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Messaging Is Back

Messaging is Back by Jack Philbin

by  , Columnist, May 4, 2018

This article originally appeared on MediaPost 5/4/18

Mobile messaging is the number one trend that marketers cannot afford to ignore.  

Over the past several years, the proliferation of chat apps, SMS, and social messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have largely displaced this more traditional form of online messaging like instant messages and email. In 2016, instant messaging and texting (e.g., SMS and chat apps) were the first things 35% of Americans checked in the morning, according to Deloitte, up from 29% in 2014. 

We’ve come a long way since brands dabbled in short message service (SMS) or began exploring communications tied to branded apps. We are in the midst of an undeniable resurgence for one of mobile’s original and most defining functions. It’s a renaissance of messaging.

What’s Old is New Again

We first saw the height of text messaging come into play at the turn of the century. Text messaging grew massively in the 2000s, with TV programs like “American Idol” inviting the public to vote for their favorite contestants via text and then-U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama announcing Joe Biden as his running mate through the use of bulk text messaging.

But even at its peak, text messaging had its challenges, such as SMS charges or the risk of users going over their data limits. Now that unlimited texting and data plans reign supreme, and landline bills are non-existent, “going over” is less of a concern. Additionally, a wave of new channels has emerged to complement SMS, including chatbots and mobile wallets. 

And while text messaging continues to power the lion’s share of today’s interactions on mobile, new channels and apps centered on messaging have significantly expanded marketers’ arsenals.

Beginning in 2010, messaging and chat apps began sprouting up and attracting users all over the world. We needn’t look further than the impressive sprawl of WeChat in China, or Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp’s billion-plus users to know that messaging — in all its forms — is here to stay.

All of these channels serve as oxygen that fuels the mobile messaging fire, highlighting that all-important, in-the-moment relationship with the consumer.The brands that are ahead are the ones who have discovered that true personalization is about authentic conversations in the right channels. 

Embracing the Renaissance

This renaissance of messaging shows no signs of slowing down. More innovation is on the way as new initiatives like Google’s RCS usher in the next generation of messaging standards, and voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa become more sophisticated to make voice commands a mainstream form of messaging. Additionally, conversational commerce, meaning the use of messaging to market and sell, is a largely untapped opportunity in the U.S. — and a sizable one at that, especially if brands’ reported successes on WeChat in China is any indication.

Here are three ways marketers can embrace this renaissance:

1. Leverage existing infrastructure: Building a chatbot in Messenger or creating a digital loyalty program in Apple Wallet and Google Pay doesn’t require you to build from scratch, and you can ramp up quickly by integrating these services into your cloud platform.

2. Make messaging a part of your mobile engagement strategy — quickly:The proliferation of messaging channels and apps is a blessing and a curseEach brand needs to be strategic about where to play, which is why building an multi-channel view of the customer, complete with their preferred messaging apps and channels, is critical.

3. Build a 1:1 relationship with consumers: To activate an multi-channel understanding of consumers, marketers need robust CRM capabilities to deliver the right message, at the right time, on the right channel. 

Thriving in this golden era of messaging is not as simple as firing off messages. It requires a multi-channel understanding of your customers. This view should include: real-time insights, analytics to measure impact and a comprehensive multi-channel strategy to reach the right customers at the right time.