Messaging for the on-demand economy

If you live in the developed world, you likely have access to apps that let you order just about anything from the comfort of your couch. You can purchase groceries, cleaning services, or food delivery, call a car, or even arrange a doctor visit. Over the past few years the number of these on-demand apps has grown tremendously.

What each of these services have in common is a need for communication between three parties: the app developer, the service provider, and the end user. As soon as the “Get It Now” button is clicked, a conversation starts that ends only when the ride is completed, the groceries delivered, or the house cleaned.

Today, the most common medium for these conversations is SMS, with users receiving a series of anonymous texts to keep them updated on the status of their service. However, it’s through the addition of in-app messaging that these basic updates can be transformed into rich and informative conversations.

Context, control, and anonymity around messaging

One of the simplest things in-app messaging provides is context for the conversation. Most on-demand apps do a good job of showing you who will be providing your service, but that context breaks when communication moves out to SMS. The user may not immediately connect the text message they receive with the app they used to place their order, minutes, or even hours ago.

In addition, app developers cannot control or monitor SMS conversations, yet that communication will impact the user’s experience with, and perception of, the app. By switching to in-app messaging, canned responses like “Stuck in traffic,” or one-touch location sharing, can present a consistent platform and voice to the customer.

And finally, moving to in-app messaging allows all parties to maintain their anonymity. There’s no need to expose personal phone numbers when in-app messaging allows both sides to communicate freely for the time of the service.

Example 1: Ridesharing

Many ridesharing companies do a great job of presenting a name, photo, and car model for your driver, but fall back to anonymous text messages when the service starts. In-app messaging can improve this part of the experience, changing a customer’s reaction from “Who is this txt from?” to “Great! My car is about to arrive, I better get out the door now.”

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Example 2: Grocery delivery

A common problem faced by grocery delivery services is what to do when items a customer has ordered aren’t available in store at that time. On the whole they manage this by asking the customer to select possible replacements up-front, or they’ll have the shopper call the customer from the store to discuss alternatives.

This breaks down if the customer isn’t available to take a call, or doesn’t recognize the number, or if the replacement items are also out of stock. In-app messaging can improve this part of the experience by providing a rich, asynchronous chat between the customer and their personal shopper.

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Re-imagining communication for the on-demand economy

As the on-demand economy continues to grow, app creators will do well to remember that part of any impeccable service is the communication created around it. With Layer’s in-app messaging they can drive rich interactions between all parties, creating accessible agents, timely services, and happy customers.

We can’t wait to see what you build.

Layer at Disrupt NY Hackathon 2015

The Layer team is in NYC for TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon and we’d love to meet you.

Hackathon participants can sign up up for Layer here.

Layer is giving away a $1,000 cash prize as well as one year’s subscription to our Startup Plan ($300 value) for a total of $1300 in value for “Best Use of the Layer SDKs.”

For extra fast support over the hackathon weekend direct all your support questions to support-disrupt@layer.com or find one of our team members at the venue.

We can’t wait to see what you’ll build.