Is Chat The New App?

Istanbul, Turkey - September 18, 2015: Apple Iphone 6 screen with social media applications of Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Periscope while a male finger is about to touch on Facebook app.
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In this guest post, strategy director of B.B.E., Adam Beaupeurt (pictured below), talks about the importance of chat and voice in the future of customer experience for brands.

Remember when social media was just a fad? When you were selling in the radical idea to invest in social strategy?

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Then along came the branded app – a supplementary service to your core product offering – which seemed (to many) to be just another fad in the making.

So when we ask those questions about when social media and branded apps seemed unnecessary — what about a time when we felt a chat experience did not seem completely necessary?

That time is today.

With Facebook announcing days ago that the underlying technology between its messaging apps would amalgamate, there’s been no more obvious symbol of the importance of chat and voice in the future of customer experience for brands.

Shifting from open to closed platforms

We know that customer experience is the only battleground that matters, and with it, speed to market is critical.

With every emerging technology, the playing field widens and a new opportunity presents itself.

It’s clear that people spend stacks of time on social, with Australian adults averaging 2.5 hours each day, and teens clocking up closer to 3.5 hours.

But this bird’s eye view doesn’t accurately reflect the behavioural change. Messaging apps have now well and truly superseded social in terms of usage.

Data shows that we now spend more time in closed channels and groups than we do on open social networks.

We’ve seen chat-oriented apps gain a lionshare in app usage, with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp now two of the top three.

This trend is reinforced and fuelled by where Facebook is spending its money; ads in Messenger and access to data advertising across all of its platforms.

The most recent and important decision for the medium to date has been investing in the integration of bots within Messenger.

If Facebook is putting its money somewhere, you’d be wise to consider the same.

Shifting sentiment

Australians across the board are increasingly warming to the idea of bots, with new data finding only 14 per cent of consumers today feel uncomfortable buying from an automated bot online.

You may be quick to pin this to Millennials, but what we’re actually seeing is Boomers are nowhere near as averse as originally thought, upending perceptions of digital natives as the most important adopters of tech.

Demography aside, tech innovation around the world is redefining customer engagement.

The best example is WeChat.

It allows you to do everything – from booking cabs and ordering food to planning a holiday.

Tasks which were once reserved for desktop web browsing are now simplified into a very easy-to-consume, instantaneous and streamlined manner.

This is working is because of the ease it offers consumers, converging extensive services into a single chat thread – enabled by text and voice.

The second is the data, which becomes paramount in connecting the consumer to those services.

And third, it’s much easier and less arduous when designing these systems as voice and text are universal interfaces for all of the services.

What this means for marketers

This calls for a change in tactics.

Marketers are moving away from large, monolithic platform builds to lightweight systems which allow testing and iteration without large investment requiring board-level approval.

This also allows marketers to meet customer experience expectations faster whilst improving personalisation, leading to an increase in conversion, brand preference and loyalty.

It’s a question of how we present these services to capitalise on consumer engagement.

We’ve already seen airlines do this with single services within their messenger platforms; we’re seeing health chatbots achieving high degrees of clinical accuracy; and we’re seeing retailers using chat for integration with ecommerce.

Delivering automation and personalisation

There are positive signs of investment across the board – whether it’s in chat and voice as a category, predictive analytics, or experiences which are starting to make sense for consumers.

The idea of automation and personalisation are two features that chat can deliver right now.

Chatbots are outperforming the rate of growth of apps at its relative life stage.

Comparatively, we saw 15,000 new apps from the launch of the App Store to 30,000 new bots on Facebook Messenger since it opened.

At B.B.E. we have invested in chat and voice technology as it’s an opportunity for us to rethink marketing and bring new customer experiences to life.

While there are plenty of terrible bots out there, remember the same was once true of apps.

We had single function apps and apps that barely functioned at all, and yet we still invested and laid those foundations for future success.

The other key factor here is that we rarely know what our competitors are up to, and what is coming next.

All we can look at is the data, and where consumers are heading.

So when asked the question ‘is chat the new app?’ You now know what to say. It is.

But it’s also the new inbox, the new front door, and the next defining experience for customers.

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