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The future of messaging apps: trends, challenges and prospects

Rakuten Viber

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November 1, 2023 | 7 min read

Modern lives are hectic and fast-paced, prompting an anxious urge among many of us to streamline everything that can be streamlined

But not everything can be: those 1,524 work emails a day sometimes can’t be helped, nor are we willing to give up messengers that provide a lifeline to the real world, supply cute puppy videos, and keep us in touch with friends and family. But that single-purpose app that you’ve opened twice in five years? That one might find itself on the chopping block. Simply put, people no longer want to juggle countless apps to get what they need: they would rather get more out of the apps they already use. They spend 77% of their app-time on their three favorites, and almost 50% — in just a single app.

This puts messaging apps at a unique advantage because at their core — they are a communication tool, indispensable to many users. So, when looking to streamline their lives, users might choose between different messaging apps; however, few will give up messaging altogether. But when it comes to inter-messenger competition, offering more services and increasing its utility to the user is how a messenger shines.

The data is there: in Q1 of 2022, messaging apps and chats enjoyed tremendous popularity: 95.6% of adults who use the internet check them monthly, and the duration of use keeps growing. Importantly, more than 43% rely on social media and messaging apps to research products and brands — so, what does it mean for businesses?

1. Innovative, personalized, and versatile: the messaging apps of the future

For businesses, it means that, with smart application, messengers are their best bet for customer communication. What does “smart application” entail?

First of all, messaging apps offer unprecedented scale, allowing a brand to reach huge audiences directly through the app. However, bland, impersonal outreach at scale is a waste of potential, because messengers also give a unique opportunity to personalize this outreach — and taking this opportunity is smart.

Personalized marketing can be a tremendous advantage for data-driven companies, and messaging apps provide all the necessary capabilities to personalize. Why personalize? Because personalized outreach is more efficient, lets brands connect with customers in a more meaningful way, increases engagement, drives conversions, and nurtures brand loyalty by staying relevant—and sparing audiences from irritation.

Examples of Stickers, Chatbots and Lenses on Rakuten Viber

Of course, innovation is also crucial for messenger marketing. From making use of chatbots to captivating audiences with vibrant or interactive solutions, such as branded stickers, games, augmented or virtual Reality (AR and VR), there’s a lot of creative tools businesses have available to them.

In fairness, many brands already recognize the potential of innovative approaches: for example, Rakuten Viber Lenses, an AR service, boasted over 52 million Lenses captured within just the first quarter after launch. And today, more and more brands are leveraging their own branded Rakuten Viber Lenses as a native and fun way to increase brand awareness and customer engagement.

2. Emphasis on security and privacy

It’s no secret that fraud and cybercrime are rampant — or at least that’s how internet users feel: more than 40% have concerns over potential misuse of their personal information. That’s another boon of messengers for brands: increasingly, data security and privacy are becoming an integral part of development for messaging apps, so using a messenger that cares about security takes some of that burden of responsibility off the brand’s metaphorical shoulders.

  • End-to-end encryption for personal conversations and calls; ideally, it’s not only available but turned on by default.
  • For brand-user communication, encryption in transit is the golden standard ensuring the highest level of security.
  • A messenger genuinely concerned with user privacy also won’t store user messages on its servers.
  • A secure HTTPS connection is a must, while rigorous verification procedures and means to distinguish genuine accounts (such as Rakuten Viber’s “blue tick” that marks verified business accounts) reassure users and help decrease fraud.

3. Integrations

As mentioned above, expanding service offerings is crucial for messaging apps. One way to do it is to develop more and more services yourself. But a smooth and seamless integration with other apps can also do the trick, particularly when it enables others to provide their services through the messenger — and benefits the customers.

Integrations allow messaging apps to offer all kinds of benefits to their users, while also increasing the app’s own value and powering solutions useful to businesses, such as the aforementioned personalization. Classic synergy. Here are just a few examples of what messengers can already do for brand-user interaction:

  • Users can order food and taxi;
  • Users can shop online — and brands get to assist shoppers, driving conversions;
  • Facilitate peer-to-peer money transfers, as well as payments, such as parking or utilities;
  • Users can book flights, hotel reservations, dining options, etc. — and hospitality businesses get a convenient channel to interact with their guests;
  • Brands can resolve customer issues through after-sales support;
  • Businesses can collect and leverage first-party data (thanks, CRM and CDP integrations) to supercharge and personalize their communications with users, leading to better customer experience.

4. Conversions through conversations

Unlike your typical marketing tool, messaging apps are great at boosting sales directly. Conversational commerce is the use of messengers by businesses to drive sales. It includes enabling, conducting, and encouraging sales across all stages of the customer journey: from assisting the users with their questions to help make decisions about purchases — to letting the customers buy services and products without even leaving the messaging app.

Examples of conversational commerce via Rakuten Viber

5. Real-time conversations

Designed for instant peer-to-peer communication and perfected with conversations in mind, messaging apps are, unsurprisingly, a popular choice for customer service platforms. Users appreciate the ability to talk to a customer support representative in real-time mode — and to skip the usual hour-long session of elevator music and waiting on hold. Meanwhile, brands can use business messages and chatbots to provide better customer service, cut costs thanks to automation, and stay in touch with their audience.

Takeaways for businesses

The trend of increased functionality is, obviously, an opportunity for messaging apps. Users expect each app to offer more utility, to do more for them — and spend increasingly more time in their select few apps, which usually includes a messenger. This leads to the rise of superapps: single apps serving as gateways to a multitude of services the users need, from paying their bills or booking travel — to ordering takeout.

However, it also means that messengers are naturally incentivized to turn their apps into powerful marketing tools that businesses should take advantage of, because each feature, designed to provide utility for the users, is also an additional touch point, another chance for a business to reach its customer.

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