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Getting the message: Messaging trends to look out for in 2017

2016 was a groundbreaking year for the messaging industry. With the arrival of chatbots and AI, the shift towards the bot-centric future of communication started. 

2017 is set to change the way we message for good. We are closer than ever to having a human-like virtual assistant to guide our way in everything we need to do. 

Many of the messaging trends in 2017 are intertwined around chatbots and AI. The biggest trend in messaging in 2017 will be businesses joining the messaging space. With the arrival of chatbots it has become clear what kind of opportunities chat apps hold for businesses. Chatbots in 2017 are set to have the same impact as websites did back in the 90s. They will revolutionise commerce. 

Here are the big trends as we see them:

1. Chatbots

The time is now right for the people around the world to start chatting with machines. But not just with any machines. These machines are smarter than we’ve ever encountered before. Smartphone users are already accustomed to the habit of chatting via messaging apps. It’s a natural next step to now start chatting with smart bots via the same apps. Whether you’re shopping, booking flights or tickets, searching information or contacting customer service, bots can be of service 24/7.

2. AI

The essence of smart chatbots is the buzzword we’ve all probably heard of by now - Artificial Intelligence. We often see the future in arts, books and cinematography before it happens in real life. For example, Hal of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Samantha in the movie Her gave us a glimpse of the future possibilities presented by AI. These bots had a very natural conversation with humans and they, for example, helped with routines and searching for information. Machines able to learn from and adapt to each user’s special needs is the key to bot success.

3. Chat commerce and payments

What WeChat has done in China is now being replicated by others too. Messaging companies are now creating tools for brands and businesses to develop their own bots. Investing in bots requires a business decision. The challenge for marketing people will now be having to  convince the top management to start investing time and money in such a game changing idea. Businesses are always eagerly looking for new sales opportunities and the developing chatbots could be a goldmine for retailers looking to cash in on early adopters. 

4. Customer service revolution

It is known that any service provider trying to build and maintain a positive brand should take customer service seriously. Businesses will find new opportunities for effective customer service in well trained bots. It’s a great opportunity to have the most frequently asked questions and queries answered by bots. Users will definitely appreciate the speed and ease of a customer service channel available 24 hours a day. 

Of course, the slight worry is that there could be a downside here in terms of service quality and the lack of human interaction. Those with smartest bots and smoothest service process will win!

5. Voice dictation

As smart wearables like watches are increasingly within the reach of the average consumer, voice dictation finally gets the attention it deserves. In 2017, user interfaces will start offering faster access to voice dictation features. As a result of a shift in culture and habits, voice dictation will become a major way of interacting with apps and services. Eventually interacting with machines will not be that different from having a chat with a friend. 

6. Spectacular wearables

While smartwatches haven’t still hit it big time, Snap Inc’s Spectacles highlights the huge potential of wearables, especially for the younger audience. Smartwatches are still limited when it comes to cooperation with smartphones but Spectacles is a good example of a product that is fully integrated to the smartphone’s user experience even if just through one app. This is just the start so watch this space.

7. Monetisation of chatting

There is an on-going ‘Game of Thrones’ between messaging apps. Yet, none of them seem to have built a strong business focussed around chatting. In 2017, businesses will start significantly interacting with customers via chatbots. They might be the future sponsors of free messaging as these services for businesses are bound to include paid ones too. We will see more and more messaging companies offering businesses new tools for customer engagement.  

8. Live video

Broadcasts, snaps, moments, stories… live video has entered the mobile scene big time and will become a communication standard in world of social in 2017. The potential challenge here might be the ability of users to find relevant video content since volume is increasing and a video is always a mystery until you’ve watched it. 

9. Enterprise messaging

Slack has quickly become the go-to messaging app for businesses. In 2017, we will see other messaging apps joining the competition. This competition between apps might significantly improve the app quality - a bonus for users. For now, people use separate communication tools at work and at home. The messaging giants would most certainly like to have their foot on both sides of the fence.

10. Social messaging

Social networking becomes conversational as chat apps adopt more and more social features. Forums and social networks have long ruled the conversation around events, interests, trips and hobbies. In 2017, we will see more and more chat apps offering channels for this kind of communication. This will allow people to broaden their horizons and find new friends to chat and meet with.

11. Smartphone sales booming in emerging markets

Messaging companies are turning their heads towards Africa as the continent’s fast growing young population is connecting to the Internet via smartphones. African countries still largely suffer from poor connectivity and a high cost of data which requires conscious effort from app creators to reduce the data consumption. In addition to African countries, emerging markets like Brazil, India and Indonesia are still selling smartphones as sales in more developed markets is slowing down. 

Riku Salminen, CEO, Jongla
Image Credit: Melina Sampaio Manfrinatti / Flickr

Riku Salminen
Riku Salminen is the CEO of Jongla, a Finnish instant messaging innovator.