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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.

Web SDK Public Beta

In fall 2015 we introduced the Client API, enabling developers to build cross-platform Layer applications for mobile, web and desktop. In parallel we started a private beta for our Web SDK, which enables web developers to build great messaging experiences with greatly simplified APIs. Starting today, the Web SDK is available in public beta to the entire Layer developer community.

What is the Layer Web SDK?

In combination with Layer’s iOS and Android SDKs and UI kits, the Web SDK enables a variety of cross-platform messaging use cases:

  • Social networking
  • Community building
  • Dating services
  • Online games
  • Coordination of delivery for on-demand services
  • Coordination between dispatchers/home office and mobile work force
  • Communication between customers and agents to plan and purchase
  • Marketplaces connecting buyers and sellers

In addition to supporting all of these use cases, the Web SDK enables developers to support new modes of communication, enabling people at a desktop to be able to talk to remote people who are on mobile devices. That includes call centers, support desks, sales agents and other environments where people work at a desktop supporting customers and coworkers in the field or at home.

As with the rest of Layer’s product offering, the Web SDK gives you freedom to build a great messaging experience in any product.

Learning and feedback

The goal of this public beta is to collect feedback from the Layer developer community and iron out the issues that can only be discovered by using the Web SDK in the wild.

How Praber uses Layer-powered messaging to run its mobile marketplace

Praber, an on-demand marketplace app that connects people needing a service to skilled providers who can perform it, is using Layer to power its most crucial function: messaging.

Based in Milan, Italy, and New York City, and with plans to expand throughout Europe in the next year, Praber uses a bidding system to help its end users find the perfect service provider — whether it be a house cleaner, a lawyer, a personal trainer, massage therapist, or anything in between.

Well-communicated logistics + trust = a great mobile marketplace experience

All marketplace apps have at least two primary groups that need to maintain perfect communication in order to function: the service provider and the end user. For Praber, making sure those communications are handled perfectly is product and business critical.

“Messaging is extremely important to our users’ experience,” said Nicolas Nemni, CEO of Praber. He and team feel that it’s through excellent in-app messaging that expectations are properly set and trust is established. The ability for service providers and end users to communicate effectively and reliably before, during and after a job ensures information is properly interpreted, understood, and handled.

“Think about the experience of hiring a lawyer. No one would hire a lawyer before speaking to him or her, or go through the process of having a lawyer represent them without touching base frequently,” he said.

Praber, which is already seeing impressive growth just weeks after its launch, aims to make it easier to hire people, lawyers included, to perform all manner of day-to-day tasks through a mobile device, but the team firmly believes communication lines must be rock solid in order to meet that goal.

Buy vs. Build? Let Layer do the heavy lifting

Once the Praber team established that in-app messaging was mission critical, they explored ways to build the service in house, subscribing to the thinking that if it’s important, they must build it themselves. Instead, they resolved that because of a messaging system’s complexity and the entire app experience’s dependency on its performance, it’s rather too important to build themselves.

“What we learned quickly is that building a fully-featured messaging system was extraordinarily hard,” said Nemni, who along with his team was able to add messaging to Praber with Layer in just one week. “Layer is extremely good at powering messaging, and with Atlas (Layer’s open source UI toolkit), we were able to build something quickly that works great, and looks great, too.”