With the year coming to a close we had a look at everything that happened in 2017 from a technology company's perspective. We felt it would be worthwhile sharing our thoughts and curated our top 10 developments in 2017. Here is our wrap-up of a year full of messaging, even more developments within the tech sector and most importantly: a focus on customer interaction. We are more than excited to see what else is to come in 2018.
WhatsApp: In Q3 2017 Facebook announced opening up their subsidiary to businesses. A step towards monetization and staying relevant in the race for relevance among users and businesses alike.
Apple: In June 2017 at the WWDC (Apple’s worldwide developers conference) Apple announced Business Chat. Meaning that they will open up their messenger iMessage to commercial use by businesses providing them with a backend for the needed business features.
Facebook Messenger: They already opened up in 2016 but have made a tremendous effort since to simplify interaction between businesses and customers within their messenger.
Google: Google has made moves towards better messaging in the past but in 2017 presented the real plan in a session at the Mobile World Congress titled “Network 2020 - A New Global Platform for Conversation, Chatbots & Commerce”. With their Rich Communication System, they are trying to keep up with other big messaging platforms.
WeChat is Asia’s super messenger. Everything in someone’s daily routine can be done without leaving the application. Mini-apps enable further features within WeChat creating even more comfort for the user.
Additionally WeChat includes their own payment system that allows seamless transactions. More and more European and American businesses are taking their chances of implementing WeChat Pay into their payment systems in order to service Asian tourists. In Europe, Munich airport is one of the first instances to offer WeChat Pay. Recently the Asian company opened an office in Frankfurt. Maybe a hint on their plan of tackling the European market?
In January 2017 numbers of monthly active users within messengers were pretty high:
While you would think that messaging is at its peak, Instagram recently made moves towards this form of digital communication. After making Snapchat obsolete by creating the stronger Story-Feature, they are looking to also be part of the messaging game with Direct.
As a Facebook subsidiary Direct is the third messaging app within the parent organization. Like Facebook Messenger before Direct will be a stand-alone solution. While as of now there are only features for users it seems likely that Instagram is also looking to simplify interaction between customer and business on their platform.
Towards the end of 2017 when everyone settled for a quiet end of the year, the US breaks the calm. The Federal Communications Commission has scrapped net neutrality rules that until now protected the openness of the internet. Those rules used to prevent internet service providers (ISPs) to charge some websites more than others or even block some websites. Especially for Google, Facebook and Co. this might mean high costs in order to have their data delivered as steady as before. But as they do have sufficient funds to do so, the real struggle will likely be for smaller, disruptive businesses.
Predictions are running wild that this development will affect the internet as we know it all over the world. Net neutrality advocates argue that neither Netflix nor Skype would have had a chance for survival had net neutrality not been in place.
Even though cable providers have just announced that their users will always be enjoying a free internet, being able to visit any website they want, we remain curious about the implications this will have.
With Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini voice assistants are becoming more accessible to the mass market. Devices become more affordable to a broader audience.
However, the technology has yet to take off to create real user value. Only then high usage will become likely.
But with companies such as Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft pushing the capabilities of their respective assistants into the market, their availability will extend as will their features.
Another important point is that voice assistants can be integrated into an increasing number of products regardless of the respective hardware, e.g. Google Assistant works with Bose Headphones, Amazon’s Alexa operates within the BMW car entertainment system.
As blockchain is a topic of interest in connection with currencies - think Bitcoin, Etherum & Co - it is also an interesting topic outside of currencies. Potential use cases in the future may also lie within the messaging sector. Whether private or business context we are curious about what will come in the future.
Chatbots were one of the hot topics in 2016 and have experienced equal interest in 2017. But while in 2016 chatbots promised to be the number one solution for high efficiency in communication, customer service and messaging, in 2017 the limitations have become clear. In order to actually create value natural language processing needs to be developed further.
As businesses such as Facebook (with access to billions of conversations) are on the topic, there is an outlook of fast improvements. Only then will there be a value-add through chatbots in more than simple use cases.
As more companies are opening up their messengers to businesses, they are also including payment options. WeChat as the leading example already has payment included allowing users to stay within the app for example when booking, ordering and paying at a restaurant.
Facebook Messenger Payment is (at this moment) only available in America. As soon as they also add Europe to their field of operation there will likely be a shift of usage within the messenger. Convenience for users is the deciding factor for success.
The approach with Apple Pay in iMessage is similar with an identical outlook.
Native apps have been on a downward trend in the past and still are. With the development of progressive web apps and the technology named service worker, web apps are winning in functionality.
They ultimately enable web apps to do the same things as native apps including push notifications on chrome or safari (and more browsers are likely to join). Accordingly, their potential to decrease native apps relevance is high.
Last but not least: Customers have been moved to the center of processes and structure in many businesses - in 2017 more so than in the years before. Communication and convenience are the winning arguments for creating strong customer relationships. Messengers, as 2017s most used and loved channel for communication, are a central piece for customer experience. Thus, the importance of messengers cannot be denied. Businesses are aiming to find solutions within, but are still often missing the suitable technology and expertise.