms as part of the functionality of your app.
Staying within the ecosystem
Out-of-platform deals are a money sink for platform owners. In-fact, eBay recently issued a number of policies to try and combat sellers contacting buyers off-site via personal email addresses and phone numbers.
Some sellers will try to avoid paying the ‘per-transaction’ fee issued by eBay and, unfortunately, doing this can also be a good way for scammers to take advantage of the fact that offline, nothing is covered, and the transaction is essentially untraceable. This makes it much easier to trick people into parting with their money and avoid giving Ebay their share.
Platform-native communications can anonymize buyers and sellers allowing platforms like eBay to control and monitor what transactions occur on the platform, while removing the ability for them to take place offline.
SIP vs WebRTC
On the surface, In-App Voice via WebRTC seems like the obvious choice because it doesn’t require dealing with telcos and signing contracts. Unfortunately, however, it has inherent limitations. For example, in order to make sure you have enough coverage and stability your connection to the internet needs to be spot-on. This requires (as a minimum) good 4G in all the areas you want coverage, but even broadband is still patchy at best in many places especially in predominantly rural and under-developed countries. And if consumers and suppliers can’t talk when they need to, the whole idea is a non-starter.
Using SIP, on the other hand, solves these issues. You may think that it means moving communications outside of your platform means losing control, but this isn’t true, you actually get increased capabilities and still retain the level of control needed for your app build. For example, you can take advantage of things like number masking…
Number Masking: How To Keep Buyer/Seller Numbers Private
When it comes to buyer-supplier platforms, privacy is just as important as the ‘flexibility’ behind the whole concept.
But when two people need to freely communicate, the idea of exchanging personal information to a complete stranger comes with a whole host of problems and anxieties. The solution? Masked numbers.
In its simplest terms, a masked phone number is one that appears differently on the receivers’ end of the call. Masked numbers have plenty of uses. But they’re ultimately a method of making sure that the person you’re calling can’t see your real number.
Using masked numbers in a sharing economy app means that a transaction can take place without two people ever having to exchange a personal phone number. After the transaction is complete, they can end their interaction without any concerns over personal security or future misdials.
Using Voxbone to Embed Comms
A common misconception is that this kind of communications capability, especially across borders, will be a complex and personnel heavy operation. But with the right set-up, it’s actually a straightforward operation.
With Voxbone, you can add programmable voice and SMS capabilities to your applications for local presence where your customers are. Upgrade any app, service or software by plugging in our comms and maintain control of your phone number inventory and number masking for real-time redirection.
We’ve got security covered as well. Using our platform-agnostic cloud communications and APIs you get three encryption layers (VPN, TLS, SRTP), geo-redundant connections and IP-to-PSTN failover available on demand.
If you’re interested in using us alongside your current platform or service, take a look at how you can use us in a ‘bring your carrier’ (BYOC) capacity.
Alternatively, check out our API documentation to see how easy it is to embed Voxbone’s network coverage directly into your apps.