2018 was a landmark year for messaging platforms. They witnessed significant growth in the number of users all around the world. This was especially because emerging economies such as India and China made online messaging their primary mode of communication; both for casual conversation and in their work lives. Popular real-time chat platforms such as WhatsApp, Messenger, and WeChat all saw their usage numbers rise to a staggering billion-plus active user, while more and more platforms started integrating messaging services as a core part of their day-to-day operations. This viral rate of adoption indicates that the versatile features, ease of use, and spontaneity of online messaging have made the real-time messaging feature a superior one compared to other traditional forms. Such has been its dominance that even established business outlets like The Wall Street Journal declared the death of phone calls and crowned chatting as the technology of the future.
This rapid rate of adoption isn’t limited to just user-to-user personal messaging. More and more people prefer utilizing a real-time messaging solution for personal and business communication. This growing demand is being fuelled by the rapid proliferation of smartphones in emerging markets. For this new generation of smartphone users, messaging feels just as natural, if not more convenient than calling or communicating via email.
Therefore with online platforms turning to simpler, more agile, and versatile communication solutions, 2019 is set to be the year that sees extensive growth in the trends that were established in 2018.
Given this outlook, the writing on the wall could not be any clearer. Messaging emerged stronger than ever before in 2018, and will continue to grow and dominate digital communications on all levels in 2019. In this article, we highlight some trends and make some predictions for the coming year that will shape the development of both in-app messaging and enterprise messaging solutions.
As chat has become the dominant medium for day-to-day communication, more and more platforms are looking to integrate the feature or make it the core part of their service. This has necessitated the need for increasingly sophisticated and flexible chat SDKs and APIs capable of meeting a wide range of demands in different usage scenarios. More robust solutions are being developed to securely facilitate a smooth exchange of the increasingly large volumes of data via these chat implementations. Competitive market-ready developers are looking to capitalize on these needs with versatile, ready-to-integrate SDK offerings and hassle-free hosting solutions.
As noted in the earlier sections, the rapid adoption of chat as the primary method of digital communication means that its usage will only increase in collaboration. Every kind of collaborative effort, be it small group projects or large professional teams is becoming fluid through features such as, say, group chatting, which allow people to easily stay on the same page and contribute more effectively. Even though there are many tools developed specifically for collaboration, they are often not preferred if they don’t have a messaging implementation which is preferred for its simplicity and familiarity.
Given the collaborative needs of the digitally connected society, there is a fast-growing demand for messaging solutions which can support collaborative tools such as collaborative whiteboards and documents, file sharing, screen sharing etc. that will be useful in a variety of contexts and will allow groups to communicate in a more meaningful way.
The increasing demand for messaging implementations for new and varied usage environments has given rise to unique, unpredictable demands that need to be catered to in different scenarios. As such, developers are seeking to design chat applications with special requirements or customized solutions, like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or custom chatbot implementations among others. This, by far, will be the most prominent aspect that will dominate developmental priorities and allow innovative implementations to distinguish themselves even in 2019 and beyond.
Security and data protection have always been a source of concern for any messaging service, given that more and more sensitive information is shared through them. Therefore, in a crowded market, developers capable of implementing strong encryption and security features in their offering are attracting more users. Market leaders like WhatsApp have already started taking charge by offering security features such as end-to-end encryption which will become an increasingly common expectation in the future.
Integration is also equally vital as it will determine the usefulness of the messaging implementation, in what scenarios it can be deployed, and how productive users can be while using them in a particular service. Additionally, a poorly integrated messaging feature can make apps slow and buggy, and also leave open security vulnerabilities. Therefore proper documentation and flexible integration capabilities with a wide variety of frameworks, mobile SDKs, programming languages, and other software platforms will remain to be a key selling point for messaging service solutions as the market develops a need for a broader range of implementations.
For the past few years, the enterprise messaging market has been going through a seeding and development stage with various vendors looking to develop market-ready solutions. Now the time is ripe for rapid growth as customized products start appearing in the market and an increasing number of businesses start adopting enterprise messaging solutions which can cater to their specific organizational needs.
Enterprise messaging offerings are now capable of providing essential features such as security compliant implementations, inbox and contact synchronization, and administrative capabilities such as role-based access-control along with many such versatile solutions not commonly found in consumer applications. There will be a huge demand for these features as they allow for more efficient professional communication and reduce dependence on consumer messaging applications which may be lacking or not sufficiently secure for enterprise needs.
Currently, most enterprises resort to unified communications and collaboration tools such as Skype for Business, Trello, Slack etc. for their communication and collaboration needs. However, these tools are often one-dimensional, limited, inflexible, lack strong cross-platform compatibility, and are in many cases clunky to use. Employees have often been known to eschew these hit-and-miss tools in favor of consumer messaging services like WhatsApp because of its simplicity. However, such a situation is unfavorable for companies seeking to protect privileged business exchanges or keep everyone on the same page.
As discussed above, with the growing availability of vital collaborative tools in messaging implementations; simple, easy to use enterprise messaging solutions are beginning to replace these unified communications and collaboration tools. Being cost-effective, these messaging solutions are finding their way seamlessly into the operations of enterprises, belonging to any domain.
As an increasing number of businesses are adopting messaging solutions, certain selective market segments are requiring highly customizable enterprise messaging implementation with industry-specific features and unique integration requirements. In 2019, too, the demand for vendors capable of providing implementations for pure enterprise messaging apps and with the ability to cater to highly industry-specific solutions will be quite strong.
In this day and age, businesses need to stay up-and-running at all times, minimizing potential downtime and for allowing efficient, secure exchange of information. Enterprise messaging apps not only allow for streamlining of communication, but they are far more effective at group organization, often capable of replacing repetitive email reminders, or even entire meetings so that employees can spend more time actually doing their work.
Another common scenario which can impact productivity is the reliance on external consumer cloud services (like Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps cloud). This can be convenient but it also means that your ability as an enterprise to remain productive depends on the availability and integrity of these services. This creates scope for risk, because if there are service interruptions, enterprises will need to halt operations if they lack an alternative, independent tool in order to keep their core business productive. Enterprise messaging apps are perfect for mitigating these risks as they allow businesses to operate more independently and remain more productive regardless of external factors.
Comprehensive security features and data protection measures have always been the distinguishing features of any enterprise-specific solution and messaging is no different. 2018 was the year where multiple companies, including industry giants like Facebook, Google, Uber, Equifax among many others fell prey to massive data breaches which hurt their brand value and eroded their market value. This has led to a global outcry and it is likely that there will be a greater pressure on businesses to develop messaging solutions, especially on the enterprise level, which can effectively protect privileged data.
Given this heightened public scrutiny around privacy and security, combined with comprehensive legislation being enacted all over the world – like the recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) passed by the EU – businesses will seek to avoid all the financial losses, legal action, and the bad press that comes with data breaches. Most freely available consumer messaging apps have inadequate security features, and even enterprise solutions have fallen short on occasions. Thus, in such an environment, we predict that enterprise messaging vendors with proven security credentials who are capable of meeting these stringent regulatory demands will emerge as clear market leaders.
Appropriately integrating a messaging app into the IT ecosystem of an enterprise is essential for business productivity. Integrations done via a messaging API can be used for automating workflows, deploying custom chatbots, enabling a framework for the Internet of Things (IoT), and supporting Industry 4.0 projects. There are endless permutations of use cases which varies from enterprise to enterprise.
As a prediction, the coming year will see growing demands for new kinds of integrations – some will be as a result of industry-specific requirements, some will have to work with specialized on-premise software, others will be being critical for an IoT implementation etc. We believe that vendors capable of meeting these varied integration challenges will be key in propelling the digitalization of enterprises in 2019.