One of the two leads in the 2013 film Her wasn’t human, but an artificial intelligence personified through a female voice. The movie, set in the not-too-distant future, spans the deepening relationship between a man and a new operating system, individualized to its user.
It’s a cinematic glimpse at what’s to come for messaging apps, as chatbots evolve and become more accurate and personalized.
Mobile messaging has rapidly grown in popularity over the years: There are almost 3 billion monthly active users of messaging apps versus 2.5 billion for social media apps. Additionally, eMarketer finds messaging apps over-index in usage and retention.
Consumers use messaging apps nearly nine times per day, five times the average for all mobile apps. A month after users download a messaging app, the retention rate is 68% versus 38% for all apps.
Messaging App Integrations
“Messaging apps” -- which include Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Kik, WhatsApp, WeChat,Viber, and more -- have quickly become a bit of a misnomer. They aren’t solely used for chatting anymore. Brands have enhanced the chat experience through integrations with messaging platforms.
For instance, Snapchat users can send friends money through a feature with Square called Snapcash. In December, Facebook partnered with Uber to roll out Transportation, allowing users to hail a ride directly within Messenger. Just this month, it added a Spotify integration to share playlists and songs directly within conversations.
These types of third-party business offerings have only set the stage for what’s possible within messaging apps.
Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)
Additional opportunities for monetization will unfold for messaging apps as users become more comfortable interacting with chatbots, programs that respond to natural language text and fulfill commands, powered by artificial intelligence.
China’s most popular app, WeChat (whose parent company Tencent partially owns Kik), helped pioneer and popularize chatbots. Millions of companies use WeChat as their primary channel to advertise and communicate with customers.
Using WeChat, people can take actions like texting-in questions instead of having to scour websites for information or products.
Ultimately, chatbots allow brands to scale one-to-one conversations with consumers and deliver rich, personalized experiences spanning e-commerce to customer service.
It may eventually become the norm for people to bypass a brand’s site altogether to interact with merchants and make purchases.
It is not a reach to say that users’ sizing, item preferences and credit card details will be securely saved through messaging platforms. One can simply tell a chatbot “I want a new black T-shirt” to place an order. Afterwards, the bot relays a receipt and tracking information and later recommendations for additional products through the messenger stream.
The entire experience will be non-invasive and conversational.
Once the brand has established this one-to-one communication with consumers, it can leverage the messaging channel for ongoing customer communications. Up-sells, flash sales, promotional offers and loyalty messages can be as effectively delivered, as with other CRM channel,s like email, but with the intimacy that can only be achieved with a mobile message.
And of course, messaging apps enable these critical customer communications with young demographics, which are leveraging traditional channels like email less every day.
Chatbots are a ways off from human-level conversations as of now. For example, Facebook has M, which is a digital assistant inside Messenger that completes tasks for users. In lieu of relying solely on artificial intelligence, there are also human “M Trainers” who push through M’s biggest features, buy products, make travel arrangements, and more within the messaging platform.
As there are advancements in machine learning, it will become harder for messaging app users to tell whether they’re chatting with another person or a brand-powered bot. Interactions with brands will increase, as will consumer spending.
Also inevitable, the way businesses measure success will change: Time spent and the number of conversations with consumers (as well as standard direct response/conversion) will be key performance indicators.
The Third Wave in High-Tech Communications
The tech industry has experienced several paradigm shift in the way people interact with computers and the Internet.
We’re entering the chat-marketing era, and brands will aim to stake their claim through the increasingly popular world of messaging apps. This new channel is presenting a new set of options, which brands need to adapt to. As this medium evolves, there will be innovative new applications that have not yet been contemplated. Are you ready for the revolution?