2015 was the year of the emoji. It was also the year that brands and advertisers started wondering about the mobile messaging ecosystem and its potential impact on the industry.
Then 2016 came around, and the conversation shifted. The question was no longer centered on why or what, but how—how do I get into the mobile messaging space; how can I integrate messaging apps into my existing marketing strategy?
Now, with 2017 approaching quickly, the nature of the discussion has evolved again.
Brands no longer need to be sold on messaging apps. In the past 12 months, they’ve received validation from major players like Facebook, which opened up its SDK for developers to create bots on Messenger, and Apple, which rolled out the App Store for iMessage.
Not to mention, the top four messaging apps in the world already have surpassed the top four social networks, with nearly 3 billion monthly active users, per Business Insider.
2017 will be the year that brands and marketers ask: How can I deploy dollars in mobile messaging in a way that is authentic and complimentary to my overall digital strategy? To answer that question, consider the top three projections that will shape the evolution of messaging apps as an effective advertising tool.
1. Brands put their money where their mouth is with mobile payments. The proliferation of mobile messaging apps has positioned messaging as a favorable vehicle for e-commerce and m-commerce. Mobile payments via messaging apps empower brands, big and small, to reach customers in an environment where they’re already spending most of their time. This makes it an ideal channel to service and sell to customers.
Add to that the emergence of chatbots, which can humanize the shopper’s experience, and we’re left with a huge opportunity, especially for retail brands, to engage with their audience and build brand loyalty while driving transactions.
2. Messaging apps will become the new operating system. At the end of 2016, Apple put a premium on iMessage and the content therein by introducing the App Store for iMessage. Through this move, Apple—arguably one of the best and largest operating systems in the U.S. and western markets—further validated messaging apps.
They gave developers openness to create personalized experiences in the space, and as developers continue to do this, brands and advertisers will buy in with branded content (e.g., emojis, GIFs, photo frames, photo filters, chatbots). This will be paramount, since messaging apps don’t support traditional ads. The culmination of all these factors will give messaging apps a competitive edge against traditional operating systems.
3. Success metrics get a facelift. Where banner ads and interstitials used to be the rule, branded content experiences in messaging apps will now be favored. Given this, the way the industry measures success has to change too, and will instead center on new forms of engagement metrics.
It’s not necessarily going to be about total reach, impressions or CPM rates anymore, but instead the focus will turn to: how many times has the content been shared? How much time has a user spent engaging with a brand in the messaging app? Was there a positive or negative interaction with the brand?
The industry will quantify results in terms of shares of content or recommendations, back and forth engagements (for chatbots), total sends of sticker content, and how much overall time is being spent with a brand experience.
While this pivot will make it more difficult for media buyers who have built a business on CPM and CPC rates, the overall change will be a positive one. Banner ads, click-bait and pop-ups won’t sway the consumer (which is to their benefit and pleasure); rather deep, immersive brand experiences will win out.
With just a few weeks left in the year, there’s no time like the present for brands and advertisers to formulate a digital strategy that’s mindful of expected and forthcoming trends. Those who adapt accordingly will be on the winning side of history. (Remember back in 2006 when people doubted Facebook and Twitter as a successful medium for businesses?)
Those who don’t will not only be behind the curve, but will also risk becoming obsolete. Choose wisely.