Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) is a cloud-based delivery model that allows organizations to add real-time communications capabilities, such as voice, video, and messaging, to business applications, often through application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs).
This allows a business to select these communication features to embed them into apps and services. It has proven an attractive solution for companies using cloud-based technology stacks looking to customize their communications infrastructure. The platforms can include standards-based APIs, comprehensive software development kits, and Java and .NET libraries for building applications on a platform. CPaaS providers also often offer bundles in which prepackaged, fully functional communication features can be included into an application. Common features added to a communications stack include the following:
- Outbound voice calls
- Inbound call routing
- WebRTC-based calling
- Text messages (SMS)
- Multimedia messaging service (MMS)
- On-demand SIP trunking
- Multimedia and video messaging
- Number masking (proxy)
Businesses use CPaaS in a variety of ways, some more imaginative than others, and across a range of possibilities that software can facilitate. Further, these different software modules can be used to fulfill a variety of enterprise needs.
CPaaS use cases
Artificial intelligence programs have taken the real-time dat of CPaaS and analyzed it in order to enhance operations, improve performance, and better the overall user experience.
Chatbots interact with users in a meaningful way, and are designed to produce positive results with statistical information from previous interactions to ensure positive outcomes occur. These can be useful for creating efficient communications throughout an enterprise technology stack, both for employees and customers.
When a customer contacts an online support, either through a chatbot or an application like Facebook Messenger, they should not have to re-explain their issue if they decide they want to talk with live support over the phone. CPaaS providers help businesses create more seamless customer service experiences with faster resolutions by retaining customer information between channels, wherever the conversation happens to start.
Internal chat applications
Chat applications are becoming more imperative in business procedures, with group chats rarely taking place on a phone's stock messaging app, and with more nimble, feature dense applications becoming the norm. And including these into a company's technology stack can streamline communications for employees and employers, offering a single place for relevant communications to take place.
In addition to customer-facing communications, CPaaS can help improve internal, employee-facing communications. Keep everyone in the loop by sending company-wide alerts via SMS, or send employees personalized birthday wishes. CPaaS can also play a vital role in workplace safety by notifying employees about security incidents, inclement weather, or other emergencies.
CPaaS providers are able to use cloud technology to offer companies of any size the opportunity to develop and embed communications features. This allows teams to save on human resources, infrastructure, time to market, and provide affordable pricing, with CPaaS providers often allowing developers to pay only for the services they need. Further, a CPaaS can allow multi-tenancy, or the ability for multiple customers to use the service at the same time, each within a separate and secure environment. And CPaaS often allows an organization to offer 24/7 online support. There are a variety of other advantages CPaaS providers offer companies:
Because CPaaS is a cloud-based solution, companies do not have to spend the money to develop their own infrastructure, and since these solutions are customizable, companies are only required to pay for features they actually use. In addition to the relatively inexpensive setup process, there are various ways CPaaS can help a company reduce costs and operate more efficiently. For example, CPaaS features can provide
- automatic appointment reminders to reduce missed appointments;
- delivery updates to reduce redelivery requests; and
- chatbots to reduce the cost of live support costs, especially for common concerns.
In traditional advertising, enterprises worked to appeal to as many people as possible. However, in the connected world, enterprises can now provide a highly personalized customer experience through text, voice, video, and emerging technologies, such as rich messaging. Communicating with customers one-on-one through CPaaS gives businesses more opportunities for meaningful engagement. Examples of this kind of engagement can include
- digital coupons,
- expiring offer reminders,
- abandoned cart reminders,
- live chat assistance, and
- appointment reminders.
A CPaaS solution can add an extra layer of security to a company's communications. Implementing two-factor authentication, adding phone number verification, and sending instant fraud alerts, are a few ways businesses can improve customer trust and minimize overall risk.
Because adding an API makes it easier to develop and deploy real-time communications, including the deployment of features such as messaging, video, and voice, into web, mobile, and enterprise applications. By removing the need to own and manage hardware, CPaaS can be set up and ready to use in a matter of days.
The needs of different businesses and customers can be unique, so instead of settling for a one-size-fits-all solution, CPaaS offers a simple plug-and-play feature that can make it easy for companies to customize customer communication channels, allowing them to fit their budget, capabilities, marketing strategies, and customer experience needs.
While communications platform as a service (CPaaS) and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) are both platforms as a service, they are both cloud-based platforms that overall seem similar but are different. Both have the same cloud foundation while being delivered over both public and private IP networks. And both make good platforms for businesses of about any size. But that is where the similarities tend to end.
CPaaS is focused on enriching customer communication channels, as it acts as a platform for businesses to combine reliability and a back end of proven communication services with their own customer applications through APIs. For example, a platform could integrate services such as Facebook Messenger or Viber into their own mobile offerings. Simply put, CPaaS lets developers program the entire breadth of real-time, cloud-based communications platforms into their own applications to give customers a good experience.
Whereas UCaaS is dedicated to providing a platform already designed for businesses to access phone services, video, call recording, and related services. CPaaS is focused on a build-your-own-approach, whereas UCaaS comes prebuilt. Because of this, UCaaS cannot integrate into an application as can be done with CPaaS solutions. Instead, it is used alongside existing applications. This can make UCaaS a good solution for companies that want a straightforward communications platform or for those looking for a VoIP service. However, it also means a business misses out on the greater flexibility and efficiency of a CPaaS system that has been integrated into its software.
The CPaaS market has been growing at a quick rate, estimated to be around 40 percent annually. As consumers rely more on mobile devices, brands have understood the importance of building a communications strategy and solutions that allow them to meet people where they are, rather than waiting for people to come to them.
Another major driver of the industry has been the COVID-19 pandemic. For many traditional enterprises, the pandemic was a wake-up call that an enterprise could no longer put off establishing a mobile relationship with customers. This represented, for many of these companies, a dramatic change in the way they interacted with customers, providing more than a support number or a mobile application for support; CPaaS solutions provided a way to adapt and deliver services without disruption to their business.
While CPaaS is a relatively newer concept compared to similar platform and software concepts, such as UCaaS and SaaS, the solution has made some waves in the communication space, with more vendors making their way into CPaaS and creating a growth of new trends.
CPaaS industry trends
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
As AI has an impact on every aspect of the way people communicate, it is true also in the CPaaS industry. These allow businesses to embed methods of analytics and reporting into a communication landscape, and to find CPaaS vendors that can provide a system with a complete reporting system as part of a bespoke communications environment.
Augmented and virtual reality
Because CPaaS allows businesses to embed new technology and opportunities into an existing stack, it opens the door to disruptive technology. CPaaS already offers solution in the IoT environment, for people who want to track smart devices and beacons. And there are increased opportunities for AR and VR as 5G continues to be deployed.
Bots have been increasingly popular in the communication landscape. And CPaaS allows a business to implement those bots into a communication stack like never before. Companies can add bots to any element of their CX landscape, or even create virtual assistants to help their teams increase their efficiency.
CPaaS stands out as one of the best ways to create a truly omnichannel environment for communications. In the past, omnichannel solutions used to be basic, combining only email and voice in the same space. However, with CPaaS APIs, business leaders can embed everything from social media tools to SMS into a communication landscape, and CPaaS can also monitor all communications in the same place.
Programmable contact centers
CPaaS also offers new opportunities for the programmable landscape. With programmable technology, businesses can have more control over the elements of a communication stack, including the contact center. With SDKs and APIs, business leaders can tweak and tailor each aspect of the experience delivered to their target audience, and allow a business to implement features such as intelligent IVR messages that automatically gain consent before a conversation is passed to an agent.
There are a generalized five classes of CPaaS vendors in the market, although they come with a variety of backgrounds and business models. The five categories include pure-play vendors; vendors specializing in SMS, application-to-person, and person-to-application; traditional enterprise communications vendors; communication service providers; and software providers for mobile applications.
CPaaS vendor types
Communications service providers
This category includes vendors with certain and sometimes unique competitive advantages, such as advanced network capabilities.
These are more-established vendors in the CPaaS market, with service offerings beyond simpler SMS and voice APIs. These services support additional communication channels and also feature extended APIs and modules. They have more comprehensive sets of tools for developers.
Software providers for mobile applications
This includes vendors which develop mobile applications or APIs for use in mobile applications.
Traditional enterprise communications vendors
The offerings of these vendors are created by integrating or augmenting preexisting communications solutions (such as voice/video calling) into CPaaS products.
Vendors who specialize in SMS, application-to-person, and person-to-application
These vendors have expanded beyond their area of specialization into the growing CPaaS market. Services offered by these vendors are relatively nascent, being either an early stage offering or a recent consolidation of multiple disparate services.
Companies offering CPaaS products
Companies in this industry
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