Our take on customer-business communication through messaging and how Apple iMessage, Google RCS, and Facebook Messenger are trying to lead the way.
The mobile internet has fundamentally changed user patterns and information flows among individuals and within organizations. Whereas calling a friend, family member or business contact was the ultimate communication approach for the last decades, over the last 6 years messengers have changed the landscape in private communication entirely.
Every day individuals are sending over 50 billion messages from their smartphones to update their friends and family, arrange appointments or share pictures and other rich content.
Triggered by the introduction and fast adoption of messenger platforms such as WhatsApp in 2010, messaging has redefined personal information exchange. Today messaging defines the category of mobile communication and has become the dominant communication channel, with the highest engagement among all apps and the major use case on the smartphone.
Furthermore messaging also made its way back to desktop and web, altering the way how information is shared across multiple devices, organizations, and geographies. To conclude: Messaging has become the most personal and casual form of digitized communication in today's world.
Taking a global perspective, there is a richness of messenger platforms to connect individuals. The dominant ones are Whatsapp (Android, iOS), WeChat (Android, iOS), Apple iMessage on iOS and MacOS, as well as Facebook Messenger, an extension of the Facebook platform with a multi-platform messenger on the web, Android and iOS clients.
In addition, there are smaller ones like for example Line, Telegram or Threema. Google is also still trying to enter the messenger playing field with its messenger platform “Allo” (launched 2016) and will additionally provide a new product later in 2017 that is currently being called Google RCS (RCS = Rich Content Service). RCS is based on Google’s acquisition of Jibe Mobile in 2015 (thus also called Google Jibe Cloud Platform) that is currently being integrated into the “Android Messages”.
With this advanced protocol, Google and its carrier partners try to position an advanced rich context messaging system next to Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s Whatsapp through the existing user base of the native Android messaging app client and thus create a successor to SMS on their own platform.
Hence, evidence shows that all major online players (except Amazon - with regards to the GAFAs - which is currently riding the Alexa voice assistant wave) are currently investing in messaging. One underlying assumption, therefore, could be the fact, that messaging as a channel is perceived to be the most personal and casual way of interacting with individuals.
Another aspect is the modular and flexible framework from a content perspective, as well as the communicative structure of the channel. With the ability to provide content within the speech bubble in a chronically ordered way, separating recipient and sender input and contextually enriching the written exchange with pictures, videos or other “micro apps”, the messenger has to be seen as a communication OS itself.
This combination encompasses innovation potential, while only requiring a very limited alteration of the learned user interface for enabling a broad range of use cases. The third advantage is the machine-readable bi-directional channel to distribute and receive information. Having an interface that feels casual to humans, while being suitable for machine input and structured data extract has a high value.
With a growing amount of machine-generated data and human-to-machine communication (with regards to automation and IoT/ Internet Connected Devices), the messenger provides the perfect tool to bring these two worlds closer together. Creating intuitive and personal interaction patterns, learned from human-to-human interaction, for human-to-machine interaction appears to be a major factor to gain relevance and continuous engagement.
Driven by initiatives like Facebook Messenger Platform 2.0 (introduced during the F8 2017) and Apple’s iMessage apps and “Business Chat” (recently introduced during the WWDC 2017) all signs show that messaging will play an increasingly central role in the future.
Messengers will act as a hub to connect organizational and commercial information layers with individual consumers across platforms and technology ecosystems in a more consistent and user-centric way than previously possible.
Taking a leap in the future, this will allow to transform and enhance business-customer interaction in the same way that messengers did previously to personal communication with rich content and asynchronous information sharing.
Google as well as Apple and Facebook are currently joining the race to provide the best platform. They are seeking to leverage their existing market position and define their new roles within the attractive segment of business messaging to enable transactions and value creation within their channels.
Similarly but already far more sophisticated is the Asian ecosystem with WeChat at the center of the movement. In China, a substantial part of ecommerce and service delivery is already orchestrated via messaging platforms. These are also finding their path into offline transactions, becoming a fundamental channel and interface for multichannel customer-business interaction (more on this in a future post). Due to the dominance of mobile phones as the first computing and internet connected device for many, this transition to conversational commerce and messengers at the center of platforms happened even earlier and faster than in other geographies.
To conclude: The whole concept of Messaging is here to stay and has already opened a new chapter within the book that is called “Internet is eating the world”.