When preference takes priority: The emergence of mobile messaging

In a bid to keep up with consumers’ rapid adoption of new technologies and forms of communication, many businesses have found themselves stuck in a mess of ever-increasing complexity. Along the way, it was tempting to adopt every channel on offer, but this omnichannel strategy arguably presents a serious misalignment with modern consumer behaviours.

Omnichannel was built around the idea that consumers could, and would, engage with your brand across a variety of different channels at any one time, depending on what they had access to. This meant, for example, that a customer might engage with your brand on Instagram one moment, and then shop your site or check out your blog via laptop the next.

The whole point of omnichannel is to track and collate customer touch points across these  separate  channels to develop a holistic customer profile. However, just because a customer might access multiple channels for different purposes throughout their day, it does not mean that they want to engage with your brand across every channel. It’s just not convenient, and it doesn’t fit in with today’s mobile world.

THE DEATH OF OMNICHANNEL

Two trends are killing omnichannel. First, the ubiquity of smartphones. The accessibility of smartphones and their ability to connect multiple people at once has created a pervasive channel of preference: it’s not just a channel, it’s a ‘superchannel’. More importantly, they provide customers with multiple platform choices, whether it’s a company’s app, mobile site or Facebook page.

Second, messaging now dominates the way most people communicate. Globally, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have both exceeded one billion users[1], and it’s very clear that messaging, not voice or email or social media commenting, is the future of brand communications. This emerging superchannel largely replaced phone calls as a way of staying connected, with consumers using messaging around 10 times more often than voice calls. While the omnichannel model made sense before the smartphone, the mobile convenience of the superchannel has all but killed it.

WHEN PREFERENCE TAKES PRIORITY

Omnichannel involved the identification of the channels that consumers were using and jumping on them. This led to them supporting many channels – but poorly. The emergence of the mobile superchannel means that businesses can now take a step back from the “we need to support everything!” panic, to better understand their customers’ preferred communication platform.

We can see from consumer data that people use messaging apps and SMS about ten times as often as making phone calls. Unsurprisingly, the proportion of people with a preference for messaging as their primary channel with brands is also now far higher than for voice. People are sick of IVR trees, long hold times, and the inconvenience of phone calls. Brands now need to reflect that consumer preference, and do it quickly: as more large brands offer messaging as a better way for consumers to connect, the remaining brands will be seen as laggards, inflicting the miserable ‘please hold’ experience on their customers.

Omnichannel is dead, and the rise of mobile messaging as a superchannel gives brands a fresh start in building a convenient, rich connection with their consumers. Instead of trying to do many things poorly, the new goal for innovative brands is to develop a messaging connection that is always-on, always in the pocket of the consumer, and a seamless experience.

[1] http://expandedramblings.com/ index.php/how-many-people-use- chat-apps/

Rurik Bradbury is Global Head of Research and Communications, LivePerson



Business First is a peer-to-peer magazine: written by CEOs and other high level executives, with interviews with some of the country’s best leaders.