The basic conversation list is a fundamental UI component for any messaging experience. After all, you can’t have conversations with users if they can’t locate the messages.

Regardless of your specific use case, the way you present the conversation list to users matters. Any friction in the experience could be the difference between creating a lasting connection with a customer and losing her to your competitor.

There are two main ways you can design a conversation list—single and multi-thread conversations. Here are some guidelines you can follow to choose the right option for your users.

When Single Conversations Make Sense for Your Messaging

If you’re just starting out with messaging, you might not be familiar with the full range of use cases. Your only thought might be a standard text messaging app on your phone.

Messaging scenarios with single conversations are not the same as your test messaging apps. Rather than giving users access to speak with many different users, a single conversation contains customers and prospects to a siloed experience.

There are many use cases that can benefit from single conversation lists, but two prime examples are conversational commerce and concierge apps in the hotel industry:

• Messaging in Conversational Commerce: 55% of consumers choose text notifications as the top service to accompany appointment scheduling—your users want to engage in conversational commerce. But this doesn’t mean they want a constant barrage of sales pitches being delivered through your messaging experience. For your conversational commerce messaging, users will engage more with a single, personalized attendant. Even if there are multiple attendants or bots, it’s easiest to keep retail to single conversations for seamless purchases and inquiries.

• Concierge Experiences in the Hotel Business: Millennials are going to be spending more on experiences than “stuff” in the coming years. Part of the travel experience is making sure you experience all the local culture has to offer—which is where the traditional hotel concierge always came in. But now, you can achieve better engagement with your customers with messaging-based concierge. Whether you’re offering local travel information, event listings, or recommending restaurants in the area, you only need a single conversation with users. Trying to break out into multi-thread conversation lists would just overwhelm users and introduce friction in the experience.

In both of these use cases, your agent side likely won’t match the customer side’s single conversations. For the agent side (and other use cases) multi-thread conversations are best.

When to Choose a Multi-Thread Conversation List

Even if you don’t think about the term “multi-thread conversation” all the time, you use them every day—multi-thread messaging is a landmark feature of email.

Your real-time messaging experience is more powerful than email, but that doesn’t mean it can’t share some features. When your customers are engaging with different people about different subjects, splitting conversations into their own threads is often the best user interface.

One use case for this type of conversation list is for marketplaces. When you’re establishing your messaging experience as a channel for users to interact with one another to sell products and services. Forcing all of these separate interactions into one conversation just wouldn’t make sense.

Build a Branded Messaging Experience for Your Unique Needs

Choosing between single and multi-thread conversations is just one consideration when building your branded messaging experience. But taking the steps to follow messaging best practices is the only way to create an experience that can drive your business.

If you want more insight into what goes into a powerful messaging experience, check out our full Messaging Best Practices Guide.