The e-commerce players have begun to communicate with their customers in real-time using customer support chat solutions like Intercom and Olark, but we are also witnessing customers wanting to message their on-demand service providers on mobile devices.
Always-on and always-have nature of mobile devices, combined with real-time notifications and location-awareness, are transforming what used to be scheduled transactions (think car rentals and hotel reservations) into real-time transactions that gets fulfilled in matter of minutes.
Based on KPCB's Internet Trends report, when you look at the fulfillment time for on-demand economies, regardless of the industries, most of them targets less than 30 minutes, only a few going up to hours at most.
What changed vastly over the years is that in 90s and 2000s, when people ordered something, they'd expect things to get delivered or service agents to visit in days, if not weeks. You had to make reservations days ahead of your consumption. Things could happen over websites and emails.
Fast forward a few years, with Amazon Prime now promising to deliver products in an hour, customers' expectations have gotten higher. They want their products to be shipped even before they actually buy them. On-demand economy renders waiting a week for delivery and sending email requests irrelevant, since the customers have less than 30 minutes of window to communicate their needs prior to fulfillment. They have to communicate in real-time.
When you call your Uber/Lyft, you open the app and look at the drivers coming at you. You make a call or send a text message if they need extra instructions. You receive text messages when you order your DoorDash/Postmates. You text them if they are taking too long or you have to send a pin number for your apartment's gate. People are increasingly becoming more demanding, impatient, and immediate. They want it and they want it fast.
Usually, if you want to contact your on-demand service provider, you'd have to call them using your phone number or text them using the default messaging app that comes with your phone, exposing your phone number. As expected, this may have some privacy implications. Of course, the service providers are providing extra measures to mitigate privacy risks.
On-demand apps like these, where the service providers and the consumers have transactional relationships, can adopt in-app messaging instead of redirecting them to use their phones' default messaging clients. Having in-app messaging coupled with VOIP would be helpful to mitigate privacy issues in a more secure way. Testing becomes quite handy when you don't actually want to talk to the driver and just give them quick instructions.
Airbnb already offers in-app messaging enabling communication between the host and the guests. I've found these to be particularly handy since getting immediate responses from the host is extremely helpful when you just have a few questions that need to be addressed before making the payment.
Many of the on-demand apps and marketplace apps have 1-on-1 transactional relationships, and having in-app messaging becomes quite useful compared to the standard SMS messaging, because you can send longer texts, rich media with other information such as location, photo, or other structured data in a simpler way. And it's (almost) free.
If you are a developer building your next on-demand app, check out SendBird! It's a quick and simple way to implement messaging for your app so that you can make your customers happy and engaged! :)