Engineering

Fast-track your in-app chat deployment : A one-day roadmap

Sarang Paramhans
Sarang Paramhans Product Marketer
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According to the American Psychological Association, perceived (or actual) social isolation is connected to a variety of mental and physical health consequences, including depression, accelerated cognitive decline, poor sleep, impaired executive function, poor cardiovascular function, and even impaired immunity. What’s more, “Lacking encouragement from family or friends, those who are lonely may slide into unhealthy habits,” says epidemiologist Nicola Valtorta.

In-app interactions deployment is on everybody’s lips these days as brands seek to improve communication, facilitate connections between people, and build online communities. But for app developers who find themselves suddenly needing to accelerate their deployment of this feature — and for developers that hadn’t originally planned on including in-app chat functionality — fast-tracking chat deployment is becoming an urgent priority. 

In this post, we’ll discuss why there is currently such a strong need for in-app chat, voice and video,  and give you a one-day roadmap to fast-tracking your chat deployment.

We need social connection more than ever

COVID-19 has brought the world to a standstill, with social distancing and sheltering in place — and millions of people working from home. Millions more have lost their source of income and are deeply worried about the state of the economy, adding to the psychological pressure of fear caused by the virus itself and the loneliness of being isolated from friends and family members. 

With all this stress — and the added strain of facing it alone — we’re more reliant on digital technology to reach our loved ones than ever before. Cut off from most face-to-face and physical contact, technologies that allow us to feel closer to one another are the life preservers keeping us afloat in an ocean of uncertainty.

The role of brands in trying times

Businesses that are still operating in this environment would be wise to respond to this need for added interaction with empathy by cranking up their customer support and communication efforts and doing everything in their power to help their customers feel more connected and less alone. 

The truth is that, as regrettable as our current situation is, it also presents a unique opportunity to fill a gap in people’s lives and build a brand that people will remember and remain loyal too long after this crisis is over. The brands that actively bring people together and help their communities get through this difficult time together are the ones most likely to succeed in the difficult economic times ahead.

The key is to act quickly to build digital communities around your brand and deploy tools and features that help unite people in this tremendously difficult time. 

How in-app chat can help

In our climate, there’s a real need for tools that can bring people together virtually. People are seeking ways to spend time with their loved ones, and communicate with their colleagues and get work done remotely. But more importantly, individuals are increasingly taking refuge in online communities that facilitate online social life. 

Connecting with others — especially those in the same situation — can help individuals to manage loneliness and stress and offer one another support. If one thing has become clear through all of this, it’s that when you seek out genuine human connection, you’ll find it. 

Online gaming is thriving as people seek to disconnect from their troubling day-to-day reality and connect with friends — and strangers — online. Microsoft reported a 130% increase in multiplayer gaming in March and April and the popular game streaming platform Twitch saw a 50% increase in the number of gaming hours watched since March. 

Social media is on fire; Facebook announced that in countries worst affected by the virus, total messaging grew by more than 50%. Webinar production and attendance is up and forums are booming

Instant messaging apps are flourishing as people seek new ways to communicate. According to market research firm Kantar, Facebook-owned WhatsApp saw a usage bump ranging between 40 and 76% in correlation with how severely affected individual countries have been. Snapchat added 11 million daily active users so far in 2020 – a 20% increase on last year. 

It’s clear that people are seeking interaction in any way they can, and in many ways, virtual engagement has replaced normal interpersonal interaction. Some apps have even launched chat features specifically intended to ease the isolation of quarantine, such as Quarantine Chat

For more on this topic, read Why online communities and their users are seeking real-time chat and Messaging: The digitization of human interactions

Key considerations for your in-app chat

Cost

Building in-app chat from scratch can be very expensive and time-consuming, particularly if it wasn’t in your original roadmap. You’ll want to do a careful cost analysis to determine whether building a custom chat feature in-house makes sense or whether using APIs or SDK like Sendbird isn’t the better choice. For a detailed breakdown of the respective total costs of ownership, read  Build vs Buy: Build chat from scratch or jumpstart chat with API and SDK.

Scope

The scope of your in-app chat deployment will, of course, depend on the simplicity or complexity of your UI and which features you wish to include. However, given the incredibly high standard established by messaging apps like WhatsApp, users’ expectations are sky-high, and many simply won’t use chat apps that don’t offer the features they’re familiar with. 

Top chat services don’t just deliver basic features like 1-on-1 conversations and group chat. They also offer advanced features such as typing indicators, read-receipts, the ability to send and receive images, audio, emojis, video as thumbnails viewable within the message interface; messages using structured data; chatbot integrations, moderation and SPAM protection, and much more.

As a result, we like to say that in-app messaging isn’t a feature – it’s a product of its own and deserves to be treated as such. For a deep dive into what it takes to build a modern messaging app, read Build vs buy – How to Create a Messaging Application Like WhatsApp.

Timeline

In the context of this article, your time-to-market may be the single most important consideration in your planning. Even if your team is made up of developers with plenty of experience building in-app chat interfaces from scratch, it’s very unlikely they wouldn’t do it faster using a reputable chat API and SDK like Sendbird. When chat is a priority on your roadmap and you have a team of experienced developers, it can take 6-8 months to build a basic chat experience in-house. If it’s not a priority, it’s typically much longer than that. The bottom line is that if you’re rushing your deployment, you don’t want to cut corners on important considerations like UX or security. 

For more on choosing the right chat API & SDK for your business – and which questions to ask before selecting one – read Chat API and messaging SDK, how to pick the right one for your company

Your one-day roadmap to in-app chat deployment 

In some ways, every product roadmap looks the roughly same:

  • Step one: Understand your customer’s problem
  • Step two: Conduct market research
  • Step three: Identify your USP and build a proof of concept
  • Step four: Define your goals and benchmarks
  • Step five: Create a timeline (launch date!) 
  • Step six: Set milestones 
  • Step seven: Develop your chat
  • Step eight: Initial rollout
  • Step nine: Maintenance, analysis, optimization, and iteration

Of course, the details will vary dramatically depending on the particulars of your company and your specific use case(s), business goals, and internal needs and limitations. 

In extraordinary circumstances that demand extraordinary agility, your roadmap may be somewhat condensed. For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume you’ve already completed stages one through three to arrive at the conclusion that you need a chat feature. We’ll skip right to step four. 

You’re probably wondering what we could possibly mean by “one-day roadmap” and you’re right to be skeptical, but rest assured, it’s 100% possible to deploy in-app chat in a day. You can skip right to step seven below.

Step Four: Define goals and benchmarks

Having a clear vision of your objectives will allow you to define your scope and timeline. For instance, your goals may include:

  • Improving your CSAT score
  • Reducing the resolution time on customer complaints
  • Increasing daily usage/app logins
  • Reducing order cancellations

For a detailed introduction to planning your in-app chat and messaging roadmap, read In-App Chat and Messaging Planning Guide: Where Should We Start?

Step Five: Create a timeline

When you have a launch date in mind, you can work backward to establish the milestones you need to pass to achieve launch by that date. 

Given the current situation, it’s probably safe to say that your timeline for launching in-app chat is “yesterday” and that your milestones might include launching basic chat features as soon as possible, with a staggered rollout of more advanced features.

Step Six: Set milestones

Under normal circumstances, you would use your launch date to “back-schedule” milestones, which could include:

  • Developing your POC or beta version to share internally
  • Conducting a limited launch to test functionality and gather user feedback
  • Gradual regional rollouts
  • Periodic reviews of benchmarks 

While it’s always a good idea to have a plan, under the current circumstances you may wish to move up your launch date and fine-tune the details at a later stage.

Step Seven: Develop your chat

Developing your chat is the hard part – except it doesn’t need to be. With Sendbird’s API and SDKs, you don’t need to build it from scratch and you can get in-app chat up and running in a matter of weeks. 

For a detailed introduction to planning your in-app chat and messaging roadmap, read In-App Chat and Messaging Planning Guide: Where Should We Start?

Setting up your SDK is really simple and we’ve got robust documentation to walk you through every step of the process, whether you’re developing for Android, iOS, React, or a variety of other SDKs. We’ll also set you up with a sample app to make it as easy as possible to build, test, and deploy your chat. 

Fast-track your in-app chat deployment with Sendbird’s UIKits

To really hit the ground running, use the Sendbird UIKit, with which you can get chat operational in mere minutes. This is a great option for product owners seeking to roll out chat quickly, for instance, if in-app chat wasn’t part of your original roadmap but you’ve decided that it’s the right move in light of recent events. It’s also a great option for businesses that want to launch a chat feature don’t have a lot of developer resources

Available for Android, iOS, and React, the UIKit equips you to roll out full-featured in-app chat with limited coding required a robust set of rich, prebuilt user interface components so that you can build a modern chat experience into your app in less than 15 minutes

Step eight and nine: Initial rollout and beyond

The rest is up to you and your marketing team. Once you’ve configured your chat UI (or developed your feature, if you chose to take the longer route), it’s time to launch your app or deploy your update. Once your app is operational, don’t neglect to maintain, benchmark, and optimize your in-app chat regularly to keep up with industry standards and user expectations. For instance, you may choose to level up your in-app chat with voice and video calls at a later stage.

We hope you’ve found this guide helpful. If you’d like an even more detailed guide to implementing chat – complete with strategies for launching in-app chat, suggested benchmarks, recommended chat features, sample chat flows, potential post-launch updates, and much more, please download our free ebook

Get the e-book: On-demand: A guide to implementing chat

Tags: Engineering