The battle to win the “Messaging Race” is a Race that can’t be Won
Over the past half decade there has been a fierce and active battle between the consumer chat incumbents (Facebook, WhatsApp, Wechat, Kik, Slack, Line etc) to win the “Messaging Race”, though by the nature of a ubiquitous channel of communication , it isn’t a race that can be won by a single entity — it’s akin to one company attempting to own the entire Email or Voice channel.
Here’s a rundown of what you’re going to read on this page:
- A snapshot in the evolution of messaging as a channel for commerce
- How the future of messaging will have an affect on business
- The collateral damage of a Consumer to Business messaging world
- Why the Messaging Race can’t and won’t be won by a single app or entity
People prefer to Message
Messaging has become the communications channel of choice for any connected individual. People, now use messaging to communicate with one another more often than any other form of communication.
We no longer write letters, seldom make a voice call (unless forced to), and email for the most part is considered slow, cumbersome and overly formal.
More than 3.2 billion people use instant messaging worldwide and over 43 trillion instant messages were sent in 2015, surpassing email for the first time.
There are more people messaging on the 4 top consumer apps, than there are on social networks.
Sink or Swim : Get ready to start messaging your customers
In the evolution of consumer to business communication, it is inevitable that consumers will choose to engage with the businesses that are willing to communicate with them, using the channel that they prefer.
Consumers are no longer going to email, call or in some cases even visit the retail premises of the businesses they trust with their spending power — but instead they will send a Message just as they do now with their friends, family and colleagues.
‘Conversational Commerce’ as coined by Chris Messina (the gent that invented the #hashtag) is a paradigm shift in how transactional communication will evolve, a new B2C2B messaging channel, that comes with a set of consumer expectations acquired amidst the consumer messaging uptake over the last few decades.
The messaging revolution creates new opportunities for entities to connect with their customers, deliver personalized customer service and unlock new transactional opportunities. So either businesses evolve and adapt, or they can hand their market share to their competitors that will.
Messaging : Collateral Damage
The move to conversational commerce will have an impact on the existing “Access Brokers” of today’s web (bare with me , I’ll explain what they are in a minute), especially during the Search, Discovery & Engage process that we as consumers go through when making purchase decisions.
Back in the late 1990’s the consumer shift from the Yellow Pages to a Search Engine index, hastened the search process, but it didn’t really speed up engagement.
Today as conditioned search engine users, when searching for a product or service we ultimately seek to find an entity that is ready to be of service at the time we execute the search.
The most relevant and valuable search results would be a list of companies or people that are available to deliver a product or service right now, instead of the entity that has spent the most optimizing their site for certain keywords, or paid the most per click to get listed at the top but during hours when they are closed and/or can’t respond.
Consider this : At 3AM when a pipe under my sink bursts, I want an emergency plumber — now. Not a treasure hunt through a list of websites to sift through, hoping that one of them is open after visiting 20 different sites.
Compare the two experiences on the left : The current Google results page, filled with ads that do not take availability in to consideration at all, and the screenshot on the right the tawk.to geo displays entities ready to message you now. Which would you prefer to engage with?
In the Search Engine Index you still need to click through to a bunch of different sites, fnd a phone number or fill out a ghastly contact us form.
With an ‘Availability Index’ like tawk.to , you find the companies that are online and ready to message you right now.
The currency of the web is “Access”, the sites that have access to consumers amidst the Search, Discovery and Engage process, aid in the speed of engagement, and wield incredible influence on purchase decisions.
As the founder of tawk.to, I’m biased — but the reality is, as Messaging becomes the mode du jur for consumer to business communication and in-chat transactions, I predict the Search, Discovery and Engage process is going to rapidly change, and as a result there will be a power shift in the access economy.
Why the Messaging Race can’t and won’t be won by a single app or company
Messaging, is an alternative communications channel — not a ‘space’ or a ‘market’. A channel can not be captured by a singular app or entity, the laws of a free market economy simply won’t allow it.
To validate that statement we simply have to compare Messaging as a channel, to any other digital channel.
- Does any one entity own voice? No.
- Does any one entity own email? No.
- Does any one entity own website creation and hosting? No.
- If you have a gmail account, and I have a yahoo account, can we still email one another? Sure, we can.
- If you have an Android handset, and I have an iPhone, can we still call one another? Absolutely.
The biggest failure of messaging as a channel to date, has been the fragmentation of messaging ‘networks’, all of whom have attempted to carve a piece of the pie and silo their userbase.
Messaging as a channel will evolve, and sure businesses will have to be where their customers are, but for any one that was around to experience the bait and switch that Facebook executed when prompting businesses to first pay to acquire “likes” on their Facebook page, then swiftly pulling the rug out from undertheath them to now make businesses pay to reach that very same audience when posting content on their own page — there is no way intelligent business owners are going to give the power of an entire channel to a singular entity.
Consider this : How absurd would it be if iPhone users could not call Android users? Or on another layer below.. Samsung users could not call HTC owners? We live in an omni-channel world, and messaging will fast follow suit.
The main takeaway here is that there is a tremendous opportunity to build closer relationships with new and existing customers, using a channel of communication that your customers most prefer.
Though don’t expect or bank on reaching all of your customers using a single site or app. Think omni-channel, as you would with any other form of communication. Own your tools, and your audience, as no person or entity should be put in a position where you have to pay them to message your own customers.