Introducing Layer UI for Web

We are pleased to announce that Layer UI for Web is now generally available. Layer UI for Web extends the Layer Web SDK to include a library of customizable, commonly used widgets to be used for creating web-based messaging experiences.

These widgets are intended to allow developers to focus on the look, feel and use-case specific functionality of their web messaging interface rather than building basics from scratch.

This post will serve as an overview of our approach and an introduction to Layer UI for Web. You can view the full documentation here.

 

Our UI Framework Philosophy

React is popular, so there was a lot of temptation to use it to build a UI framework that would primarily satisfy React developers and call it good enough.

We didn’t.

Our philosophy on JavaScript Frameworks is as follows:

  • Your framework is your choice
  • We’re not going to force you to also use React, or Angular, or any other common framework
  • The ability to easily customize or even replace any single widget or behavior is critical to you building your application the way you want it.

To achieve these goals, we’ve used Web Components. Web Components will work with almost any UI framework (or with plain JavaScript) without requiring dependencies beyond an optional Web Components polyfill. They are also remarkably easy to work with.

To illustrate how Web Components are used, the code below uses no framework to generate the picture above, and depends upon two widgets:

  1. layer-conversations-list: A widget for loading, scrolling through and selecting Conversations that your user is participating in
  2. layer-conversation-panel: A widget for viewing messages in a conversation, sending messages in reply, typing indicators, marking messages as read, paging, etc…
<body>  
  <layer-conversations-list id='mylist'>
  </layer-conversations-list>
  <layer-conversation-panel listen-to='mylist'>
  </layer-conversation-panel>
</body> 

Web Components provides the capability of telling the browser that the DOM nodes described above exist, as well as the ability to associate rendering and behaviors with those nodes.

We add an optional header row as used in the picture above:


<div class='header'>  
  <div class='layer-conversations-list-header'>
    User <span class='user-name'></span>'s Conversations
  </div>
  <div class='layer-conversation-header'></div>
</div>

The listen-to attribute tells the conversation panel to listen to the conversations list and to show any conversation selected by the user.

Alternatively, instead of using listen-to, we could build this ourselves with a little JavaScript:


// Initialize the Layer UI Framework
layerUI.init({  
    appId: "layer:///apps/staging/UUID"
});

// Get the dom nodes
var conversationList = document.querySelector('layer-conversations-list');
var conversationPanel = document.querySelector('layer-conversation-panel');
var conversationHeader = document.querySelector('.layer-conversation-header');

// Whenever the user selects a conversation:
conversationList.onConversationSelected = function(evt) {  
    var conversation = evt.detail.item;

    // Tell the Conversation Panel what conversation to show
    conversationPanel.conversation = conversation;

    // Update the label above the Conversation Panel
    conversationHeader.innerHTML = conversation.metadata.conversationName;
};

Isn’t Web Components just another UI framework?

Well… ok… yes. But it’s also:

  • A Web Standard
  • Natively supported in many browsers and is supported via polyfill in all other supported browsers
  • Can be written using a number of open-source frameworks or with raw JavaScript.

How much coding is really required?

There are products where you just drop an entire chat experience as a widget into your app and you declare done. This is great for certain use cases and providing such a starting point is a goal we are working towards.

But ultimately, as any application evolves, it requires custom UI behaviors that differentiate your app and help focus on your core business goals.

To accomplish this, Layer is making available a library of UI widgets that you can integrate into your application and customize as you see fit. In the above example, the <layer-conversations-list /> provides an event when the user selects a conversation, and you use that event to tell the <layer-conversation-panel /> what the selected conversation is.

Is that all the coding that is needed for a basic, un-customized application? Yes that is all the UI code needed (there is still authentication which is handled separately via Layer’s WebSDK).

Ultimately, more code will always be added:

  • Do you want a dialog to show a list of users to create a new conversation?
  • Do you want to support custom message types?
  • Do you want to allow for deletion of messages or conversations?
  • Do you want to modify messages before they are sent?

As you depart from the plainest possible application and head toward customizing an experience, more coding will be needed. But configurability is core to our UI philosophy. Relatively small amounts of code are typically needed to customize behaviors.

Configurability

A message list is just the beginning of your messaging experience. Being able to send textual messages back and forth provides you with a basic shippable product. But interactive content is where your app stops feeling like an SMS integration and starts feeling like a rich, interactive conversation between participants.

Being able to render content like credit card forms, purchase approvals, work orders, shopping cards, and other resources in the messaging list will help you shape your UX to fit your business needs beyond plain text.

Using any Web Component framework you like, you can implement a message handler capable of rendering the custom resources your application needs. This functionality, available across the Layer platform, allows for the creation of arbitrarily rich, interactive message elements. Examples below will include some basic utilities Layer UI uses to define its own Web Components, but this is not a constraint on your own implementation.

The first step is to tell Layer UI how to handle a custom/credit-card message:

layerUI.registerMessageHandler({  
  tagName: 'custom-credit-card-form',
  label: 'Credit Card Form received',
  handlesMessage: function(message) {
    return message.parts[0].mimeType === 'custom/credit-card';
  }
});

This code includes:

  • tagName: Identifies the DOM node that will be generated to render this message. The example above tells Layer UI to generate a <custom-credit-card-form />.
  • handlesMessage: Tests against each Message to determine if the specified tagName should be generated for this Message.

The second step is to build a Web Components custom-credit-card-form:


var MessageHandler = layerUI.mixins.MessageHandler;  
layerUI.registerComponent('custom-credit-card-form', {  
  mixins: [MessageHandler],
  template: `<form><fieldset>
    <legend>Enter Credit Card</legend>
    <div><label>Card Number</label><input type="text" /></div>
    <div><label>Expiration Date</label><input type="date" /></div>
    <input type='submit'>Setup Payment</input>
  </fieldset></form>`,
  methods: {
    onCreate: function() {          
        this.querySelector('form').addEventListener('submit',
            this.validateAndSendCardInfo.bind(this));
    },
    validateAndSendCardInfo: function() {
       // custom code for validating the card and sending it to your server
    }
  }
});

On filling out the credit card form and hitting send, the card information can be sent to your server securely, and then your card could then send a message to other participants indicating that payment was received.

More Customizability

Our documentation is full of examples for how to customize a variety of aspects of your application.

  • Defining new message handlers
  • Changing the layout and template of a message item in the message list
  • Adding, enhancing, and replacing behaviors of widgets using Mixins
  • Changing default behaviors such as what happens when the user hits the SEND button after typing a message
  • Replacing widgets such as the avatar widgets with your own widget definitions

These are all written up in more detail in the Layer UI Customization Documentation.

What’s Next?

Customers Are People, Not Just Accounts—Let’s Start Treating Them That Way

Customers Are People, Not Just Accounts

I was walking by the Ferry Building in San Francisco recently and a poster in the window of a big bank caught my eye. It said: “Customers want to be treated as people, not accounts.”

It’s a simple statement, but it’s so true no matter what industry you’re in—especially as you try to keep up with digital disruption.

After all, the popular observation continues to ring true: Facebook is the world’s largest media company without creating any content; Uber is the world’s largest taxi company without any vehicles; and Airbnb is the world’s largest accommodation provider without any real estate.

How did these digital disruptors surpass long-standing industry leaders? By creating customer-centric businesses that deliver superior digital experiences. It’s time to start treating our customers like people, not just contributors to our bottom lines.

What Does It Mean to be a Customer-Centric Business?

Building a customer-centric business means investing in the customer experience. If we’re just creating products and services that fit our internal beliefs, they won’t resonate with customers.

Today’s mobile-first consumer has more control than ever in the buying process and it’s our job as business leaders to design a narrative that puts them at the center of every process. If communicating with your business proves frustrating or inconvenient, they’ll just leave for a competitor.

This means we have to understand our customers better than ever before. You don’t just wake up one day and decide to be customer-centric. You have to design a strategic narrative based on first-hand customer needs and desires—and then that strategic narrative must become part of the company’s DNA. Every department and employee should operate with the strategic narrative in mind, pushing the company forward with a goal of serving specific customer demands.

When you view customers as accounts instead of people, you’ll inevitably make mistakes as you try to figure out how to compete against the likes of Airbnb, Uber, Amazon, and others. This is how we’ve ended up with financial services firms looking for quick digital transformation wins, retailers recognizing the rise of concierge commerce, and travel companies striving to overcome online travel agency competition.

But overhauling your entire organization to become more customer-centric sounds like a daunting task. However, it doesn’t have to be so difficult to start engaging with customers more effectively (and in a place that makes the most sense to them).

3 Keys to Designing a Customer-Centric Digital Experience

One of the best ways to picture how companies treat their customers like accounts instead of humans is the existence of IVR systems. How many times have you sat on the phone dealing with a frustrating automated system when all you wanted was to ask a service rep a simple question?

Treating customers like people means designing a digital experience that puts them first. Here are 3 keys to making that happen:

Make Communication as Convenient as Possible: The days of phone calls and emails for customer communication are coming to a close (or are already over). Using messaging to make synchronous and asynchronous communication as easy as possible can help you eliminate friction from customer conversations.

Take Advantage of a Central Hub of Customer Data: Customer-centric businesses don’t force consumers into any single channel. You have to be flexible and meet customers where they want. In the past, this has led to data silos and a fundamental misunderstanding of customer needs. If you want to get to know customers better, design a digital experience that brings all that data into one central hub.

Going Beyond Chatbots: Treating customers like people (not accounts) means understanding the value of 1:1 human engagement. Chatbots can help you scale a digital experience, but they can’t be the only means of communication. Go beyond chatbots and start engaging with customers personally.

Changing from a company that sees customers as accounts to one that sees customers as people is as much a culture shift as anything else. But the switch can make the difference between falling victim to digital disruption and overcoming your competitors.

If you want to learn how the Layer customer conversation platform can help you treat customers more like people, contact us today for a free demo.

Visual Expression: Saying it better with Tenor GIFs

This is a guest post by Frank Nawabi, co-founder and head of business development at Tenor

Getting your point across in a mobile message can be frustrating. You have a thought or feeling stuck in your head. It’s a hassle to type everything out in that small text box. An emoji just doesn’t cut it.

This is why Tenor is focused on defining a new visual language that helps people better communicate in mobile messages using GIFs.

With more than 3 billion mobile users now sending more than 300 billion messages daily, messaging is fast becoming a primary means of communication not only with family and friends, but also with colleagues and businesses. As Layer scales its customer conversation platform, we at Tenor are thrilled to team up to make it easy for developers creating integrated messaging experiences to quickly add GIF-sharing capabilities.

Layer customers now have direct, integrated access to the Tenor GIF API—included in the Layer messaging toolkit for developers.

With just a few lines of code, Layer customers that are building out messaging to improve customer service, commerce, or community experiences now have the full power of the Tenor GIF API readily available. The Tenor GIF API:

  • Enables GIF searches and browsing by term, emoji, or conversation
  • Supports more than 30 languages and content-rating filters
  • Is specifically built to deliver GIFs that load fast and consume less bandwidth

Tenor already serves 200 million monthly active users who conduct more than 200 million mobile GIF searches daily. This vast dataset gives us unprecedented insight into how people express themselves in this new medium. More than 90% of Tenor searches center on emotion—think thumbs up, eyeroll, happy dance, hairflip, high five.

We’ve used this data to build the Tenor Emotional Graph, which maps the thoughts and feelings people want to convey in mobile messages to the GIFs that help them say it best. We see that users typically choose the GIF they’re going to send in 22 seconds or less, which reflects the quick back-and-forth nature of mobile messaging. Because the mapping engine can deliver just the right GIF quickly, it is well-suited for the customer conversation environment.

The addition of Tenor GIF-sharing to the Layer developer toolkit promises to make a broad range of messaging conversations even more effective by making it easy for people to express themselves visually.

For businesses seeking ways to better connect with their customers, it’s important to make conversations as easy and personal as we’ve all come to expect in our daily lives. GIFs are a really valuable asset in that context. Some of the topics businesses and consumers have to talk about are complex—and often emotional. GIFs help better express emotions ranging from excitement to anger to gratitude (and many more).

We’re excited to see how you’ll use Tenor GIF-sharing in your Layer-powered messaging experiences and would love to hear feedback from your team and your customers. You can catch me at frank@tenor.co .

 

Why Interactive Voice Response Isn’t a Necessary Evil

About Interactive Voice Response

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems have been helping airlines, banks, and other types of organizations lighten the load on contact centers dealing with hundreds of thousands of daily support calls.

But even if you work at a company that relies on IVR, we can be honest—these systems are brutal from the customer point of view.

Recent research found that of all customer service channels, IVR systems have the lowest consumer performance ratings. And worse yet, they spark anger, disgust, and frustration in the hearts of customers. For companies already struggling to match the customer experiences of digital natives like Airbnb, the last thing you want to do is trust IVRs with satisfying customers.

It’s time to stop spending millions of dollars maintaining an interactive voice recognition system that doesn’t work. We no longer have to view the IVR system as a necessary evil.

Customers Won’t Put Up with Interactive Voice Recognition Any Longer

While some companies use IVR to help route calls to the proper human department, many IVR implementations are evaluated based on their containment rates.

Containment rate is important when an airline or bank is hoping to reduce call volume by completely automating certain functions. For example, an airline might allow customers to check statuses by calling and reading a flight number. Or a bank might have customers provide yes/no answers to the automated system as they submit a claim for fraudulent charges.

In these cases, the containment rate is the percentage of customers who begin and end their calls within the IVR. But how many times have you dealt with an IVR and just started hitting “0” to speak to an agent? If your IVR is just driving people to want human interaction, what’s the point of having the expensive IVR system in the first place?

There are a few main reasons why customers so universally despise these IVR systems:

Lack of clarity through phone system: If travelers are running through a loud, busy airport trying to get a flight status, it’s unlikely voice recognition will work with 100% accuracy. Even if it’s quiet, customers might hit a dead zone with cell service and have to keep repeating their confirmation number until the IVR finally gets it right. And nothing is more frustrating than having to hang up and start the whole process again.

They don’t provide enough context: Customers often go through the IVR call routing system only to find they were directed to the wrong department. They answer questions for 20 minutes, get put on hold, and then get transferred to a new agent. But IVRs rarely carry the conversation’s context to the next agent, which means customers answer all of those questions again

Conversations are too impersonal: Customers can usually take care of simple issues on their own by researching online. This means that IVRs are left to handle more complex problems. However, IVR systems can’t understand the nuances of customer problems the way a human can. It’s great to automate customer support, but sometimes people need a personal touch.

The problem is that companies are spending millions of dollars trying to overcome these challenges. Instead of making minor upgrades to a broken system, why don’t we take a new approach altogether?

If large-scale changes aren’t made to frustrating IVR systems, traditional companies will continue to lose customers to more modern competition. It’s time to replace outdated IVRs with a mobile-first experience that interacts with customers where it’s most convenient.

The Advantages of Replacing IVR with Messaging

Who says IVR is the only way to achieve automated routing logic? That may have been the case a decade ago, but a mobile-first world requires a mobile-first communication system—messaging.

The key difference between messaging and IVR is that it makes asynchronous connections available whereas IVRs require all support to go through the phone. You can start using chatbots to answer generic questions and quickly establish connection with a human agent for anything more complex. Voice conversations are available in this kind of strategy—but they aren’t the primary (or only) means of communication.

Putting a messaging strategy in effect to replace IVR systems offer many benefits, such as:

Increased scalability for human interaction: When human agents are only able to speak over the phone, they can’t manage more than 1 conversation at a time. But with a messaging interface, they can handle 5 or 6 conversations without putting anyone on hold.

Real upsell opportunities: Automating through IVR means eliminating as much human interaction as possible. If a customer is told their flight was canceled, the conversation is over—they just hang up and move on. With messaging, flight cancelation messages can be followed by a new flight recommendation and discount codes for the nearby member’s club. Agents can provide value personalized to individual customers.

Integration with advanced technologies: When you move customer conversations from voice to text, you open up the opportunity to use machine learning and big data analytics to optimize interactions. You can continuously improve AI responses and adjust the customer experience based on positive and negative outcomes.

It doesn’t make sense to sink money into an IVR system that isn’t working. We need to get out of the mindset that IVR is a necessary evil. There’s a better way—one that can actually delight customers rather than frustrating them.

If you want to learn more about implementing your own, branded messaging experience, contact us today for a free demo of the Layer customer conversation platform.

How BOOK A TIGER Uses Messaging to Build Trust Between Customers and Cleaners

How BOOK A TIGER Uses Layer Messaging

BOOK A TIGER is a Berlin-based company that provides on-demand cleaning services for both residential and business customers. Founded in 2014, BOOK A TIGER has grown quickly and raised $21.5 million in venture capital in February 2017.

On the consumer side, BOOK A TIGER’s ability to build trust between cleaners and the customers who are inviting them into their homes is critical. BOOK A TIGER’s digital booking platform must facilitate frictionless coordination and strike a balance between intimate and professional conversation.

However, BOOK A TIGER CTO, Matias Bonet, says that “even though we are considered a tech company, the real value for our customers is the quality of our cleaning, regardless of the fancy technology tools around it.”

Rather than getting bogged down building out a powerful communication infrastructure for its platform, BOOK A TIGER turned to Layer to power its customer conversations.

How Overnight Uses Messaging to Engage with Guests Quickly     How Overnight Uses Messaging to Engage with Guests Quickly

The Problem: No Time to Build World-Class Communication

“Especially in B2C, customers have to trust the people coming to clean their homes. They open their doors and they want to see the same person every week, 2 weeks, or month,” said Matias. “If the cleaning team has to change, they want to see that once a year—not on every visit. So that’s one of the basic promises to our customers. You build a relationship between the customer and cleaner that leads to trust and flexibility in scheduling.”

But fulfilling this promise is easier said than done—especially when you have to pitch a proof of concept to stakeholders on short notice.

BOOK A TIGER only had a couple of days to come up with a proof of concept for its digital booking platform and prove that it could facilitate trust and communication in the cleaner/customer relationship.

According to Matias, “We spent the first 2 hours searching for different providers and evaluating different approaches to integrate all of our existing systems with this new functionality. We decided on messaging functionality where cleaners and customers can communicate with each other without having BOOK A TIGER getting in the way—something integrated in mobile that also worked in a web app.”

After looking down a few other paths, Matias at the BOOK A TIGER team decided to contact Layer.

The Solution: Simple Integration and Fast Proof of Concept with Layer

BOOK A TIGER found out first-hand that it doesn’t have to take long to create a working proof of concept for world-class, branded messaging.

“Before working with Layer, we were doing these conversations over email and SMS,” said Matias. “But over the course of the 18-hour proof of concept project, we discovered our roadmap for implementing messaging from cleaner and customer perspectives. With our Layer proof of concept, we closed our deal with stakeholders, get approval to finish the project, and in the end, it was about 4 days of work.”

While the initial proof of concept was just a skeleton, the feature has seen robust adoption in production across their consumer segment. BOOK A TIGER users have even organically discovered a use for location sharing within their conversations (included with Layer UI) in the coordination of picking up cleaners from awkwardly designed neighborhoods and gated communities.

“We’ve found that sometimes cleaners are late because they can’t find the right customer address,” said Matias. “With the rich location-sharing feature through Layer, we now have customers offering to pick their cleaners up to get them to the right location.”

The BOOK A TIGER story shows that any company can foster mobile customer conversations that drive lasting business value, and that they can do so in a customer experience that they control end-to-end.

If you want to learn more about how BOOK A TIGER got to market so quickly with its messaging strategy, contact us today for a free demo of the Layer customer conversation platform.

How Overnight Uses Layer to Engage with Guests and Build Trust Quickly

Overnight Success Story

Overnight is a spontaneous travel-booking app—a platform that acts as a last-minute Airbnb. While many might think people are too focused on digital experiences, Overnight believes human interaction is alive and well as travel becomes more of a lifestyle rather than a luxury.

The goal of Overnight is to facilitate a spontaneous travel lifestyle by making same-day stays with local hosts more accessible.

To accomplish this goal, Overnight has worked with Layer to implement a messaging experience that creates a frictionless relationship between hosts and guests.

The Problem: Building Trust Quickly

Following the idea of Airbnb, trust is at the core of Overnight’s business model. After all, people won’t use a service that lets people stay in their houses if there isn’t a sense of trust. However, unlike Airbnb, the window for building trust between Overnight users and providers is incredibly small.

Because the time frame between booking and staying is so short, the friction of traditional communication channels is magnified. Phone calls and emails wouldn’t just create a clunky customer experience—they just wouldn’t get responses fast enough for the service to work.

Phone calls and emails aren’t just problematic for Overnight because they’ve fallen out of favor with consumers. There’s also a need for communication that is native for the company’s iOS app. Forcing users to exit the app to communicate with phone calls or emails slows the experience down and increases the likelihood of churn.

Using messaging as the primary means of communication in Overnight made the most sense because it fits seamlessly into the mobile experience and offers the fastest way for hosts and guests to build trust with one another.

The Solution: Implement Layer for Frictionless Communication

“Messaging is core to our business and our experience wouldn’t be the same without it.”—Asher Hunt, CEO of Overnight

About a year ago, Hunt and the rest of the Overnight team decided to implement Layer to make messaging the focus of its communication strategy.

How Overnight Uses Layer to Engage with Guests and Build Trust Quickly

Because the Layer platform provides the backend infrastructure necessary for a frictionless messaging experience, Overnight was able to add its branding and go live quickly and easily.

Now, Overnight enjoys higher connection rates and is able to facilitate communication despite the unusually short time frame. The goal has always been to break down the barriers of last-minute travel and messaging through the Layer customer conversation platform is helping the company achieve that goal every day.

How Overnight Uses Layer to Engage with Guests and Build Trust Quickly

If there’s one key takeaway from Overnight’s story it’s that adopting a messaging strategy to conveniently communicate with customers doesn’t have to involve months or years of labor-intensive development. You can get to market quickly and start fostering valuable customer relationships.

For more information about the Layer customer conversation platform and how it can help you benefit from messaging, contact us today for a free demo.   Also, be sure to book your next journey at Overnight.

5 Key Takeaways from FinovateSpring 2017

Zoom on FinovateSpring 2017

FinovateSpring 2017 wasn’t like most conferences. With just two days to deliver value to the 1,200+ attendees from nearly 100 finance, insurance, consulting, and technology businesses, you might expect a jam-packed schedule of panel discussions and keynote presentations.

But Finovate takes a different approach. Instead, FinovateSpring gave 59 companies a chance to present their innovative new products for 7 minutes each—no sales pitches, just a demo of your product’s relevance. The pressure of digital transformation is weighing heavy on the financial services industry and FinovateSpring gave business leaders a chance to assess strategic business solutions.

After listening to all of the presentations (and getting feedback on our own Layer demo), I learned there are 5 pain points that financial services firms are focusing on.

The 5 Pain Points Pushing Financial Services to Go Digital

The root of digital transformation problems for large financial services firms is the need to rethink customer conversations. Attacking specific points of friction in customer conversations can lead to easy wins for companies that have struggled to keep pace with digital competition.

I spoke with many different financial services stakeholders and the following 5 pain points kept coming up in conversation:

  1. Consumer expectations have already changed, meaning customer conversations need to transform right now in 2017.
  2. Depending on phone and email to connect with customers isn’t working.
  3. Desktop-based sign-up forms don’t sell loans or credit cards effectively.
  4. Consumers are only using existing digital experiences to check balances—but they want advice and expertise in these channels.
  5. Customers have multiple entry points and points of contact within the organization but can’t centralize their conversations.

These problems are much bigger than any specific point in the buyer’s journey. They require complete business solutions rather than a tech tool that solves just one point of friction or applies to one use case. That was our focus for the Layer demo.

How Layer Fits into Digital Transformation for Financial Services

We know that the flexibility of the Layer platform can help companies think of very diverse sets of use cases and eliminate friction throughout the whole buyer’s journey. In the 7-minute presentation, it was important to convey that messaging isn’t just another feature for digital transformation — it’s a way to unify conversations and remove silos around existing communication channels and people within an organization.

Layer Loan Onboarding Example from Ivy Montgomery on Vimeo.

After our presentation, these were the aspects of Layer that seemed to resonate most with the audience:

  • Connecting with High-Value Clients: It’s hard to get ahold of high-value clients that are always on the move. Our team ran through a mock conversation between a financial advisor and a client to show how messaging technology can reach customers conveniently.
  • Support for Multiple Channels: You can’t transform customer conversations if you don’t support multiple channels. We showcased how financial advisors can start a conversation via SMS and move that conversation to a mobile browser environment seamlessly.
  • Ability to Provide Real Financial Advice via Mobile: With Layer messaging, financial services firms can use rich media cards to efficiently review portfolio performance, help select a charity to donate to, schedule follow-up calls, establish post-call action items, and more.
  • Messaging Is More than Just Text-Based Communication: Individual features of the platform are important, but what really resonated was our focus on eliminating email/phone silos, our ability to support next-gen cognitive technology, and the ability to integrate with backend systems like SFDC and Zendesk—all within a central messaging environment.

We’re excited about the potential for Layer to help financial services firms reach their digital transformation goals by redefining customer conversations. If you want to learn more about what we can do for the financial services industry, contact us today for a free demo of the platform.

Looking Back on the 2017 EyeforTravel San Francisco Summit

2017 EyeforTravel San Francisco Summit

The theme for this year’s EyeforTravel San Francisco Summit was the Digital Big Bang—the need for the travel industry to adapt and keep pace with new digital competitors. Put simply, hotels need to find ways to compete with Airbnb and airlines can’t let OTAs take over.

We had the privilege of taking part in this year’s Start-Up Awards and talking about how messaging can help transform digital travel experiences. But we learned a lot from our two days at the event.

Here are a few things we learned from the 2017 EyeforTravel San Francisco Summit.

Mobile Is the Travel Industry’s New Destination

Desktop won’t disappear anytime soon, but the big focus at this year’s event was mobile. We talk a lot about the importance of embracing mobile because it’s where consumers are most comfortable.

There were a few key points about mobile that travel industry experts used throughout the event to drive home the growing importance of mobile:

  • Mobile is the hub of the traveler’s journey—from dreaming to planning, booking, experiencing, sharing, and more.
  • 60% of searches for travel destinations are on mobile
  • 94% of leisure travelers switch between multiple devices when they plan and book their trips
  • 85% of travelers decide on activities after arriving at their destinations—they need travel-related info at their fingertips even during their trips.

The overwhelming desire for a mobile travel experience is what makes companies like Airbnb so successful. However, it was great to see how a travel industry veteran like Hilton is adapting to mobile demands.

Lessons Learned from the Hilton Honors App

The Hilton Honors App has become one of the highest-rated travel apps, making it a hot topic at the EyeforTravel event. With the help of real-time chat, the app allows Hilton team members to complement a guest’s check-in experience and personalize the overall travel experience—all from a single mobile channel that provides multiple digital tools.

We learned that Hilton has a three-step mindset that has resulted in the app’s success and the company’s transformation:

  • Step 1: Create an integrated IT infrastructure across the entire organization
  • Step 2: Break down silos that result in friction in service delivery and customer communication
  • Step 3: Collaborate with partners to provide a differentiated digital travel experience

For traditional travel companies to get ahead of the Digital Big Bang, they have to replicate Hilton’s success in a way that reflects their own brands.

3 Ways Layer Can Help Travel Companies Own the Digital Big Bang

Spending time at the EyeforTravel event gives you first-hand insight into what traditional companies need help with in the wake of digital transformation. For companies looking to fulfill Step 3 of the Hilton mindset, here are a few ways Layer can help offer a powerful, branded mobile experience:

  • Data-driven Personalization: Attendees overwhelmingly claimed this was the most important component of their digital success. With Layer, each customer conversation contains an event stream of data that helps continually personalize the travel experience.
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: This was the EyeforTravel topic attendees were most excited about—but implementing them into a digital travel experience isn’t always easy. Layer has the flexible framework to incorporate AI and maximize the potential of data gathered from customer conversations.
  • Branded Mobile Messaging: Chatbots are one thing, but the key to Hilton’s success has been real-time chat. Layer has the AI and machine learning tech necessary to understand traveler intent and can automate recommendations—but the real value comes from personal 1:1 conversations that conform to individual brands.

By 2020, the travel industry expects to reach $564 billion. However, the traditional market landscape will continue to be displaced by digital newcomers if incumbents don’t adapt.

If you want to learn more about how Layer can help you get to market quickly with a branded messaging experience that can win the Digital Big Bang, contact us today for a free demo of the customer conversation platform.

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.