The emerging technology for real-time communications promises three key business benefits.
This year marks the five-year anniversary of WebRTC, an industry-wide initiative that aims to bring real-time voice and video communications to web browsers and mobile apps. Since it was first introduced, WebRTC has been the subject of much speculation. Some believe it to be a game changer for communications, much like the worldwide web. Others see it as a smaller role player in the wider communications fabric. However, both sides can agree on one point: Businesses are no longer just talking about WebRTC, but actually implementing it in their networks.
In its "2015 WebRTC State-of-the-Market Report," Webtorials noted that nearly half of all enterprises surveyed (47%) had either deployed WebRTC applications or were planning to do so in the next 12 months. While the report shows clear market momentum for WebRTC, it also highlights some of the uncertainty still surrounding the technology. For example, nearly one in three enterprises don’t have any future plans for WebRTC, and many enterprises worry that a lack of standardization and industrywide acceptance could hinder its effectiveness.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to WebRTC’s future success is the bottom line. Many businesses don’t have a clear vision of how WebRTC applications will reduce costs, drive revenue, create competitive differentiation, and improve customer service -- criteria that's critical to making the business case for the technology. In order to help demystify WebRTC, here are three reasons it's the next phase of real-time communications.
For many businesses, multi-channel marketing is essential to acquiring and retaining profitable customers. This is especially true for “big box” retailers that spend a significant amount of capital maintaining both a physical and virtual presence. For today’s consumer, multi-channel means more than stores and websites; it includes call centers and mobile applications as well. One of the highest costs in a call center is the 800/888-number service that businesses need to provide for free customer calls.
However, by embedding WebRTC into their online and mobile channels, retailers can significantly reduce the number of calls that utilize the 800-number service and thus drive down their operational costs without impacting customer convenience or quality of service.
In the travel industry, interaction with live agents is at a premium, which often translates into long wait times. Anyone who has missed his or her flight has likely experienced the frustration of being at the back of the line when time is limited. Now imagine being able to reach a live ticket agent from your mobile phone who can quickly help you find a new flight, all without having to wait in line.
Not surprisingly, airlines, hotels and car rental agencies are particularly interested in WebRTC’s ability to give them a real-time customer advantage, especially one that could be marketed as a premium service to drive additional revenue.
Improve customer service
WebRTC’s advantages are even more pronounced when companies combine its real-time capabilities to create better customer conversations. Consider someone shopping for a home online. Typically, a customer will identify several properties of interest online, take some notes and contact an agent to schedule a live conversation. Now imagine being able to go directly from browsing properties online to initiating a live video call with an agent from the webpage and reviewing the properties online together. Customers could ask live questions, agents could navigate the webpage to point out features and even show related properties online during the session.
Right now, you may be thinking, “This all sounds great, but how do I get started?” As with many network technologies, it starts with integration. WebRTC is simple to use, but it can be complex to integrate into an existing network infrastructure or application environment. Products that can help with integration include WebRTC gateways that interconnect WebRTC and SIP sessions in order to support communications across browsers, devices and appliances.
One thing is certain: The business-to-consumer conversation is going to get a lot more interesting in the coming year as new WebRTC applications emerge.