Ask any business owner how many digital applications, platforms or tools they use on a daily basis, and their answer will likely be ‘too many’. And with the ever-changing conditions that 2020 brings, such as Victoria’s latest restrictions, and eventually to re-opening and protective measures – customer engagement has never been more vital.

As many businesses work through the changes and challenges posed by restrictions this year, customer engagement remains a top priority to getting back on track. But the last thing we need now is yet another tool or piece of tech to add to the stress of getting on with business. That’s where automation comes in.

From ecommerce platforms to digital calendars and workflow applications, there is a vast and powerful array of automations and integrations available to help you work better and more efficiently. Picking which ones that can serve you best, however, can be a time and cost-consuming task.

With one of the highest cut-through rates of any comms channel (98%), SMS automation is one way that businesses can reduce workloads while streamlining customer communications significantly.

New research released in May revealed that messaging users are forecast to reach 4.3 billion in 2020. According to the report from Juniper Research, this is a growth of 9% year-on-year, largely driven by an “increased need for remote communication during the COVID-19 crisis”.

Communication automations can act as reinforcements or behavior triggers to guide customers to complete a task or action. For ecommerce businesses suffering from an average abandoned cart rate of 70%, follow-up text messages within an hour can go a long way to recouping those lost sales. Other kinds of businesses also use SMS to improve internal efficiencies such as reminding employees about upcoming meetings, or as a way of reducing customer support time by sending proactive messages when outages or interruptions are planned.

There are a number of integrated systems on the market for businesses to take advantage of. In fact, your most common software platforms and apps may use this as their sales pitch. We want apps that work with our other apps.

From Slack and Shopify, to Netsuite, Google Sheets and Zendesk, you can now connect thousands of apps to SMS – streamlining convenience, enhancing the customer experience, and providing cost efficiencies. The possibilities of automation are limited only by what you want to achieve.

We recently launched a new integrations marketplace to help connect our SMS service to the platforms and tools you use every day. Of course, direct integration, via your own cross-app API, is also possible if in-house capabilities allow, but connector integration platforms like Zapier make connecting any two apps extremely easy for any business. No coding experience required.

For example, we worked with a local anesthetist practice who were finding it hard keeping staff informed and up to date about when they were supposed to be on-call. We showed them how easy it was to create automated workflows that integrated SMS in with their Google Sheets roster so they could use text messages to confirm upcoming shifts, send reminders about call times and give administration officers real-time oversight.

Over in the US, we worked with Tissini, a for-profit social enterprise that empowers Hispanic women to gain financial independence by selling women’s wholesale clothes at retail prices. After recognising how critical SMS was to their client and end-customer communications, they connected our messaging services directly into their NetSuite platform. This enabled them to set auto-trigger for birthday promotions texts, send post-purchase thank yous, and automate text updates in case there were delays to a customer’s shipping status.

In each of these cases, integrating SMS automation into their core systems was also helpful in reducing overhead costs as well as the risk usually caused by switching platforms and manually re-entering data. The greater outcome for both companies, however, was increased customer engagement.

When it’s about staying in touch, communicating resourcing or keeping customers informed – consider if there’s a better way to make your tools and platforms work better together for you.

Ben Mostafa is chief technology officer at MessageMedia