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Messaging: The digitization of human interactions.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed a growth of an industry like no other: smartphones. The device adoption surpassed anything we’ve seen in the history of technology, and the single most popular app people use on smartphones is messaging.

smartphone shipments to top 1 billion in 2014
Source: Statista, IDC

With a minimum social group (MSG) factor of 2, you only need one other person in your network to get the instant value of using a messaging app. Like mails, all it takes is a single message sent to another user to get them started, so it is inherently viral by design. Especially on smartphones that are always-on, always-have, married with real-time push notifications and features like read receipts and typing indicators, the engagement and retention metrics of messaging apps skyrocketed.

messaging apps top global apps in usage + sessions
Source: KPCB

But messaging is a medium, a feature, and not the end in itself. Why has messaging taken off like no other? They say the best roads are the path people walked on the most. Until the day of neural telepathy, messaging is likely to be the desired line of digitizing human interactions — building relationships, exchanging feelings and information through conversations and expressions. Although social networks and social media seemed to have grown quickly, messaging is closer to the real-life interaction we always have been experiencing in the analog world for thousands of years.

We talk — exchanging information and sharing our feelings — freely in a private setting or small groups. That’s what messaging is enabling people to do online. In many cases, it’s more efficient to talk over a messaging app than in real life, as we are not always nearby each other. Today, it is not a surprise that couples and family members talk more on their phones than in real life. Same goes with your friends and even colleagues. It has become a better road for human-to-human interactions. Of course, it does not pack the same punch as real-life interaction, as most of the non-verbal communication can get lost through online messaging. But because of wireless networks, video and voice calling on mobile have emerged, so now most of the non-verbal information can be transmitted digitally.

Fifa Online 3
Source: SendBird

Expanding the scale further, when you watch a live gaming event on Nexon E-sports and Twitch.tv, compared to a traditional unidirectional live-video streaming experience, you can feel the presence of others through the chat rooms. An open chat room is a great way to mimic some of the social experience you have while watching a live sports game at a stadium. We can easily imagine a future where all live events can be watched online with people expressing their excitement through open chat rooms.

Taking a step back, what messaging is really doing is digitizing human interactions — through text, photos, videos, voice, and even stickers and emojis. In the near future, perhaps through AR/VR, we can even replicate the special experience you feel in the analog world.

What excites me, even more, is that messaging is a great window of opportunity for AI to seamlessly blend into the human interactions. Through the form of chatbots, AI can start filling in the gaps where the supply cannot meet the demand — such as instant response for sales inquiry and customer support, instant information lookup for complex inquiries, and narrowing down the search through interactions.

Conversational Banking
image credit: GUNDAM_Ai/ Shutterstock

It’s not hard to imagine where a lot of offline bank tellers, telco store service reps, or any sort of conversational purchasing experience will be replaced by online agents — with a mix of chatbots and real people waiting behind the first line of defense of AI agents. On-demand services like GO-JEK of Indonesia is utilizing the marriage of AI and customer support to do just that. Big banks are already moving into the era of conversational banking, by providing online tellers who will help you get loans, get financial product recommendations and consultation, all through messaging.

This could be beneficial for both the customers and the service providers, as it can increase responsiveness and decrease resolution times while saving massive costs for the companies and reducing emotional stress of the human service agents.

Messaging is no longer a medium nor just a feature, it’s a new pathway for digitizing human interactions, which bears the fruit of productivity and engagement for businesses and customers. Business messaging tools will lower the hurdle for conversational service works, in return creating more jobs efficiently, and the technology will help us put more focus on creative problem solving to be done by humans, with AI taking care of well-defined, repetitive, and monotonous work.

SendBird is here to help businesses harness the benefits of messaging by digitizing human interactions to increase user engagement and to grow the business.

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