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May 2015

The Next Web

“The desire for convenience is fundamental, as is the desire to connect with people,” says Maxwell Luthy, Director of Trends and Insights at TrendWatching. “Messaging platforms happen to provide an effective platform for today’s mobile users that combines connection and convenience.”

The rise of the messaging economy

by Ritika Puri

In just a few short years, text-based communications have become a staple for companies ranging from enterprise giants to startups and independent app developers. Brand-to-customer interactions that were once limited to in-person interactions, phone calls, and mail are now taking place over multiple social networks, emails, SMS, live chat, mobile push notifications, and more.

It’s almost impossible to quantify the number of options that people have for communication.

“Messaging seems so obvious, but when you think about trends over the past decade, the explosion of messaging really represents a paradigm shift,” says Rob LoCascio, CEO and founder at customer intelligence platform LivePerson.

“The Internet was invented as a one-size-fits all catalogue for searchable content – not a place for connection. Messaging represents a new era where people are communicating directly to others, sharing content and messages, whenever and wherever.”

The ‘messaging economy’ is as confusing as it is empowering. With so many messaging channels available, it’s just as easy to miss the mark as it is to generate sky-high engagement rates. Before venturing into the messaging economy, it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Here’s what every app developer and brand must know.

1. Time is at the heart of the messaging economy

The messaging economy evolved to tackle society’s biggest challenge—the perpetual lack of time that everyone faces. With text-based information sharing, digital audiences can obtain and share information faster.

“You can send and receive information at your convenience,” says LoCascio. “It’s personal, with one-to-one or small group communication. It’s wanted communication—not megaphone broadcasting of social media to anonymous audiences.”

Most importantly, LoCascio points out that the messaging economy is efficient, with a faster exchange of needs, services, and ideas. With this perspective in mind, brands should be thinking about ways to help consumers make the most out of their time.

“Rapid, always available communication creates a faster exchange of needs, services and ideas,” says LoCascio. “Messaging represents a new ‘unshareable,’ private form of web, but it also represents the opportunity for richer, more meaningful connections with brands.”

2. Convergence is the next big challenge

Years ago, the experience of ordering food from a local restaurant would have required visits to multiple websites. For some businesses, transactions would have been impossible to complete online. Today, multiple forms of messaging are converging into single experiences.

“Modern messaging doesn’t just connect message senders and receivers, but is increasingly interconnected across the modes of communication and devices,” says Ryan Cunningham, product lead at ClipCard. “In the food delivery example, SMS works together seamlessly with push notifications, payment transactions, and more to deliver a single experience.”

With convergence comes happier, more engaged customers.

“We’re soon going to be worrying a lot less about getting people to visit our places—our apps, our websites—and worrying a lot more about getting people to interact with our services,” says Cunningham. “We’ll talk less about acquisition, stickiness, and churn in the traditional sense and we’ll talk more about embedding our services as transparently as possible in the lives of our users with messaging.”

CM Telecom’s hybrid messaging service allows companies to seamlessly integrate the myriad array of communication methods onto one platform. Its NotiFire service even allows you to send push notifications via email. “Hybrid messaging offers the best of both worlds: the vast accessibility of SMS and low expense of push notifications”, said Jeroen van Glabbeek at Mobile Convention Amsterdam.

3. It’s an early market opportunity

To the casual observer, the messaging economy may seem flooded and relatively mature. Dig deeper, however, and you’ll see that there are still plenty of opportunities to innovative, add value, and implement new direction. Even though there are many players in the field, there are still opportunities to innovate.

“At this point, it’s very limited for people to  segregate messages into what’s personal, what’s for work and what’s ‘noise’ or advertisement, so pretty much everything is read and engaged with,” says Sean Si, founder at analytics technology company Qeryz.

A trend that Si has come across is the fact that more and more people are using messaging tools for search.

“Of what I don’t really know for certain,” says Si. “But people are using messaging platforms for search – perhaps for previous messages, perhaps for things they could share, perhaps for things they want to see or watch. Whatever it is, we know that it will eat a chunk off of Google’s market.”

4. It’s a paradigm shift for technologists, not consumers

While the messaging economy represents a paradigm shift for app developers and service providers, it’s far from new for efficiency-meets-information hungry consumers—it’s an expectation.

“The desire for convenience is fundamental, as is the desire to connect with people,” says Maxwell Luthy, Director of Trends and Insights at TrendWatching. “Messaging platforms happen to provide an effective platform for today’s mobile users that combines connection and convenience.”

Brands and app developers should remember that the messaging economy is about bringing people together and connecting them with the information that they need. Technology is a means to an end of providing faster, better results.