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In Post-Email World, Mobile Messaging is King

By Alexis / Feb 16, 2015

Connecting customers and businesses with mobile messaging creates experiences that are human and effective.

Think back to the last time you contacted a business. Maybe it was an airline company that lost your luggage. Maybe it was an online store that shipped you a shirt of a wrong size. Or maybe it was a local coffee house where you asked if their muffins are gluten-free. Almost every day we reach out to businesses in an act that puts us in touch with another person—a customer care rep, a tech support agent, a sales person or a barista. These interactions will go on to shape our view of a company for a long time to come. Find the most natural, most convenient way for your customers to speak to you and you’ll leave a lasting impression and see them coming back.

                                                                   

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In 2014, over a billion people exchanged over 70 trillion of messages.

PAST THE POINT OF “PEAK” TELEPHONY

If you have anything in common with a billion other people, it’s that you’ve used mobile messaging. In large parts of the world mobile messaging has surpassed the telephone as the most common method of communication. Dean Bubley, founder of Disruptive Analysis has been tracking this trend for a while. He now states that “we are past the point of peak telephony.”

For millennials in particular, mobile messaging has become the preferred way of talking to one another, second only to in-person conversation. Like any other mainstream communication medium, messaging has established rules and its own etiquette. Its rules are quite different from telephone or email. Brevity is appreciated, dialog is expected, adding a bit of emotion to the conversation is welcome.

THE “CONSUMERIZATION” OF ENTERPRISE

For these reasons, it shouldn’t be surprising that enterprise messaging is taking off. Habits people form in their daily lives change the way they work and drive the trend of consumerization of the enterprise. Along with bringing their own phone, people bring consumer messaging apps to work. Products like SlackConvo and many others have turned enterprise messaging into one of the fastest growing categories of collaboration tools. A growing number of enterprise products and productivity apps integrate conversational collaboration features, leveraging design principles of consumer messaging. Together, these new tools keep chipping away at the use-cases traditionally reserved for email. Facebook’s co-founder Dustin Moskovitz echoes the observation about “peak telephony” and argues that the world has reached “peak email”. Dustin co-founded an enterprise productivity service Asana—a stellar example of applying consumer inspired design to enterprise productivity software. Indeed, having used Asana and Slack I can attest that it did cut down my company’s email traffic. Slack’s CEO Stewart Butterfield sums up the trend:

“Messaging has emerged as one of the most fundamental applications of the Internet, and its value is shifting into our work lives.”
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When messaging is the preferred communication medium for consumers and enterprises, how will it impact the way customers talk to companies? To me, the answer is clear.

Messaging will become the primary form of communication between businesses and their customers.

My conviction isn’t based solely on the clarity of above trends. It is also informed by the market response to a product we’re currently building, SupportKit.

Apps are increasingly becoming the key interface between enterprises and their customers. For UberLaundr and many others, the app is the only interface to the service. SupportKit lets businesses add messaging right into their mobile apps. In designing it, we were answering a need to blend messaging with their app’s core experiences. This is why we brought messaging into mobile apps, as opposed to sending customers to a separate messaging app. SupportKit sets up a in-app messaging connection that feels natural to the customer, yet is very effective for enterprises to handle even at scale.

SupportKit comes with an SDK that developers add into apps. The SDK takes care of the plumbing for messaging and also comes with configurable UI for conversations. Enabled apps dispatch messages right into a CRMs like Salesforce or a ticketing system like Zendesk via email channel.

But for companies who are already on enterprise messaging, SupportKit integrates with Slack, bringing together customers and your team via the medium that feels natural and effective to both. That’s where the two trends we talked about so far really converge.

PROACTIVE CONVERSATIONS

With messaging in place, it becomes natural to go beyond simply replying to customer’s requests, to proactively initiating conversations. We see companies send messages to let a customer know about a new personal offer, highlight a feature that they didn’t have a chance to try, or to reach out to a customer that may be at risk of churn.

It’s amazing to see just how quickly the product is being embraced by companies large and small. App developers love the simple integration of messaging experience and appreciate not having to develop these features themselves. Support teams like how they can converse with customers in a much more human way than requiring users to fill-up request forms or send email. Product managers appreciate the ability to better listen to customers. Ultimately, everyone is better off with higher customer engagement and higher loyalty.

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Getting started with SupportKit is free and it can be added to an existing app in under 10 minutes. If you’d like to see SupportKit in action, try Yo — a brilliantly simple sharing app that is taking the world by storm. Yo is using SupportKit to chat with their 50,000 users to collect feedback and provide support.

THE INTERSECTION OF CONSUMER AND ENTERPRISE MESSAGING

Of course this space is way too big to be ruled by any one tool. While SupportKit is the first product focused on connecting consumers and companies over messaging, in time, there will be other players.

The first step is consumer messaging services launching enterprise products, competing with pure-play enterprise messaging services. Last September WeChat, a service with 440 million users, announced they are working to enable enterprise messaging. The most recent announcement comes from Line, a consumer messaging service that has 170 million users. The Line@ app connects consumers and companies and enables e-commerce use-cases via integrated payment service. Facebook is testing Facebook at Work and is widely expected to launch an enterprise offer.

From the perspective of messaging services, it makes sense to expand to enterprises. It is also reasonable to expect more services to connect consumers to enterprises. But companies need to be careful about outsourcing this key communication channel. Businesses that prioritize customer experience are interested in making messaging an integral part of their product experience.

THE FUTURE IS AT OUR FINGERTIPS, LITERALLY…

Like email and telephone before it, messaging will leave no industry unaffected. What segments will be the first to see benefits from this shift? With things so dynamic as messaging it’s really hard to predict. Early adopters of SupportKit come from lots of segments — gaming, social networking, e-commerce. What they have in common is deep interest in engaging with their customers.

Gaming and mobile entertainment apps stand to benefit a lot due to the relatively high average revenue per user. For them, there’s a clear correlation between revenue and engagement. The more people use the app, the more revenue these users represent. Game studios tell us that personal connection with the player is one of the most effective ways to encourage the player to upgrade or buy virtual goods in a game. A lot of them use targeted proactive messages to drive in-app purchases and bring the right player segments back to the game. The most recent release of SupportKit runs on Unity, a leading engine for multi-platform games.

Mobile e-commerce is another active segment. In a competitive low-margin business, shoppers’ experience, convenience and personal service are paramount. A “Chat Now” button has become a familiar element on e-commerce websites. E-commerce volume is shifting to mobile and so is customer service.

One company that really illustrates this trend is Food Panda, a food delivery service in Asia. They have a website, an app and a phone number to take orders. But the method that lots of customers prefer is to place order over WeChat. Accepting orders over a consumer messaging service is a great hack, and a nice sign of things to come.

If you care about customer experience, no doubt you also care about how your customers speak to your enterprise, and the feel of these conversations. Though nothing replaces a physical contact and a live conversation between two people, mobile messaging is what comes the closest in terms of re-creating a personal one-on-one conversation experience. And now, we’re beginning to have the tools needed to re-create those meaningful and effective experiences in a digital world for billions of people.

Speaking of meaningful experiences, I’ll be at Mobile Summit and I’d love to hear other folks’ take on the rise of conversation tools in enterprise. Tweet me or send me an email!