World-Class Messaging in Minutes

Guide to World-Class Messaging

We know that messaging increases customer engagement and improves conversion. No matter what industry you’re in, a 1:1 customer conversation strategy can lead to business success. However, creating your own branded messaging experience might sound easier said than done.

But did you know you can achieve world-class messaging in just a few minutes? It’s possible when you build on top of the Layer platform.

3 Components of Layer that Streamline Messaging Go-to-Market

Our goal at Layer is to enable you to build your own world-class messaging experience with minimal effort by using our customer conversation platform. To help, we’ve designed a new workflow in our dashboard that allows anyone (including non-engineers) to get started on Layer.

There are three main components in this workflow—an identity provider, sample apps, and a web wizard.

Rather than forcing you to register with Layer itself, the platform offers a simple identity provider. This eliminates the typical engineering hurdle platforms require when you have to migrate existing users or integrate your user management system. We’ve developed a simple 1-click deploy to Heroku that allows anyone to start experimenting with messaging through Layer quickly.

After you’ve had the chance to experience Layer, you can integrate your actual user management system for full-scale production deployment.

This streamlined access is also useful for existing applications that have already been built on Layer. By downloading the sample apps that are available for iOS, Android, and web, you can integrate your user management system and compare application behavior with Layer’s best practices. Validating against the best practices can help ensure you’re releasing an optimal messaging experience.

All of these processes can be completed through the web wizard available in the Layer dashboard. It guides you through the whole process of setting up your branded messaging experience.

This 3-phase workflow can be completed in just a few minutes and help you get well on your way to releasing your own customer conversation channel.

Want to see how it works in real time? Check out the quick 3-minute demo below.

by Amar Srinivasan

Sending Your First Layer Message from Ivy Montgomery on Vimeo.

FinovateSpring 2017: Bringing Financial Services Out of the Stone Age

Bringing Financial Services Out of the Stone Age

The financial services industry is one of the most heavily affected by digital transformation. With such strict regulatory and security standards to adhere to, it’s no surprise that going digital has been a challenge.

But just because digital transformation is difficult doesn’t mean banks and other financial institutions can sit idly.

Since 2007, Finovate has been hosting its series of events to keep financial services firms on top of the latest technology. This year, we’re joining the effort with our own presentation about how the finance industry can create mobile, personalized, interactive, and at-the-moment customer experiences.

If you couldn’t make it to FinovateSpring this year, you can still learn about getting ahead of digital transformation demands with a messaging experience built to delight customers.

A Fork in the Road for Financial Services

Maintaining the status quo might seem like the safe approach for any incumbent bank or financial services firm—but even the most established brands must resist this urge.

If there’s one thing to take away from FinovateSpring, it’s that new technology like person-to-person lending, blockchain, mobile, and more aren’t fads—they’re becoming the new norm.

Research from McKinsey & Company found that the next 3 to 5 years will represent a fork in the road for incumbent financial services companies looking at digital transformation.

Taking the “wait and see” approach to digital customer experiences will open incumbents up to see 35% of their net profits erode. Whether these profits are lost to competitor innovation, margin compression, or increased operational risk, it’s unlikely anyone would see this as the ideal path.

Banks and financial services firms that embrace can boost inflow revenue by 45%. Three major opportunities when digitizing include:

  • Increasing revenue with new offers and business models native to mobile and other digital channels
  • Offering new products and creating distinct digital sales processes that use data to cross-sell
  • Leveraging automation and transaction migration to lower operational costs and increase margins

One reason incumbent banks have been hesitant with digital technology is this perception that only millennials are resisting traditional channels. However, more than 50% of Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers prefer digital channels for multiple phases of the loan process.

FinovateSpring 2017: Bringing Financial Services Out of the Stone Age

When you root your digital transformation efforts in mobile messaging, you can take advantage of these digital transformation opportunities and drive loyalty with valuable customer conversations.

Messaging—The New Digital Focal Point for Financial Communication

Consumer communication has evolved far beyond how conversations work in traditional financial services. Face-to-face communication is great—but it’s like living in the Stone Age at this point.

Phone calls and emails have their place as well, but messaging is the preferred channel for modern communication (even with businesses).

With a branded messaging experience, you can have frictionless conversations with customers (and prospects) throughout the entire buying process:

  • Digital loan and account application with a mix of chatbots and human interaction when necessary.
  • Allow customers to make policy modifications and claims reports without dealing with the traditional headaches.
  • Provide push notifications and immediate messages regarding fraud detection so customers are always informed.

Building a digital customer experience that drives business requires differentiation, personalization, and a mobile-first mentality. Building your own messaging is the best way to accomplish all three.

Branded Messaging Is More Accessible Than You Think

Time is of the essence when it comes to digital transformation. Every month that passes is a new opportunity for your competitors and emerging digital natives to claim more market share.

It’s one thing to talk about releasing a core messaging experience and quite another to actually build one—but that’s why we presented at FinovateSpring this year.


         

With the Layer customer conversation platform, you can cut out the months of infrastructure development that seem so daunting when starting down the digital transformation path. Build your user interface on top of a platform tailored for the financial services industry (and all of its compliance challenges) and start taking advantage of digital customer conversations in days.

If you want to learn more about how a branded messaging experience can help you succeed with digital transformation, contact us today for a free demo of the Layer platform.

Have an EyeforTravel? How Messaging Creates an Edge in the Travel Industry

How Messaging Creates an Edge in the Travel Industry

The travel industry is poised for booming gains in the coming years as the millennial market continues to mature. Millennials already make up about 20% of all international travel. Moving forward, this new experience generation will prove to be an ever-growing cash cow for airlines and hotel chains.

But there’s a catch. Owning the revenue potential of the growing market will require more than just travel experiences—a mobile-native customer experience is now table stakes in the industry.

Traditional airlines and hotels might feel like they’re at a natural disadvantage against emerging (and established) online travel agencies, but they don’t have to be.

The 9th annual EyeforTravel San Francisco Summit will give industry leaders an opportunity to see how they can gain a competitive edge in the digital travel world—and we’ll be competing in the Start-Up Awards with an explanation about how mobile messaging can help you own the revenue potential of the experience generation.

It’s Not Too Late to Transform the Travel Industry

Online travel agencies are disrupting your business, leaving you with two choices. You can either watch as these companies leverage mobile technology to take more of the travel market, or you can close the tech gap and create a differentiated customer experience that makes you the premier option for consumers.

It may seem as if OTAs have already mastered the art of generating revenue through ancillary services, but there’s still time for traditional airlines and hotel chains to step in and regain control. Terry Jones, former CIO of American Airlines, CEO of Travelocity, and CEO of Wayblazer, once said:

“Kayak has 50 million users of our travel app, but most don’t use it during the trip. TripIt and TripCase have millions of users who get itineraries, use them during the trip, but don’t have much utility beyond the itinerary. Yelp and TripAdvisor are used during the trip, and at least TripAdvisor will get you to buy a few things along the way. Expedia is pushing hard on tours. But I would posit that no one yet really owns the travel edge.”

It may seem to transform into a travel company that can own the customer in the face of modularization by OTAs. However, a solid mobile strategy with messaging at the core can give you a direct line of frictionless communication for booking, support, and loyalty that will help you thrive against digital disruptors.

4 Ways Messaging Can Help You Own the Digital Travel Customer

It’s not enough to just dip your toes in the digital waters with something like a chatbot. You have to dive headfirst into the mobile deep end if you want to capitalize on the revenue potential of the experience generation.

When you implement a mobile-native messaging strategy, you can:

  • Cater to Millennials with Personalization: Consumers are coming to an expect an Uber-like experience in all aspects of digital. With a centralized messaging experience, you can offer booking and service experiences personalized to specific customers because you can engage in 1:1 conversations with them. Chatbots will help you scale—but the real differentiation lies in human interaction.
  • Overcome Challenges of the Sharing Economy: The rise of sharing-economy companies like Airbnb doesn’t have to be as daunting as it seems. Getting to market quickly with a branded messaging experience can help you bridge the tech gap so you can offer customer experiences that can compete in the sharing economy.
  • Create Upsell Opportunities: Expanding RevPAR and RASM are top priorities for hotels and airlines, respectively. How can you start making money by selling things other than flights and rooms? Engaging in 1:1 conversations with customers gives you upsell opportunities in a way that isn’t disruptive. OTAs are selling ancillary services and you can, too.
  • Drive Loyalty with Mobile Booking: Owning 100% of customer conversation data means you can create seamless experiences for repeat customers. If you provide a differentiated experience that caters to specific customer needs, they won’t have any reason to leave for OTAs.

These are just a few of the benefits of messaging that we’ll be talking about at this year’s EyeforTravel Start-Up Awards at the San Francisco Summit.

Mobile is already changing consumer behavior and messaging gives you a way to facilitate new business models that will help you improve your footing in the evolving travel market. If you want to learn more about how you can create a branded messaging experience that competes against OTAs, contact us today for a free demo of the Layer customer conversation platform.

Concierge Commerce: Rebirth of a Salesman

The Rise and Fall of Mass Marketing

Conversations have been the native interface for business since the dawn of commerce, and it has only been in the past 50 years or so of mass production and mass marketing that these conversations have been distorted or killed altogether.

Even before the concept of sales, there was the bazaar. People would go to the marketplace, see a shopkeeper, meet the craftsman responsible for the wares they were interested in, and hear about all of the benefits first hand. As The Cluetrain Manifesto famously declared, “markets are conversations.”

Fast forwarding to the turn of the 20th century, we meet the salesperson. The salesperson would peddle consumer products (often door-to-door)—anything from vacuums to cash registers and from paint to soap. In most industries, they saw their peak sometime in the 1950s, just as something more efficient came along.

Things changed with the Mad Men era of mass marketing. Advertising and branding gave salespeople air cover to boost their odds of success. This air cover was fused with the advent of new “technology” like the supermarket and big box retailers, which offered more efficient ways to mass produce and distribute goods. While salespeople never went away, far more effective ways to reach customers began to make them less important.

But mass production and marketing ultimately succeeded to the detriment of customer experience. The most expensive retail stores would offer personal shoppers and the white-glove treatment—but commerce for the rest of us largely became sterile and impersonal.

Mobile Brings Back the Salesperson

With the dawn of e-commerce, the sands began to shift beneath the feet of the incumbents.

Driven principally by Amazon, customer expectations around price, convenience and selection were dramatically raised. Amazon “listened” to customers—explicitly via feedback and implicitly via data—and created a model where Amazon’s supply chain could “respond” to the requests and needs of its growing customer base. We began to move to a world of “supplier push” to one of “consumer pull.”

With Prime, Amazon has been able to create a differentiated customer relationship—a “conversation” between it and its customers—that is the envy of the commerce world. Not everyone has been so lucky. The dominant e-commerce player of the desktop web era has, like Facebook, been able to parlay that success into an even more dominant position on mobile. But that doesn’t mean it’s invincible, nor does it mean that its grasp on the economy will become absolute.

Mobile has proliferated to the point that everyone has a supercomputer in their pockets—and our primary use case for these supercomputers is to talk to our friends and family. Like Steve Jobs said in the original iPhone introduction, smartphones are our internet communicators.

Until this point, we’ve mostly used smartphones to talk amongst ourselves and extend into other forms of communication like dating apps and social communities. But messaging in particular is giving us an opportunity to apply mobile communication to much more.

Commerce has always been about conversation in one form or another. We may have distorted the buyer/seller conversation in the mass-marketing era, but it never died. It’s just been laying dormant until now.

Mobile has sparked the return of a “salesperson” approach to commerce in the consumer markets (ironically, just in time for people to finally declare traditional B2B sales dead).

Concierge Commerce Poised to Thrive on Mobile

One of the major early shots across the bow for concierge commerce was the introduction of Operator. The goal of Operator is to give consumers expert personal service over messaging as if they were being guided by a personal shopper in a brick-and-mortar store.

Despite some early struggles to find footing in the United States, Operator is by all accounts seeing strong growth internationally. They’ve been a trailblazer for a new way of selling to customers—and the idea of mobile concierge commerce has stuck.

Concierge commerce doesn’t just serve the need for convenience. It helps you decide what to buy. Companies like Trunk Club are already proving that this model can revive the personal sales approach.

Founded in 2009, Trunk Club has shown retailers that personal stylists can be fused with salespeople to provide white-glove fashion advice on a 1:1 level at scale. By putting messaging at the core of the business, Trunk Club has achieved:

  • 54% increase in conversions
  • 200% jump in shopper/styling connection rates versus phone & email
  • 3x as many shoppers purchasing trunks after receiving personalized fashion advice

Rather than manning a phone center or relying purely on email conversations, Trunk Club was able to take the conversation back to the glory days of the salesperson. Representatives could talk to customers in the context that makes the most sense to them today—messaging.

The concierge commerce model is bringing back the best aspects of the old-school sales person. But the concierge model isn’t limited to commerce use cases.

Messaging Can Power Every Customer Conversation

The concierge experience is already starting to branch out into other industries. For example, Accolade has already started offering personalized health advisors over messaging. We’re seeing financial services adopt the messaging model to provide real-time, personalized advice. And the classic hotel front desk is already transforming into a mobile concierge experience.

But be careful. Many companies are already making the mindset mistake that led to the death of salespeople years ago—they’re thinking scale before personalization. Chatbots might seem like a great way to scale a concierge messaging experience, but they’re only a component of a larger strategy.

When customers need help deciding what to buy or try to make a big financial decision, you can’t just rely on chatbots. You need to offer real human services that can live up to their individual expectations. Scale is important for the concierge business model to work—but you can blend chatbots with human interaction to get there.

Rebirth of a Salesman

History has a funny way of repeating itself. The personalized future predicted so lucidly by Martha Rogers and Don Pepper nearly 25 years ago in The One to One Future has finally arrived. At a time when communication is so often criticized for lacking a personal touch, the salesperson is officially back.

From what makeup to choose to which car loan to accept to who your doctor should be to how to decorate a home—computers can’t answer these questions yet, but a personalized concierge experience gives consumers access to millions of people who can.

Because of mobile and the messaging UX that dominates it, we finally have an effective way to create 1:1 connections with customers.

Check out how some companies are already making the leap into concierge commerce.

How Web Summit Went from 0 to 60 (Thousand) in 7 Years

Web Summit Went from 0 to 60 (Thousand)

If you frequently attend industry conferences, you know they aren’t all created equal.

After a few different events, you start to notice the little things—the nuances of scheduling, networking, the speaker lineup, and “after hours” events. For the conference organizers, it’s all about delivering the best experience possible to keep you coming back for more year after year.

This is why Paddy Cosgrave took a different approach when he started Web Summit back in 2010. While others were hiring event planners to organize conferences, Cosgrave and team hired engineers and data scientists to optimize the Web Summit experience.

But all data and engineering goes to waste if the attendee-facing experience falls flat.

In just 7 years, Web Summit has become the world’s largest and most important technology conference. With messaging at the core, the conference has gone from just 400 attendees in 2010 to over 60,000 expected in 2017.

What Makes the Web Summit Experience So Special?

What do you look for when you attend a conference? Everyone’s preferences are a bit different, but the keys to a great conference experience often come down to 3 key components:

Education: If you’re in the tech space, who better to learn from than people like Elon Musk, Reed Hastings, Jack Dorsey, Michael Dell and others like them? Web Summit makes a point of bringing in the very best speakers to teach attendees about the latest trends in the tech ecosystem.

Entertainment: Web Summit does more than just bring tech leaders together. The conference has positioned itself as a must-attend event from an entertainment standpoint. Guests like Bono, Tony Hawk, Eva Longoria, will.i.am, and more make Web Summit what it is—both during and after conference hours.

Networking: With over 60,000 attendees—68% of which are senior management—it’s hard to argue with the networking power of Web Summit. Whether you’re a startup or and established company, Web Summit can serve as more than a conference—it’s quickly becoming a universal tech marketplace.

The biggest problem at Web Summit might be the fact that you can’t possibly do (or see) it all. You can’t listen to all 650+ speakers and you can’t meet with more than 60,000 attendees—and trying to find which talks and networking opportunities suit you best might seem overwhelming.

This is why Web Summit’s greatest focus is on surfacing seldom-heard speakers, personalizing session recommendations, and offering insight into which attendees should set meetings with one another. With a Layer-powered messaging experience driving the conference, Web Summit has minimized friction and maximized attendee (and speaker) satisfaction.

Messaging—The Foundation for a Frictionless Conference Experience

Understanding that messaging has become the universal communication experience, Paddy Cosgrave and the Web Summit team started working with Layer in 2015 to take the conference experience to the next level. Web Summit was already creating lanyards, registration software, recommendation systems and more—and building a messaging experience from scratch just wasn’t possible.

Web Summit case study from Ivy Montgomery on Vimeo.

Combining Cosgrave’s focus on graph theory, engineering and data science with a customer-facing messaging interface has led to 98% attendee satisfaction. Some keys to this success are:

  • Frictionless group discussions among attendees
  • Seamless mix of asynchronous and synchronous communication for meetings
  • Real-time location data to make meeting in person quick and easy
  • The ability to share memories of the Web Summit experience

Web Summit is the first software company to create events and Cosgrave has proven that there’s science to this conference planning process. But as Web Summit introduces even more events around the world, the partnership with Layer to combine a powerful backend with a frictionless frontend will be critical for delivering valuable experiences.

If you want to learn more about how Layer has helped Web Summit delight conference attendees around the world, contact us today for a free demo of the customer conversation platform.

Messaging 101 Series: The Importance of Avatars

Messaging 101 Series: What to Know about Avatars!

Guide to Messaging & Avatars

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But who says pictures can’t be worth more than just a thousand words?

In your messaging experience, pictures/avatars could make the difference between lasting customer engagement and losing business to competitors. At a time when nearly 90% of companies are differentiating themselves through their customer experience, it’s important to add an emotional/human dimension to your messaging experience when it makes sense.

When you’re building out the nuances of your messaging conversation list, you have to consider where avatars fit in.

3 Ways Avatars Improve Your Messaging Experience

As with any aspect of messaging, your use of avatars will depend on the needs of your customers.

However, there are 3 main ways that avatars can improve your messaging experience:

Improve “At a Glance” Convenience: Much like your choices in sorting messages and presenting conversation details, avatars are important components of “at a glance” convenience. When there is a distinctive avatar for each thread in the conversation list, your users can quickly scan and locate the messages they’re looking for.

Establishing Trust in the User Relationship: The internet breeds a sense of anonymity, but that doesn’t mean your digital customer experience has to follow. Adding a face to your interactions with customers can make a significant difference in user engagement. When customers see who they’re speaking with, they start to trust that person (and the brand), which can lead to better sales and lifetime value.

Additional Sorting Information: There are times when users don’t just want to filter their conversation threads by recent activity or unread messages. If your use case has customers opening multiple threads about multiple distinct products, it might help to use an avatar that indicates the subject of each conversation. Don’t think that your avatars always have to be pictures of users—they can come in a variety of forms.

Avatars Aren’t Just For the End-User

When we think about delivering a messaging experience to improve the customer experience, it’s easy to get too focused on the customer side. Avatars are also helpful on the agent side—especially when it’s your sales team interacting with customers.

Take a use case like Trunk Club, for example. When agents are responsible for multiple customer relationships, the conversation list can quickly become chaotic. Having avatars for each conversation can make it easier to locate the specific conversation the agent is looking for.

The easier it is for agents to identify which conversation belongs to each customer, the more effort they can spend making customers as happy as possible.

You build your messaging experience with the customer in mind—but it doesn’t hurt to make life easier for agents, too.

If you’re ready to improve your digital customer experience through messaging, you can dig deeper than just avatars by reading our full Messaging Best Practices Guide.

Messaging, Voice and Video: Asynchronous to Synchronous and Back Again

Messaging: Synchronous and Asynchronous

We’ve been trained to expect friction in communications when we’re at work. But what about friction in communicating…about communicating?

How many times have you been on a conference call, waiting 5 minutes and started wondering whether or not the other person would dial in? How many all-hands meetings have you coordinated that fell flat as new circumstances came up? We expect problems like these because they’re the norm.

But the problem isn’t that we’re bad at coordinating and following through on communication—it’s that there’s a disconnect between synchronous and asynchronous communication.

In many situations, the key to creating valuable conversations—whether they’re internal or with customers—is seamlessly mixing synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication Explained

Asynchronous communication was born with the written word and was transmitted via stone carving or parchment, and the original synchronous communication format was of course talking face to face.

Today, we see this dichotomy in digital communications as well. The difference is pretty simple:

Synchronous Communication: If you’re using Zoom, Google Hangouts, FaceTime or any other real-time voice/video solution, you’re working with synchronous communication.

Asynchronous Communication: You can think of asynchronous communication as messaging loosely defined. Someone sends a message, and someone else (or multiple people) receive that message at a later time. Emailing about calls, instant messaging to make sure your meeting is still on, setting up a calendar invitation—these are all examples of asynchronous communication.

Right now, we use all kinds of different disconnected solutions for synchronous and asynchronous communication. They’re often disjointed as we tend to use tools that suited for either one or the other.

But with modern, programmable messaging technology, you can create a persistent asynchronous communication channel that incorporates synchronous capabilities.

Tying Synchronous and Asynchronous Together with Rich Messaging

Blending the before and after (asynchronous) with the real-time (synchronous) requires the right foundation. Rooting your communications in messaging gives you a flexible platform that can incorporate rich, synchronous elements such as voice, video and even location sharing and live document collaboration.

If you’re just thinking about this in terms of your internal communications, look at how Voxeet integrates with the Layer customer conversation platform to reduce friction in your day-to-day communication/collaboration.

Layer VoIP/Video integration (WebRTC) example ft. Voxeet from Ivy Montgomery on Vimeo

However, blending the two sides of communication with a messaging backbone isn’t just valuable for internal communications. Here are just a few different use cases where a seamless mix of asynchronous and synchronous can have a major impact on the customer experience:

  • Insurance Brokerage: Text with customers to set up an initial relationship and coordinate a phone call. Include notifications for the phone call and allow both parties to tap and join. When the call is over, the insurance agent can add personalized product cards within the messaging experience.
  • Financial Services: Similar to the insurance use case, financial advisers can text with customers and offer recommendations without disrupting them. But when it comes time for a real-time discussion, it can be set up through the same channel—and the event log keeps track of all past and present transactions, call recordings included.
  • Job Marketplaces: Not every use case has to be transactional with customers. Job marketplaces can give applicants a single source of information that schedules interviews, includes communication with hiring managers if necessary, adds updates to scheduling in case of any issues, and allows candidates to follow up after an interview.

Just because we’re used to having friction in our communications doesn’t mean it always has to be that way. If you can eliminate the friction by blending synchronous and asynchronous communication, you can boost the user/customer experience and drive business value.

If you want to learn more about the Layer customer conversation platform and its ability to flex and adapt to your communication needs, contact us today for a free demo.

Persistence of Messaging: How Chat Has Become the Universal Experience

How Chat Has Become the Universal Experience

Have you ever been surprised to hear your mobile phone ring? It seems like every time our phones ring now, we expect there to either be an emergency or some sort of spam. For the most part, people just don’t like phone calls anymore—but this isn’t exactly a new trend.

We’re approaching the 10-year anniversary of a major phone call trend. Q4 2007 marked the first time that Americans sent more text messages than made phone calls. And it’s no coincidence that the original iPhone—our first modern smartphone—was released just 6 months earlier.

As mobile phone usage continues to bury traditional landlines, messaging will prove to be the universal communication experience. But if we look back a few years, the idea of a messaging revolution starts to seem more familiar.

The Ebb and Flow of Messaging and Social Media

Messaging was eating into traditional communication before we ever thought about mobile or social media.

There were many iterations of popular group chat services, but none enjoyed the popularity of AOL Instant Messenger after its 1997 release. Yahoo! and MSN Messenger also fought for attention, but one thing was clear—people enjoyed the ease and convenience of online messaging.

Until these messaging apps hit a wall in 2007.

As phone calls gave way to text messaging, desktop instant messaging apps started giving way to the social media networks that thrived on mobile. The features that people loved about AIM were replaced by social media — Facebook let you make detailed, personal profiles, Twitter let you make real-time status updates, and (at the time) apps like Gchat let you keep in touch with friends.

And yet, messaging has remained persistent and is now enjoying a renaissance.

Mobile has solidified itself as the preferred consumer platform and direct messaging apps have returned to the forefront to replace social media engagement. Powered by booming usage of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, messaging apps have reached nearly 3 billion active users, surpassing social networking apps for the first time in late 2015.

There’s no doubt that we’re in the midst of a messaging revolution—and for companies looking to improve engagement with customers, it’s time to look beyond social media.

Break the Messaging Rules—Don’t Make the Same Old Mistakes

The persistence of messaging may not be surprising from a consumer perspective, but it’s certainly a new frontier for most businesses.

As the messaging revolution comes to form, you’re at a monetization crossroads—you can go with what you know or you can forge a new path.

Now that messaging has proven more engaging than social media, it’s only a matter of time before companies start monetizing their chat experiences. If you play by the rules, you’ll be sucked into a race to the bottom with competitors as you fight with advertising on platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

Facebook Messenger and other platforms will let you jump into the messaging revolution with chatbots. You might be able to share messages, GIFs, videos and offer simple services through these platforms, but you’ll sacrifice branding, flexibility and API freedom—not to mention the restrictions on customer data if you don’t own the experience.

Digital advertising has become a race to the bottom, but if you get started on the right path with messaging, you can avoid making similar mistakes. Own your messaging experience and start engaging with customers in their preferred channel.

If you want to learn how you can created a branded messaging experience that drives business results, contact us today for a free demo of the Layer customer conversation platform—get on board with the messaging revolution.

Messaging: Do You Have to Worry About Sorting Conversations?

Sorting Conversations

Messaging 101 Series: Do You Have to Worry About Sorting Conversations?

Think about how your text messages are sorted on your phone. Every time a new message comes in, it appears at the top of your conversation list and stands out from the rest of the threads. But what if the UI didn’t include this sorting feature?

Keeping your messaging experience as seamless as possible means offering an intuitive user interface—which includes proper sorting if your users engage in multiple conversations.

However, you have different sorting options depending on what best suits your users’ needs.

4 Sorting Options for Your Messaging Experience

In theory, you could sort conversations in your messaging experience however you want. The primary goal needs to be a seamless customer experience—and part of that means offering useful sorting options that users expect.

Here are 4 of the most common sorting options to consider for your conversation list:

Most Recent Activity: This is the most popular default sorting option for messaging. Coupled with a push notification, this is a powerful way to keep users engaged with your multi-thread messaging experience.

Online Status: If your messaging experience supports a community of members or multiple public channels, consider sorting conversations by the online status of users. When customers are opening your messaging experience to engage with others, it’s helpful to know who is present in the app.

Favorites: This feature is rooted in email, but might be most familiar from Slack at this point. When you “star” someone (or a channel) on Slack, you’re opting to move that “favorite” to the top of your conversation list. Sorting this way can help your customers keep track of those conversations that are most important to them.

Unread Messages: In many cases your most recent activity also represents your unread messages. But we’ve all skimmed through our inboxes and left emails unread. Sorting this way can show you the conversations that need attention ahead of those that users have already seen.

Again, there are plenty of other ways you can sort conversations in your messaging experience. It all depends on your specific use case and the needs of your customers.

Use Cases that Need Sorting Features

It’s important to note that single conversation experiences aren’t always free from thinking about sorting options. For example, your conversational commerce messaging experience might only have single conversations on the customer side—but what about your agents? Building in sorting features for your agents can help boost productivity and efficiency even if customers only ever see a single conversation.

There are more obvious use cases for sorting conversations as well. As mentioned in the option explanations above, community and marketplace messaging experiences are great candidates for sorting features. You just have to take the time to think about how you can make the most frictionless experience possible for your users.

However, sorting features are just a small part of a larger messaging experience. If you want to dig deeper into our messaging tips, check out the full Messaging Best Practices Guide.

Why Chatbots Aren’t Enough for Your Messaging Strategy

Chatbots and Messaging Strategy

It’s been just about a year since Facebook announced its support of chatbots in Messenger. This one announcement sparked “the year of the chatbot,” making automated messaging available to companies of all sizes.

As messaging continues to solidify itself as the universal communication channel, chatbots will become integral parts of our lives.

But if you’re using messaging to improve customer experience and boost engagement, you can’t have chatbot tunnel vision.

As great as chatbots are, you need a more holistic, owned messaging experience to get the most out of your customer conversations.

How Chatbots Are Improving Customer Experiences

Chatbot skeptics are concerned that we’re just moving one step closer to eliminating human interaction. However, the business benefits of chatbots are almost undeniable.

There are certain use cases where chatbots can impact the customer experience in ways that human interaction can’t scale to compete with. A few examples include:

“Just in Time” Customer Support: After Facebook Messenger announced chatbot support, other platforms followed suit—Twitter and Kik most notably. Having chatbots on these major platforms means you can be where your customers are at all times. Rather than directing customers to download an app or visit your website, you can initiate support and address their problems immediately with a chatbot.

User Acquisition: When you look at a platform like Facebook Messenger, its chatbot support gives you a one-stop-shop for user acquisition. Target users with Facebook ads through Messenger, spark initial engagement, and then direct them toward your owned experience.

Personalized Messaging at Scale: Our websites and mobile apps are built to address fictional personas that represent ideal users. If we could personalize the experience for each individual, we would. But human interaction can’t scale that way. However, chatbots give you an opportunity to personalize messaging at scale before moving users down the funnel toward human interaction.

These three use cases are driving adoption of third-party chatbots. And for small businesses that can’t afford to build features like these in house, they can be powerful assets for driving revenue.

However, large enterprises can’t fall into the “rented land” trap that has already proven costly in the past.

Why Chatbots Aren’t Enough for Big Brands

Whether you’re a retailer, financial services firm, a major hotel/airline, or anything in between, big brands can’t afford to build their customer experience houses on rented land—didn’t we learn our lesson before?

For years, Facebook called for businesses to build their audiences through their platform. Create a page and you can reach your audience for free—without having to maintain a separate website. Millions of companies jumped on board and enjoyed unprecedented organic reach. Until Facebook changed the rules.

After ramping up the Facebook ad program, companies saw sharp declines in organic reach and found that accessing their audiences now had a fee attached to it. Losing organic reach so quickly can have a significant impact on your bottom line—and the same thing is happening with chatbots.

Building your messaging experience through chatbots on rented land means giving up your branding freedom. It also means losing access to some key customer data that could help improve your customer experience and boost sales conversions. The benefits may outweigh these sacrifices for small businesses, but the Fortune 1000 can’t afford to trust the rented land approach again.

Instead of relying solely on a third-party chatbot to drive your messaging experience, you can seamlessly mix human and bot interaction on your own branded experience.

Chatbots and Humans Are Better Together

Chatbots shouldn’t be the foundation of your messaging experience. Instead, you should build a branded messaging experience that uses chatbots to achieve the benefits we discussed above.

Mixing chatbot and human interaction helps you eliminate friction from the customer experience and help ensure you’re always staying engaged.

However, many companies are attracted to rented land messaging options because they aren’t sure how to create an experience of their own. If you want to learn how you can build a branded messaging experience on top of a pre-made customer conversation platform, contact us today for a free demo of Layer.