Connecting with customers used to be straightforward with only one option, the telephone. Then in 1978 things started to get a little more interesting with the first ever email marketing blast by Digital Equipment Corp. While relatively small by today’s standards, that 400 person blast resulted in about $78.8 million in sales when adjusted for inflation. Fun fact, this email was also considered to be the first spam message.
For the next two decades email had relatively low adoption being primarily used by universities or for corporate communication. In 1996 Hotmail changed the landscape by providing the first free web-based email service opening a direct line of communication to 20 million American internet users. This influx of potential customers did not go unnoticed.
Recent estimates suggest that 14.5 billion spam emails are sent every day which equates to roughly 45% of all emails. With nearly half of all emails being spam is it any wonder that open rates over time have plummeted to 22%?
Despite consumers actively avoiding telemarketers and low email engagement, businesses today may have access to arguably the most effective communication method in history, messaging. The first text message was sent in 1992 but the channel experienced slow growth for over the next decade due to limited carrier coverage and phone hardware designed for dialing rather than typing. Then in 2006, the first smartphone hit the market and the volume of texts sent per month more than tripled from 12.5 billion per month to over 45 billion in just one year. Currently, it is estimated that the top three messaging channels (SMS, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp) combined have over 60 billion messages sent per day.
Messaging provides businesses a great opportunity to connect with their customers, but it’s not as straightforward as telephone or email – both of which are a universal standard. Consumers today have access to a growing variety of messaging channels so it’s important for businesses to understand which channels their customers use, and for what purposes.
The first channel to consider is SMS. SMS boasts the highest number of potential monthly active users (18.7 billion) since it comes standard with any phone and is used worldwide across all demographics. SMS is unique compared to other messaging channels in that it requires no internet connection, with all content being delivered, for better or for worse, over the carrier network.
Seeing a future in messaging, social media giant Facebook transformed Facebook Chat into a standalone service in 2015 now known as Facebook Messenger. While not as ubiquitous as SMS it still used monthly by 11% of the world’s population (1.4 billion monthly active users). Like SMS, Messenger is also used throughout most of the world amongst people aged 16-44.
In addition to their own messaging service Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014. Since its acquisition, WhatsApp has grown from 465 million monthly active users to over 1.5 billion proving to be another messaging channel that cannot be ignored. While available worldwide WhatsApp is predominantly used throughout Europe and in developing countries amongst adults 25-44.
LINE’s user base may be lower than other channels, but with over 67% of their 217 million monthly active users coming from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Indonesia it may be the most geographically targeted channel of the bunch. What LINE may lack in numbers it makes up for in engagement. On a global scale, 61% of LINE’s monthly active users are on it daily. When you narrow it down to the four main countries referenced above, that number jumps to 71%.
Blurring the line between a messaging and a social media app, Twitter has become an effective means for businesses to connect with Twitter’s 336 million monthly active users. Twitter has seen a 2.5x increase in customer service conversations over the last two years. Businesses that have embraced this channel to engage customers have also been rewarded with a 19% lift in customer satisfaction.
Of all the channels available, live chat services, embedded within a website or app, come with the highest level of customer expectation. Other messaging channels are asynchronous in nature, so consumers expect a bit of a delayed response. Live chat, however, comes with the expectation of an immediate response and immediate results. 47% of businesses acknowledge that their live chat user experience is not good enough which is further supported by 38% of consumers reporting frustration due to poor experience.
One up and coming channel to keep an eye on is RCS (Rich Communication Service), recently renamed “Chat”. Heralded as messaging 2.0 by Google, RCS is positioning itself to be a richer and more capable platform than SMS. GSMA estimates that RCS will reach over 1 billion monthly active users over 200 mobile operators by Q1 2019. The biggest hurdle facing RCS is smart phone fragmentation. With Apple recently rolling out Apple Business Chat it’s unlikely they will support RCS on the iPhone.
Rolled out last March along with iOS 11.3, Apple Business Chat is another messaging channel to monitor. Integrated into the Apple ecosystem along with iMessage and Apple Pay, Business Chat has the potential to offer consumers a very fluid end to end user experience. This integration makes it readily available to all of iMessage’s 1.3 billion users worldwide but, on the flip side, limits this channel to only iOS users (who make up under 20% of the global market).
With so many messaging channels, where do you start? For businesses considering a multichannel engagement strategy, it’s important to first consider what channels your customers are on and how they might want to use those channels to more efficiently communicate with you. Next, flip the model to think about how your team will manage those customer communications and know that we have you covered.
Our flexible APIs allow businesses to engage customers across any digital messaging channel through one centralized agent view. No matter which channel(s) you pick, we make it easy to manage them all (and add more as you go).
In an upcoming blog post, we’ll dive into some of the pros and cons of each messaging channel. In the interim, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out.