Over the last few years, mobile messaging usage has exploded. It now dominates smartphone usage. While consumer communication grew rapidly a few years ago, the more recent and interesting phenomenon is the rise of “messaging as a platform” — a platform for developers and enterprises to engage their customers and build advanced conversational experiences. Messaging and conversational experiences are gradually transforming every aspect of the human-computer interface.
The rise of Alexa and Assistant shows that, depending on context, users will seamlessly use both oral and textual conversations to get things done. For example, in private spaces with busy hands (e.g., when driving or cooking), audio is the preferred conversational medium. However, in public spaces (e.g., meeting room or noisy street), screen-based textual or visual interaction is usually the preferred mode.
Even as other channels mount a bid to be viable alternatives, SMS continues to remain the preferred channel for enterprise messaging given its ubiquity. Globally, enterprises send 2 trillion text messages to consumers worldwide. These are mostly transactional messages notifying customers about information related to their transaction. While SMS does have its limitations, such as plain-text, restricted-length format, it more than makes up for it with its reach and ubiquity.
While other channels continue to develop, the gold standard worldwide for rich messaging functionality remains WeChat, along with similar apps Line and Kakao. These messaging apps enable users to not just communicate but also do a wide variety of transactions, including shopping, banking, insurance, payments, travel, taxis, food delivery, jobs, music, news, etc. These have now become super-apps that subsume many other apps within them. These are powerful illustrations of the vision of “messaging as a platform.”
Messaging channels and conversational experiences continue their rapid growth even as the hype cycle has moved on. As they say, it is easy to overestimate the short-term and underestimate the long-term; that is certainly the case with messaging and conversational experiences.
Beerud Sheth is founder and CEO of Gupshup