As the mobile device obsession grows, enterprise IT departments are learning the hard way that today’s Web applications, will in fact, not live forever. Enterprise developers are now forced to turn their focus to mobile app development – not just repurposing a Web API for mobile, but embracing what is inherently different about the mobile platform.
Mobile isn’t just a smaller screen size, but for companies, it’s a whole new device for interacting with stakeholders in real-time. With in-app messaging, brands now have a powerful new channel to foster a private conversation between themselves and their customers. Further, companies can leverage data directly from interactions in the app to create more authentic and beneficial messages for the customer.
Using in-app messaging has a big pay-off for brands, too. According to a June 2015 report from app marketing and analytics firm Localytics, apps engaging in messaging have a two to three-and-a-half times higher retention rate and more uses per month than apps not using in-app messaging.
But for even the most experienced enterprise developer, integrating new features in a mobile application can be a tough process. The technical challenges alone can be too much for an in-house IT department, and developers could be stuck scratching their heads due to a lack of replicable use cases. We believe there are three simple steps that a developer can start with to incorporate in-app messaging to help build the foundation for a dramatically improved and far more engaging mobile user experience.
- The simplest in-app messaging application is using chat as a help feature. Imagine on-demand customer service from the palm of your hand – in store or in the comfort of your home. Think about how direct communication can improve customer experience. Is there a glitch in the app hindering the use of a feature? A question about an in-app purchase or pricing on a product in store that can be answered in the moment? There are many current scenarios that could be supported by using chat as a help feature, but the real possibility is in things that aren’t common today. Picture connecting chat to an in-store server, and joining a real customer service specialist to a customer needing assistance within minutes. Perhaps one day, in-app messaging could replace customer service calls all together.
- Another great way to utilize in-app messaging is by using chat as a way to share announcements. Instead of focusing on creating a private conversation between just two parties, sharing an announcement via chat is great way to spread communications to a group of people within an app. Share information about an upcoming event or sale, or send a cancellation update immediately (eliminating the frustration from those who didn’t check their email or voicemails!). And think outside of the box – these announcements don’t need to be text string, but rather HTML, JSON or images. Think about this as a push notification, but more personal and intuitive. However, while you may want to share announcements with all users, like a push notification, be aware that these messages can seem less targeted, like getting spammed. Alternatively, use a messaging platform that can sift through backend data to grab the intel required to customize announcements to specific audiences, all on its own.
- Finally, evolve your messaging a bit further by sharing images or content through chat. Facebook and WeChat are great examples of how to create more context within in-app messaging: share a link using in-app search or send animated emoticons to create sentiment. And again, think beyond a personal conversation, but how to engage a whole group. Perhaps you drop a pin on Google Maps and direct a group to a certain location or share a digital coupon to a set of customers. And while smaller images can be sent as binary payloads across the messaging transport, developers should consider size and performance implications and may want to use a different approach. There are even ways to use a URL in the message payload to transfer any kind of file (including an image!). The key to engaging customers with this feature is with powerful insights: integrate with different workflows and data using an end-to-end tool to deliver meaningful content to individual users.
These use cases could seem like simple additions or advanced ideas depending on the current state of your mobile app, but either way, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
The ever-evolving mobile world full of consumers seeking cooler, better, faster mobile experiences means one thing for enterprise developers: change. We must move beyond the traditional thinking to consider not only app design, but how users want to interact with their apps, and what value new features add for customers.
Whether you’re starting out with chat as a help feature or shooting for the stars with another intuitive messaging tool on the horizon, it’s safe to say the future of in-app messaging will be transformational for user experience.
About the Author/Shannph Wong
Shannph Wong is the Head of Engineering at Magnet Systems. Magnet Systems is powering the next generation of mobile applications with an open architecture to enable businesses and developers to create more engaging and productive enterprise-class mobile applications.