The Evolution of Messaging: Where Do We Go from Here?

By Adrian Daniels, Vice-President, Digital, West Cary Group

First, there was the letter. Then the email. Then the text. Throughout the years, messaging has become simpler, sleeker and more efficient. Why? At the most basic level, there’s a beautiful juxtaposition that exists within the average consumer, and it’s one that has only been amplified with the progression of time and the expansion of possibilities: the desire to be instantaneously efficient at odds with the will to be inherently lazy.

That is to say, “I want what I want (read: everything) when I want it, but don’t make me work for it.”

There are two tech companies currently on the messaging scene – one you may not know and one you should, unless your former residence was a rock – that satisfy both needs with deceptively brilliant communications solutions. We’re talking about Slack and Facebook. 

Be less busy? We’ll take it!

Slack just had the year to end all years. What launched as a business messaging startup out of Silicon Valley in August 2013 has morphed into an acclaimed $2.8 billion company. By December 2015, Slack boasted two million active daily users. Terry Malloy would call it a contender.

The appeal of the application is that it brings all of your communications together seamlessly in one place. It offers app integration with direct messaging capabilities, real-time notifications, conversation organization, archiving, search and file sharing capabilities – and, oh, did we mention device syncing?

WCG’s Digital and Analytics teams have sampled Slack and note substantial benefits. We view it as an alternative to email that facilitates communication, but virtually eliminates the need for the formality typically associated with it. Further, we’ve identified areas where efficiency and effectiveness can be enhanced, which translates into stronger deliverables and reduced costs for clients who are unwilling (rightfully) to pay for unnecessary overhead. With so many benefits, it’s certainly under consideration for becoming an organizational standard.

In one more display of proof of Slack’s rise to power, in December it announced that it was starting an $80 million venture capital fund to invest in startups building on top of its application. Because, really, why would they want any company (or any consumer, for that matter) to go anywhere else? And that’s a sentiment that Facebook echoes.

Messaging. We got it. And now we get it.

Remember back in 2014, when Facebook seemed to strong-arm users into downloading its messaging application? Oh, we hemmed and hawed and bounced talk of mostly baseless security intrusions around, but we bought in, to the tune of 700 million users, by June 2015. Now we’re beginning to see why Facebook made its move and why we eventually followed.

What if there was a point where we reached social sharing overload? Where we had drained the news feed dry, reached our voyeur max in mindless page feuds, taken our final poll and looked at the last cute baby picture we could stand? Why should messaging be tied to this tired bundle?

Setting up the perfect play.

Initially, Facebook Messenger users could engage in group chats, text messaging, internet-based voice calls and photo/video exchange. For businesses, the app also allowed receipt sending, customer notifications and basic customer service features. But by June 2015, Facebook also released an update that allowed users to search for nearby businesses and drop a pin on a map to share locations with friends.

On December 16, 2015, Uber partnered with Facebook to allow Messenger users to take advantage of the ride-sharing company’s services without even downloading its app. And just like that, Facebook Messenger became not just a messaging service. It became a robust platform that developers can dance upon and consumers never have to leave.

Currently, Facebook is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) bot called “M” to accompany Messenger. The AI machine is learning how to automate processes through a variety of human trainers. In the future, if Facebook has its way, all online roads will lead through messenger and M will be your personal virtual assistant along the way.

So what is the future of messaging? Visiting one place and nowhere else in order to get to everywhere else. Our ruthlessly efficient and relentlessly lazy selves wouldn’t respond agreeably to any other path. And that may be one of the most stunning complimentary juxtapositions the marketing world has ever seen.

WCG looks ahead.

One indicator for radical change is competition, especially when services become commodity platforms – as in this case, with email. When such a battle occurs, WCG takes note and takes steps to promote new solutions ahead of our competitors.

In spite of the rising dominance of Slack and Facebook Messenger, we don’t believe email will disappear soon. However, WCG sees how its relevance is decreasing. As such, we’re combining a value chain approach (identifying the services we offer now and ones we should offer in the future) along with an evolution mindset (taking advantage of the predictable pattern associated with competition) to stay ahead of the curve.

Our Digital team has developed solutions that integrate within these new messaging infrastructures, and in so doing, we’ve leveraged an opportunity to evolve our marketing practices in a way that reflects changing customer behavior. If you’re a business that wants to harness our services in order to influence consumer behavior, drive action and encourage ROI, contact us. We have the experience to help. 

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