Hugh Spear founded Dialogue Systems, alongside Paul Griffiths in 1994, which became Dialogue Communications Ltd in 1995. As Dialogue’s first employee, Mr Spear has played an active part in almost every element of the business from creating, developing, selling and supporting the first products, to overseeing the growth of the company into a multinational organisation employing over 50 people and providing services in multiple territories.
In 2004 Mr Spear moved to Australia to set up Dialogue Communications. He now lives in Sydney with his wife and two children. Following the death of Paul Griffiths in 2007, Mr Spear took up the position as Dialogue’s CEO. He travels regularly between the Dialogue offices in order to continue his hands-on role in both the UK and Australia, and drive the company’s corporate strategy.
Hugh Spear has an MSc in Organisational Psychology and an MSc (Distinction) in Software Engineering.
SMS enjoys tremendous success in personal messaging, but surveys show that businesses begin to understand the value of it too. Although smart phones and mobile web apps are on the rise, SMS is still unique and can deliver messages reliably to a wide audience. New opportunities are now opening in the A2P (App to Person) arena, through targeted, personalised and focused messaging, which is particular effective for advertising. Integrating SMS capabilities within the Cloud SaaS applications helps businesses to develop these opportunities and scale up their operations smoothly.
With over 200,000 text messages sent every second, and approximately six trillion sent in 2010 alone, the mobile revolution and the growth of SMS are undoubtedly continuing to evolve at a rapid rate. Portio Research estimates that SMS is used by four billion consumers worldwide and that global SMS traffic will exceed ten trillion in 2013. With this exponential growth and the fact that 50 per cent of texts sent in the US alone are sent by those over 35 , it is clear that SMS is no longer just a teen cult. Businesses are increasingly starting to adopt SMS as a medium to deliver business-to-business and business-to-consumer communication services.
It’s all in a message
In the current climate with business budgets shrinking, SMS is taking hold as an alternative, low cost and effective mobile communication channel and as such it needs to be included as an essential part of the communication strategy. SMS can be used for a host of business needs including, sales promotions, brand building, CRM, loyalty and retention campaigns and as a direct response tool for TV, radio or print advertising. It is essential to integrate SMS with other communication channels, including social media (Twitter, LinkedIn etc.), email and telephone, as these are also proved to be valuable resources.
The beauty of SMS is that it is simple and clear, and - with 90 per cent of all SMS read within three minutes - it’s immediate. This is in stark contrast with email, where there’s a low read rate and in turn often a low response rate. Furthermore and unlike other mobile marketing channels, SMS is intimate and can engage with audiences as individuals. Knowing audience habits enables businesses to create highly personalised and targeted messages. This provides the opportunity for instantaneous communication with new and existing customers, staff, suppliers and partners and can be targeted so that they are received at a time when recipients are more likely to respond.
Customers do not like to be considered as just a number, so marketers need to segment and differentiate in their approach. SMS allows you to engage personally with your customers to encourage a significantly higher success rate. Marketing directly to a person’s phone enables true one-to-one contact - intimate marketing, something that other mediums cannot match. Add in the fact that 98 per cent of messages received are opened and read, and you have an incredibly reliable and powerful communications tool.
SMS and SaaS
Understanding that businesses have a need for bespoke add-ons to function within their cloud software is key. Today the cloud computing industry is in high growth. Primarily, many businesses are utilising the various cloud solutions which are available in the market place to scale up their operations, because these cloud solutions enable them to be flexible with the usage of software licences. They also benefit from automatic updates of the systems without actually needing to purchase additional expensive software.
When integrated with SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) applications, SMS can be enhanced further. Predictably, this option has significantly increased in popularity within the past five years. The SaaS global market is expected to grow by 33.1 per cent CAGR over the 2010 – 2016 period, with an aggregate of US$156 billion over the same period .
SaaS integration boosts companies’ capabilities by building an instant two-way communication tool which can be used alongside other channels. This tool is crucial for communicating with audiences as it enables companies to conduct two-way conversations. As well as sending SMS globally, they can also interact with their clients by allowing them to respond back to messages which can then be logged against each contact’s records. Adding SMS to SaaS applications enhances the communication facilities, allowing users to communicate using several channels, but where the essential part is within one application and where all the data is stored centrally.
SMS in SaaS is on the rise, especially with the SMS cloud connector arena. In fact, smart businesses are already using SMS within their SaaS applications and are reaping the benefits of a unified operational system. As more businesses understand that integration with other communication channels is a simple process, we will undoubtedly see an increased uptake in the use of this solution particularly as companies strive to provide the end user with a full solution, including a dedicated central location to host consolidated and up-to-date data.
This was highlighted by a recent survey which was conducted by Dialogue Communications with its SaaS partner, NetSuite, the world's leading provider of cloud-based business management software. The survey discovered that 79 per cent of sampled businesses had mobile communication as part of their communication strategy for 2011 – 2012. Dialogue also asked if the businesses currently invested in mobile advertising, such as apps and mobile banners - with 36 per cent saying ‘yes’ and 64 per cent saying ‘no’.
The results also showed that 21 per cent of the businesses were using text messaging for customer communication while 79 per cent did not. Although this is a low figure, the results of the survey highlighted that businesses understand that they need to adopt mobile / SMS as part of their overall communication strategies but only 21 per cent were actually using text messaging as part of their communication channel.
At the end of 2010 nearly 70 per cent of Americans preferred to use text messaging compared to 30 per cent of individuals who used email, and only 17 per cent who utilised instant messaging. Similarly over 80 per cent of Europeans used SMS in the same time period, in contrast to 14 per cent who favoured instant messaging and 22 per cent who emailed. However in Japan, 54 per cent of mobile users prefer application compared to 42 per cent who use SMS.
Looking to the future
Despite the huge popularity of person-to-person messaging, an increase in application to person (A2P) messaging is on the horizon. According to Juniper Research, revenue from application generated mobile texts will cross US$70 billion by 2016 . The implications of this mean that A2P SMS revenue could potentially overtake person-to-person messaging, as the strategic focus for players within the mobile messaging ecosystem shifts from communication between individuals to sending and receiving service-enabling messages, such as service alerts and reminders.
SMS is one of the oldest value-added services and is unrivalled in comparison to other communication channels and messaging mediums. Virtually every mobile handset in the world can send and receive SMS and this cannot be matched by any web mobile applications. Even though sales of smartphones continue to rise, figures show that they only represent 21 per cent of the market . Mobile applications are fast becoming popular on smartphones, but users can always switch notifications off. SMS is still unique. SMS messages will always reach the handset and prompt people to read them, so this is still an effective communication tool that should be added to the communication channels.
Key facts and figures
• The first SMS message was sent over the Vodafone GSM network in the United Kingdom on 3 December 1992
• The first hand-held mobile phone was demonstrated by Dr Martin Cooper of Motorola in 1973, using a handset weighing 2kg
• Over 200,000 text messages are sent every second
• Approximately six trillion messages were sent in 2010
• SMS is used by four billion consumers worldwide and is expected to exceed ten trillion in 2013
• SMS has become one of the furthest-reaching communication gateways around, reaching up to 70 per cent of the world’s population, as opposed to television advertisements and online adverts.