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What Is WebRTC and Why Does Your Business Need It?


Communication is central to establishing and maintaining a successful enterprise.

To keep an organization operating at its best, different departments must understand their own interconnections within the overall company and how they need to communicate with themselves and customers—if not, efficiency and productivity will suffer, costing time and money.

As the internet continues to evolve and steeps itself deeper and deeper into our daily lives, its ability to make communication faster and easier than ever is one of its most exciting developments. WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) has been gaining serious traction within the global business community because it allows users to hold audio or video calls within their browser or app—without the need for plugins or additional software.

This is an open-source project that allows standard browsers (provided it is open) to communicate via video, audio, and even data files, with a basic API built with JavaScript. Mozilla Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome all currently support WebRTC, with Microsoft also working on this, and all computers, phones, tablets, and even internet-enabled television sets can be used to hold conversations.

A recent study revealed that 69 percent of businesses questioned have either begun to, or plan to, use WebRTC—an increase of 56 percent from last year.

WebRTC offers various benefits to businesses and their customers, helping to transform daily operations. Here are five reasons your business should embrace this new technology:

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Web RTC Can be Seamlessly Integrated into Daily Business

Before WebRTC surfaced, businesses had limited access to video communication methods like Skype, GoToMeeting, and hardware-based unified communications (UC). While these still remain in use, they have several drawbacks. To use these services, the user would have to login to Skype or Go-To-Meeting to be able to connect with someone.

This call would occur out of context, and the user will be forced to jump back and forth between applications which would require them to have duplicate contacts and remember multiple passwords and usernames. These programs weren't designed to be integrated into business applications, and so, due to this limited functionality, they’re rarely featured in many businesses.

To clarify, let's consider WebRTC in contrast to an application like Skype: in order to use its call-based services, users need to download it—and customers are highly unlikely to want to download a video-conferencing application just to speak with a support agent. With WebRTC, the communication functionality is built directly into the browser, allowing customers to simply click a button to connect and communicate with someone at your company.

Unified Communications (like Microsoft Lync and Avaya) are costly to integrate into day-to-day business, and can be a real challenge to people unfamiliar with this technology. In order to use them, certain platforms require users to invest in hardware and software. It can also be difficult to use right out of the box—which can be off-putting to some businesses, and likely to discourage your business team from using more advanced Internet communications.

Integrating WebRTC, on the other hand, is quick and easy: if your business team and customers use the Internet on a daily basis, then they have the ability to connect via WebRTC.

WebRTC Boosts Customer Support

These statistics indicate that by 2019 2 billion users will integrate WebRTC into their lives.

Thanks to WebRTC, customers can interact with support agents quickly and easily. This helps to put a face on companies and makes them appear more trustworthy than anonymous enterprises. This can boost overall satisfaction, which is massively beneficial for retaining customers.

Secure in-browser video calling, with no need for downloads, can become a key communication option. It’s as quick and simple as telephone conversations, but with an added personal touch thanks to the face-to-face component.

Simply clicking a button to launch a video call provides an instant support option, which looks to revolutionize the way businesses will assist their customers in the near future. In the case of product-based support, customers could be shown demonstrations and real-time “How-To” guides—something which video can easily provide.

WebRTC Gives Sales Teams More Freedom and Flexibility

WebRTC also stands to improve the efforts of sales teams, helping them to add a visual aspect to pitches by making presentations, showcasing products, and allowing for face-to-face interaction without leaving the office—saving money and time on travel.

The more time a sales team saves, the more they have available, enhancing their productivity.

Collaborate Face-To-Face in Real-Time

WebRTC can transform the amount of input staff have when working from home or away from the office. Remote-workers—such as freelancers and part-timers—can communicate in real-time, whenever they have an internet connection. This boosts engagement for all involved, ensuring departments always have access to the people and the information they need.

Collaboration can strengthen relationships within teams and entire companies: bringing multiple departments to work together on specific projects, offering some insights or perspectives, building bonds, and allowing diverse skills to intersect, all of which leads to greater productivity and engagement.

While emails and instant-messaging allow for discussions, speaking face-to-face with visual aids is a much more satisfying experience, and makes it easier for staff in different branches, cities, or countries to work as one. With 49 percent of companies saying WebRTC will play a vital role in internal team collaboration, inter-department collaboration is set to see significant improvements.

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WebRTC Provides Secure Communication

Calls to both customers and business associates must remain secure and private—and WebRTC features a higher level of protection than the majority of VoIP platforms. With SRTP (Secure Real-time Transport Protocol) as a standard feature, WebRTC ensures every call is private, giving customers and associates reassurance that what they say is in confidence.

SRTP offers encryption and authentication, and while it may take a little longer to set up, secure WebRTC should be the real-time communication method of choice for businesses in today's digital age.

Expand Financial Reach with WebRTC

Unlike conventional Unified Communications solutions, WebRTC is low cost to support. As hardware is a major driving component in most UC-based platforms, there are significant costs and hours spent integrating it. If specific training needs to be given on how to use it, that will also incur costs, and consume time that could be spent on more important tasks.

Unlike traditional communications, all the core WebRTC technologies are free and open source (webrtc.org), but if you want them pre-packaged and easier to use then you may want to pay a little for pre-built libraries and cloud services from a WebRTC infrastructure company. This can most appropriate when you need a guaranteed quality service, for example across global networks and mobile devices as provided as a service by Agora.IO (try their free app at beckon.cc).

Furthermore, as businesses can take and make calls at low cost over the Internet, there is no need for costly premium numbers, which can frustrate customers and put them off contacting you altogether. Companies offering free communication options to customers appear more trustworthy and customer-focused than those expecting the very people who fund their success to pay additional amounts for support.

WebRTC will continue to become more and more prevalent in all areas of business and everyday life over the coming years, replacing more expensive, complicated, and time-consuming alternatives as the platform of choice. Businesses need to make the most of their time, their finances, and staff productivity—all of which can be improved greatly by exploiting the real-time communication options the Internet provides.

Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images
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JT Ripton is a freelance business, marketing and technology writer.