SIGNAL 2020: Empowerment, technology for good, and other major themes from our annual customer and developer conference

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    Kayleigh Karutis
  • Oct 04, 2020

Key themes emerged from SIGNAL: A focus on digital acceleration through intelligent, long-term, scalable solutions for customer engagement, and building consumer trust. 

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The Twilio community kicked off our annual customer and developer conference, SIGNAL, last week, to discuss and explore the future of communication, customer engagement, and the times we’re all living through since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the entire world earlier this year.

While SIGNAL looked a bit different compared to last year, as our first fully-remote, online event, the inspiration and energy was just as high as we welcomed business leaders from companies including Delta, Nike, and many more, and heard from speakers including Barack Obama, Bill Nye, Trevor Noah, Spike Lee, and others.

In the coming weeks, we’ll share our highlights and deep dives into the dozens of sessions attendees enjoyed, but in the meantime, here are the key trends and themes that emerged last week.

Scalable customer engagement

As a community, we’re all focused on empowering businesses and individuals to join or continue the great digital acceleration through intelligent, long-term, scalable solutions for customer engagement.

Over and over again, we heard stories of empowerment; from exciting product releases like Event Streams (which allow you to consume configurable, centralized streams of data into the system of your choice, enabling more customer data-driven decision making) and Frontline, empowering employees to connect with customers no matter where they are; to the way companies like Glassdoor empower customers to engage with them the way they want through a fully omnichannel experience; to the way 1-800-Flowers creates a best-in-class experience to help customers as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

The examples go on, but they all add up to a drive and desire to equip companies for their current needs as well as future ones, all through a deep understanding of their customer engagement landscape.

A common point of discussion within this theme was the shift from physical to digital experiences, and the way companies are accomplishing that.

Industries that have historically relied on in-person experiences to build brand loyalty are turning to digital engagement channels to create the same one-on-one connection online. At Twilio, sent and received messages nearly doubled in the first half of this year compared to the first half of 2019.

Our own research found 95 percent of businesses said they expect their organization to find new ways of engaging customers as a result of COVID-19. Perhaps no digital channel has been accelerated by this transition as much as real-time video. In the early days of the pandemic, companies rushed to deploy short-term emergency solutions to enable video. Now they are looking to developers to build long term video solutions that are more tailored and integrated for optimal user experience, fueling a more than 500 percent increase in daily Twilio Video usage since COVID-19 hit.

To further support this demand, we announced the availability of Twilio Video Web RTC Go, a free toolkit that eliminates the complexity of building on top of WebRTC, enabling developers and companies to simply and quickly create and launch one-to-one video applications. Learn more about Twilio Video WebRTC Go, now available here.

Across the board, speakers referenced the ways in which they’re empowering their employees, and their customers, to engage in a meaningful way across a digital-first experience.

Technology is more powerful than ever

From Delta CEO Ed Bastian to Barack Obama to Spike Lee, key speakers referenced the need to do the right thing.

People before profit is how Bastian put it. From Obama, we heard this: “This has been a tough year. We’ve been through tougher. And I continue to believe that the instincts of most folks out there are good. We just have to make sure those voices are heard. Not just through politics but through culture, through business, and through technology.”

He continued, saying that technology isn’t inherently good or bad; it’s a force multiplier, and it’s up to individuals to use it in a way that amplifies good. Bastian echoed similar sentiments.

Focusing on doing the right thing through the power and reach of technology has enabled Delta to achieve record customer satisfaction scores, Bastian said. COVID-19 has made it even more critical to communicate clearly, quickly, and on the right channel at the right time as customers navigate the changing landscape of airline travel, he added.

People will remember how they were treated during this time, Bastian added. Putting trust in employees to do what’s right and empowering them with the technology to follow through has been a core part of how the company has weathered the pandemic.

Attendees also heard how companies are using Twilio Video to bridge the gap with isolated seniors, helping the elderly become more comfortable with technology as a way to connect.

This time has given us an opportunity to learn and grow, and to explore the ways we can use technology to gain a new perspective, said comedian Trevor Noah.

As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility, and it's incumbent upon us as human beings, no matter the size of our platform or our reach, to use technology in a responsible way. Information, he said, can be used to instill fear or to unite people, to invoke certain feelings depending on how it's shared and exchanged.

As more companies leverage digital mediums and platforms to build consumer trust, they must empower employees and customers alike to engage in meaningful conversations, recognizing the social dynamics at play as the world around us shifts.

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Kayleigh Karutis