Most modern applications have become increasingly feature-rich and users too have set a high bar for personalized experience. Failure to display latest updates or notifications may frustrate users and causes a loss of engagement. If online shoppers don’t receive any order confirmation within seconds, they probably began to worry that something went wrong. Users are now conditioned to require product transparency for consistent use.
Luckily for product managers, using a slew of feature rich communication APIs, it is now easy to handle real-time order update emails, push notifications based on in-app activity, or live chat with sales and support. Communications APIs are becoming increasingly specialized, with each type being more or less suited to certain tasks.
The ideal experience:
The best product experience is when the communication is so smooth, any delay isn’t even noticed and messaging is consistent. For the end-user, it just works exactly when it’s supposed to work, the way it’s supposed to work. For internal teams, admins get the ability to craft personalized messaging they need and send it, without worrying about bottlenecks.
Challenges in communication strategy:
In a marketplace application, for instance, users need to get an automated push notification or email every time someone comments on an item they’re selling. The marketing department also wants to send email campaigns to everyone who has purchased an item in the past six months to let them know there’s a sale coming up. When a buyer’s checkout fails, they might need to message your sales or support team to get help and complete the transaction.
All of these are very different examples that will need to use a different type of communications API to get the job done.
Types of communication APIs:
Communications APIs are segmented not only by the functionality they provide and how immediately they need to respond to user actions but also often by which teams at the company will need to use them to send messages.
App-to-user APIs are transactional messages and are often the most mission-critical in any product, as they form a core part of the application experience. For instance: when ordering food online. These types of communications need to be quick and tend to be time-sensitive and are designed to send immediately when the trigger events occur.
A robust App-to-user API will provide multi-channel communication (email, SMS, and push notification), complex routing, and easy opt-in and opt-out for users. Most can be heavily automated as well. For instance, when a new user is created via Auth0, a welcome push notification can be automatically sent.
Brand-to-user communication happens any time you want to send out a personalized message to a specific group of users. It can most suitably be used to reengage users who may have abandoned shopping cart. It can also be used to send out personalized offers and discounts to multiple user groups.
Product engineering teams can implements API calls in the application code that log information about user behavior, which then gets sent to a separate dashboard other teams at the company can access. Anyone on those teams can then use that data to craft and send messages to specific subsets of users. For instance, users who didn’t complete the purchase, or who shop frequently. Brand-to-user APIs save engineering time because, once the initial API calls are instrumented, any team who needs to send campaigns or needs to access that data can do marketing campaign independently.
While Brand-to-user APIs make it easy for anyone at the company to send messages to users, they typically aren’t configurable enough to power core parts of the application experience. Messages can go out minutes to hours after user criteria for the message have been met. There can also be implementation delays any time you want to send messages based on a different set of criteria than you were using before—new API calls in the app mean the data needs time to populate before they can be used.
While this trade-off is often worthwhile for marketing and product communications, App-to-user APIs (discussed above) are a much better fit when you need fine control over messaging content or timing within engineering.
User-to-user communication APIs facilitate active conversations among two or more individuals—either between a user and someone on your own internal staff or from one app user to another.
Support tickets, for instance, are a type of User-to-user API, as are live chat boxes that let customers have direct conversations with your support or sales teams. Likewise, two users in a marketplace might need to message each other to get product information or send shipping information.
While these are possible services to build out in-house, most companies opt to save time by going with a ready-to-use SaaS solutions.
Most applications will use more than one type of user communications API for different parts of the user experience. A feature rich application may very well use all three!
App-to-user APIs provide part of the application’s core functionality. These APIs are highly customizable and provide instant user communication that is tightly coupled with your application code. Marketing and product teams will often want a Brand-to-user API implementation that makes it easier to see user data and send updates to users. User-to-user APIs give customers access to back-and-forth communication either among each other or with company support or sales teams.
When product teams chalk out communications strategy, they can create a seamless experience for users while also enabling internal teams to personalize and elevate brand communication.